#body-image

Making Peace With Our Reflection in The Mirror

Making Peace With Our Reflection in The Mirror

Is that any way to live, in disgust at the sight of your body? This is a question I asked myself for so long and is now the question I ask my clients who struggle with body image.  

Beyond Body Image: What Happens After Recovery

Photo Credit:  Morgan Sessions

Photo Credit: Morgan Sessions

Body Image is certainly not a topic or issue unique to eating disorders. It touches all women regardless of a diagnosis or illness. And it certainly doesn’t go away after the illness and unhealthy relationship with food become a thing of the past.

I have had the honor of speaking with many women lately who fall somewhere in a category of “disordered eating” or “negative self-image”, or perhaps just “a normal woman” in today's western culture. Women who are not necessarily in the middle of full-blown treatment or recovery from an eating disorder (as defined by a medical or mental health professional) but who still struggle with being at war with themselves and their bodies. These are generally high-functioning adults living their normal day to day as mothers, sisters, wives, teachers, business-women, fitness instructors, actresses, artists, etc...

Most recently, I have been honored to collaborate with some dear friends and fellow professionals on a Self-Love Mastermind with the help of the leaders and founders of Manifesting Mamas. My dear friend and colleague Josie Kramer is helping me guide women across the country on a 4-week course about body love and self image.

During this course, we show the trailer for the powerful documentary “Embrace”, created by Taryn Brumfitt, founder of The Body Image Movement. {If you have not seen this film yet, I highly recommend you do!}

This past week, our participants were courageous enough to discuss their reflections after watching the video. I feel it important to share this conversation in order to shed light on how body image can be a painful struggle for all women, and most importantly, how we can support each other in cultivating a healthy, empowering relationship with our bodies, our souls, ourselves.

*participant names are changed to protect confidentiality.

Sarah: Here's what I am struggling with after watching this. I don't want to embrace my body as it is. I want a healthier, thinner body. Not because society tells me that's what I should look like, or because I think that's what will make me more beautiful. But because I want to be healthier. Does that make sense? So I guess my question is, is the key to changing your body, first accepting it as it is now? Because until I reach my healthiest me, I want to feel happy with how I am.

Cindy: A wise woman once said, "Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” I like to think that I like my body as it is now but I also love the idea that I alone have the capacity to change it... and am making progress, albeit, baby steps, towards those changes every single day.

Rachel (myself): Sarah brings up such a good point and such a common struggle with the "body acceptance/self-love" paradigm. Because truly, there is nothing innately WRONG with wanting to improve ourselves, to change ourselves, to be "fit" "healthy" "lean" "curvy" "toned" or whatever your personal goals may be.

It really all goes back to balance. There is a difference between self-improvement, health and fitness - and obsessively going to unhealthy extremes (whether emotionally or behaviorally) - which is what the media, health and beauty industries thrive on.

Even when our desires to change our bodies in order to be healthy are truly SOUL-DRIVEN, and not overtly due to society telling us how we should look, there are layers and layers of shame and worth tangled in there that are influenced by outside factors, that we are often not aware of. So the real work in recovery is being aware and accepting of those factors at play while on your journey of health...so that you are completely aware of your intentionality and emotional state throughout that process.

I also love Cindy’s feedback on this!! What an empowering perspective. There is a lot to be said about liking/loving yourself and your body for all that it does - regardless of weight or size! And the truth that you alone have the capacity to make changes towards a healthier you, based on your authentic values and your innate health needs is an incredible gift!

Josie (my partner/fellow recovery warrior): Sarah brings up such a great question! I absolutely agree with the emphasis on balance! What I can add to this conversation is a little of my own story and how it relates... When I was a teenager and into my early 20's I suffered HARD with going on and off restrictive diets & my weight would drastically fluctuate up and down. Whether I was thinner or heavier I felt miserable, I didn't enjoy food & I definitely didn't accept myself. I was in so much turmoil over food that I made a resolve to quit focusing on my weight, to quit weighing myself and to quit dieting all together!!

I decided to start over from a place of self-acceptance & focus solely on health while trusting that my weight would balance out in its own time. The acceptance part was key because I had to accept that I was heavier than I wanted to be. I also had to accept that the “yo-yo” dieting was making my life a living hell.

So I made balanced eating, balanced exercise, and self-care my new approach. No more starvation. No more out of control bingeing. No more over-exercising. And much less obsessing! It was definitely a process but little by little I started feeling so much better!! I enjoyed food again, I fell in love with yoga and I even got to a weight that was much healthier for me!

Better than all that, I started to truly love myself! The decision to stop battling with myself, while still focusing on health made ALL the difference. It doesn't have to be one or the other approach. I think a balance of the two is the answer! 

My favorite part about the transcript above, and the overall experience of working with women on these topics, is the love, kindness and support I get to witness and be a part of every day.

Remember, as Brené Brown said: 

we don’t have to do of all of it alone. We were never meant to
Rachel Daggett - Angie Viets

Rachel Daggett, MS, MFTI is a Wellness and Recovery Coach and a Registered Therapist Intern. She has a private practice in Manhattan Beach, CA, and strives to be an active force of empowerment and love in the community. Through struggling with her own eating disorder and journey of healing, and now being recovered, she has become an advocate for eating disorder recovery and mental health. Rachel has a Masters degree in Psychology, and believes in the importance of caring for the mind, body, heart, and soul as a whole. Rachel is a yogi, a dog-mom, a beach-girl at heart, and has recently started studying the natural healing power of essential oils. Visit her website

Seriously, Let's End The War With Our Bodies

Photo Credit:  Catherine McMahon

Photo Credit: Catherine McMahon

Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Studies have shown that 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their weight and 42% are actively trying to lose weight by dieting and/or exercising.¹'³ These strategies rarely produce lasting weight loss. In fact, the vast majority of people who lose weight by dieting will regain it - often plus some. This type of yo-yo dieting can be harmful to one’s health.⁴

So why do Americans keep putting themselves through the deprivation associated with dieting if it doesn’t work and is potentially harmful?  Perhaps a shift in mindset could break this cycle of “insanity.”

The Health At Every Size (HAES) approach argues that health is related to a person’s behaviors, not their weight.¹'² For example, a person can be “normal” weight and have high blood pressure, and a person can be “over” weight and have normal blood pressure. Interestingly, individuals classified as “overweight” based on their BMI live the longest, while those who are classified as “obese” have the same lifespan as “normal” weight individuals. Dieting has been associated with worsened physical and psychological outcomes, while HAES has been shown to improve them.  

Dieting Approach¹'²

  • Increased appetite
  • Frequent obsessive thoughts about food
  • Increased risk of depression
  • Emotional overeating
  • Weight loss followed by weight regain
  • Reduced self-esteem

HAES Approach¹'²

  • Intuitive eating
  • Improved psychological functioning
  • Improved cholesterol levels
  • Reduced overeating
  • Maintenance of set-point weight
  • Body acceptance and improved self-esteem

By focusing on health rather than weight, a person is able to break out of the cycle of dieting and care for their body in a loving and compassionate way. Dieting and trying to force the body to lose weight or look a certain way is the opposite of this. It is a way of fighting against the body. When a person cares for their body they treat it with kindness and respect — THIS is what HAES is all about.  

It’s ok if you’re having a hard time wrapping your mind around this. After all, it goes against everything our society teaches us. It may even go against what your doctor tells you. The truth is, you CAN be healthy without focusing on your weight. When you are taking care of your body and engaging in healthful behaviors, your weight will land where it is genetically meant to, without you needing to control it. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and this genetic diversity in humans is not only biologically advantageous, but it is beautiful. It makes each of us unique in our own skin.  

Are you ready to end the war against your body? Are you ready for a mindset shift? If so, learn more about the HAES approach by visiting Linda Bacon's website and check out her resources.

References:

1. Provencher et al. Health-At-Every-Size and Eating Behaviors: 1-Year Follow-Up of a Size Acceptance Intervention.  Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009;109:1854-61.

2. Bacon L, Aphramor L.  Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift.  Nutrition Journal. 2011;10:9.

3. NEDA Information and Referral Helpline. Statistics: Eating Disorders and their Precursors. www.NationalEatingDisorders.org. Accessed May 10, 2012.

4. Montani J-P, et al.  Weight cycling during growth and beyond as a risk factor for later cardiovascular diseases: the ‘repeated overshoot’ theory. International Journal of Obesity. 2006;30:S58-S66.

Katy Harvey, RD is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) from Kansas City.  She has an outpatient private practice where she helps individuals heal their relationship with food, exercise and their body. She also blogs at Katy’s Blog.

Beyond Body Image: What Recovery is Really About

Photo Credit:  Issara Willenskomer

Photo Credit: Issara Willenskomer

How many times in recovery have we heard “it’s not about weight. It’s not about the size. Your disorder is really not about your body at all.”? We are told to throw our scales away, never let the doctor show us our weight when we go for a checkup, encouraged not to exercise during recovery, to buy new jeans in more “realistic” sizes… I remember doing these things in my early recovery days and thinking everyone was full of it. They were clearly all in in cahoots to make me completely lose awareness and control of myself. To make me stop caring about my body so I could be 'fat and happy'.

I realize now that this was all so difficult and incomprehensible at the time because, at the time, it was about all of those things (in my sick mind at least). It was, but it wasn’t. It was smoke and mirrors, but I wasn’t ready to see that yet.

As a therapist now, I do it too—I tell my clients that knowing their weight will not do them any good. I remind them that their body is literally crying out for nourishment and energy.

And then I hear myself say that what they are struggling with really has nothing to do with their weight or size at all...it’s a twisted facade to cover up the insecurities, pain, fear, and lack of control going on far beyond anything to do with their physical body image. They’ve got “eating disorder goggles” glued to their faces.

