Do you feel stuck in an unhealthy relationship with food?
If so, you’re not alone.
Many people have a complicated relationship with food and their bodies. Sometimes this begins with body criticism and judgment, which then leads to unhealthy choices around food and exercise in an effort to improve their body.
And every time you try to control your eating by restricting or limiting certain foods, you are susceptible to regaining weight, losing your ability to read your own body cues, deeper shame, body hatred, feelings of failure, potential for eating disorders, or deepening an existing eating disorder.
It’s an emotional rollercoaster of trying each new diet or wellness plan, only to find the same outcome of defeat! This can be so painful.
How does your relationship with food & your body create shame?
All the efforts you make to change or “perfect” yourself only deepen your feelings of shame. You are constantly in a state of “I’m not ok, unless....(I am thin, I don’t overeat, I can fit into my old jeans, I have flat abs, I have a thigh gap, my face was less round, etc, etc).”
What is this reinforcing in you? You are telling yourself, in your very core, that you are basically faulty. You are not a fully acceptable person for someone else to see, know and love unless you (fill in your own blank here.)
What is Shame?
In a previous post, The Insidious Nature of Shame and Finding your Way Out, I wrote that shame is "insidious because it really creeps in slowly and subtly, almost stealth. It doesn’t rise up quickly like rage, panic, or excitement. It holds on tight just beneath the surface and colors one’s perception of themselves in their world and in their relationships.”
So, you can see with the constant attempts to try to manage your food and body issues with some kind of restrictive, limiting and, quite frankly, punishing approaches, you are deepening your shame. And as a result, you are taking yourself farther away from finding real freedom from your food and body image issues.
Read on to learn how to free yourself from the Shame about your disordered eating and negative body image
Why are you so drawn to trying another restrictive diet or eating plan?
You may have reached a real breaking point in your pain and hopelessness in feeling out of control with your food.
You may have found the promises made by a new eating plan hold the real “answer” to what your struggles with food and your body have long time been.
You worry you will always feel out of control with your eating and your body shape or size will keep you from belonging and love.
You’ve lost trust in your own body cues and can no longer feel confident in when you are hungry, full, tired, craving something, etc. You defer to a plan “external” to you to show you when, what and how to eat.
Now begin to rebuild your trust for yourself
Attune to you
Learn to listen to your body again. Get a feel for your body cues as well as your emotions. Tune in so you can really know what you need, not be told what you need.
Tip: start with tuning into your 5 senses, then take that awareness deeper by noticing what you’re feeling both physically and emotionally.
Follow Intuitive Eating
If you follow any eating plan, make it Intuitive Eating. The only approach that helps you get to know and trust yourself so you can live in real freedom with food and your body.
Remember Health at Every Size (HAES)
Your health depends upon a variety of factors and measures. Weight is not the determiner of your health. Yet, there are very loud opinions out there about the problems of obesity. Get to know HAES and how it clears up all the myths so you can find your freedom with food and your body.
Tip: Check out the HAES Manifesto.
Read the book to dig deeper - Health at Every Size - The Surprising Truth About Your Weight
Embrace body acceptance
I’ve written about this before but it’s worth repeating. If you are bashing your body and constantly critical of it, you are really keeping yourself stuck in the pain of body image shame. Body acceptance is about being at peace with our bodies rather than being in battles with them. It values an individual as a whole person rather than valuing just how they look. Finding your connection to who you are, your value as a person, your own beauty, your living peacefully in your skin will allow you to separate from the societal pressures to look a particular way and truly embrace who you are!
Tip: Find 5 things you can say to yourself from a positive perspective (rather than a critical, judgemental perspective). What do you value, like, or cherish (yes, cherish) about yourself.
There are 2 books I highly recommend and refer to for my own clients. Both very accessible and empowering with useful exercises. Dig deeper with these.
Find and use your own true voice
Speak up when something doesn’t feel right to you, when you need to let someone know how you are doing or what you may need from them. Be authentic and present in your life, both with yourself and with others. This is who you are, your true self. Show up, be seen and let your voice be heard. And when you use your true voice, you can more fully embody who you are, and others can more fully engage with you and know you. There will be less need to hide and numb yourself with emotional eating.
Tip: Practice knowing yourself and what you think. Make sure you are careful to not second-guess yourself and stop sharing your voice.
Bring focus to your relational life
We are social creatures. We are meant to be in relationship with others. In fact, we are born with the drive to start attaching. As babies, if we don’t attach, we don’t thrive. As adults, if we don’t allow ourselves to connect authentically with ourselves and others, we also will fail to thrive. We will live our lives isolated, hidden, and deferring to others. Allow yourself to bring more focus to good, safe, and real feeling relationships in your life, and you will gradually loosen your grip with food and your body.
Tip: Stay aware of your boundaries. Be sure to not fall into unnecessary caretaking, deferring or giving in to another person. Healthy relationships are reciprocal and have a good dose of give and take.
Sometimes, if you find nothing else is bringing relief, you may consider talking with a therapist. Beginning the therapy process to help you heal from shame can be one of your most important steps.
Going through the process I’ve laid out above can be a rich experience when done while in therapy. A therapist can stay present and deeply attuned to you, they can help you access previously unknown aspects of yourself, they can help you reach your vulnerability and true emotions, and they can help you have compassion for your pain and shame.
I have walked this journey through healing shame with many of my clients and I would be honored to be able to help you through this process as well. If you’d like to talk about how therapy could be helpful to your own unique journey, please contact me.
Ready to settle your embattled relationship with Food & your Body? Grab your FREE Worksheet here to begin your healing journey towards real freedom from that deeply-rooted and exhausting struggle. Recovery IS possible!