Body image expert Sarah Maria is the author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life. She was gracious enough to speak with me about her new book – in which she outlines five steps to banishing negative body obsession – how to”talk back” to the media and more.
Below is Part 1 of the interview. Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow, where Sarah Maria talks about her five body image-boosting steps, how to improve body image right now and more!
1. I’ve heard many people say that disliking your body is just a normal part of being a woman. What do you think about such a statement?
I am glad you asked this question because I address it specifically in Love Your Body, Love Your Life. Yes, many people, probably most people, say that disliking your body is a normal part of being a woman. If by “normal” they mean that the majority of women, 80-90%, dislike their bodies, then yes, it is “normal.” The vast majority of women in this culture at this time do dislike their bodies.
But to think that this is normal as in natural, as in necessary, as in a normal function of being alive, is ridiculous. This belief is part of the problem. Since it is so ubiquitous, many women have come to accept that it is just part of being a woman. This is ludicrous! It is settling for what happens to be the situation for many, instead of envisioning the possibilities that are available for all. It is accepting mediocrity instead of creating grandeur. It is maintaining the status quo instead of envisioning the truth.
Disliking your body is only normal in that most women experience it. It is in no way natural, and in no way necessary. You have the ability in each and every moment to love your body and love your life. Negative Body Obsession is a modern cultural epidemic. It has not always existed, and it need not always exist. It is in no way a natural part of being alive and can therefore be completely eradicated …
It’s the day after Turkey Day, so how do you feel? Usually, for many Americans, this is the day their guilt emerges and the inner insults start flying. Why did I eat so much? Did I really need that second helping of stuffing or the second piece of apple pie? I feel so fat. I’m huge. I just want to be in sweats all day and not move.
This disparaging dialogue may continue through Christmas, Hanukkah and the New Year, when we’ll be making a range of resolutions and getting ready for bikini season. And your guilt may be palpable. It starts in your stomach with a flurry of butterflies, and then travels up to your heart. It may be overpowering and overwhelming.
Do your guilty feelings trigger unhealthy choices? To be “good” again, you may resort to calorie restriction, the newest diet craze or outright fasting. You may hit the gym hard and engage in extreme exercise. You might feel like a failure and berate yourself, leading to anxiety, anger and sadness.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. You can put a stop to your guilt. You can feel better. If you’re feeling guilty because of overeating, here are a few tips that may help:
1. Accept your feelings and move on. OK, acknowledge that you feel guilty and realize that this is just another feeling. But like other feelings, it will go away.
2. Tell yourself you’ll go back to eating healthfully. No harm done. You enjoyed a delicious meal, and the next day, you’ll return to your regular eating schedule.
3. Say something nice. Instead of swimming in guilt and self-criticism, say something nice about yourself. If in comes a scathing remark, out goes a nice one. In an earlier post, Dr. Stacey recommended writing 25 qualities you like about yourself. “But 25 is a lot?” you may be thinking. She writes,
“Are you a good friend, mother? A caring, compassionate person? Are you funny? Do you like the way people can count on you, the way you smile, how thoughtful you can be? Are you a great cook, an honest …
This is a strange Thanksgiving in the Tartakovsky household, one that I didn’t think I’d be spending this way, this soon. This year, we’re spending Thanksgiving without my dad. He passed away in August, three days shy of his 58th birthday.
This Thanksgiving, I’ll try my best not to think about or feel guilty if I have too many bites of apple pie, if my outfit feels too tight, if I have surplus spoonfuls of stuffing. None of that seems important. In fact, this kind of thinking just seems silly, in the grand scheme of things. When a big part of your life is missing. When a big part of your life is painfully missed.
I’m not writing this post to say that people who worry about overeating don’t deserve to be concerned, are unjustified or vane for their concerns. These, too, are genuine feelings, which deserve exploring. Holidays are a notoriously difficult time for anyone with food or body image issues, and sometimes, families can make matters worse.
