In eating psychology, we see that it’s important to explore why we eat, what to eat, when to eat and how to eat.
How do you eat?
What does your food taste like? Do you like the taste?
What does it feel like in your mouth?
Do you eat slow or so fast that you miss the food you are eating? (Often resulting in eating more than your body needs).
Here is a great 10 step mindfulness exercise via Headspace to help you to eat mindfully (follow the link for the full exercise).
This post is by Toni Jackson.
Toni is a psychotherapist, counsellor and creative therapist in Fremantle and Mundaring, who specialises in working with women around the issues of self-worth, anxiety, body image and personal power. She is a certified Gestalt Therapist, with a BA Psychology and a Grad. Dip. Women’s Studies. Toni has a strong interest in the areas of trauma and eating disorders and uses both body awareness and art therapy in her work.
“Inhabiting the body develops a sense of self-possession, and a sense of there being ‘someone at home’.” Judith Blackstone
When we inhabit our body, we have a felt sense of being in our body and of actually being our body. As Somatic Psychotherapist Judith Blackstone describes it, when we are embodied, rather than living in our heads, we have the sense of “existing everywhere in [our] body at once.” Our experience of our own body, becomes a self experience. For this to occur, we need to become just as sensitive to our bodily sensations – our insides – as we are to our thoughts and our outer experiences. To be embodied, is to be conscious and aware of the whole of ourselves – our body, our mind, our emotions and our soul.
In most western cultures, our understanding of the various aspects of ourselves have been separated and compartmentalised. We live in a society and an era where it is considered normal and appropriate to live outside the wisdom and experience of our own bodies. Most of us live in a fast-paced world where our thoughts and our outward appearance are valued well above the rest of ourselves. When we habitually attribute more importance to certain parts of ourselves than others, we are not living as our whole selves, and those neglected parts of us suffer.
If you consider it now, how much time do you spend in your body? This may seem like a strange question at first, however, many of us are prone to spend the majority of our time in our heads. Our thinking, and being with our thoughts, is for most, our dominant way of being. We have become very good at rationalising and controlling ourselves with our thinking – listening to our thoughts and ignoring what our bodies have to say. For example, we may feel unwell, but still go to work; we may feel hungry, but we tell ourselves we don’t need to eat; we may have tight shoulders from stress and yet we continue on as if it doesn’t matter.
What if we stopped and listened? What if we slowed down long enough to hear ourselves? To listen to how we truly feel, in our bodies?
“Our language encourages the distinction between body and “I”, we have no single word that allows us to say, “I-body”. At the most, we might say “my body” in much the same way we might refer to “my car”, implying that one’s body is property but certainly not self. Our language supports the notion that our body is an object: something that happens to me, rather than the “me that is happening.” Ruella Frank & Frances La Barre
Often when we do pay attention to our body, we experience it through our thoughts and opinions, rather than through our inner sense. For example, we might look in the mirror and decide our belly is too round. Very rarely in this situation, do we experience our belly from the inside. More often, we see it with our thoughts – with our prejudices and our self-critic. We may decide we need to exercise more, eat less, or eat only green beans. It is not our body telling us these things, but our thoughts. That is, our thoughts, informed by how we think we ‘should’ look; our thoughts informed by our own external gaze of our body. But where are we in this scenario?
“We tend to think of body as this ‘other’ that does its thing somewhat without us, and that if we ’treat’ it right, it will make us ‘feel good’. Many people treat their bodies as if the body is a slave, or perhaps they even treat it well but demand it follow their wishes and whims as though it were a slave none the less.” Clarissa Pinkola Estes
If as a child or adolescent, we received messages from others that our needs were not important, that we were not enough, or were too much, or if we were shamed or abused or experienced trauma, there is a good chance we learned to leave our body as a way of coping with the painful feelings we experienced. Often, we take these same coping strategies with us into adulthood. We may leave our body in an attempt to make ourselves ‘invisible’, or less ‘seen’ or because we are experiencing emotions that feel too big, scary or overwhelming. Some signs we have disassociated from ourselves are: feeling spacy, vague or confused. By leaving our body, we are more easily able to block our feelings. This can be an extremely useful coping mechanism when we feel unsafe or trapped. However, when we are largely unaware of our bodily selves for extended periods of time, we lose touch with who we are. When we do not know how we truly feel, deep within ourselves, it can be difficult to know what we need and want, or to be able to get those needs met.
