Category Archives: Eating and Body Image

Aging Hatefully or Gratefully

By Andrea Wachter, LMFT

When you look in the mirror, what do you tend to think?

When you see photos of yourself, what’s the first thing that usually pops into your mind?

When you glance down at your body, what feelings arise?

You are not alone if your responses are on the negative, critical, and painful side. Body dissatisfaction and body hatred are rampant in our image- obsessed culture. While we can’t single-handedly and immediately change the culture, we can work on changing our own minds and upgrading our negative body image soundtracks.

If you are one of the millions of people who dislikes or even despises your body, consider trying a few of these tips.

Upgrade Your Gaze

When you see a child, a dear friend, or someone else you love, how do you tend to view them? Is your gaze filled with critiques and criticisms, or do you see them with eyes of love?

What if you could practice looking at yourself with a kind, loving gaze? Think of how you look at a child or pet you love, and try using that gaze with yourself. Of course, if you’ve been harshly judging your body for a while, this will take some practice. But, since we get better at what we practice, this is an extremely worthwhile endeavor.

Shifting To Acceptance

Think about one body part that you dislike or disapprove of.

Now think or say to yourself, I do not accept my X. (Fill in the blank with your chosen body part.) Repeat this sentence a few times and notice what you feel or if any other thoughts arise.

Now, using the same body part you just chose, say, or think, I accept my X. Repeat this sentence a few times and notice how it feels.

When we stop resisting reality and shift into acceptance, it can significantly help to decrease our stress levels and increase our moments of peace and presence.

Close Pesky Pop-ups

I’m guessing that you regularly see pop-up ads on your devices. I’m also guessing that unless it’s something you’re interested in, you click them closed without a second thought. We can learn to do the same thing with our unhelpful, unkind thoughts.

Some thoughts are stickier than others, depending on your history and personality, but fortunately, we have (and can learn to have) a choice about which pop-up thoughts we buy into and which ones we delete, like unwanted ads.

I know that this is easier typed than done if you’ve been caught in a negative body image trance for some time. But it is possible, with intention and commitment, to quiet and even delete our unwanted thoughts and learn how to be good company for ourselves.

Broaden Your Focus

It can be very enticing to zoom in on one or two body parts that we deem unacceptable and ignore the rest of our bodies. Our minds can get so focused on our areas of dissatisfaction that they can cloud out our bodies as a whole, not to mention exaggerate the part or parts we’re dissatisfied with.

It can help to broaden your focus and notice the many other body parts that also exist. Perhaps there are some areas of your body that you feel neutral about. Perhaps a few that you can even appreciate. Maybe you have some body parts that you accept or even a few that you actually like.

I recently heard from a couple of students in my body image course who benefited from broadening their focus. One is a man who’d been extremely depressed about a bald spot on his head. He told me that he’d been broadening his focus when he looks in the mirror.

Instead of exclusively focusing on his bald spot, he’d been focusing on all the hairs he still has on his head. He said that this shift was helping his experiences of looking in the mirror be much less charged and painful.

Another student wrote that she’d been very unhappy with several body parts. She began broadening her focus and expressing gratitude and appreciation for the body parts she’d ignored when she was only focusing on body criticisms. She wrote this: “I’ve been so hyper-focused on the wrinkles and age spots on my face and the size of my belly, I was literally acting like I had no other body parts! The past few weeks, I’ve been appreciating my legs for enabling me to walk, my arms for enabling me to lift things and hug my children, and my eyes for enabling me to see all the flowers in my garden. It takes practice for sure, but I’m feeling much less obsessed and depressed.”

So, if you find yourself criticizing or insulting your body, or a particular body part, I hope you’ll give these mind-makeovers a try.

As long as we’re alive, our bodies will age and change. We don’t have a choice about that. We have a choice about whether we paddle upstream in the choppy waters of body criticisms and comparisons or if we bathe in the warm waters of acceptance and appreciation for the bodies we live in.

View on Psychology Today

Stepping Off the Diet/Riot Roller Coaster

By Andrea Wachter, LMFT

If you’ve been battling with ineffective diets and uncontrollable eating (I call this riding the diet/riot roller coaster) and are ready to find solid ground, consider these tips.

Natural Eating

For decades, there’s been an unnatural paradigm when it comes to appearances and food. Most of us have been told (or have decided) what size our bodies should be based on cultural programming. Then, we set out to eat in a certain way that will supposedly get us to this magical size. Or, we feel bad because we can’t. So, we give up and ignore our body’s needs. These patterns of restricting and feeling out of control with food not only leave us feeling obsessed with food and disconnected from our bodies, but unwell in our bodies.

Thanks to movements like Intuitive Eating and Health at Every size, we now have a different paradigm. Instead of trying to eat in an unnatural manner in an attempt to attain a body size that may not even be natural for you, you instead learn to eat in a way that is non-restrictive and respectful and practice accepting and perhaps even appreciating your body. I know this is no small task in a culture that’s literally brainwashed most of us to think that we need to eat and look a certain way and that dieting will get us there. Contrary to the promises we’ve been sold, dieting leads most people to a sense of deprivation, food and body obsession, and chaotic eating.

When someone struggles with chronic and uncontrollable eating, they generally vacillate between two internal voices when it comes to food. One voice is what I call the “inner dieter.” This internal part sees foods as good, bad, right, and wrong. It’s important to know that you can have an inner dieter voice even if you don’t actually diet, but you think you should.

The second internal voice is what pops up for many people in response to the internal dieter. I call this the “inner rioter.” The inner rioter convinces us to eat everything the inner dieter and diet culture tells us not to eat.

Many people think the dieter is the good voice and the rioter is bad. In truth, the dieter leads to the rioter. It’s part of the problem.

The third internal voice is one that usually needs to be developed if you’ve been riding the diet/riot roller coaster for a while. This voice is wise, loving, and respectful. It knows when, what, and how much to eat.

If you have a history of dieting, feeling out of control with food, or body shame, this wise inner voice might be hard to hear. But rest assured, you have it inside of you. You were born with it. And with intention and practice, you can learn to identify your hunger, fullness, and satisfaction cues as clearly as you know when you’re tired, cold, warm, or need to go to the bathroom. These are your body’s natural signals. You can get back what the diet industry took from you and learn how to have a natural, enjoyable relationship with food.

Tip: If you’re unsure how to feed yourself in a non-restrictive, respectful manner, you can ask yourself the following questions when you’re approaching a food choice:

How would I feed someone I love who doesn’t diet or riot?

What feels like the most loving thing to do right now? 

