If you’ve been struggling with binge eating, emotional eating and food addiction for most of your life, you may view your body as an adversary. When you experience negative feelings about your body, it may be the result of past hurtful experiences from childhood, which can lead to a disconnection between you and your body. This can lead to your self-evaluation (how you feel about yourself) being tied to your body size or shape and a desire to whip your body into shape. When you reconnect to your body, you can tap into a vast reservoir of wisdom and advise that will guide you in your recovery from binge eating, emotional eating and food addiction.
In this episode you will learn:
1. What is body image?
2. What are the 3 causes of negative body image?
3. What in your childhood is the key to understanding your body image issues?
Exercise: Tapping into Body Wisdom
After taking 3 deep cleansing breaths, sitting with your feet flat on the floor, allow your body to relax. When you are feeling relaxed, answer the following questions:
1. If you were to listen to your body’s wisdom, how would you address your negative body thoughts differently? (Example: I will interrupt my negative thoughts and say neutral or kind things about my body.)
2. If you were to listen to your body’s wisdom, what would it say to you about your body right now? (Example: I’m on a journey to healing that will benefit my body, mind and spirit.)
Mentioned in podcast:
Free e-book: 5 Steps to Recovery – https://www.anchorprogram.com/
Get a free copy of my book: “The Food Addiction Recovery Workbook” (I pay for the book, you pay for postage) – https://www.foodaddictionrecoveryworkbook.com/free?utm_source=crpodcast
If you’re an international listener use this link to get your free e-book of “The Food Addiction Recovery Workbook.” https://www.foodaddictionrecoveryworkbook.com/ebook
Hi everyone Dr. Carolyn here with episode number one hundred. The third of the five keys to recovery which is embracing the wisdom of the body. We’ve already talked about key number one, stopping superficial behaviors and key number two, which is emerging from the emotional soup. But I think it’s very apropos that our Centennial episode, episode number 100 is about body image, because I would say that a hundred percent of the people that I work with in the anchor program struggle with body image issues, stay tuned.
So let’s start by talking about what is body image, body image is the picture you hold in your mind of your body. Now just maybe you’ve had this experience where you thought that you were really heavy as a child, or you were told that you needed to lose weight as a child, and then you go back and look, look at your childhood photos and you realize you weren’t really that big. So somehow that picture, that implanted in your mind that you were bigger than you were, or that something was wrong with you or something was wrong with your body and that sometimes can last a lifetime. And when you hold a negative picture in your mind of your body or you’re dissatisfied with your body, it can be a significant predictor of compulsive overeating, binge-eating emotional distress, depression, and problems in your relationship.
I want to tell you about one of my patients and how her body image issues began. Her name is Marla and one of the things that she talked about is just her difficulty in identifying her emotions and expressing her emotions. She had particular problems expressing anger or fear, and often would completely disconnect from any sensations in her body associated with those emotions. Her body dissatisfaction began when she was pretty young, somewhere around age eight when her mother got very ill and was in bed a lot of the time and this went on for years and years. So Marla began to have to take care of her mother and her younger sister. She basically didn’t have much of a childhood and she had to put her own needs aside in order to caretake her mom and sister. So during this time, food really became a comfort and an escape for her. She actually couldn’t remember a time in her life when she was aware of what she was feeling or any body sensations related to her emotions. She just remembers feeling unhappy with their body and feeling betrayed by her body for being bigger than she wants it to.
So I always say that body image issues are red herring because they are really a distraction from the emotions that we are afraid to feel. And so we put all of those feelings onto our body and say, we hate our body, but really focusing all your attention on your body keeps you from having to look at other things in your life or in your past better and comfortable. So one of my favorite sayings and anybody who’s been in the anchor program knows the, say, I say, “your body is the reservoir of all the wisdom you need to change your life”. So, if you’ve been struggling with binge eating, emotional, eating, and food addiction, for most of your life, you may view your body as an adversary, as Marla did. When in fact it is actually your greatest ally. The body is the early warning system that helps you identify the emotions behind your behaviors and your body can provide you with expert advice on what to eat, how much to eat your body’s also your early warning sign of you know, who to get into a relationship with and who to avoid. Now, most of the time we don’t listen to our bodies or we’re not used to listening to our body. So we miss many of these signs. Some people call it intuition, I call it body wisdom. But when you experience negative feelings about your body can also be the result of past hurtful experiences from childhood as we saw with Marla. And that’s can lead to that disconnect between you and your body, and that then leads to your self evaluation. In other words, how you feel about yourself being tied to your body size or shape and then you want to just whip your body into shape.
So let’s look at some of the causes of body image issues. Number one, social media. We know that exposure to social media, images of thinness, especially in young, you know, young children and teenagers has been associated with an increase in body dissatisfaction and also negative mood. So maybe depression. But newer trends in on social media of body positivity and body image activism and advocacy have actually contributed to improved body image and mood. So it’s really important that you choose which social media influencers or celebrities you follow, because that can make a huge difference then in your body image.
The second cause of body image issues is what we call attachment styles. I think you’ve heard me talk about this on previous podcasts, but a parent or caregiver’s relationship with their infant has a direct effect on the child’s later social development, individual perceptions, emotions, thoughts, and even expectations in future relationships. So attachment is that bond that you form with your primary caregiver has sometime, that sometimes that bond never forms if your caregiver, for example, has a mental illness or engaged with substance use disorders that can make it difficult for you to bond with them. Other reasons that make it difficult for you to bond, have to do with a caregiver who may be abusive or a caregiver who’s absent. So all of those things can make your early bonding, uh, problematic. But as it turns out, this pivotal early relationship does have an effect on a child’s body image. And if you have one of these insecure attachment styles, it can predispose you to using destructive. Coping mechanisms such as bingeing, compulsive over eating, and it can also contribute to low self-esteem and body image dissatisfaction.
