Inside Out, the new Disney/Pixar movie about a little girl named Riley and some major life changes she goes through, is told through the lens and view of five of her emotions: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear. It is a delightful feast for the eyes as most of the movie takes place inside of her head and invites us to take a ride on the Train of Thoughts, to play with her imaginary friend BingBong, to build aspects of her personality like Family and Silliness, to delve into her subconscious, and to sing along with the rainbow-haired pony that colors her dreams.
Much has been written by members of the psychology and counseling community (such as myself) about the way that this movie portrays our emotions and the important role that each of them play. It is pretty exciting to find a major Hollywood movie that looks so deeply at the emotional experiences we all feel, normalizes them, and does such a good job at it.
I am not going to give away any major spoilers, as I highly recommend that you go see this movie for yourself, but it is widely known that each of the emotions is given a personality and a role in determining Riley’s state of mental being.
Riley experiences a major life change in the movie, moving to California from Minnesota, and Joy, the brightest and most exuberant emotion, is determined to keep Riley a “brave and happy girl” even though other emotions are along for the ride.
Sadness is a star player in the movie too, and initially gets painted as a lazy and annoying emotion who Joy tries to keep away from Riley’s memories and feelings in order for her to stay a “happy girl” (sometimes we just don’t want to or can’t be happy. . .and that is okay).
Trying to keep Sadness in a corner where she cannot touch anything, as Joy attempts to do in the movie, causes all sorts of problems. As Riley plummets into depression, she risks losing things that are dearest to her, like her morality, family connections, friendships, her love for hockey and her sense of silliness.
Sadness didn’t just stay in the corner where she was shoved. She knew that in order to save Riley from the depths of depression, she needed to help.
Really? Sadness can help to relieve depression? Yes, if sadness is allowed to be felt.
As Anita Sanz, clinical psychologist says:
“Not being able to feel what is normal to feel in a situation is what causes problems for all people, just as it did for Riley.
If you’ve been abused or traumatized, there are all kinds of feelings that you don’t get a chance to feel or “process” because you’re too busy trying to survive. If you’re trying to feel something other than what’s really inside, or trying to be someone you’re not, same problem: There’s incongruence or a mismatch between the inside and the outside.”
Furthermore, the movie helps to identify the feelings of loss that Riley is experiencing by allowing Sadness to ultimately be part of the control panel in her mind.
The loss of childhood, the loss of her home and friends, among other losses, are not fully realized or digested if Sadness is shunned to a corner. Only when Sadness was allowed to touch some of Riley’s memories was Riley able to define the loss she was feeling and begin to form a new identity that could help her move forward and connect to what really matters to her.
Researchers who study emotion concur that all emotions (not just Joy) play their part in allowing us to move through and process our experiences.
Drs. Dacher Keltner and Paul Ekman echo:
‘And toward the end of the film, it is Sadness that leads Riley to reunite with her parents, involving forms of touch and emotional sounds called “vocal bursts” — which one of us has studied in the lab — that convey the profound delights of reunion.’
One message I took home from the movie: Embrace sadness. Embrace Anger. Even embrace Disgust.
Because these, along with our other emotions, make up who we are, allow us to construct aspects to our personality and help us to build deep, intimate, meaningful relationships with others.
That, and go back and reconnect with your imaginary friend ☺
What about you? Have you seen Inside Out? What did you think and how do you feel about how it portrays emotions?
Everything in life I’ve learned from my garden.
Here in Colorado, we have had torrential downpours, golf ball-sized hail, flash floods, and even some snow almost every day since early May. That’s right – in the month of May there were only three days without some kind of moisture from the sky, which is quite abnormal for our typically arid spring climate.
While many of us were lamenting for the sun, turning our faces upwards in hopes of catching a glimpse of a ray, seeds began to wiggle beneath the surface.
But what kind of seeds? And what will they produce?
As an experimental and somewhat overly impassioned gardener, I gazed out with a grain of exasperation at my garden and wondered: What will sprout? Will the seeds and seedlings I planted amidst the rain sprout roots or will they be washed away in a newly imprinted “river”? Will there be “volunteer” seeds that sprout into something I didn’t intend for?
I did not know. But, I had hope. I also had a very clear understanding that Mother Nature is much more powerful and enormous than I or any other gardener is, and we are at the mercy of her force.
So I sat and waited.
