The Problem of Eating Disorders Part 2Guest blog post by Rita Schulte.
Read part 1 here.
How do we begin the journey to love our bodies? First, we have to be willing. Second, we have to notice and distinguish the imposter’s voice from our own. That means paying attention to what we tell ourselves. A steady diet of negative remarks, self-defeating thinking, and judging your body will surely do you in. Try replacing the negative things you tell yourself with the truth of who you really are in God’s eyes. Try meditating on positive things that challenge you to love your body because it’s fearfully and wonderfully made.
Another important thing to pay attention to is what’s influencing you? If you notice magazine covers, articles, TV, internet, food, or fashion trigger you, notice those triggers; spend some time journaling about it and see if you can uncover the beliefs underlying your feelings— then replace those lies with the truth. One client once told me that when she sees another woman who is thinner or more beautiful, she gets stuck comparing herself, sometimes ruminating for hours.
A practical exercise I give my clients is to have them stand in the mirror and observe their bodies in their underwear. Most of us focus on the things we don’t like about our bodies and judge them disapprovingly. Instead of using a critical voice, I ask my clients to begin developing a compassionate voice to accept their bodies.
This takes practice. Start slowly. You can start cultivating an attitude of gratefulness for your body by saying, “I’m grateful I have arms to hold my children.” I’m thankful I have legs that work because many people are sitting in a wheelchair right now.” “I’m thankful my body is strong and healthy.” “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Look carefully at your body and find some part of it you like. Hold your focus there and see what you can be thankful for. This type of internal dialogue can help you take a non-judgmental stance toward your body and help you learn to love yourself. Freedom will come as you learn to value who you are in Christ, not how you perform or how you look.
- What do you see when you look in the mirror and observe your body?
- What thoughts come up? What feelings? What memories surface? Record any insights.
- Are you open to cultivating an attitude of gratefulness for your body? If not, what hinders you?
- What will you tell yourself to silence the imposter’s voice?
At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves if we want our bodies to define us. There are some things we can control about our appearance, but we have to let the other things go and relax. Ask yourself:
- Do I hate my body because I’m over weight or out of shape?
- Do I want to be healthy? If so, what do I need to do?
- Could I look better if I spent more time on caring for myself?
- Do I avoid going out because I don’t like how I look? If so, how might that be narrowing my world and making me feel worse?
- Are there other attributes I have worth cultivating besides focusing on my body?
There is so much more to you than your body image. Our identity is rooted and grounded in something bigger and grander than ourselves. How we appropriate that into real time can make the difference between staying stuck and finding real freedom. Every one of us is going to get old and watch our bodies take a nosedive. As unpleasant as that may be to think about, it’s a fact. The real choice is deciding how we are going to walk that out. If we don’t reach a place of body acceptance we’ll have so many moments stolen by our preoccupation with how we look. Instead of really embracing what matters in our lives we’ll settle for a cheap substitute. Is that really the legacy God wants us to leave?
Rita Schulte is a licensed professional board certified counselor. Rita has a private practice with offices in Fairfax and Manassas Virginia where she specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, anxiety and depressive disorders as well as bereavement. She leads a monthly group for women of domestic violence with Luthern Social Services and is certified in Critical Incident Stress Mangaement. She has worked extensively with grief and loss issues and has completed her first book, Sifted As Wheat, which is currently in the publishing process. Her website is www.siftedaswheat.com