The third cause of body image issues is that past history of trauma. Trauma has a direct effect on the body. Which causes what I’ve taught you before about toxic stress. And that’s a physical reaction where you go, your body goes into fight or flight or freeze. So the trauma, those traumatic experiences are stored in what’s called body memory, as opposed to our conscious.
So body memories can be triggered by easily by persons noticing something that reminds them of the trauma could be something they see could be a smell. It could be a taste. All of those things could be a sound. Those things can trigger body memories and stress can also trigger these body memories and all of that makes it hard for you to regulate your emotions and soothe yourself during times of stress. And that may be one of the reasons why you may be using food as a way to self-soothe or to numb yourself. or you may use alcohol, drugs, sex, or gambling to self-regulate self-sooth or deal with stress.
So those are some of the causes of body image issues. And I think another thing we can talk about are some of the roles that we play in life. And we, we all play many different roles in our lives. Or another way of talking about roles that we play is the word archetypes. Sometimes these roles in our life that you thrust upon us by parents, they could be chosen unconsciously or we could be fully aware and choose a row. For example, you may have been thrust into the role of caretaker and then chosen to become a nurse or a doctor as Marla did. There’s no right or wrong about the roles that we exhibit in our lives. Having said that it is good to be aware of these roles and how body size and shape may have unconsciously shaped your choices.
So, the media and Western culture emphasize a certain ideal body size, and we know what that is. That’s then have you ever wondered why some people are more affected by these media images than others? Well, that is goes back to what I was talking about earlier, which are attachment styles. And so insecure attachment can be, have a direct effect on your vulnerability to any of the media images on body size, et cetera.
So one of my mentors used to say the body is always in the present moment. It really has no other choice. I like that while the mind is always flitting away from what’s happening now to what might happen in the future, what happened in the past and all that the body is steadfastly staying with and during and processing. For example, if you’re struggling with memories or thoughts from your past, such as my mother favored my brother over me, or he hurt me, or that person betrayed me, you can check in with your body sensations to see if you are a number one. Your adult self reflecting on the past to gain insight and to heal, or number two, your child’s self who is continually reliving the past, past hurts and traumas like a real on a film that is on repeat. Now, how do you know the difference? Well, one way to know if you’re in your child’s self, is that the emotion space seem much stronger than they logically should. Usually when you’re in your child’s cell, there’s also a feeling of being overwhelmed and helpless. You feel unable to do anything to change the situation. So it’s important to understand that because with that understanding, you can actually bring yourself back to your adult self and be able to address the problem with the skills and tools that an adult with.
So if you’re grounded in the present moment, you can also be more likely to be able to connect with your body sensations and to feel those body sensations and emotions pass through you. And you can metabolize your experience in the moment. While they experience your processing, maybe painful. You can feel your body released the pain little by little if you are in the present moment, allowing you to return to your life and feel a sense of completion. We all know that feeling. You know, for example, when you suffer the loss of a loved one, you may be devastated at the time. And then over a period of years, your grief may triggered from time to time. And you may experience sadness, anger, other emotions, well up within you, those are your body memories. And when you allow yourself to feel those emotions in the moment they pass over them. When however, you block your emotions with food or other behaviors, or you judge what happened like that shouldn’t have happened, that was wrong, et cetera. Or you judge how you feel. I shouldn’t be over this by now for example. The emotions will continue to stay stuck and storage in your body. Triggering defense mechanisms to help you cope like overeating, dinging food addiction, and so on. As I said, trauma has a direct effect on the body, but we can heal from trauma. The most important thing to recognize is your body is your best friend. Now that may be a little bit much for you to believe in or take on as your own, just put, put in the back of your mind, maybe riding on some stickies and put it around your house and just kind of ponder on that a little bit.
The reason I say your body is your best friend is the body is where you can heal from past hurts, traumas and abuse. The body is constantly offering you wise feedback on what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, when to be active, when to rest and relax how much sleep you need and so on. And despite what it has gone through, it has continued to work on your behalf throughout your lifetime. Listen to your body’s eloquent voice, make your body your ally, and use your body to live in the present moment by moment.
I hope that’s been helpful and I look forward to seeing you next time for episode number 101 where we will talk about core beliefs, another important topic, and the fourth key to recovery. See you next time. This is Dr. Carolyn.
I hope that was really helpful to you. And I, I hope that the takeaway message that you have is that embracing your body’s wisdom is in your best interest and can help you in so many, many ways it’s another tool. And your toolbox for living your life and recovering from binge-eating food addiction or emotional eating.
So please share this podcast with anyone you think might benefit from it also would appreciate your giving me a great rating so I can rank high and get the word out more and more about these important topics. And join me next week for podcast Number 101 on core beliefs, the fourth of the five steps to recovery.
I want to remind you that we are still running the free copy of my book. Still giving away free copies of my book, the food addiction, recovery workbook. I pay for the book you paid for the postage. We also are offering an ebook of the foot addiction, recovery workbook to international listeners. So I’ve put that information in the show notes and I hope you will take advantage of it before it runs out. Let’s say, okay. All right. This is Dr. Carolyn signing off. Talk to you next time.