We hold our emotions in our body – in our hearts, our guts, our bellies. Numbing ourselves to our body, also numbs ourselves to our emotional feelings. Some people speak of pushing their feelings down, or away; of swallowing their feelings; of running from their feelings. We may numb our physical body with alcohol, drugs, or food; or we may try to leave ourselves behind with excessive amounts of exercise, sex, shopping, gambling or television. Some people hide from themselves through keeping constantly busy and distracted with work, social media or socialising – never allowing themselves time alone. All of these behaviours keep us from feeling our feelings and from being in our body. When we do this, we are increasingly more and more focused outward, rather than inward.
There is so much joy to be found in being fully present to our bodily selves. Deep body awareness can be a bridge to our soul. So how do we begin to get back in touch with our body? Following are some exercises designed to explore our relationship with our body.
Trigger warning: The following exercises may not be for everybody. For some of us, it can initially be very scary to be in our body. Particularly if in the past, it was safer to leave the body. However, once we begin to slowly explore being in our bodies, it can feel safer and more solid and grounding than not being in our body. Living in our body provides us with a natural boundary between ourselves and the rest of the world. Having said that, these exercises can be deceptively powerful. Go slow with yourself. If you begin to feel distressed, unsafe or overwhelmed, please stop the exercise and focus on your surroundings (what can you see, hear, smell and feel around you?). Take some long, slow, deep breaths and think about a person or place that makes you feel safe and calm. Call someone if you need to.
How do you experience your body in space – in your environment? How do you hold your body posture? Without moving, notice how you’re holding yourself right now. Do you allow yourself to take up space? Or do you keep yourself small? What do you notice about your particular body-in-space habits? What does it feel like to notice how your body exists in space? Maybe you’d like to experiment with how you hold yourself. You can do this by either exaggerating how you naturally hold yourself, or by doing the opposite.
For example, if you tend to protect the front of your body (hunched shoulders, arms crossed), try first exaggerating this posture. Really hunch over, bunker down, wrap your arms right around yourself. Take the time to notice how you feel in this position. Now, try the opposite. Open yourself up – push your chest out, open your arms wide, put your shoulders back and hold your face up. Notice how you feel now. Relax back into a natural-feeling posture. From doing this exercise, what did you notice about yourself and how you take up space? Take care not to judge or criticise yourself – the exercise is simply about becoming more aware of yourself – there is no right or wrong way to be.
Felt sense is a deep, visceral awareness, from inside our body, of the sensations we experience in our body, in the present moment.
Sit or lie somewhere comfortable, where you won’t be disturbed.
Close your eyes and take a few long, slow, deep breaths in and out.
Feel the weight of your body touching the chair, floor, or bed. Feel your clothes against your skin, and the air on the exposed parts of you.
Bring your awareness into your body. Right into your body. To start this process, I often begin by looking at the inside of my eyelids. For me, this really gives me a sense that I am indeed, in my body. I then spread that awareness to other parts of my bodily self.
Notice how it feels to be in your body – from the inside, rather than from the outside looking in. Rather than from the perspective of your thoughts, experience your self from the perspective of your feeling. Keep breathing. Take some time to explore your whole body, from the inside. What do you notice? Are there areas of your body you avoid? Are there parts of you that seem unremarkable? Are there parts you are drawn to?
As you slow down and pay attention to yourself, you may become aware of parts of you that feel: hot, cold, tingly, numb, tense, painful, loose, soft, hard, furry, spiky, a particular colour, small, large, itchy, fast, slow, rough, smooth, solid, airy, empty, full, or something else. Spend some time exploring these different parts of yourself. Try describing each sensation in as much detail as possible.
If you come across a part of you that feels scared, or overwhelmed, please send it some love if you can and move your awareness to a neutral or positive part of yourself. Breathe.
It is important to take your time. As you slow yourself down, you may notice increasingly subtle sensations. It’s okay to move in this exercise if you feel the need. For example, if your legs feel like kicking, or your head feels like turning, or you want to wrap your arms around yourself, do that. As we begin to listen to ourselves on a deeper level, we often find we have needs that we were not aware of. Listen to and trust yourself.
Listen to your body. What does it want to tell you? Sit quietly for a moment, close your eyes and take a few long, slow, deep breaths. Are there any parts of you that you seem especially drawn to? That pain in your knee/stomach/neck? What is it trying to tell you? You could ask it. “Hey neck, is there anything you’d like to tell me?” Then really listen to what that part of you has to say. Maybe it says, “You work too hard” or “I’m worried about such-and-such” or “Why do you ignore me?”. Once we allow ourselves to stop, be quiet and listen to our own selves, what we hear can be truly remarkable. However, we so rarely give ourselves the time and space to do this. The messages of our “I-body” are drowned out by our constant thinking and doing. I understand that some of you may feel a bit ‘silly’ asking your elbow if it has anything to say. But why is that? Why should we feel silly about listening to our whole self? My guess is that it’s our rational, adult mind that thinks it’s silly to listen to our body. But our rational, adult mind is only one part of us. There is infinite wisdom to be found in our playful side, in our body, in our creativity, in our dreaming and in our emotional and bodily feelings.
