As an eating disorder and body image therapist, many of the clients that I see struggle with hating their bodies. This makes complete sense. We are all raised in a culture, which tells us that our value lies in our appearance and that “thinner” is better. Also, for individuals who have an eating disorder-they have a serious mental illness, where the symptoms often manifest in a focus on food and weight.
Body image issues are complex, and often unique to each individual person. One common challenge is that some people don’t want to work on their body image issues, as they tell themselves that the “solution” is to simply keep hating their bodies-which they hope will lead to changing them.
The following are a few important questions to ask yourself if you are struggling with wanting to work on improving your body image or to give up the “weight loss” goal.
Questions to Ask Yourself
· How is hating my body serving me, and how is it not serving me?
· Is hating my body helping me to go in the direction of a meaningful life?
· When I look back on my life in my 90’s will I wish that I spent more time focusing on hating my body and trying to change it?
· What would I be focusing on, if I weren’t so focused on hating my body?
Hating Your Body May Actually Serve a Function
Now it might seem like the title of this article is meant to be flippant, however the reality is that hating your body might actually be serving a function for you. So, it’s important to examine in your own life, the purpose that the “body-hate” might be serving.
Often the language of body-bashing is really the way that we are communicating some deeper issues in our lives. For instance, it’s easier to say, “My thighs are huge and disgusting,” than to say, “I feel lonely and rejected by my partner.”
Additionally, in focusing on hating your body and trying to change it-you take away valuable energy from focusing on other things. The analogy that I give is to imagine that you have a series of jars in front of you, one jar is “relationships,” “my kids,” “my passions,” “religion,” etc. Then imagine that you only have a certain amount of marbles. When you put a huge amount of your marbles in the “body and appearance” jar, you have to take some out from the “kids” jar and the “exploring my passions” jar.
We have a limited amount of brain space, and when you use your energy to focus on body hate-you take away from things that are actually far more meaningful to you.
Another example might be, let’s say that someone has a past history of being hurt in relationships and is afraid to date. Perhaps, their focus on body-hate keeps them distracted from having to confront the real issue of being vulnerable and intimate with another person.
What Truly Matters
In trying to micromanage the size of our bodies (which will very much find their “happy” weight themselves if we are able to practice listening to their needs and treating them with compassion), we take away precious time and energy that we could be utilizing for another purpose.
We’ve been culturally conditioned to believe that our appearance and our bodies are the most valuable things about us. They aren’t. Our passions are. Our relationships are. The way that we treat others is.
A number on a scale will never define the incredible person that you are.
If you are struggling with body hate, it’s so important to be compassionate with yourself. You certainty aren’t alone in this. It’s not your fault that you were raised in diet-culture or that you struggle with an eating disorder.
However, you can make some new choices. You can choose to work on your body image with a professional. You can also choose to treat your body with kindness, even if you don’t love the way that it looks. Your body does so much for you every day, and it deserves your compassion and care.
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C: is an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland. Jennifer specializes in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, and body image issues. Jennifer provides eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Germantown, and Washington D.C. Connect with Jennifer through her website: www.jenniferrollin.com
If you are a professional who works with people with body image issues, check out Jennifer’s webinar for professionals: