In this episode, I will share with you some of my personal struggles with the tyranny of the scale. I will also talk about body shaming and weight stigma especially when it comes from physicians and will give you my responses to and anger about the medical profession which continues to make everything about size. If you’re struggling with binge eating, emotional eating and food addiction, you may also be experiencing internalized weight stigma. This can make it more difficult for you to care for your body in a healthy way.
In this episode you will learn:
- 5 Questions you can ask yourself to find out if you’re a victim of scale tyranny.
- Four solutions for dealing with doctors around the issue of food and body image issues.
- Why I say that body image is not about your body!
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Hi everybody, it’s Dr. Carolyn, I’m coming to you with episode number 111, 1-1-1. And we’re going to be talking about how to free yourself from the tyranny of the scale. Stay tuned.
So before we get started, I wanted to apologize for the gap in the podcast. I’ve had to take some time off to continue dealing with COVID long haul issues, and also just to reboot my mental health after a long and difficult few years. Now I recently posted something brief about how taking some publicity photos effected my own body image. Now I’m aware of all the movements in the field of eating disorders, whether it be body positivity, body neutrality, fat activism, fat liberation, and more. But I’m only human and like many of you I’m aware that it’s not easy to like your body when it doesn’t conform to the societal norms. And as I grow older and have experienced health issues that impact by body shape and size. And just the result of living in my body and having a stressful career and have three children, raised those kids, all of the things that we go through in life. I’ve had to recommit myself to ignoring those outside voices and refocusing on my own love and compassion for my body, which after all has proved to be so resilient and strong, despite all it’s gone through, especially over the last couple of years.
So the first thing I want to say is that body image has nothing to do with your body. Now, this is something I tell my patients in the anchor program, all the time. Body image issues, preoccupation, or obsession about our body size or shape is really a red herring or you can call it fake news. But I mean by this, is that almost always, when we say we are obsessing about our bodies, what’s actually happening is that we’re feeling a negative emotion or having negative thoughts about something completely separate from our bodies. But because these negative thoughts and feelings may be unconscious with instead assume we’re feeling bad because of our size or shape. So, for example, when I’ve been stressed about something, I often default to thinking I feel bad because of my size or shape when I step back and think about what preceded my body image issues, it really had nothing to do with my body. Rather, it was all about my stress or about some thought about whether I’m doing a good job at work, etc. That’s what started the body image cascade, the negative body image cascade.
I think we’ve been led to believe that focusing on our size, you know, continuing to beat ourselves up to lose weight is what really works. And also we’ve been stigmatized (that word is hard to say by the way) and body shame because of size. And I hate to admit it that the doctors are one of the big purveyors of the weight stigmatization secondary only to our own families. So here are some things that bothered me, hope you don’t mind me sharing them. First of all, I feel that my weight is nobody’s business, but my own, honestly, I’m really sick of doctors recommending diets to me for my “health”. PS. Did they forget that, Number one, I am a doctor and number two I’m a specialist in eating disorders and endorse the fact that you can be healthy, no matter your size. Number two, I’m sick and tired of doctors blaming all my health issues on my size, as an added thought, I’m tired of feeling I have to prove to them that I’m active and that my dietician says I have an exemplary diet. I recently had a conversation with the doctor who told me that my doing Pilates was not the right exercise. In other words, subtitle, #toloseweight. I don’t think he’s ever done Pilates, but I can tell you that the way my Pilates instructor teaches, I leave there dripping with sweat and out of breath. I can’t believe I’m even justifying this to you. So I’ll stop. I love Pilates. That’s why I do Pilates. And Pilates is a really wonderful exercise for strength and flexibility. All of which help us as we age.
Decades ago, people didn’t have scales. I don’t know if you know that, but scales haven’t been around all the time they first came out in 1917. Before that people just eat what they eat and then they went and did their work. And you know, carried on with their lives. They weren’t tyrannized by the scale. And by the way, weight wasn’t on the doctor’s chart It wasn’t part of our health profile either. Just imagine that, imagine if you went to the doctor and the first thing the nurse said to you is let’s get you on the scale. Imagine if that wasn’t the first thing they said to you. Imagine if you went to the doctor’s office and the nurse just walked you into the room and said, “How are you doing” “great the doctor will be with you soon”. Okay. So that’s a dream of mine, I don’t know if it’ll ever come true.
Anyway, the hardest task that we have though is not just weight stigma that’s imposed on us by the media, by other people, including doctors and our family members. But really the hardest one to root out is our own internal weight bias. And they said negative thoughts when we pass a store window or when we don’t fit into our clothes, and this is what’s called internalized weight stigma, and that’s when a person applies negative societal or cultural beliefs about body weight to themselves. These beliefs come from social norms, which are unwritten rules, that govern behavior. So if you’re struggling with food addiction, emotional eating, or binge eating, I know that you like me are probably harder on yourself than anyone else. Internalized weight stigma also requires constant vigilance and an enduring and fierce compassion for our bodies and ourselves to overcome weight bias and stigma appear to be one of the few remaining forms of discrimination that are acceptable and it occurs across all areas of our life, whether it be work education, our relationships, health care, customer service and the media.