Natural Movement

Another important aspect of departing the diet/riot roller coaster is having a healthy relationship with movement and rest. The fitness industry has given us so many rules about “working out” and burning calories that it can make it very challenging to know how we truly like to move and rest our bodies. But, just like feeding ourselves, we can restore our innate clarity that knows exactly how our bodies want to move and rest.

Tip: If your relationship to movement and rest feels problematic, you can try on these questions:

If you found out your body size could not change no matter how much you exercised, how do you think your body might like to move and rest?

If you felt comfortable in your body and allowed yourself to follow your natural rhythms for pleasurable movement and guilt-free rest, what do you think that might look like?

Natural Emotions 

Many of us have been taught that there are good and bad feelings. Happy is good. Sad, mad, and scared, not so good. You may have been told as a child to “quit crying” if you were sad or to go to your room if you were mad. You may have been handed a cookie whenever you had feelings that your caregivers didn’t know how to handle. These responses can give our little brains the message that expressing painful emotions is not okay and we should keep them down.

Since our emotions are natural and need to be welcomed in order to move through us, the only alternative to allowing our emotions to come up naturally is to stuff them down unnaturally. When we get the message that we should be happy all the time and keep our painful feelings down to a minimum, we must find ways to keep those feelings down. This is where food and body obsession or various substances, behaviors, and thoughts can arrive on the scene as attempts to quiet and quell our emotions.

It’s not easy to sit with, tolerate, or safely express our painful emotions, but then neither are the consequences of unnaturally stuffing them down. Those are our only choices. We either feel the feelings that naturally arise in our bodies, or we feel the feelings we have as a result of trying not to feel our feelings.

Tip: If welcoming emotions is a challenge for you, one of the best places to start is with self-compassion. If you become aware of sensations in your body that feel uncomfortable or unacceptable, try welcoming those sensations with acceptance and compassion.

You can also identify any unhelpful thoughts that might be contributing to painful emotions and see if they need to be questioned or upgraded.

Practice identifying your emotions with one word, like sad, mad, scared, lonely, etc. Then offer compassion to whatever emotions you are aware of. Compassion might sound like Of course I feel this way. Or It makes sense that I feel this.

Not only does compassion feel better and kinder, it helps us alleviate the need to stuff our natural emotions down in unnatural ways.

Natural Needs

Just like we all have various emotions that need regular tending, we also have a variety of needs. For many people, body obsession, food restricting, and chronic overeating are attempts to get some of our needs met. But, if these mindsets and behaviors truly met our needs, we would feel better from them and that is rarely the case, long-term.

When we get our needs met in healthy ways, we usually feel better afterwards; we feel satisfied. We don’t need obsessive thoughts or behaviors to try fill those empty spaces. Food can return to its original intended purpose: nutrition and pleasure.

So, what are our needs? Obviously, we have our basic physical needs, like food, water, shelter, and sleep. We also have our emotional and spiritual needs, like comfort, connection, equality, respect, love, play, and balance. These are needs that no amount of food and no particular body size will ever truly fill.

Of course, most of us don’t get every single need met every single moment, but when we are aware of our needs and meet them (or get them met) on a regular basis, we don’t need to turn to unhealthy thoughts and behaviors in an ineffective attempt to meet our needs.

Tip: If you’ve been battling with your body and food, rather than berating yourself for your behaviors, try looking for the unmet needs that the behaviors might be indicative of.

Complete the following sentence starter as authentically as you can:

I need…..

If you identify one or more unmet needs, see if there’s at least one that you can either meet yourself or get met in some way. If that’s not possible right now, you can offer yourself compassion and praise yourself for the courage it takes to dig deep.

Author and neuroscience educator, Sarah Peyton says, “We can literally see in functional MRIs, that brains calm when emotions, and the meaning behind them, are named accurately. When we can understand the ecosystems of our emotions and deep needs, then we can also understand that we make sense. That there’s nothing wrong with us. That we are feeling the way that we feel for very good reasons.”

If you’ve been stuck on the diet/riot roller coaster, you can learn how to feed yourself non-restrictively and respectfully. You can practice moving your body in ways that feel good to you, and resting in ways that truly fill you up. You can learn how to identify and welcome your emotions and needs and meet them with deep compassion. I wish this for you.

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How I Stopped Hating My Body

By Andrea Wachter, LMFT

I began hating my body when I was a teenager. I spent years lost in self-criticism and the unhealthy behaviors I turned to in an attempt to quiet those constant criticisms.

I know now that my unkind mind was really just trying to help. I thought that if I could attain the body size I was programmed to believe I should I be, I would live happily ever after.

What a faulty system that was.

The only way to attain and maintain a body that is not naturally meant for us is to live in an unnatural manner. There’s no happily-ever-afterness in that.

Year after year, I obsessed over my body, restricting my food intake, overeating, bingeing, even abusing drugs and alcohol. On the outside, I’m sure people thought I was the life of the party. On the inside, I suffered severely. My mind played and replayed a near-constant internal soundtrack that told me I was not good enough but that if I somehow changed my appearance, I would be.

After many years of riding what I refer to as the “diet/riot roller coaster,” I finally found help. Only this time it wasn’t counterfeit help, in the form of a new diet or exercise regime. It was deeper help for my emotions, thoughts, needs, communication skills, and endless food and fitness rules.

I learned that critiquing and criticizing our bodies is not natural. These are adopted patterns resulting from a massive hypnotic spell of body perfection. I learned how to challenge my unkind thoughts and put self-kindness and peace of mind at the top of my priority list. I learned how to speak to myself kindly and treat myself respectfully.

I had always thought that if I ate what I truly wanted, I’d never stop eating. But that was only the case when I never let myself eat what I truly wanted. I always thought that if I treated myself kindly, I would never get anything done. But that was before I tested out kindness as my home base. I thought that if someone had what I thought was a perfect body, they must have a perfect life, but that was only because I was lost in society’s cultural programming and didn’t know how to question its faultiness. And I always thought I needed to change my body in order to be lovable, but it turned out that I needed to change my thinking. I know now that changing my body will not make me feel loved; only loving myself will.

Occasionally, I come across a picture of myself as a teen. I remember how dreadfully uncomfortable I felt in my skin, in a bathing suit, and at parties. I can see now that I was a precious adolescent with a healthy, changing body. If I could only tell her, “You’re fine, sweetheart. Eat whatever you want. Your body will tell you when it’s had enough. Don’t believe everything you think or what others say. Move your body in ways that feel good and then rest, a lot. Speak your truth. Hang out with people who hear your truth and want to tell you theirs. Seek to know your heart’s desires. Go for balance. Go for self-love.”