Yesterday, a beautiful sunny 85 degree day, I peered over the picket fence guarding my garden (“guarding” feels like a facetious term, as nothing seems to protect my sprouts from the ravenous and assertive squirrels. . . but that is another post for another time).
What did I see?
Lots of green! Yay!
But….which were weeds and which were seedlings I tenderly planted to grow eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, or other goodies??
A few green sprouts were pretty easy to discern which was which. . . and after an hour of pulling the weeds out, I decided I would never win that battle.
There were dozens (and dozens) of other sprouts of which I could not clearly and certainly define their nature. I would just have to wait and see until they grew bigger. (Patience is a virtue, right? Agh!)
As I pried myself away from the soil and sat contemplating this conundrum, I was reminded of another couple of blog posts I wrote last year in a similar fashion as Mother Nature again reminded me of the necessity of letting go (read them here: Mindful Gardening: Six Seeds to Sow to Nourish a Thriving Recovery and Disorderly Mindfulness: When it Hails on Your Freshly Planted Garden).
Gardens are metaphors for life. For recovery. For healing. For ACCEPTANCE.
Weeds will always come back no matter how much time and energy we spend pulling them out. Just like intrusive or negative thoughts, we will never be able to truly eradicate them from our minds, our lives.
We can spend time noticing them, trying to identify them, and bringing mindful awareness to their presence and impact on our emotional well-being.
However, if you will not be able to fully weed them out. . . . are there more fruitful and fertile places to focus your energy and awareness?
Weeds in my garden will grow exponentially bigger and faster than my seedlings, encroaching upon my plants and stealing their nutrients. This parallels the experience of painful events, thoughts, and beliefs about ourselves or others sucking away our positive and nurturing energy and leaving us little room to grow.
Pull out the weeds that you can identify: the thoughts, experiences, or people, who drain your life energy instead of energize it. Do as much of this as you have time and space for.
Overall, acceptance of our entire experience releases us from becoming entangled in our weeds and allowing them to spread over our inner garden.
Weeds are just as natural as the tomato plant I have cautiously and maybe somewhat obsessively tried to protect from the recent downpours.
Can you appreciate your inner weeds?
The secret to harvesting what really matters isn’t about pulling out the weeds from the pepper plant. What really matters is noticing the inner struggle and suffering that we so often find ourselves in. . . and asking: how can I let go? How can I slow down? How can I find acceptance?
So….I am going to let the weeds in my garden grow a little bit longer. Full disclosure here: this will not be a simple or anxiety-free task.
However, if I observe them, try to learn from them and, if possible, understand what they are, I will more accurately and peacefully be able to pull them out when I am ready. That way, I am more apt to pull out their entire roots instead of just their surface leaves.
Or I’ll get some of them, anyway. I realize that tirelessly trying to weed out ALL of the intrusive buggers is akin to believing that I will be able to save my Cinderella pumpkins from the squirrel family that lives in the neighboring Elm.
But hey, choose our battles, right?
So what about you?
Where are your weeds?
How can you learn from them and find some way of accepting them?
Which will you pull out and which will you let stay?
How would that shift your inner dialogue. … your inner struggle?
Can you re-seed your inner garden?
Leave a note below to share!
What if your body is trying to deceive you?
Try to think back to a time in your childhood – maybe you were celebrating a birthday, having a picnic in the park, visiting friends in another state – a time where you remember feeling completely free and safe to enjoy what you were eating.
…This may be tough, but spent a few moments thinking back into your memory.
What was your favorite kind of food? What did you crave eating? Remember, this is before all of the “should’s”, “can’t”, “must”, and other rigid rules around food surfaced. Just a time where true joy was associated with eating.
Now think of today and of the rules that you have created around what you can and cannot eat (or rules that were imposed on you by a diet or influences in your environment). Can’t eat past 7pm. Shouldn’t have carbs or gluten. Must eat under XXX number of calories every day. Should exercise every day for X amount of time….
Why? Who are you listening to?
These rules are most likely not borne of internal signals, but are enforced on you by external sources. In other words, they are rules that are not about listening to your body.
When you think of these two different scenarios, check in with your body. Which one does your body respond more positively to?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and make an assumption — probably the first one.
I don’t think any body truly wants to be controlled by someone else’s guidelines.
Since we are all unique and have our own genetic make-up, environmental factors, and personalities, it doesn’t make sense that we could all conform to a similar diet mentality.
