Many people, in our culture worry obsessively about changing the shape of their bodies. We are socialized to believe that the presence of fat on our bodies is an indication of weakness and that we can control our lives by controlling our bodies. Since body-esteem and self esteem are very closely linked, worries about body inadequacy can interfere with relationships and distort our sense of self.
Nobody plans to be controlled by an eating disorder. It begins as a way to cope with complicated, negative situations that feel out-of-control.
How can we overcome this obsessive worry?
Identify your own fat-oppressive attitudes and challenge them. Fat oppression is still considered acceptable, even among people who work to eliminate racial oppression. Our culture accepts fat oppression because we have come to believe fat is always unhealthy. In fact, fat is necessary for life to exist. Internalized fat-oppressive attitudes act as a constant negative evaluation of ourselves and others.
Stop criticizing yourself in the mirror. The body you see in the mirror maintains and nourishes your life on this planet. Without it, you wouldn't be here. Treat it with the respect and love it deserves.
Refuse to accept criticism from anyone about your body. Your friends and significant others are probably smart enough to avoid pouring salt on the house plants. Tell your significant others that body criticism has a very negative effect on self esteem, and that it poisons your love for both yourself and him/her just as as salt poisons a house plant.
Choose healthy foods and find your own, natural metabolic set point. Self-starvation stimulates a very efficient metabolic process which preserves calories in the form of body fat and craves high caloric foods. Therefore, self-starvation eventually leads to weight gain and binge eating as your body defends its own natural set point.
Read something other than the popular media. For instance, Marcia Germaine Hutchinson, Ed.D, in "Transforming Body Image," uses imaging exercises to guide women toward a healthier relationship with their bodies.
The NEDA says: "Media messages about body shape and size will affect the way we feel about ourselves and our bodies only if we let them. When we effectively recognize and analyze the media messages that influence us, we remember that the media’s definitions of beauty and success do not have to define our self-image or potential." Learn how the media affects body image
Are you "Medicating" Feelings with Food?
What Can You Do Instead of Bingeing? (adapted from materials by the National Eating Disorders Organization)
- Ask yourself , "What am I feeling?" "What isn't working?" "What do I need that I'm not getting?" Talk to yourself. Write in a journal.
- Call a friend who knows about your problem and have him/her just listen
- Begin an enjoyable task or project immediately after eating a meal
- Learn some new behaviors and activities for the early evening hour
- Get enough rest and expand positive relationships
- Leave the binge environment, especially when you feel frustrated, under pressure, stressed, or bored
- Take deep breaths, close your eyes, picture yourself in a field or on a beach
- Turn on quiet music; any method of relaxation helps including exercise, yoga, and meditation
- Allow yourself to not be perfect. Forgive yourself for errors
Visit the National Eating Disorders Screening Project on the Web
Some Symptoms of Disordered Eating:
- Alternating dieting and overeating
- Self-starvation and excessive weight loss
- Binge eating with others or in secret
- Vomiting food to avoid weight gain
- Laxative, diuretic, or diet pill abuse
- Obsession with exercise for weight loss
- Excessive worry about gaining weight
- Basing self-image and self-respect on body size
"Imagine a woman...... A woman who believes her body is enough, just as it is. Who celebrates her body and its rhythms and cycles as an exquisite resource. ...A woman who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom. Who refuses to use precious energy disguising the changes in her body and life." - Patricia Lynn Reilly
"Eating disorders are complex conditions that can arise from a variety of potential causes. Once started, however, they can create a self-perpetuating cycle of physical and emotional destruction...." - The National Eating Disorders Association
Overcoming Overeating - Hirschmann & Munter (1988)- Fawcett Columbine
When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies - Hirschmann & Munter(1995)- Fawcett Columbine
Some Body to Love: A Guide to Loving the Body You Have - Newman (1991)-Third Side Press
Can't Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel - Jean Kilbourne (2000) Touchstone
The Beauty Myth -Naomi Wolf, (1991) New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.
The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private - Susan Bordo, (2000) New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux,
Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media - Susan Douglas, (1994) New York: Random House, Inc.