I was attending a training recently where an eating disorder expert from England stated “If you’re looking for fat, you’ll find it”. Kind of harsh, but true.
His point was that if you keep body checking and looking for fat you are guaranteed to find it (no matter your weight, size or shape). If you find yourself grabbing your stomach to check if it’s gotten bigger, checking your thighs, arms or neck ask yourself the benefits of doing this. Do you feel better after body checking? Most likely, you don’t.
If you are looking for problems with your body, you will find some. We all will.
The good news is that if you shift your thinking about your body, around the way it looks and feels, you shift your thinking around your body image. Here are 3 main points I use with my clients to help reshape their body image issues:
- Find Other Areas of Interest: Often when people obsess about their bodies or their weight they marginalize other areas in their life because weight, food and body shape take up so much room. So brainstorm things you want to start trying. Maybe it’s something new, or maybe it’s something you used to do in the past that you let go of. There a ton of ways to brainstorm some new ideas but here’s some examples my clients have come up with: taking lessons for an instrument, going to a restorative yoga class, going hiking, playing golf, taking a cooking class with a friend, getting into painting and art, scrapbooking, photography and getting involved with your church. You need to make sure it’s enjoyable and times up time and energy. This will help shift your focus from your body to other areas in your life. The less space and energy you give your body image thoughts, the better.
- Argue with Your Critical Voice: If you’ve been struggling with body image for some time it can feel very natural and almost automatic to be critical of yourself when you notice your body. When that occurs argue with that voice, silence it and overcome it. Giving your critical voice less room to speak diminishes its power and slowly you notice you start listening to it less and less. It can take some time to practice this but it truly does help.
- Write Down a 24-hour Record: Use a journal or record sheet (I have one I use with my clients, and other therapists may use one as well) where you record every time you have a body image thought. It might be when you body check and feel your stomach, or when you see someone else at a restaurant and compare yourself to them. Maybe it’s when you are getting dressed or taking a shower. Writing down how often it is happening is a game changer for a lot of people. You start to realize just how frequently these thoughts are coming up and this realization alone can help you start to minimize the body image conversation that you have daily.
Body image issues can seem like such a hard topic to start tackling but there are ways to break it down into simple steps. Body image is so important to work through because it perpetuates disordered eating and can manifest quickly into other behaviors that are hard to break free from. Body image issues are very common in today’s world and overcoming them is possible!
Danielle Swimm, LCPC: Danielle is a holistic psychotherapist that specializes in treating disordered eating. She has a passion helping others develop a healthy relationship with food. She offers psychotherapy at her Annapolis office for depression, anxiety & disordered eating.