So why do we diet? Here are some of the common answers:
- to lose weight
- to feel better about ourselves
- to be healthy
- to appear more attractive for a potential mate
- to have some sense of control
I am sure there are many others that you could come up with. Yet research shows that diets don’t work, and that over 90% of people who diet will regain the weight (and then some).
Why? According to Dr. Traci Mann’s article You should never diet again: The science and genetics of weight loss,
“Weight regain after a diet is your body’s evolved response to starvation. When you are dieting, it may feel as though you are about to starve to death, but you know that you can open the fridge at any time and find more to eat, if you really wanted to. Your body doesn’t know this, however, and you have no way to tell it that you just want slimmer hips or a flatter stomach. All your body knows is that not enough calories are coming in, so it kicks into survival mode.” After your diet is over and you begin to eat normally again, your body will naturally put weight back on (and then some) as a way to survive.
Diets are the antithesis of listening to our bodies, and are one of the biggest risk factors to eating disorder development and body image distress.
In my work over the past six years with people who have experienced a disconnected, destructive and unhappy relationship with their bodies, I have heard many fears of letting go of their diet sand listening to their bodies. I get it – I have myself been on the diet rollercoaster, and for me that tipped into the dangerous territory of an eating disorder for ten years.
But I know intuitively, from my own experience and from witnessing others’, that your body is wise and you can trust it.
Here are three common fears about letting go of the diet mentality – and how to overcome them:
- My diet is helping me lose weight to be healthier. This is a very common reason to go on a diet – to be healthier and lose weight. Look out for: no flexibility with the “rules”, cutting out food groups for no health related reason, and feelings of deprivation. Try instead: ask your body what it is really hungry for right now. Broaden your definition of “healthy”.
- My diet helps me have a sense of control around food. My guess is that if you are feeling out of control with food, that going on a diet is not going to solve that problem and may actually result in a more rigid and extreme form of controlling food. Try instead: Ask yourself what else is feeling out of control in your life that you are using food to try to soothe?
- If I am not on a diet I will feel completely out of control with food. Again, a common fear around dieting/not dieting. I believe this is founded from a deep disconnection between mind and body – one in which you do not feel connected to your body and like you can trust it. In truth, going off a diet may result in binge eating – the mind goes from rigidity to chaos pretty quickly in response to a perceived trauma. Try instead: eating all foods in moderation to begin listening to your body and getting out of that all or nothing mindset.
Above all else, honor your body. Listen to it. Ask your child-like self “What sounds good right now?” “Am I truly hungry or am I feeling something else”?
And if you need support in this process of listening, connecting, appreciating, I can help.
Spring has finally sprung here in Denver! After several weeks of frigid temperatures and snow, we are melting and the crocuses are poking their sweet heads out of the dirt.
Along with warmer weather comes increased sunlight and a desire to be outside, and with that can come more focused attention on body image. Your friends may be sporting shorts, planning for spring break, shopping for tank tops, and talking about their bodies as we come out from ‘winter hibernation’.
Does this bring up any insecurity for you?
If you have a friend, daughter, son, mother, or loved one who looks at themselves in the mirror, grimaces, pokes their belly, and then mutters “I feel SO fat!!”, then this post is for you.
Five Things to Say to Your Daughter (or son, or loved one) When She/He Tells You She Feels Fat
1.) Fat is not a feeling. Facebook recently removed the “feeling fat” emoticon from their status bar because fat is NOT a feeling and proposing that it is a feeling further adheres to the thin ideal and shaming anyone who has fat on their body. It also can be triggering to those who have eating disorders or body image struggles. Fat is not a feeling — what are you REALLY feeling?
2.) Talk to her about normal things that bodies do, look like, and feel like. Everyone has a different body and whatever the number on the scale says, our bodies are amazing and deserving of respect. Talk with her about what your body went through as you were growing up, normalize some of the uncomfortable things that can occur (i.e.: puberty), and discuss this in an affirming, accepting and empowering way.
3.) Discuss the ‘thin ideal’ and how thinness is glorified in our culture. Explore the effect that the media and society have had on her and on others and what message that sends. Fat is stigmatized in our culture and many people fear being judged, bullied, rejected, or hurt by not fitting into the thin ideal.
Help her get educated and stand up for herself amidst the immense cultural pressure to look a certain way.
4.) Find out what is going on in her life. Chances are, if she is obsessing about
body image, weight, or food, there are other factors affecting her stress level and wellbeing. How are her relationships? How does she feel about school? Is she pushing herself too hard? Does she compare herself with her best friend? Explore the deeper meaning to “fat” and what it is truly trying to express.