I know I can’t save that young girl from the years of suffering, dieting, bingeing, comparing, and despairing. But I can prevent myself from looking back on pictures 20 years from now and having to say, “Oh honey, you’re a lovely woman. Welcome aging, wrinkles, spots, and sagging skin. Don’t lose an ounce of precious time criticizing your body. Thank it for all it does for you every single minute. Thank those limbs and systems. Thank those lungs. Thank that heart. Thank those miraculous senses that enable you to see, hear, feel, taste, and write. Don’t waste another minute hating your body. Feed it, move it, rest it, appreciate it. And help others do the same.”

If you are struggling with your body image, I hope you will try on some body appreciations and see how they feel. Seek support if you need to. Don’t miss out on years of your life berating your body like I did. If the cultural programming of perfectionism has led you to turn against your body, look for ways to say no to those programs and see your body through eyes of compassion, acceptance, love, and appreciation.

View on Psychology Today

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3 Essential Steps to My Recovery

By Andrea Wachter, LMFT

It’s pretty safe (and sad) to say that when I reflect back on how I spent the first half of my life, the majority of moments were lost to food and body obsession. What is even sadder is that I am so not alone. Millions of people lose millions of moments to the pursuit of perfecting their appearance.

Fortunately, as I healed, I felt inspired, as many do, to pass along what I had learned, and it has been an honor to spend the last three decades helping others overcome their food and body battles.

While many factors led me down the path of disorder, there were some significant steps that led me back home. Whether you are on your own path of healing, fully recovered, or guiding someone else along their way, may these steps be, or become, your new normal.

1. Out with Outcomes, In with Intuition

One of my most significant steps toward healing was when I began to take my focus off my appearance and into my intuition. After decades of calorie counting, point calculating, excessive exercise, and massive rebellion, my new vow was to turn inward for clarity instead of outward for results.

So instead of focusing on the lists of culturally deemed “good” and “bad” foods, I began to ask myself what I truly felt like eating. Then, I would stay tuned for the amount that felt loving to my body. It was literally the biggest do-over of my life.

Prior to my do-over, I would wake up most mornings, having already decided what I “should” eat for the day, or go on a bender of rebellion from my previously planned menu.

My new vows morphed into something like this:

When preparing to feed myself, I will tune into my body and ask it what it truly wants. I will feed myself like I would feed someone I love, someone who does not diet or binge. There are no longer any good or bad foods. There are simply foods, and my body will tell me what it wants, needs, likes, and loves.

And somehow, after years of restricting and rebelling, this new voice began to emerge from the brambles of my previously disordered thoughts.

Sometimes, when I tuned inside, I got crystal clear clarity on what and how much to eat. Other times, I was not so sure. I would then try to imagine that I was choosing foods for someone I love. When my mind would bark its terrified cries about how out of control it all felt, I would remind my mind that we were trying things a new way. Our previous system had gotten us nowhere but obsessing, starving, and binging. There was a new sheriff in town. My weight was no longer any of my business. What became my business was how to respectfully and lovingly feed, treat, and speak to my body in any given moment.

So, instead of entering the kitchen or opening up a restaurant menu, already knowing what I “should” have, or “better have cause I never get to have,” I would ask my body what it truly wanted and then stay tuned for the amount that felt truly loving. And for the first time in my adult life, I began to eat what my body and my wise intuition guided me to eat. And a loving amount became satisfying.

Next, I had to wash my brain from the brainwashing it had received from the fitness industry. So instead of telling myself I “should work-out,” or go for a run, or walk a certain distance, I began to ask myself if I felt like moving, and if so, how? Then, I’d stay tuned for how the movement felt in my body, not what I thought it would do to my body.

If I was out for a walk or a bike ride and I got an inkling to stop or turn towards home, I would, regardless of how long I’d been going. If I had a few free hours and thought I “should” get some exercise but really, I felt like resting, I rested. I began to go in for my answers, in the moment, rather than out toward some falsely promised results. Results no longer had a seat at my table.

2. Releasing the Notion of Perfection

I had taken my internal vows to let go of dieting, rioting, and compulsive exercise. But there were still times when I just wasn’t sure what to eat, how much to eat, how much to move, or when to rest. I’d ask myself my usual list of questions in an attempt to tune into my physical and emotional needs. I’d ask myself how I would feed or treat someone I love. And still, there were many times when I felt unsure of how to feed, treat, and care for myself. This brings us to essential step number two… releasing the notion of perfection.

May I just say, Phew!

While some internal dialogue is necessary for clarity, I realized (surprise, surprise!) that I was trying to intuitively eat, intuitively move, and intuitively live, perfectly. And since perfection was part of what got me into my eating disorder in the first place, it certainly was not going to help me climb out! Deciding and reminding myself that I didn’t have to eat, feel, or be perfect, was a huge relief. I just needed to continue inquiring with my body to see what it needed, wanted, liked, and loved. And just like any relationship, it didn’t have to be (nor would it ever be) perfect. Ironically, loosening the reigns of perfection would often help me get clarity, and even when it didn’t, with perfection off the table, I was off the hook!

With the volume of perfectionistic thinking turned down, I was often left with some spaces in my day, or my mind. I had been quite used to filling my spaces with food and body obsession, so what to do with space? Sometimes it meant I had some deeper feelings to feel— the ones that fed into my eating disorder in the first place. Sometimes it meant I had to tolerate being full until my food digested. Sometimes I needed a healthy distraction. Sometimes I had to get creative and try to find new ways to fill up. Sometimes I needed to work with my unkind mind when it would try to have its perfectionistic way with me. But with a compassionate internal dialogue replacing an unkind monologue, I learned how to fill, or be with the spaces that mind quieting created.

My responses to perfectionistic pop-up thoughts sounded something like this:

I do not have be perfect. I do not have to eat what the diet industry tells us to eat. I do not have to exercise if I don’t feel like it. I do not have to look or be perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to have relationship glitches. We are not supposed to be happy all the time. I do not have to be perfect. I repeat, I do not have to be perfect!

And for the first time in my personal history of life on planet earth, my new mantra became, and remains: I do not have to be perfect.

Mic drop!

3. Change Your Mind, Not Your Body

Until I discovered concepts like mindfulness, spirituality, and ummm, reality, nobody could’ve convinced me that my thoughts were not real. Until they did. And when I began to learn that my thoughts were simply recycled ideas that I’d learned from other people’s recycled ideas, I was floored. My thoughts had always seemed and felt so real. But I learned that thoughts were not the same as truth. After all, I could not see, touch, hold, or show someone else my thoughts, so how could they be actual, factual reality? And since it was my thoughts that led me to restrict, binge, and hate my body, this new development was very good news! It also led me to my third (and continual) essential step in my recovery process: Changing my mind, not my body.