I’m writing this post because our body-bashing thoughts are time-consuming and distracting. They take us away from the real things in our lives. They take us away from those who love us unconditionally, regardless of our food choices or appearance. That’s how my dad was.
So this holiday season, focus on your loved ones (and working toward loving yourself unconditionally, too). As humans, we naturally take people for granted, unfortunately. Take this day to banish any exhausting, disparaging thoughts and focus on what’s important to you.
If you’ve been working on building a healthier self-image and it’s been quite the challenge, simply take a break. Tell yourself that on this day, you’re taking a break from body bashing. On Thanksgiving Day, you’ll enjoy the little things like watching the parade with your loved ones, partaking in special traditions, seeing old friends.
If a negative thought pops up, just tell it to go away because it’s family time, and frankly, you can’t be bothered. Sure, this may not be easy. But it’s worth it. Sure, it might seem silly. But it may work.
And consider what you’re thankful for this holiday season.
Please share …
I’ve already had the great opportunity to speak with two women about their eating disorder recovery (you can find the interviews here and here). I hope to regularly feature Q&As with individuals who’ve recovered from eating disorders, binge eating, negative body image or any kind of disordered eating. If you’d like to share your story of recovery, I’d love to hear from you! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you ever eaten to numb the pain? Ever overeaten because you were anxious or excited? Because you felt out of control, because you couldn’t make sense of things?
Many of us have engaged in some kind of emotional overeating, some of us on a regular basis. Feeling powerless, overwhelmed by one’s emotions can be terrifying. But you do have control, and you can overcome your emotional overeating, even if it’s something you’ve done for years or your entire life.
I’m thrilled to present today’s Q&A with Stephanie Vincent of the wonderful blog Radical Hateloss (how clever is the title!), who was gracious enough to talk with me about her experiences with emotional overeating and what she’s done to overcome it.
1. How did your emotional overeating start?
I believe I have been emotionally overeating for pretty much all of my life. I remember my first diet. I was put on it by the school nurse in fourth grade. It has taken a long time for me to understand my eating was emotional. I thought when I was a teenager, emotional eating was “eating a quart of ice cream, after you get a bad grade.” I figured I overate all the time, so it wasn’t “emotional eating.” I thought my problem was not having “will power.” It has taken me until my recent history to understand what emotional eating really is all about.
2. What do you think caused your overeating?
I have been doing “inner work” since I was 17 and one of the first questions I explored was “why?” Why was I fat? Why did I eat so much? The story I discovered was that as an empathetic kid, I had taken responsibility for my parent’s …
Whether you’re constantly worried about your weight, busy bashing your body or, from time to time, find yourself criticizing your appearance, we could all use a body image boost. Last week, we talked about food, body and eating disorder myths with some fabulous bloggers. Today, I’m happy to present their effective tips for building a healthier body image and being proud in your own (sensational) skin.
1. Recognize that your body is just one aspect of your appearance, your appearance just one aspect of who you are. Focus on everything else you are, everything else you have to offer. Make a list of 25 things you like about yourself.
2. Spend some time in front of the mirror without criticizing yourself. Focus simply on observation, not judgment. If you can’t do this at first, recognize the judgmental self-statements and try again another time.
3. Focus on what your body can DO rather than how it LOOKS. Are you able to swim, hanglide, enjoy a loving hug? The more you focus on your body as subject rather than object, the better your body image will be.
4. Think about how much time you’ve spent judging or criticizing your body and recognize how you could have better spent the time. Make a commitment to stopping yourself when you find yourself engaging in these behaviors.
5. Toss the scale. It’s not your friend, and you know about how much you weigh.
6. Body-image booster – Mirrors in your home. It’s easy to hide and never see yourself and then feel all bummed out when you see yourself while out and about or in photos others take of you. Look at yourself every day and say nice things to yourself when you do.
7. Wearing clothes designed to fit instead of hide lumpy bits makes a big difference. Curve-hugging shirts, jackets, and jeans look so much better than baggy ANYTHING when you’re overweight.
8. Accentuate the good. Dress …
There are tons of misconceptions about what’s attractive, what’s healthy and what an eating disorder really looks like. I talked with several amazing bloggers for their take. Below, you’ll find a list of their myths (and mine :)). And if you haven’t already, be sure to bookmark their fantastic blogs! Stay tuned for the bloggers’ tips on building a better body image next week.
Myth: The thinner you are, the healthier you are.
Weight is not a perfect proxy for health. The best predictors for health: family history, eating a balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise. Being too thin can have negative health consequences, and there are many healthy-weight or heavy women who are in perfect physical health.
Myth: Skinny = happy.
Not true. There are plenty of fat people who are happy, plenty of thin who are not. It’s not a 1-to-1 correlation, and true happiness doesn’t lie five or 10 or 20 pounds from now.
Myth: Men are only attracted to super slim women.
Most men are attracted to a woman who looks like a woman, not an eight-year-old boy. They appreciate curves.
Myth: Women who are diagnosed with anorexia nervosa have a great deal of will-power.
While it may seem that they are in extreme control over what they eat, in fact, their disorder is controlling them.
Myth: Anorexia nervosa is a desirable condition, something to aspire to.
AN is a horrible physical and psychological disease, that has one of the highest fatality rates of any psychiatric illness. Most women who meet criteria for AN are unhappy and wish they could go back to the time before they had the disease.
Myth: People with bulimia nervosa, who purge, are ridding themselves of excess calories.
Purging is not an effective weight-loss technique, and can significantly impact health–multiple bodily systems are affected, and electrolyte imbalances due to frequent purging can even lead to death.
From Sunny Sea Gold, health articles editor at Glamour magazine and founder of HealthyGirl.org, a website for young women who overeat.
Myth: A persistent eating disorder myth I see is the idea that people with …
I’m so thrilled to feature an interview with Marsha Hudnall, MS, RD, CD, director and owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run, a women’s retreat for healthy living without dieting. She contributes to the blogs A Weight Lifted and We Are the Real Deal, both must-reads! I absolutely love her work and philosophy.
I contacted Marsha to get her take on all the holiday eating hoopla. Below, we talked turkey (sorry, couldn’t help it ) about healthy eating advice, detox diets and more!
1. I write a lot about the detrimental messages magazines convey to women about body image, food and fitness. With the holidays almost here, women’s magazines pack their issues with how-tos on navigating buffets, celebratory spreads and office parties. Even websites like WebMD.com feature advice on “handling holiday diet temptations.” This article, for instance, provides good advice and suggests taking it easy and enjoying yourself. But there’s still the ever-present sprinkle of “you better watch out and curb that out-of-control eating” type of advice.
“Holiday parties are much more than food and drinks. They are a time to delight in the traditions of the season, and enjoy the company of family and friends. If you keep the focus on the spirit of the season — and heed the advice of our diet experts — you’ll most likely get through the holidays without gaining a pound [emphasis mine].
And if you do splurge, don’t beat yourself up, the experts say. Just get right back to normal eating and exercising, and try to do a better job at the next party.”
Do you think this advice has gotten out of hand or is truly helpful? What kinds of messages do these tips send?
This is a tough question because many people need a little help to navigate the holidays without stressing over food and weight. That’s because they don’t know how to eat well anymore without guidelines. If we are normal healthy eaters, navigating the riches of the holidays is intuitive. But for the rest of us, it’s not. To help those of us in this latter group, advice that can help us …
Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity of talking with Therese Borchard about her recovery from an eating disorder. I hope to feature Q&As with individuals who’ve recovered from eating disorders regularly. If you’d like to share your story of recovery, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at email@example.com.
I’m so pleased to present today’s interview with Kate Le Page, the author of GoodBye Ana, a powerful collection of poems about her battle with and recovery from eating disorders. Kate recently launched her own website, so be sure to check it out here!