5.) Dance. Invite your daughter or loved one to put on a favorite song and to check your judgments at the door. Dance with her and invite yourselves to feel the miraculous, fun, strong things that your body can do for you, and does for you each day. Carve out time each day to focus on what your body DOES, instead of how it looks.
Warmer weather invites the birth of spring, which in turn offers an opportunity for rebirth, renewal, and release. Ask your loved one and yourself: What would you like to release this spring that is not serving you? How can your body help you do it?
What is really weighing you down?
Do the number of inches around your waist measure the amount that you are worth?
Let me tell you something. You’re never going to lose those last five pounds.
What?? How do YOU know?, you might be thinking. That’s none of your business! And then: Yes, I will, and I can!
You are right; maybe you can and it is not my place to assume what your diet and body can and can’t do.
But I am here to ask: why is that so important???
I have met so many people who are suffering every day because they have not asked
themselves that question.
It’s the end of February. How’s your New Year’s Resolution going? If it involves weight loss it has probably been thrown out the window by now. How are you feeling about that?
How are you feeling about yourself?
I hope the answer is “great!”, but I am bravely going to dare to suggest that if a weight loss goal is connected with how you feel about yourself and your body, then you’re probably struggling with some self-criticism right about now. You are never ‘perfect’ enough…
You may be one of the thousands of men or women who ‘wants to lose those last five pounds’ and then you’ll feel ‘confident’ in your body.
I get it. That elusive yet seemingly doable goal of weight loss as a way to feel better about yourself and your body is so tantalizing.
The ads on television and in the magazines throw out all the stops to convince you that going on a diet and counting your calories is the solution as to why you don’t feel so great about yourself. (And they make it look so damn easy!) They promise you if you lost five pounds (or more) you will find…wealth…popularity…success…happiness.
I’m not sure about you, but I receive dozens of spam email messages each day. Here are a few of the most delicious titles:
‘Ellen DeGeneres’ Ageless Look! She looks 20 again just by taking this pill!”,; and from GetSkinnyNow: ‘READ THIS OR HATE YOURSELF FOREVER!’; and from BetterThanBotox: ‘[Secret Revealed!] Arctic Glacier Eliminates Wrinkles Forever!’. And good old Dr Oz promises me: ‘#1 Brand New Diet Tip of 2015: This Miracle Pill Will Burn Fat Fast!!’
Since when is deprivation, shaming, and rigidity a path to inner peace and self-love?
Yesterday marked the beginning of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2015. The last week of February each year is designated nationally as a time to flood social media and our society with lots of information, resources, and hope for eating disorder recovery. The theme this year is: “I had no idea… “that some of the things we do and say each day to ourselves or to others can trigger an eating disorder to develop.
One of those statements is “I had no idea…that my quest for health was making me sick.”
Not all diets trigger eating disorders, but rigid and perpetual dieting increases the risk of developing disordered eating behaviors like binge eating. Did you know that statistics show that people who consistently diet are thirteen times more likely to binge eat?
And did you know that more than 65% of people who have lost weight on a diet will gain it back (and then some) within the next year? If weight loss is connected to your self-worth, how is that ever going to point you in the direction of feeling better about yourself?
So instead of focusing on losing weight or counting calories to cultivate a relationship with yourself that is loving and pleasurable, how about trying these seven ideas instead?
1.) Take yourself out on a date. When you have been dieting and controlling your food and body for so long, you may have lost touch with what your body really needs or wants. Spend an evening listening …and then giving. If it wants a pint of ice cream, yum! If it wants to go salsa dancing, sounds fun! This helps to foster a sense of acceptance and connection, allowing you to build on developing a mutually enjoyable relationship with your body.
2.) Ask yourself what five pounds would really change about your life – and if the dieting is worth it? Is losing weight really the way to get there?
3.) Did you know that muscle weighs more than fat? Those extra five pounds may be comprised of muscle and strength…helping to make your body awesome and capable of doing so many things. Why attach a number to that?
4.) Focus on your strength and capability of your body and not your blemishes. What does your body do for you each day that you are not aware of? For example, did you know how complex our digestive system is and how our body facilitates so many essential daily processes that we are not consciously aware of? Amazing!
