What do you see when you look in the mirror? If the first thing that comes to mind is something critical, you’re not alone. This month on KSL’s Studio 5 with Brooke Walker, we challenge you to think positive about your body.
Last month I sat down with KSL’s Brooke Walker and Raylee Eck in beautiful Sugarhouse Park to chat about the health and mental health benefits of running. Ironically, I had to skip my run that morning to get to ready for the video shoot. Ha!
Between celebrities and supermodels today’s media set high and unrealistic standards for appearance, causing women to be critical of their own bodies. The pressure women feel to have the “perfect body” leaves them with feelings of dissatisfaction, a risk factor for eating disorders says Shannon Snapp, Ph.D., and her colleagues at University of Arizona. Snapp and her colleagues looked at first-year college women who are particularly vulnerable to body dissatisfaction and placing a high value on appearance. Their study identified the following five factors that promote positive body image for young adult women:
Q: I don’t know what to do. I have been seeing my therapist for 3 years. I suffer with body image issues and distorted eating. My therapist has always been thin/healthy. Sometimes her weight drops and I am very sensitive to it. We have talked about it before and I am very open with it if I feel triggered by her. I saw her today and she looks like an eating disordered patient. She said she is aware of it and working on it. She said she has medical issues that make her body do things if she’s not careful and stress plays a part. I believe she is OK and she will work at getting back up to a healthy weight, but its really hard for me to make sense of. Why can she look like that but I have to work to keep myself healthy? Why are such high expectations put on me that she doesn’t live up to? She is my biggest role model, and all I can think of at this moment is starving myself until I look like her. She is happy, successful, smart, has a family and is pretty. She said, “I hope you’re not jealous of this (her body)” and she said that she wished she was in a different place. I just can’t get the picture of her out of my mind. Oh and she’s been getting sick a lot recently. It scares me. I want her to be healthy. She’s MY motivation to be healthy. But when she’s not…my motivation goes away and I want to restrict. How do I make sense of this?
A: Wow. What a tough situation! I want to validate your confusion about how to make sense of your therapist’s weight loss. It sounds like you’ve handled this things well so far by being open with your concern for her health, and talking about how her weight loss is impacting your recovery process. It’s scary when someone close to you is obviously ill and I’m glad that you are asking for help to deal with your concerns.
I can hear that on one level you trust that your therapist is addressing the problem, and on another level you’re angry about the double standard — she can be at a seemingly unhealthy weight and you’re expected to be at a healthy weight. While it is normal to be concerned about your therapist, I think there may be more for you to learn about yourself and your relationship patterns.
Your comment that you can’t get the picture of her out of your mind may be a sign that you’re too focused on her. I’m curious, have you had other close relationships where you’ve focused on their problems or issues in a way that negatively impacted you? Core relationship patterns and emotional wounds often replay themselves in clients’ feelings and thoughts about their therapist. You may want to explore these patterns with your therapist.
Just like children who idealize their parents eventually come to realize that their parents aren’t perfect, it sounds like you are experiencing a similar realization with your therapist. Instead of seeing her as the epitome of health, her drastic weight loss has knocked her off of the pedestal of perfection in your eyes.Â There may be some grieving that goes along with acknowledging that your role model isn’t everything you hoped she’d be.
It’s time for you to work toward developing an internal source of motivation for health and recovery instead of relying solely on your therapist for your motivation. Ultimately, who you are and who you want to become are defined and chosen by you, not by any external source. You are stronger than you think you are.
Keep the dialogue with your therapist focused on you and trust that she’s aware and taking care of her own struggles. If after a few months she’s not improving and you are still frequently triggered by her appearance, it may be time to talk to your therapist about transferring to another therapist.
Thanks for writing in and I wish you well in your continued recovery.
You have many aspect that make you…you! Focus on developing and valuing all of them…mental, social, spiritual, emotional, and physical.
One of the most common New Year’s Resolutions is to lose weight and get fit. When you don’t exercise as much as you’d planned or you overeat one day what do you say to yourself? Are you kind and loving, or do you tell yourself things like, “See, another year when you can’t lose weight” and say belittling things to yourself?
Self-acceptance frees us to make changes. Women worry that if they accept where they are they’ll stay the way they are, but the opposite is true.
Tip: Focus on improving health and self-care
No matter what your physical appearance, you can always take small steps to take good care of yourself. I love the phrase “Life rewards action” because it’s true. Even taking one small step to better your health is a good thing.
5) Social mistakes
How we look in the eyes of others in terms of our behavior is another aspect that can impact self-esteem. Saying something dumb, being impatient with your child, or things as simple as realizing you’ve been calling someone by the same name.
Tip: Own it and move on
You’re self-esteem can remain in tact if your mistake, misstep, or error and then quickly moving on instead of worrying about it.
Tip: It’s none of my business what other’s think of me
If you’re worried about what other’s might be thinking about your misstep it’s crucial to remember that it’s not your business what others think about you. You can’t control their thoughts. You’ll never really know what others think about you anyway, unless they are willing to tell you directly.
Pregnancy is a time of change, and living in a culture obsessed with appearance and thinness, many women struggle with fears surrounding body changes that accompany pregnancy. I recently interviewed with Parents.com to share my thoughts on this topic…
“Women need to develop a willingness to view bodily changes as part of the journey of motherhood, instead of something to be feared,” says Julie Hanks, a psychotherapist, and owner and director of Wasatch Family Therapy in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. “It’s crucial to have a healthy view of your body during and after pregnancy.”