So some of the things you know, when you see yourself in a mirror or when you go to try on clothes or when you have those “bad body image days” are you know, I’m a failure. If I just had more willpower, I’m a loser. And then from there, you move into your underlying core beliefs, which often come from trauma as I mentioned before. And these can be things like I’m not worthy, I’m not lovable, I’m unfit. And sometimes we convince ourselves somehow that we’re no longer, you know, even deserving of having a good relationship or a good job or having a good life. All of this is often triggered by just stepping on the scale.
So how do you know if you’re experiencing the tyranny of the scale? Or have internalized weight stigma. First of all, do you get upset when the number on the scale is not to your liking or happy when it is. Number two, do you negate any non-scale progress you’ve made when the number on the scale is not to your liking. Number three, do you feel that you’re a failure because you can’t seem to lose weight? Number four, does the number on the scale determine your mood for the whole day? Number five, if you have lost weight, do you obsess about how to keep the weight off and try to eat and do exactly what you think helped you to lose the weight? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you may be experiencing the tyranny of the scale.
So I wanted to share with you some of my own solutions to my anger at weight stigma, and posed by doctors. The first one is I no longer meekly get on scales and any doctor’s office. I don’t let anyone weigh me. I’m not a site to be. I don’t need to be weighed. That is not to say that I never weigh myself, I do, but very infrequent. Number two. I wish that the impact of trauma would be taught in medical school. Maybe this would make doctors pause and think about some of the other reasons why someone may be living in a larger body cause that they are lazy or my all time favorite, they don’t exercise enough and they eat too much. And number three size and shape are very complex issues. And I no longer read articles, opinion, pieces, et cetera, that talk about diets. I avoid social media sites where people are, for example, either trolling someone from losing weight. When they’ve been previously been “models of body positivity” or trolling someone for gaining weight after they’ve lost weight, promoted, dieting, or having anything to do with weight. I avoid those kinds of sites. And then finally I am being becoming hardened to weight, stigma, and attempts by doctors and others to shame me about my size. And I remind myself my weight is nobody’s business, but my own.
If you put your focus on the number on the scale and all the behaviors you used to try to change that number, you will miss the opportunity for healing at the deepest level possible because true healing really requires not only that you access what’s on the surface, in other words, your behaviors, but that you look for and heal some of the root causes of your food and body image issues. Which usually are beneath the surface and not as obvious.
Weight and food issues are just signs of the bigger problem. And for this reason only addressing your size or your eating problem does not affect the deeper issues of emotions that may be out of control and cause you to overeat or beliefs that are unconscious, but are driving the eating behaviors or a lack of connection to your body’s innate wisdom, which can help you with your food and body image issues.
A person can stop bingeing, overeating, et cetera, but still be at the mercy of deeper beliefs, emotions, and preoccupations that take her away from all that you truly want in life, including happiness and peace of mind. Beneath the surface are strong and sometimes painful emotions, core beliefs, and body sensations that drive our behaviors. And these behaviors are a way to keep those powerful and sometimes frightening emotions and beliefs at bay, but they can be healed. It must be on a deeper level.
Finally, I believe life is just too short. One thing that the last two years of quarantine recovering from COVID long haul and seeing the million people who lost their lives in our country has taught me is that life is too short to spend precious time. Energy and money worrying about my size because there is in fact nothing more that I can do about it other than what I’m already doing. And I feel I have more to offer than just how I look. I feel my life has more meaning in whether or not I’m a certain size. I have so much I’d like to accomplish. Yes. Still and worrying about my size gets in the way of all that.
What about you? Are you ready to move away from the tyranny of the scale and back into your beautiful life. If yes, I’m here to help. I want to just remind you of the book offer. You can get a free copy, either ebook or a hard copy of my book, The Food Addiction recovery Workbook. I pay for the book you pay for postage or handling and the link to that free book offer is in the show notes. When it also asks you to give us a rating and share this info, this podcast with anyone who could benefit or may be interested in it.
I hope you got something out of this podcast on the tyranny of the scale. And if you are a person who has been struggling with food addiction, binge eating, compulsive overeating or emotional eating. Just know that I’m here to help means a lot. So let me just tell you what I’m offering. I’m offering a free consult to anyone struggling with those issues, and that consult will give you an opportunity to get free advice from me, an expert in the field, and to find out more about my anchor program. The anchor program is a non diet approach to treating binge eating food addiction and emotional eating. It starts with a 12-week intensive and then you go into a six month program. The intensive part of the program is all about helping you get to those root causes of why you have unwanted behaviors. And then the six month part of the program is about maintaining your gains and being able to practice new skills to deal with your emotions and stressed without food. So I hope if you’re interested that you will click on the link to schedule your free consult and talk to me about the anchor program.
The next podcast coming up is how can I forgive people who have harmed me so I can stop my food addiction. So the next one is all about forgiveness. Join me then this is Dr. Carolyn signing off. I’ll see you next time. Thanks for listening.