5.) Ask your body if it is truly hungry and if so, what would taste good to eat right now. So much of the diet mentality is not listening but formulating what you should eat based on someone else’s guidelines. Somebody who is not in your body and doesn’t know it as well as you do. Your body is wise and when it is well-fed it will shift to a place where it naturally feels healthy. That may be losing weight…it may not.
6.) Let go of that negative, judgmental, critical monster voice in your head. You may never be able to make it go away completely, but you can change your relationship with it and the influence it has over you. Focus on what you love about yourself, your body, and food…not what is ‘wrong’ with those things.
7.) Follow Your Bliss. Life is too short. We don’t get a dress rehearsal for our life— this is it! How do you want to spend your precious time here? How can you invite your body to join the party?
I invite you to attempt to get off the rollercoaster of ‘loving yourself WHEN….I lose five pounds…when I can bench press X amount…when I don’t have wrinkles on my face anymore’….and trying to love and accept yourself as you are today. I have tried it and it is so liberating! See how that feels on your body.
I am honored today to share a guest post to my blog by Annette Sloan, a health coach and yoga teacher with a passion for empowering teens to embrace healthy living through her business, (w)holehearted. She is gifting us today with her story about how yoga helped her offer herself something that is so integral to its essence: compassion. Even when you’re struggling with food or body image issues. Especially then.
~ ~ ~
Have you ever been to a bad yoga class? Maybe it was a class where the teacher wasn’t sure of her instructions and kept fumbling over her words.
Or maybe she talked too much, which made it hard for you to quiet your mind, or she talked too little, which made it hard for you to know what you were supposed to be doing.
I am a yoga instructor, and I have a confession to make: I once taught the worst yoga class ever. Ok, maybe not the worst class ever. I didn’t make fun of anyone or tell them their body was wrong. No one got hurt. But, I did do an absolutely terrible job of leading the class. I forgot my sequence, mixed up left and right multiple times, and fumbled over the instructions on pretty much every pose.
Not even halfway through the class, I could tell that my students were just humoring me. They wanted to roll up their mats and leave, but they were too polite. It was my first class out of yoga teacher training, and I was screwing up it, big time.
Even worse, this wasn’t just a regular class – it was an audition. One of the polite yogis in front of me owned a yoga business, and I was supposed to be proving my chops as an instructor.
When the hour finally ended, my students gratefully rolled up their mats and departed. I was left with Bonnie, the yoga business owner. Telling myself that I could cry in my car in a few minutes, I looked her in the eye and waited to hear my fate.
Bless Bonnie. Instead of diving into the long list of everything I had done wrong, she kindly asked, “How do you think it went?”
I was honest and brutal in my self-appraisal. Bonnie waited patiently for me to finish, then nodded.
Without agreeing or disagreeing with me, she said, “But did you see how they stayed around to talk with you at the end? If they hated you, they would have left immediately. They liked your energy.”
Once again, bless Bonnie. Talk about compassion.
I didn’t get hired for the job that night. But I didn’t get dismissed either. Bonnie recognized that my nerves had played a huge role in my less-than-stellar performance. She gave me a list of areas to work on, and suggested that I do another audition in a few weeks. Later, she hired me.
The moral of the story is that on the night of my worst yoga class ever, Bonnie embodied an essential component of yoga: compassion.
In my opinion, when a yogi steps onto his or her mat, everything that takes place is in service to a higher goal: to connect mind and body to the present moment – and to be compassionate with whatever comes up.
Downward-facing dog too rough on your shoulders today? Try table instead. Table isn’t feeling good? Child’s pose is always available. The underlying message is: wherever you are, right now, is valid. You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone. Honor your journey.
I started practicing yoga in high school, and continued through college and my twenties. During this time, I was struggling with an unhealthy relationship with food. (Learn more about my story here, or here for a more detailed version). Thankfully, I’m now on the other side of the struggle. And I can honestly say that my practice of yoga was essential to my healing.
Yoga connected my mind and body in the present moment. It regularly reminded me to practice self-compassion and to honor my journey. My subconscious received the message that I wherever I was, it was ok for me to be there. I was worthy, just as I was.
Eventually, my journey led me to yoga-teacher training, where I found the courage to share the story of my struggle with food.
It was terrifying to make myself so vulnerable – but in airing my shame, I found healing. I summoned up the courage to share my story with others, and eventually, with everyone I knew. Today, I have my own business, (w)holehearted, which specializes in compassionate health coaching for teen girls.