Sometimes, for those who are ready to look beneath the binds that hold them, I get a look of relief that says “tell me more”. But usually, I get a deer in headlights look, a blank stare, or, especially the teens, a thoroughly annoyed eye roll. And that’s okay! Neither response is right or wrong, they simply reflect two very different phases of recovery. I think back to my earlier self, and I get it.

It’s interesting because the illness, the disease, the life vs. death reality all have everything to do with physical factors—but the recovery itself, the true, sustainable, the genuine recovery takes an immensely significant and difficult perspective shift of what really matters...and of what is real. No wonder body image is arguably one of the most difficult parts of recovery.

Something really stuck with me during a presentation last week by Dr. Guadiani of the Guadiani Clinic, and Lyn Goldring, VP of Nursing at Monte Nido. They were discussing the unique jobs of nurses, doctors and other clinicians in the eating disorder treatment field, and Lyn spoke of the invariable truth that sometimes, our most important task is to simply bear witness. I felt like she was speaking directly to me. She was so right, and I so badly needed that humbling reminder.

Recovery is a funny thing. I firmly believe that all the time, it is about feeding the soul. All the time, it is about relationships and boundaries. All the time, it is about self-esteem, control, attachment, and belonging. All the time, it is about so much more than what it seems.

But, in eyes and the mind of a hurting, broken, confused girl, sometimes, it is about the food. Sometimes, it is about the body. My job is not to try to convince anyone otherwise, but to hear, respect, and honor my clients, wherever they may be.

I will remind you, I will show you the light, I will bear witness and be a witness to the beautiful and hopeful realities of recovery. But you must walk towards that light, throw away that scale, try on those new jeans, and choose to trust the process in order to really get there. The mission is not to lose awareness of your body or to lose control so you stop caring. It’s quite the opposite. But it’s one of those things that is so hard to explain, yet so powerful to experience.

Body image is about so much more than the physical, tangible, measurable aspects of the body. And it is undoubtedly something that all women struggle with to some extent. I have lots more to say about this topic, so stay tuned, beautiful girl. And don’t give up.

Angie Viets - Rachel Daggett

Rachel Daggett, MS, MFTI is a Wellness and Recovery Coach and a Registered Therapist Intern. She has a private practice in Manhattan Beach, CA, and strives to be an active force of empowerment and love in the community. Through struggling with her own eating disorder and journey of healing, and now being recovered, she has become an advocate for eating disorder recovery and mental health. Rachel has a Masters degree in Psychology, and believes in the importance of caring for the mind, body, heart, and soul as a whole. Rachel is a yogi, a dog-mom, a beach-girl at heart, and has recently started studying the natural healing power of essential oils. Visit her website

A Cultural Look at Body Bashing

A Cultural Look at Body Bashing

I think it’s pretty accurate to say that most people in our culture are dissatisfied with their body. Many people even despise their body (or certain parts). And this epidemic has no age limit. In my psychotherapy practice, I have worked with clients as young as six-years-old who are already obsessed with calories, carbs, and fat.

A Letter to My Body

A Letter to My Body

Having spent the first half of my life trying to lose weight, I decided some time ago that I refuse to spend the second half of my life trying to lose wrinkles. All day long, our bodies work diligently for us, yet most people walk around lost in thought, ignoring, criticizing and often times even despising their bodies.  

Breaking the Bad Body Image Legacy

Breaking the Bad Body Image Legacy

I was raised by a mom who was extremely dissatisfied with her body. Sadly, and statistically, there is a good chance that you were too. It’s nobody’s fault. Most of our mothers were handed the same bad body image baton that we were, leaving far too many of us competing in the never ending race of trying to eat a certain way, exercise a certain way and look a certain way in order to feel attractive and lovable.

Here's Why You Should Stop Hating Your Body

Here's Why You Should Stop Hating Your Body

Imagine you had a friend, and 24 hours a day, this friend was working for you, doing all kinds of really important things. Imagine your friend was holding you up, helping you walk, breathe, laugh, sleep, read, see, dream, hear sounds, touch things, feel love, pump blood into your veins, digest food, and countless other miracles.

Ladies, Quit Berating Your Body!

Ladies, Quit Berating Your Body!

“My breasts are saggy, my thighs covered in cellulite, my ass is droopy, and my stomach looks like I’m perpetually pregnant.” Seriously, this, THIS, is what women talk about when we’re together? Distress and anguish quickly turn to identifiable solutions - cleanses, detoxes, and workouts that are “sure to be the fix” to this newsworthy conundrum.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Sickest of Them All?

 Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Sickest of Them All?

There is a disturbing tendency amongst individuals with eating disorders to compare their illness to another’s.  It’s the worst kind of competition ‘of them all’ and sounds like this:   “What’s your lowest weight?  How many hospitalizations have you had?  How many calories do you consume?  How often do you workout and for how long?”  The most pressing question in this game of who is the most sick: “What type of eating disorder do you have?