I have often said that an eating disorder could equally be considered a thinking disorder. Once I became a therapist, I knew this to be even more true. I have countless examples of clients over the years, coming into my office one week, convinced that their bodies were unacceptable, unlovable, and their biggest problem, only to come back the following week, feeling great about how things were going in their lives. The difference being, in the first session, they were believing their unkind mind and in the next, they were not. In both sessions, they had the same exact body. What changed were their thoughts. Different thoughts. Different reality.

Believe me, I understand that changing our mind movies is not easy. When a person gets told enough times that something will bring them love, approval, and happily ever-after-ness, they believe it and naturally seek it. It’s human nature to seek approval and avoid criticism. Far too many of us have been taught that changing our appearance will change our lives for the better. And unfortunately, the vast majority of those messages tend not to include that the pursuit of perfecting our appearance robs us of the very happiness we are seeking.

I always thought that my biggest problem was my body, but I came to understand that my biggest problem was my thoughts. I needed to learn how to question, challenge, and upgrade my unkind mind. I needed to learn how to give myself the love and approval I had been seeking so I would always have it. We don’t go looking for what we already have and since love and approval are human needs, once we begin to give them to ourselves, we have them. Then anything else is simply an added bonus.

It’s pretty common practice to upgrade our computers and devices on a regular basis but how often do we upgrade our outdated thoughts? Thoughts that have been passed down for generations: “Good” and “bad” food rules, “good” and “bad” ways to look, feel, move, speak, and live. It’s no wonder disordered eating, substance abuse, excessive screen use, anxiety, and depression are at all-time highs. Our culture convinces far too many of us that changing our bodies will change our sense of ourselves. In truth, the only way to change our sense of ourselves is to change our sense of ourselves.

It takes awareness, dedication, and courage to change our minds, to eat what we want instead of what the diet industry tells us to eat, to move and rest in the ways our bodies want, instead of what the fitness industry says, to welcome our emotions, and to speak our truth. Healing from food and body issues is not an easy endeavor, but then neither is body hatred, restricting, binging, excessive exercise, depression, anxiety, or constant comparing. It takes a roll-up-your-sleeves
commitment to overcome body hatred and disordered eating in a culture that is swimming in unkind, unrealistic, untrue rules. But thankfully, it is worth the work.

May you not lose an ounce more of your precious time on this planet to body hatred. May you feed and treat your body with deep respect. May you move your body in ways that you love, and then rest, a lot. May you challenge any unkind thoughts that pop up on your internal screen. May you speak your truth. May you spend your time with people who want to hear your truth and respectfully tell you theirs. May you seek to know your hearts desires. May you live a balanced life overflowing with self-love.

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6 Turning Points That Were Essential To My Recovery

By Andrea Wachter, LMFT

As an eating disorders therapist and survivor, I am often asked if there were certain turning points along my personal journey of recovery. You know, those fork in the road, “Aha” moments when things began to turn around, really turn around for the better?

While I have countless memories of disordered behaviors and thoughts: fad diets, isolated binges, and shamefully sneak eating, just to name a few, I have also had a handful of “Aha” moments that stand out as beacons along the path.

If you are deep in the throes of an eating disorder, or in the midst of climbing your way out, may you begin to gather some healthy turning points of your own.

Before I dive in, I want to note that each and every one of these significant crossroads was preceded by many moments of striving, glimpses of hope, and big bumps along the way. When they say (whoever “they” is!) that recovery is a process and not an event, they weren’t kidding. So if you have been feeling like recovery is hopeless for you, I am here to tell you it’s not. I spent years in the grips of food and weight obsession, daily restricting, and out of control eating. But I never gave up, and if you keep going and don’t give up, your awareness will deepen and your progress will reveal itself, often when you least expect it.

1. All foods shall remain equal

One of the most significant turning points for me came when I decided, after decades of restricting and binging, to take a new vow with food. After years of calorie counting, point calculating, and massive rebellion, my new vow was this:

All foods shall remain equal. There are no longer any good or bad foods. When preparing to make a food choice, I will tune into my body and ask what it truly wants. I now pronounce heart, mind and body as one.

I was terrified to take the leap. I’d tried countless times to let go of dieting only to end up bingeing. But what did I have to lose except constant obsession and dizzying rides on the diet/binge roller coaster? So I gave it yet another try, a deeper try. And unbeknownst to me, this time turned out to be a critical turning point, because I never went back.

So, instead of entering the kitchen or opening a menu already knowing what I “should” have, or will-have-cause-I never-get-to-have, my new vow was to truly ask my body what it truly wanted and then stay tuned for the amount that felt truly loving.

And for the first time in my adult life, I ate whatever my body guided me to eat and a sane amount was totally satisfying.

2. Intuitive eating does not equal perfection

At times, I knew exactly what and how much my body wanted, and the clarity felt fantastic. But other times, I still wasn’t crystal clear. I’d taken my vow to let go of dieting and rioting, but there were still times when I just wasn’t totally sure what or how much to eat.

My internal dialogue during those moments sounded something like this:

Is this craving physical or emotional? Is this my body or my mind that’s telling me to have dessert? Am I really still hungry or am I just having feelings? If I skip dessert, am I restricting? Is this my intuition or my eating disorder I’m hearing?

While some internal dialogue is necessary for clarity, I realized (surprise, surprise!) that I was trying to intuitively eat, perfectly. And since perfection was part of what got me into my eating disorder in the first place, it certainly was not going to help me climb out!

So, telling myself I didn’t have to do this perfectly was quite a relief. I just needed to continue inquiring with my body to see what it needed, wanted, liked, and loved. And just like any relationship, it didn’t have to be (nor would it ever be) perfect. Phew!

Loosening the reigns of perfection would often help me get clarity, and even when I wasn’t crystal clear, with perfection off the table, I was off the hook!

3. How would I feed a loved one?

Another turning point along the path of non-perfection came when I was trying to distinguish my intuition from the rubble of old food rules and I still, at times, did not know what to eat. Perhaps I was too filled with feelings or thoughts to gain clarity. Perhaps I was still making too much of the decision. In any case, when I couldn’t figure out how to feed myself lovingly, I asked myself this simple question: How would I feed someone I love?

Somehow, imagining how I would feed someone else, freed my intuition loose from the brambles of rules and rebellion. Sometimes I would even imagine a beautiful tray of food that I was bringing to someone I love, someone who does not diet or overeat. Then I would allow an image to come to mind. I’d spent so long dieting and rebelling, that at times it felt impossible for me to know how to lovingly feed myself, so imagining how I’d feed someone else helped elicit a menu of options until the new way of feeding myself became more second nature.