I have yoga to thank for it all – and for that, I will be forever grateful.
Annette Sloan owns (w)holehearted, a Denver-based business specializing in compassionate health coaching for teen girls. Her work as a coach and speaker empowers teens to discover their happiest, healthiest, most authentic selves. Soon, Annette will also debut a program called Empowered Moms, Empowered Daughters, which will help moms to heal their relationships with food, body, and self so that they can be positive role models for their daughters. In addition, Annette co-leads a workshop called “Yoga, Food, and Love: A Compassionate Journey to Healing your Relationship with Food.” Learn more at www.healthyteengirls.com and www.fb.com/healthyteengirls.
Here’s a fun guest post I wrote for nutritionist and counselor Stephanie Small‘s blog. She’s an awesome inspiration in helping women “boost your mood and transform your relationship with food’! Come back next week to read a guest post from Stephanie on my blog! Check it out:
If you have found this post, you probably are someone who has struggled with body image issues in your life. You may have had negative thoughts towards parts or all of your body, like: “Ugh, why do my thighs jiggle and touch each other like that?”, or, “My stomach is so flabby I feel like I’m going to burst out of my pants. How disgusting.” Sit for a moment and really let the effect of hearing those statements ooze into you. Do you feel even more yucky after reading them?
You may have also experienced behaviors that are violent towards your body as a result of some of the feelings and thoughts that have been directed its way. Perhaps you binge eat to a point of extreme discomfort; perhaps you binge and then purge to get the feelings and the food out of your system; maybe you restrict what you eat to try to sculpt the body you think you’d really love.
I’m here to give you some bad news: you’re never going to feel confident in your body.
What? How could those words come from a therapist who spends every day (in and out of the office) offering support to those struggling with eating disorders, body image struggles or who for various reasons feel disconnected from and not at-home in their bodies?
Bear with me. I’m going to suggest that we can never be confident in our bodies until we detach from our bodies. Just for a little while. And then we can come home to them.
As a society, we are afraid of fat. We value thin. We put thin and people who are thin up on a pedestal. You are bombarded with messages that tell you this directly and indirectly hundreds of time each day. It takes conscious, concerted effort each day to notice these messages before you internalize them. And even if you do, you still will internalize them. They will cause you and others lots of suffering because you can never be “enough” of what society tells you that you should be (thin, rich, popular, funny, smart, etc). The point is not to try to stop them, because we never can, but to change the way that you react to them.
I have had many, many clients come to me and tell me about their struggles with food – perhaps they binge eat, or feel out of control in some way. They just want to stop the behavior and they will feel so much better about themselves. This part I totally empathize with – I know how destructive and painful these eating disordered behaviors can be.
Then usually they slip in – ‘I just want to lose some weight and then I know I will feel more confident to [date] [go out for a new job] [stop isolating] [love my body].
They are fused with the thin-ideal as a surefire way to love themselves more. And they don’t realize it or are in denial. I get it – I have been swayed by that campaign as well.
Sometimes we are able to notice that this is happening and step away from being body-centric for a bit and examine what is truly going on for us – fear of not being accepted unless us look a certain way, deep-seated shame, fear of not knowing who we are without being body-obsessed, discomfort with confrontation, etc. – so that we can sort through it, find healing, and then move back to applying that acceptance to our entire being.
But sometimes we can get so stuck on the thin-ideal that we cannot see out of the ‘I must be thin [or lose some weight] to be self-confident’ blinders. We can get on a rollercoaster ride where self-worth is in the same car as ‘physical appearance’, and we are zooming at a frantic pace with seemingly no way to get off the ride.
That’s where I try to stop us (or slow down at least!) and divorce the body for a moment. What is truly going on inside? What are you truly hungry for that has nothing to do with your body? Without looking at that, you cannot be truly confident in yourself or your body (and you won’t be able to actually stop the eating disordered behaviors).
After some time focused away from the external parts of the body and delving deeper into the inner parts of the self, we may discover what that deeper hunger truly is. And we can feed it – without food being the answer.
Then we can re-enter the body work in a holistic, integrated, authentic way where the focus is not on weight but on being embodied – or “at home in your body and yourself”. As you stand on your own two feet, you will radiate confidence from within your body, a confidence that has nothing to do with what your body physically looks like.
