In our Western society, we are so often encouraged to believe that our success is defined by our ability to fit into a fiercely false, unhealthy and superficial mold of idealized perfection. It is no wonder so many of us feel as though who we are is not enough, and that struggles with body image and self esteem continue to plague our Western culture.
Too often in the media, the devaluation of our own internal beauty and wealth as an individual is accepted and emphasis and judgements are made on how we look physically. The message largely portrayed is that being skinny equals control and success. It is strong and to be admired, and those who cannot achieve this are weak or indulgent.
Though for many of us adherence to this ideology does not result in an eating disorder, a huge percentage of us, both men and women, may have an unhealthy relationship with our bodies at some point in our lives, which can all too often lead to negative perceptions of our own self worth. For others the idea that our perception of who we are and what our value is in respect to what our body looks like can lead to having distressing relationships with food, weight and eating habits. Some individuals develop patterns of under eating and striving for an idealised and unrealistic version of what society suggests perfection and success equates to, while for others, this can develop into a sense of hopelessness and being overwhelmed with the negative thoughts, feelings and judgements they have of themselves. This interaction between thoughts/perceptions and feelings can lead to maladaptive behaviours such as eating emotions when distressed, or becoming stuck in over eating and bingeing/purging cycles.
Feeling stuck, depressed, or helpless in our relationship with our body image and the thoughts and feelings that accompany can feel incredibly exhausting and overwhelming….as if there is no way out of this cage we have somehow made for ourselves. But you can get help, and you can create the change that you want and need for yourself.
Consider the following:
Instead of running with the thoughts that regularly appear and cause you unnecessary distress in regards to your body and your relationship with food such as ” I feel fat” or “I need to eat” and then taking the action you usually would when these thoughts occur….stop for a moment, take 3 deep breaths in and out, and think about why this thought is being generated. By exploring and gaining an understanding of how our thoughts relate to our feelings and noticing the intensity that can be produced by this relationship, we can dissolve some of the intensity of a particular thought cycle. In dissolving or reducing some of this intensity we may become less stuck within that cycle and create some distance between the thoughts and the emotions evoked. It is with this distance from the emotion that is generated, that opportunity to create a different response to this cycle can be considered.
Commonly when I see clients with restrictive eating or binge eating patterns, upon consideration and exploration, the core problem can often relate to being faced with some form of uncertainty in their life. A quick-fix/response to reduce or get rid of these uncomfortable feelings can either be to comfort eat or to restrict our food intake as this is something we can have influence over and use to self-soothe or regain a sense of control when we know no other way.
When we cannot live up to, or perceive we cannot/do not live up to the expectations that we, our families and society sets for us, we all explore different ways to deal with this our emotional discomfort. However, if you or someone you love is encountering personal difficulties with their body image or relationship with food, please let them know support is out there.
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