If you are interested in exploring other ways to really feel and consciously be in your body, here are some further suggestions:
No Lights No Lycra.
For further support, you may wish to see a body-centred, or soul-centred psychotherapist or other health care professional. This article provides general information and cannot respond to the needs of specific individuals.
Image Credit: Canstock
“Lose weight, reduce wrinkles, fight cellulite; we’re constantly told to fight a battle to be someone other than who we are. Women and girls are constantly lead to believe they’re not as good as they should be. And why? Because every day they feel they’re being judged on their appearance and how far away it is from an unachievable ideal.” Embrace – the Documentary
As part of the Sydney Film Festival, I went to see the world premiere of Embrace: One Woman’s Journey to Inspire everyBODY.
Embrace is produced by Taryn Brumfitt, who founded the Body Image Movement, a global campaign to help women find the value and power of loving their bodies from the inside out. Taryn shot to fame after posting her before and after photo on social media.
The Body Image Movement has the following philosophy,
“When body image activist Taryn Brumfitt posted an unconventional before-and-after photograph in 2013, it was seen by more than 100 million worldwide and sparked an international media frenzy. In her forceful debut, Brumfitt continues her crusade exploring the global issue of body loathing. She travels the world to interview an impressive range of women about their attitudes to their bodies, including: Mia Freedman, the youngest ever editor of the Australian edition of Cosmopolitan; Emmy Award-winning television presenter Ricki Lake; Adelaide researcher Professor Marika Tiggemann; UK talk show host/photographer Amanda de Cadenet; body image blogger Jes Baker (a.k.a. The Militant Baker); and motivational speaker Turia Pitt.” Sydney Film Festival
Just as the blurb reads, Embrace is,
“funny, touching, at times gut-wrenching but above all, life changing…”
Embrace highlights how body loathing and body shaming have reached epic proportions worldwide. As a psychotherapist who has worked with women with eating disorders and other food, weight and body image concerns for over 15 years, I couldn’t agree more. Thoughts, feelings and behaviours historically associated with women suffering with diagnosable eating disorders have increasingly crept their way into the majority of women’s lives.
Embrace is such an important resource – it offers hope to those who suffer with food, weight and body image concerns and education to those in the health, diet and exercise industries. It is essential viewing for anyone who fat shames self and/or others!
Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist, Eating Psychology Specialist + Transformational Life-Coach, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being.
I am excited to announce that I am a Bupa Blog Awards Nominee.
The Bupa Blog Awards is all about celebrating bloggers and influencers who are making a difference in health and care for their online communities.
Check out Bupa’s latest tips for eating well and staying healthy this winter.
Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist, Eating Psychology Specialist + Transformational Life-Coach, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being.
This post is by Alison Howarth, owner of Penrith Counselling.
Alison has been a counsellor for women in domestic violence for over eighteen years. She believes passionately in women living free and joy-filled lives.
Alison has spoken at National and International Conferences about her research into the impacts of domestic violence, and her research articles can be found at Australian Policy Online. She supports and nurtures women with strengths based counselling, narrative therapy and mindfulness based cognitive therapy. Alison is a member of the Australian Counselling Association.
In this article I’m going to explore how the dynamics of an abusive relationship can severely impact a woman’s self-esteem and self-image. While I am aware that men can experience different forms of domestic violence, my work is with female survivors of domestic violence so my writing is gendered to reflect that.
So what is domestic violence? There seems to be a lot of confusion about that, especially amongst the women who are experiencing it. Heartbreakingly, women have said things to me like “Well, he hasn’t put me in hospital, so I don’t think it’s that serious,” or “I don’t think it’s domestic violence because he hasn’t hit me in years.” In fact, an abusive relationship is a relationship with an intense power imbalance and where you feel unsure, helpless, emotionally unsafe, or trapped. An abusive relationship is one in which you are regularly blamed, ridiculed, or made to feel stupid or fat or ugly or (insert shame-word here).
Of course, these feelings and dynamics take time to develop. The beginning of an abusive relationship will start out like any other. Many women wonder why they didn’t realise from the start that it would turn bad. But, unless you are superwoman with psychic abilities, there is usually no way to tell. An abuser will not come with a warning label! No abuser is going to tell you on the first date: “Oh hi, my name is Harry and within about 6 months I’ll be treating you like crap.” You’d run a mile right? It never, ever happens like that. In the beginning everything is roses and moonbeams. And when the abuse does start, it starts with tiny little steps. The first sign of abuse won’t be a black eye or a screaming tirade. It will be something completely excusable like a flattering jealousy, or a seemingly tender need to track your daily whereabouts or monitor your shopping habits.