When these pieces are integrated back together, you may have thoughts like “I love the way my knees curve that way as I bend down”, or even “My hips are strong and womanly”. Your body may not actually be at the top of your mind as often because it is now a fully connected part of you and the hunger that your body feels is purely physical, or, if you have emotional hunger, you will have the awareness to decipher the “food” that you’re really craving.
What do you think? Have you noticed yourself getting hijacked by the thin-ideal and getting taken away from what really matters to you? How can you find self-confidence without focusing on your body?
Seasons are changing here in Denver, Colorado — at 10am this morning the temperature was a balmy 32 degrees! Yesterday I frantically covered my garden and pots as best I could and am praying that they pulled through this cold snap. Oh, Colorado weather, you never fail to challenge me! I still have so many tomatoes that need to ripen and pumpkins to turn to orange
It is supposed to be back in the 80s next week, also a typical Colorado weather pattern this time of year. I love fall! The shift of the seasons also brings events like back-to-school time and many other forms of change. Going back to school can be an exciting and anticipatory time — what will I learn this year? Who will I meet? What will be my greatest challenge? Where will I grow the most?
It also can be a time where body image concerns can show up pretty intensely as each student is finding their group of friends, adjusting to the school atmosphere, and embracing the unknown. Thoughts like “How do I measure up? Will I fit in? Am I accepted?” can show up during the first few weeks of school. As we wear less tank tops and sundresses and begin pulling on long pants and coats, so, too, do some of us feel a little more self-conscious about our bodies and how we feel in them.
I thought it would be a helpful exercise today to offer some tips for boosting your body image and embracing the awesome person you are as school starts up and the seasons shift. Whether you sometimes struggle with body image concerns or not, I’m hopeful you can find something to relate to and take with you from the list below.
Top Ten Body-Image Boosts for Back-To-School!
1.) Ask yourself: “How do I feel about my body?” . Remember that you are unique and have so many gifts to offer that only you can! Focus on three body parts that you don’t normally pay attention to (your glands, for example!) and offer them gratitude for the function they serve for you. For example: “I love my spine. Each vertebra is lovingly connected to its neighbors. There is smooth, perfect interaction between them. I am strong and flexible.”
2.) Find a body image boost buddy (BBB). Reach out to someone you trust and talk about body image. Talk about what you love about your body and what you struggle with. Ask them their body image story. Swap tips for embracing and loving the body you were gifted with.
3.) Speak up when you hear someone talking negative about their body or someone else’s. Negativity and judgement can spread like a wildfire and it’s hurtful. If you notice someone putting their body down or criticizing someone else’s, say something to them. They might not even notice what they are doing or the impact it can have. This also can help you feel more positive about yourself, your body, and the messages you are sending about body love.
4.) Create a vision. Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel inside this body? If I felt this way, how would I move differently, how would I interact with others differently, what would this free me to do and experience?” Using guided visualization, to step into and experience this vision, allowing yourself to have a goal to work towards.
5.) Notice your body talk. How do you talk to your body? How do you talk about your body to others? Notice the negative or critical thoughts that you have towards your body and write them down. Then write a counter to each of those thoughts and formulate thoughts that are positive about your body.
6.) Be active. Being active in your body — running, dancing, stretching, playing soccer, or whatever makes you feel good — can help you connect to it in a healthy way and show you the amazing things your body helps you do each day.
7.) Wear clothes that make you feel confident. Wearing clothes that fit your body well can help you feel more comfortable and confident in your body. You may need to buy new clothes or find some oldies but goodies that you love. What’s important is that you enjoy wearing these clothes and therefore are choosing to treat your body with love and respect.
8.) Notice the messages that influence you. Where do you get messages that there is something wrong with the way your body looks? Are there magazines, commercials, television shows, advertisements that try to convince you that you need to change? Before buying into them, try to notice them and ask yourself if you truly believe their message or if they are trying to sell you an unhealthy thought.
9.) Listen to positive messages! The good news is there are so many uplifting and fun sites and other media that are trying to change the way we talk about ourselves and our bodies. Here are a few of my favorite: Operation Beautiful, Beauty Redefined, The Body Positive, and here’s a great list of more body image boost sites!
10.) Redefine what health, beauty, and happiness mean to you! Maybe your definition doesn’t entirely fit with society’s or your best friend’s. That’s okay! This is your body, your life, and you get to decide what makes you feel wonderful!
Here’s a fun video of a hip new song called “All About That Bass”, which promotes positive body image:
Lyrics for this song are here.
Come up with your own! Leave a comment below about your own ways to Boost Body Image!