So sometimes I had crystal clear clarity on what and how much my body needed and wanted. Other times, I’d ask myself how I would feed another body who I truly loved and cared for. And all the while, the freedom of not having to do either one perfectly kept me going and growing.

4. Swerving isn’t rolling

There are many factors that can lead someone to a binge. My top contenders were: feelings I didn’t want to feel, thoughts I didn’t want to think, restrictive eating, diet mentality, and believe it or not, overeating. I would actually overeat because I overate! You may have driven down this old road a time or two thousand: I blew it. May as well go all the way and start again tomorrow

I recall the turning point that turned this illogical logic on its heels. I realized, for the first time that just because I started to binge, it did not mean I had to keep going. If I’m driving a car and swerve, I (hopefully) wouldn’t just roll the car.

So, I stopped. Mid-binge. This had never happened before. I swerved, but I didn’t have to roll the car. Did this mean I had to feel my feelings? You bet. Did it mean I had to tolerate being full till the food digested? Yup. Did this mean my unkind mind would try to have it’s all or nothing way with me? Perhaps. But this time, I responded back.

I do not have to overeat just because I overate! I can stop now. Yes, it’s super uncomfortable but so will more bingeing be. I can turn in and out for support and figure out what led me to the overeat in the first place.

And for the first time in my personal history, I was able to steer myself back to center rather than roll my vehicle in the muck of all-or-nothing hopelessness.

5. Change your mind – not your body

Wanting to lose weight had been a goal of mine for as far back as I can remember. In fact, if I’d had a pie chart (pardon the pun!) of the different ways I’d spent my time on the planet, trying to lose weight would have been the biggest slice. I don’t blame myself. You get told enough times that something will bring you love, approval and happily ever-after-ness, you seek that sucker and you seek it hard. And sought I did. Starting in early adolescence, losing weight became my main mission in life.

Until I changed my mind. (Not my body, my mind!) I remember many years ago, walking on the beach with a dear friend. I had been telling her how absolutely sick and tired I was of trying to lose weight and she lovingly said four simple words that somehow set me straight: “Well knock it off!”

Prior to that time, I would not have been able to heed her sage and simple suggestion. But given that this turned out to be a turning point, I could. So, I knocked it off.

She meant it playfully of course, but having spent the prior several decades in the grips of weight loss obsession, I was somewhat shocked by my ability to say, “Okay,” and then proceed on with some new life goals: self-love, self-acceptance and peace, leading the pack.

It was as if I’d spent years trying to fit the pieces of a puzzle together: welcome feelings, self-compassion, speak authentically, release perfection, reach out, ditch diets… And then one day, out of the clear blue visit with a friend, a puzzle piece found its way into place.

6. Move for fun

Another turning point that stands out took place in a gym of all places. I was doing my sets and reps of whatever I had been told by someone to do, and something occurred to me. It sounded something along the lines of: I am not having fun! 

In the same way I’d taken a vow to eat what and how much sounded really good to me, it was time to take the same vow with movement. That turning point led me down the road of deep rest and enjoyable movement that I am still on today. I sincerely hope you will join me!

I know these ideas and concepts may seem way easier typed than done, and I know we all have to do our emotional work before our demons lose their grip. But, if you stay committed to the path of recovery, whatever juncture you may be facing, you too can have turning points right around the corner!

View on Recovery Warriors

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Exercising Intuitively

By Andrea Wachter, LMFT

I don’t know about you, but I spent years under the “No pain, no gain” spell. I exercised and “worked out” regardless of my internal or external conditions. I often felt those uplifting endorphins, but the high always faded. I never felt much peace, calm, or confidence in its wake because I was terrified to skip a day, rest, or modify according to my body’s messages.

It wasn’t about what I loved to do or how my body wanted to move. It was about trying to fit into the culture and whatever size clothing I deemed acceptable at the time. It wasn’t about communing with nature or connecting with my body. It was about burning calories, carbs, and fat.

Then I would reap what I’d been promised: happiness, confidence, health, love, and approval. The only problem was that the promises were never delivered. Maybe for a minute as I soaked up all the compliments about having so much “willpower” and “discipline.” But I lived in constant fear of veering off my rigid schedule.

Eventually, I learned that the cultural programming around movement and rest was seriously faulty and outdated. With help, readiness, and willingness, I made a major upgrade. I began to ask my body, rather than my mind, how it wanted to move and rest. And I listened.

I couldn’t decipher my answers at first because asking my body what it wanted was so new. Plus, the soft inner knowing was drowned out by my internal drill sergeants’ regimens and rules. If our minds are congested with traffic, we’re not likely to hear our hearts grounded wisdom. It takes courage and lots of practice to weed through the brambles of our brainwashed minds and decipher our body’s wisdom. But it’s in there. We are born with it.

One day, while I was on a lovely walk in the forest, I was sadly reminded of our cultural brainwashing. The trail I was on was virtually silent, so it was impossible to miss the conversation of two joggers passing by. They were in the midst of a conversation that went something like this:

Jogger one: “I hate running. Every part of my body hurts.”

(Just to be crystal clear, this was said while running!)

Jogger two: “I know. I feel so much better when I walk, but I’m afraid I’ll end up looking like my mother if I don’t run.”

Jogger one: “I feel great when I walk, too. Nothing hurts. When I run, my knees hurt, my hips hurt, my back hurts, everything hurts.”

And then they were gone. I could almost see the invisible whip at their dusty heels.

Wait! I wanted to call after them. If you hate running, you don’t have to run. You need love and reassurance not cardio you hate. You can slow down. You can listen to your body’s wisdom. That’s what intuition is. That’s why we have it. 

So, how about you? Are you adhering to the cultural rules at the expense of your body’s needs and desires? Are you forcing yourself to exercise in ways you don’t even like or ways that actually cause your body harm? Are you rebelling from all the pressure and finding it hard to move at all? Are you ready for an internal upgrade?

How about asking your body how and when it wants to move and rest? After years of being ignored, your intuition might be timid, but the more you ask, the clearer it gets. As you experiment with listening, you may experience some fear. There’s an element of unknown prior to change. You can welcome and tolerate being emotionally uncomfortable and still treat yourself with kindness and respect. You can learn first-hand that emotions pass and old beliefs can be updated. You can get support from someone who understands. You can learn how to befriend your body and have a healthy relationship with pleasurable movement and fulfilling rest. You do not have to forsake your body in order to get love. You can learn how to love yourself and get what you were looking for all along.