1. How and when did your anorexia start? What do you think contributed to it?
I was 14 when I first started to realize that I felt uncomfortable in my own skin; I’d always been a picky eater but gradually the foods I felt able to eat started to diminish. The year before (1991) had been a difficult one as my grandfather had passed away quite suddenly and we then moved house so my grandmother could come and live with us. I had close friends in my old neighborhood and I found moving very distressing.
Another factor was that I began menstruating when I was in the middle of a 3-day swimming event. I remember feeling so angry at my body for betraying me and making me miss out on completing the event. School wasn’t going well at this time as I was being bullied for having such large feet that I wore men’s shoes. Nowadays, I couldn’t care less about what shoes I wear but when you are desperately wanting to fit in with your peers anything that makes you different is hard to manage. I began to truly despise myself for having this perceived imperfection and I even remember thinking if I could only lose more weight then maybe my feet would shrink! So, I’d have to say that it was a combination of several different factors that contributed to me developing the disease.
2. Many women with eating disorders are reluctant to seek treatment. …
Having a “fat day,” not finding something flattering to wear or outright hating our bodies has made us miss out on many things. We’ve missed out on good times with friends and making friends. We’ve missed out on dating and dances. Trying out for a sport. Trying on clothes that we like. Kicking butt on a job assignment. Being good to ourselves.
I’ve listed a few suggestions below on quieting our harshest critic (ourselves, of course!) and not missing out.
1. Explore why. When you say no to dating or getting out of the house, what’s the reason? Is it because you don’t look your best or because you still need to lose ten pounds? Is it because you’re really anxious about meeting new people, being rejected? Is it because you don’t think you’re good enough in general? Why not? Finding a quiet place and thinking about the reasons can help you better understand where you’re coming from and how you can move on from this unhealthy place. Consider making a list with your reasons.
2. Consider what you’re missing (and have already missed). When you’re feeling good and can be somewhat objective, consider what you’re missing out on and write it down. (I’m a huge fan of lists; I think they – or any kind of writing – help you make sense of your thoughts in a concrete, tangible way, so you can take action). Your list can be as simple as “missing out on seeing old friends, job promotion, dating, laughing, being happy, enjoying my own company.” Also, think about how missing those things makes you feel. And write that down. Feel free to take out the list when your inner critical voice starts yapping.
3. Will it matter five years from now? When I was younger, I cared a lot (probably too much) about what others thought of me. Does my outfit look good enough? Will someone think I’m not thin enough to wear it? Am I pretty to others? I’ve read this advice in various places (here’s one), and it’s a nice way of looking at life …
If you’re having a “fat day,” do you stay in?
Does a fat day dictate whether you get together with your girlfriends or even run a few errands? Does finding a flattering outfit to wear determine your plans? If you can’t find the perfect slimming dress for tonight’s party, do you decline the invite?
Does how you feel about your body change how you structure your day or how your day goes?
Years ago, as a college student, I distinctly remember standing in my walk-in closet, scanning the hangers like a mad woman for something nice to wear, something that would make me look and feel pretty, something that would hide my flourishing fat. I was already running late. And every piece of clothing I picked up and put on looked horrible.
Several shirts clung too tightly to my stomach. The jeans felt physically uncomfortable. The skirts didn’t fit right either. I felt like the energizer bunny, swiftly trying on a slew of outfits, turning every which way in the mirror – to no avail. I’d nix them one by one, hurling a few critical remarks at myself in the process. I finally chose a go-to outfit, after spending several minutes, sitting with my head in my hands, crying in my closet. I had a gnawing urge to call and cancel. I didn’t. I did end up having a nice dinner with friends.
It might’ve been a small thing but I realized the power of a negative body image, the power of disgust. It almost prevented me from enjoying a fun dinner with friends, who’d never judge me, who’d care less if I showed up in my schlumpiest sweats. My distaste for my body was that influential. Looking back on it, I wish I could’ve told myself that I’d be OK. I wish I’d been kinder…
In my first post for Weightless, my last solution for a bruised body image involved considering what you miss out on when you’re busy bashing your body.
While we’re crying in the closet or volleying insults in our minds, we may miss out on meaningful things, whether big or small. An important event …