Happy Fall and Back To School~
As a young girl, I loved to play in the fields of sunflowers by my home and watch as they reached higher, higher, and higher, always facing the sun. They thrived in the light.
As a teenager, I became disconnected from my love of the earth and as my eating disorder destroyed my life, I barely noticed the neglected tulips outside my window. I hid in the darkness and so did my garden.
As an eating disorder survivor and now a professional counselor, I play in my garden daily to nurture my recovery, to nourish my soul, and to reconnect with my authentic self. While I have been recovered for more than 10 years now and feel very solid in my recovery, gardening is an integral factor in sustaining my recovery.
I am blessed to be able to help others who struggle with eating disorders to find their own light in their recovery process and I often utilize metaphors from mindful gardening practices (and get our hands in the dirt and actuallypractice it!) to help them cultivate their own inner gardens.
Do you like to garden? If you were a plant, which type do you think you’d be? Why?
The earth is a natural source of healing energy for us and if we connect with it, we can soothe our inner hunger and feed our soul in a way that food cannot.
Six Seeds to Sow in your Inner Garden
1. You are the artist of your own garden. There are hundreds of flowers, herbs, vegetables, shrubs, and other beauties that can make your garden lush and bountiful! Yes, this can be a bit overwhelming, but it can also be fun! It’s up to you to decide what you like, what you don’t, what you want to experiment with, and what is aesthetically pleasing to you. In recovery, it’s so important to learn that you are unique, you are wonderful any way you want to be, and your voice is the one that truly counts when it comes to taking care of yourself.
2. Can you try to embrace your inner weeds instead of pull them all out? Weeds can sometimes be unpleasant, unsightly, unwanted parts of our gardens. They show up when we didn’t plant them and crowd into our beautiful peony plant. You can spend hours upon hours weeding (trust me, I know!) and while it can be therapeutic to do so, you can never get all of the weeds to permanently scram. This is also true of things in our lives that we feel we want to go away — we can spend so much time and energy trying to get rid of them that we don’t have much space left to notice and appreciate what we already have. Also, some weeds are beautiful and can pop up unexpectedly in the most amazing places — kind of like in recovery when we focus on what we’re grateful for and notice that some of our challenges can sometimes be our greatest teachers.
3. Just as any garden does, your inner garden needs tender, loving care. Self care is so integral to eating disorder recovery. Listening to your inner needs, voice, and limits can foster a healthy bed for lasting recovery. Sprinkle in some self-compassion and you’ll have a beautiful recovery garden nurturing inside of you. Just as gardens need water, sun, shade, and fertilizer, for your recovery garden to thrive you will need to actively and regularly tend to it as well.
4. There is no such thing as a “perfect” garden. Sometimes the gardens that are the most quirky, fun, and unconventional are the ones that we gravitate toward. They embrace themselves even if they don’t follow all of the “rules” of gardening. Just as a garden’s uniqueness is refreshing and inspiring, on the road to recovery it’s essential to remember that there is no perfect body, shape, personality, life, family, recovery, etc. We each discover our recovery in its own imperfect and messy way and through acceptance of this, we learn to accept and cherish ourselves just as we are.
5. If it doesn’t work out the first time, try again. There is no such thing as failure, just learning and having fun. In May, I had just planted my little seedlings that I’d been carefully nurturing indoors for two months. They were finally strong enough to go out in the earth and grow! Of course, the next day we got a MASSIVE hail storm that just about drowned all of my little plants in golf-ball sized pieces. I was so upset, worried and frustrated. After some deep breaths I came to realize that I cannot control nature and that my little plants are going to show me how resilient they are. Once I embraced what I could not change or control, I turned my attention to what I was grateful for and my stress oozed out of me.In recovery, trying to embrace what you cannot control is one of the most difficult but also most freeing concepts — I cannot say that I’m always successful, but hey, I’m not perfect.
6. Patience is a virtue. What seeds do you want to nurture in your own inner garden? Take some time to think of several that you would love to grow in your life. Plant them by writing them down or planting your own garden and setting intentions for each seed that you sow. Of course, some seeds may not grow — this is the nature of nature and also the nature of life. Just plant more. Then, have patience. The most beautiful and magical gifts in our lives take time, gentle care, and acceptance for them to thrive.
Recovery is a garden worth waiting for!
Post originally written by Kate Daigle, MA, LPC and published on the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders site.