View on Psychology Today

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Dealing With Feelings About Healing

By Andrea Wachter, LMFT

Chances are, you came to this site because you’ve been struggling with an eating disorder. And chances are you are here because you have a desire to heal. If you are anything like I was, you might even have mixed feelings about healing; part of you wanting to get better and part of you that’s really scared about what that will entail. The good news is that all you need is some desire to get well in order to begin getting well.

You may already know that beating yourself up about your behaviors is not going to help heal them. Neither is ignoring them and letting them run or ruin your life. But adopting a curious, compassionate, kind tone and really trying to understand the purpose of your eating disorder, will help you reveal what you feel, and heal, for real!

I remember when I began to contemplate the possibility of letting go of my eating disorder. I had joined a support group in my early years of recovery and I heard someone say, “It’s really hard having an eating disorder and it’s really hard letting it go.” I thought, Oh, great… Isn’t there a door number three here? Isn’t there an easier route that’s not so hard? It turns out there isn’t. Living with an eating disorder is really hard and letting it go is really hard. But with the eating disorder, things usually get worse over time, whereas with recovery, life gets better over time… and better…. and better. And getting better doesn’t mean you don’t have pain or struggles in life, it just means you don’t use restricting, bingeing, purging, exercise, body obsession or self-harm to deal with the hard parts of life; you use inner and outer resources.

So how do you feel about letting go of your eating disorder? Do you tell yourself it’s not that bad? Is there a part of you that wants to heal and a part of you that is scared to let go of your habitual behaviors and thoughts? Do you have any desire to stop? Are you ready to stop now?

The following ideas can help you gain some clarity into what purpose your eating disorder has been trying to serve. Feel free to pick and choose from the menu and remember, being hard on yourself got you into this, being kind to yourself is what will help you get out.

Write for Insight

When you are in pain from the consequences of your eating disorder, it’s common to think, I am so ready to give this up. But how about later, or the next day, when the shame and pain wear off and you want to return to your habitual patterns? It’s not so easy to remember. Consider one of more of these writing exercises to help you gain some insight and strengthen your healthy internal soundtrack:

Write a Pro’s and Con’s list and take an honest look at what you are getting from your eating disorder and what it is robbing you of.

Write a specific list of all the areas in your life that have been affected by your eating disorder, including physical health, emotional health, relationships, work, finances, school, self-care, and future goals.

The next time you’re experiencing the painful consequences of your eating disorder, write a letter to yourself that you can read when you are considering turning back to your familiar unhealthy behaviors.

Write a goodbye letter to your eating disorder and include all the reasons you want to stop. Put it where you will see it every day.

Art Smart

 Creating art can be a really useful addition to your healing toolkit. See if this activity can help you along your road of recovery. The first step is to get a piece of paper and a pen. You can also use markers or pictures from magazines or online to collage rather than draw. And by the way, there are zero artistic skills necessary here; just paper, pen and an open mind!

So, once you have your paper and whatever ways you choose to express yourself, close your eyes and see if you can get an image of what your eating disorder voice looks like. It’s okay if nothing comes right away but see if an image pops up for you. Then, using paper and pen or images you gather, create what came to you on your paper.

Now take a moment and see if you can get an image of your healthy self and then put that on paper in whatever way feels right to you.

See if you can give each part a name and an age.

Imagine that each part could take a turn and speak. Write down what each part would say. Then write what they would each say to each other.

Have each part finish the following sentences:

I feel…

I think…

I need…

If you are in counseling or have another safe person in your life, you might consider sharing this with them. If not, hopefully you can continue this two-part dialogue rather than having the eating disorder do a daily monologue!

Reveal and Heal What You Feel

One of the reasons eating disorders develop in the first place is to mask painful emotions. Even though eating disorders themselves cause painful feelings, our behaviors and obsessions are often an attempt to numb or distract from deeper pain. Learning how to tolerate and express our emotions in healthy ways can be challenging but extremely rewarding. You will learn that all feelings pass, especially if we are kind to ourselves in thought and action!

Here are a few practical steps that will help you reveal and heal what you feel:

Practice making a distinction between your thoughts and your feelings.

As you become aware of a strong feeling, see if you can name it and locate the sensation of it in your body.

Imagine that your breath is like a warm tropical breeze blowing through that sensation and soothing it.

Remind yourself that you can learn to ride out painful feelings like you might ride out a physical pain. Chances are if you have a cramp or a headache, you know it will pass. So will our emotions. Especially if we are kind to ourselves. (Starting to see a theme here?)

Remind yourself that the last time you had huge feelings, they eventually passed.

Speak to yourself and treat yourself the way you would speak to someone else you truly care about.

Retrain Your Brain

 The internal soundtrack of someone with an eating disorder is not usually the kindest playlist on the pad. Most people who struggle with an eating disorder have a very unkind mind. Oftentimes people turn to their disordered behaviors to try to distract from their unkind mind for a while. Others turn to their unhealthy patterns because they are believing the unkind messages their minds are dishing out. In order to heal, we need to upgrade the unkind mind and learn how to be on our own side instead of on our own back. Consider listening to a podcast on mindfulness. Fortunately, there are now millions to choose from. We are not responsible for the recordings that got put into our minds or what unkind thoughts pop up every day. But we can learn how to disagree with them, delete them, and upload new ones!

Meet the Need You’re Trying to Feed

Eating disorder behaviors are often attempts to meet some type of valid need. While they don’t usually work, we can find out what those important needs are and find healthy ways to get them met. Some people are deeply lonely and need more companionship and to learn how to be better company for themselves. Some people are filled with self-hate and need to learn how to retrain their brain. Some people are living in the past and need to learn how to forgive themselves and let go of old hurts. Some people are extremely dissatisfied with their lives and need to make some changes or work on more acceptance and gratitude. Some people are unsatisfied in their relationships and need to renegotiate old agreements and see if change is possible.

There are countless needs that an eating disorder may be attempting to meet. Once you uncover yours and discover other ways to meet your needs, you will no longer need your eating disorder. When we turn to eating disorder behaviors, we might temporarily feel some relief or distraction but then we usually feel worse afterward. When you truly get a need met, there are no negative or harmful consequences.

So, if part of you is wanting to give up your eating disorder and part of you is not quite ready yet, there is still so much hope. With support, willingness and positive changes, you can learn to feel your emotions fully until they pass and retrain your brain until it’s filled with kinder thoughts. You can learn to feed the needs that your eating disorder has been attempting to feed, and dialogue with your disorder until your healthy self is running the show!

This blog was originally published on and can be found here

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9 Ways to Improve Body Image

By Andrea Wachter and Marsea Marcus

Body dissatisfaction is an epidemic in our image-obsessed culture. If you are a member of the unofficial “club” of women who dislike or despise their bodies, you may have discovered that the daily dues are high and the long-term benefits are low. But membership in this body-bashing club is hard to avoid, with people speaking the club’s not-so-secret language and recruiting new members just about everywhere you turn.

