Today, I’m pleased to present part three of my interview with Amy Pershing, executive director at PershingTurner Centers and clinical director for The Center for Eating Disorders in Ann Arbor, MI. Amy treats binge eating disorder (BED) and writes extensively about weight stigma and intuitive eating.

(Please check out parts one and two of our interview! Amy discusses BED myths, her own struggles with binge eating and how to recover.)

Below, Amy offers wise advice on improving your body image and a few parting words on BED.

Q: Can you share some powerful ways readers can improve their body image?

A: Remember your body is your home, not just an object. It needs you to be its advocate, its protector and its caregiver. Do that, and it will do the same for you, as best it can. Talk to your body, literally. I know it sounds silly, but it helps. Ask it what it needs, what messages it has at the moment.

Consider a “thank you” for all your body has been through. Consider an apology for not being able to listen before.

We take far better care of something for which we feel empathy, so we need to listen to our body messages. Are you hungry? Tired? Full? Emotions are physical; learn where your body feels them.

Your intuition is physical; think about how you feel when you know you are in a dangerous situation. Your body tells you first. long before your thoughts.

Our bodies are so much more than how they appear. Nothing wrong with enjoying playing with how you look, but remember it is not your body’s value. That is the cultural message, and it is economically motivated; it is not created to help you feel better. Quite to the contrary.

One thing I like to do is think about the times you were really enjoying being “in” your body, with no judgment about how it looked. Might be dancing, running, curling up on the couch, anything. Do that, and see the difference between being “in” and looking “at.” Try to shift to more being “in” your body. Find time in some small way (or a big way!) as often as you can.

For some clients I see, their bodies were the site of violence, damage, or other boundary violations. Most people absorb these traumas, and believe these experiences change the worth and value of their body itself. This is understandable, but absolutely wrong.

A body that has seen us through trauma is even more in need of our protection. If these wounds are part of your history, please do get therapy.

Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know about BED, body image or a related topic?

A: Know you are not alone, and you are not weak or crazy, or out of control. You are doing the very best you can to take care of yourself. Try to be clear about all the ways you might use food (to soothe, to avoid, to set limits around your time, to have a treat and break the “rules,” or anything else).

I firmly believe recovery is possible. It is not a “perfect” place, with no food or body image issues. It is a place of tolerance for the journey, and compassion for stumbles. With work and love, we can get there. And maybe even be grateful for the journey.

I’m honored to publish these interviews with Amy on Weightless. I’m so grateful to Amy for her willingness and generosity in sharing her own struggles and expertise with us. Thanks, Amy!

What else do you want to know about binge eating, body image or a related topic? Please share in the comments!