We call this club’s language “Fat Chat.” Fat Chat is when people talk about food, fat, or other peoples’ bodies in a negative way. Even positive comments about bodies can sometimes be Fat Chat because of the focus on looks and the pressure it causes people to think they need to look a certain way.

Club doctrine dictates that there are “good foods” and “bad foods” (though this changes, depending on the year). Club status is determined by how much or how little a person eats, weighs, and exercises. Club members assess their own rank on a daily basis and rarely feeling good about their status. Although members regularly bond over Fat Chat, they often end up feeling badly as a result.

While some club members can dabble in occasional dieting without negative consequences, most cannot. For most dieters, the strict food rules lead them to sneak eat, uncontrollably overeat, or binge eat, not to mention the full or part-time (unpaid) preoccupation with their appearance.

As women who have each spent decades lost in these painful patterns, we know all too well what it’s like to battle with your body every day. We also know what it’s like to overcome that battle. And you can too!

If you are one of the millions who are plagued with a bad body image, here are some tips for you:

Broaden Your Perspective

For many people, body dissatisfaction is front and center in their lives, causing their peace of mind and relationships great damage. For others, it’s more like background noise that distracts and disturbs them as they go about their days. Either way, body hatred causes many people to miss out on their actual lives. It’s what they spend the majority of their time thinking about. But is the size of your body really more important than your health, your life, or what you do with your day?

Other than your body size, what really matters to you in life? If this was your last month on earth, and you had no hope of changing your appearance, how would you want to spend your time? What would you want to think about?

Become a Body Buddy

Our bodies are working constantly for us, providing countless complex tasks and non-stop assistance to live our lives. Yet most people not only forget to thank and appreciate their bodies for all they do, they also walk around abusing or ignoring the amazing bodies they live in. In our children’s body image book, we teach kids to be a Body Buddy, as opposed to a Body Bully. If you are someone who walks around bullying your body, critiquing, criticizing, and negatively comparing it to others, try taking some time to appreciate and thank your body for all the amazing things it does for you.

Practice thanking your body on a regular basis. Consider all your organs and limbs and miraculous systems that are at work, 24/7. Practice appreciating your amazing senses of sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste.

Practice Radical Acceptance

Many people spend their lives trying to change their natural shape. This is like wishing your feet were smaller or your eyes were a different color. When it comes to a body part we don’t like, we often think it makes sense that we should try to change it, rather than try to accept it. Radical Acceptance is about letting go of arguing with nature and being willing to accept your natural weight and shape. If you are regularly overeating, under-eating, over-exercising, or avoiding movement, you are probably not at your natural body size. But hating yourself won’t help you get there. Self-love, self-care and Radical Acceptance will.

Imagine accepting your body or some part of your body. What would you stand to gain if you practiced Radical Acceptance?

Combat Your Thoughts, Not Your Body

Think of some recent times when you were laughing or feeling free, times when you were not thinking about your body. In those moments you had the same exact body that you do now, but you were able to be happy because you were not focused on your negative thoughts. It’s so easy to think your body is the problem. But if you can feel happy in your body one moment and horrible the next moment, then the problem is not your body, it’s your thinking. Of course, if your body is not healthy and you need to make some changes to heal it, that’s fine, but the root of most suffering comes from our thinking. That’s why some people can have what seems to many like the “perfect body” and still feel miserable, while others can be larger than what the culture has deemed to be ideal, and feel free and comfortable in their bodies.

Notice some times in the next few weeks when you experience joy or peace. Then, when you find yourself lost in negative body thoughts, remind yourself that the reason you are in pain is because of your thoughts, not because of your body.

See if Self-Hate Is Helping

Self-hate is like a virus that takes over your computer and causes all kinds of problems. Then other things act up and it’s easy to get caught up in the new problems and get even further from fixing the original virus. Self-hate pretends to help. It pretends to “whip us into shape” and motivate us. But if self-hatred was going to help you achieve happiness and peace, you probably would have by now.

Ask yourself: If hating myself was going to help me feel better, wouldn’t it have done so by now? See if you can motivate yourself with kindness, care, and self-love. Try talking to yourself like you would speak to a dear friend or a child you adore.

Challenge the Idea that Thin People Are Happier

The multi-billion dollar diet industry is dependent on the myth that thin people are happier. But don’t you know thin people who are very unhappy and fat people who are quite content? The idea that thinness brings happiness is challenged every single time someone loses weight on a diet and does not proceed to live happily ever after. If thinness actually brought happiness, people would lose weight on a diet and be happy. But that is not what happens. Most of the time, people are food and body obsessed as a result of dieting and the truth is, people can be happy or unhappy at any size. Happiness has more to do with our thinking than anything else.

Can you find something in your life to be happy about right now? Can you see that on some level, people are all the same? We are all afraid of some things; we all want love; we are all here temporarily; we all have problems; we all have good times and hard times. The next time you compare yourself to someone who is thinner than you, tell yourself you are making up a story about this person’s happiness and you really have no idea what they are going through, have gone through, or will go through.

First Thought Theirs, Second Thought Yours

We are not responsible for the thoughts that got downloaded into our minds. It’s not our fault that we were born into a culture that is obsessed with thinness, fitness, and perfection. When a painful body image thought pops up in your mind, you are not to blame. Nobody decides: five minutes from now, I am going to compare myself to someone else, think I am unacceptable and feel terrible the rest of the afternoon. Bad body image thoughts are like the automatic pop-ups on our computers. We are not responsible for them, but we can get better at catching and deleting them, rather than getting lost in them. This part is your responsibility. You can’t necessarily stop negative body thoughts from popping up, but you get to decide what to do once you become aware of them.

Stay on the lookout for your automatic bad body thoughts. When you catch one, praise yourself for catching it. Then practice disagreeing with it or deleting it. Remind yourself that if negative body thoughts were going to help you, you would certainly feel better by now.

Separate Self-Image from Body Image

Healthy people have an identity that is about many things. For some, it’s based on who they are, knowing they are kind and loveable. Some people might feel good about being a parent, a student, or a good friend. Others might value a talent or a skill they have, or a hobby or interest they feel passionate about. There are many things that make up a person’s identity that can contribute to them feeling a sense of value. And on top of all that, they have a body that they take care of and live in. When someone has a negative body image, they generally don’t have a sense of worthiness so they latch onto being thin as something they can, or should do and be good at. Their self-image and their body image get twisted up together and they think they are only as good as their body looks to them.

Think of some things that make you special or valuable that have nothing to do with your appearance. Imagine what it would feel like to know you are good enough as you are.

Reveal and Heal Your Underlying Issues

Body obsession is extremely painful, but it works as a distraction from deeper issues. Healing from body image issues requires a willingness to work on your other problems, the problems that go much deeper than the size of your abs, how many carbs or fat grams you ate that day, or how much cardio you did. Revealing and healing your feelings, thoughts, and relationship issues is hard work, but so is hating your body and never feeling good enough. Rarely do people come to our office and say, “I want to work on feeling my unresolved pain, learn how to challenge my thinking, and speak more authentically to the people in my life.” It is usually their body hatred that brings them to our door, and what they want is to learn better ways to get the body they want. The good news is that when they gain better emotional coping skills, they start to feel better, and they no longer need their bad body image as a decoy.

What deeper issues do you suspect your negative body image might be distracting you from? The next time you find yourself obsessing on your body, ask yourself: What would I be feeling or thinking if I wasn’t thinking about my body right now?

Healing body image is an ongoing process. Nobody moves quickly from self-hate to self-love. It takes a lot of patience and practice to delete all the unkind messages you’ve been taught and to upload new, kinder messages into your brain. But it is possible. Body hatred used to be a full-time job for each of us. Then we decided we wanted peace and freedom more than we wanted bodies that looked like someone else.

It is possible to break free from the chains of body and food obsession. It is possible to allow, feel and express painful emotions and experience a deep sense of relief and peace. It is possible to catch and delete your painful thoughts and learn to think in a whole new way. It is possible to challenge your internal rules and find other ways to feel safe in the world. It is possible to live a full life that is about so much more than your appearance. We wish this for you.

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Healing Body Image: Pulling Mental Weeds and Planting New Seeds

By Andrea Wachter, LMFT

In a recent session with a client, we discussed the painful, insidious, incessant, and automatic nature of her bad body image thoughts. Since this particular woman loves to garden, I chose a metaphor I knew she would relate to. I told her that she is not responsible for the demeaning thoughts she has about her body because she did not plant the seeds in which those thoughts took root. Our culture did.  And she doesn’t choose to have such hurtful thoughts sprout up on a regular basis; nobody would consciously decide to have such painful thoughts. I suggested that her negative body image thoughts are like weeds; they just pop up. It’s not her fault.

But there is something that she—and all of us who find such thoughts popping into our heads—can do to rid ourselves of these mental “weeds.” We can pull the weeds and then plant and nourish new thoughts that are self-loving and healthy.

When I suggested this remedy to my client, she replied, “It’s so hard! It’s just too much work to try to catch my thoughts and change them!” This from a woman who pushed human beings out of her body, is raising said beings, has a self-made business, a marriage, and elderly parents she often takes care of. This woman knows how to do hard!

Yes, weeding out self-critical thoughts and planting nurturing ones is hard. But so is walking around hating our precious bodies all the time. And so is dieting, overeating and all the behaviors we do as a result of that self-hatred. “You are already doing hard,” I told my client. “The self-hating hard is familiar; the unfamiliar challenge is to be aware of your automatic thoughts and choose ones that are kinder and more supportive.” It takes effort and practice to weed out deeply rooted beliefs that tell us: You are unworthy, unattractive and unlovable. You must do more, be more and try harder. You have to change the shape of your body in order to be okay.  But we all have the power to pull the mental weeds that inhibit our growth and our health. And we all have it within us to plant new seeds.

So I asked this amazing woman, “When you are gardening and find yourself in an uncomfortable position—like maybe your knee is on a pebble or your back is aching—do you shift your body?”  “Yes, of course.” she replied. I explained that she could treat her negative body image thoughts similarly. When she becomes aware of a bad body image thought, she can shift her position and choose thoughts that are kinder and more inspiring. Will it be challenging to make this shift? Sure. But think of how much stronger and better she’ll feel when she’s no longer beating herself up all the time.

The next time you notice a bad body image thought sprouting up, see if you can pull that mental weed and plant a new seed. One of kindness, compassion, acceptance, and dare I say, love.

View on The Huffington Post

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A Body Apology: Taking a Step to Befriend Your Body

By Andrea Wachter, LMFT

Body dissatisfaction is rampant in our image-obsessed culture. In my psychotherapy practice, I’ve worked with kids as young as six years old who were already hating their precious bodies. I’ve treated people in their eighties who’ve been at war with their bodies for as long as they can recall. And I’ve seen nearly every age in between who bear the brunt of the cultural spell of body perfection.

I was lost in the brambles of a bad body image for decades. After many years and tears, I made a vow to befriend my body and as a result, I was moved to extend it a sincere apology. After all, if I spent years berating or mistreating someone else, I would surely owe them sincere amends.

If your body image has been less than kind, may my body apology inspire you to write one of your own.

Dear Body,

  • I am sorry for ignoring your hunger signals for so many years.
  • I am sorry for making you drink disgusting diet shakes and eat tasteless diet foods.
  • I am sorry for stuffing you with excess food and then shaming you when you were only responding to the restrictions and self-hate that I was inflicting on you.
  • I am sorry for comparing you to other women I knew nothing about and thinking you were supposed to look like them.
  • I am sorry I thought of you as an object to gain approval and attention, rather than the amazing miracle that you are.
  • I am sorry for hating every freckle, lump, and bump on your skin.
  • I am sorry for stuffing you into clothes that felt too tight and hating you when things no longer fit.
  • I am sorry for making you wear high-heeled shoes that felt way too cramped and uncomfortable.
  • I am sorry for criticizing you every time I saw your reflection in a mirror or a window.
  • I am sorry for thinking you could not leave the house without wearing make-up.
  • I am sorry for depriving you of rest when you were tired.
  • I am sorry for pumping you with caffeine instead of listening to your natural rhythms.
  • I am sorry you had to ingest unhealthy substances because I wanted to fit in and l didn’t yet know how to handle painful thoughts and emotions.
  • I am sorry I made you exercise in ways you didn’t even like.
  • I am sorry I put you in situations you did not want to be in.
  • I am sorry I ignored your wise intuition and said “yes” to others when you clearly felt “no.”
  • I am sorry I stayed silent when you nudged me to speak up because I feared disapproval and rejection.
  • I am sorry I spent so much time criticizing you that I forgot to say thank you and acknowledge your amazing senses, systems, limbs, and organs.
  • I am sorry I thought my value as a human being was entirely dependent on you.
  • Oh, and I am sorry about those leg warmers and shoulder pads in the 80s!

If the cultural pressure of perfection has led you to criticize or neglect your body, perhaps you will join me in writing a body apology of your own.

View on Psychology Today

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