When the first barbs do begin sliding in, they too will be phrased in such an ambiguous way that it is very difficult to pinpoint, even with the benefit of hindsight, where or when the abuse actually started. This is a story of manipulation, and manipulation is at the heart and centre of abusive relationships. The most manipulative of abusers will use your own fears and doubts against you, and sadly, it is often these fears and doubts which drive the fluctuations of self-esteem. Indeed, one of the first casualties of an abusive relationship is the woman’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth.
So, what are self-esteem and self-image? I guess we all have slightly different definitions. I believe that self-esteem and self-image are linked at fundamental levels. My self-esteem is influenced by, and does influence, my self-image. There is a core level of self-esteem which is my base line but from that base line my self-esteem is a beastie that can fluctuate up and down, sometimes a little and sometimes an awful lot, depending on what is driving the change. These fluctuations are internally driven by my reactions to something going on in my world.
One of the most damaging influences on our self-esteem is our own inner shame voice. This voice is the one that says to us “You aren’t good enough.” It’s the voice that holds us back from being our best person, scares us from striving to reach outside the box, tells us that we won’t succeed so why try? In an abusive relationship the perpetrator is also the inner shame voice made manifest in your world. The message can be seductive, infuriating and helpless making. And always damaging to your self-esteem.
The three things that help shame thrive are secrecy, silence and judgement – and these are the hallmarks of an abusive relationship. The most common emotion of a woman in domestic violence is shame and shame is highly correlated with addiction, depression, eating disorders, anxiety and suicide. All of which makes her more vulnerable to the manipulative tactics of the abuser. It is one of the nastiest vicious cycles in the world.
So if your world is dominated by a partner who shames you, ridicules you, makes you question your decisions and capabilities ….. how robust do you think your self-esteem could be? Particularly when the abuse is coming from a person who will later that day, or week, profess love, support and kindness (while sneaking in a little emphasis of your faults and perhaps planting a seed of doubt that no one else ever would want you.) And if you have a vulnerability such as existing trauma, childhood abuse, mental health issues, or problems with substance abuse then the abuser has a ready-made target to aim for. And no matter how many gains you have made in your life in regard to those vulnerabilities he will hurl them at you as further proof of your imperfection and his amazingness in putting up with you at all. The dynamics of the abusive relationship are such that it is in the abuser’s best interest to keep his partner feeling as worthless and powerless as possible.
Feeling of worthlessness and powerlessness are hugely correlated with depression, anxiety and a low self-esteem. Low self-esteem in the context of domestic violence often translates as the woman feeling ugly, stupid, fat, lazy – body-image is one of the favourite targets of abusers. While a woman may know intellectually that she isn’t fat or ugly or stupid, the driver of body-image is emotions, and in an abusive relationship these are under the manipulative control of the abuser. Self-esteem and body-image become drowned in thoughts and emotions of worthlessness. All of which make it even harder to leave the abusive relationship.
However, when a woman has reached the point where she can’t take the manipulation and abuse anymore she will usually leave the relationship. This is an incredibly difficult and brave thing to do because she must fight not only his psychological tactics of fear and intimidation, but also her inner shame voice which has been reinforced and strengthened by him over the span of the relationship. It is as much a victory over self as it is over the abuser. For many women recovery from the abuse is halting and suffers the setbacks of self-doubt, self-anger and fear of retaliation. It isn’t easy to throw off the chains created by years of psychological harm, but please believe me that it can be done.
You have the strength and power to find your own self again, that inner spark that is so unique and special in this world. You can find your own path, your own light. You can embrace life again; the common place and everyday details that are yours to enjoy in freedom.
If you are struggling with any of the concerns mentioned in this article, contact Alison or a therapist in your area who specialises in domestic violence.
I am privileged to be interviewed by Louise Shannon for this month’s Australian Yoga Journal article, Hey Soul Sisters. Grab yourself a copy of the May/June magazine out now.
“We are healers, dreamers, leaders, and believers. We are spiritual and empowered. Feeling the love, Louise Shannon looks at the magic of the feminine as we celebrate inner beauty, revel in the joy of connection, and savour the gifts of health, harmony, and happiness.”
This post is by counsellor and psychotherapist Marg Ryan, who has a private practice in Caulfield, Melbourne, Australia.
Marg is a certified Somatic Psychotherapist, Trauma Specialist and Couples’ Counselor, She has a Bachelor of Arts, Diploma of Education, a Masters of Organisational Psychology and underwent intensive training in Somatic Psychotherapy at the Australian College of Somatic Psychotherapy where she earned her Clinical Diploma of Somatic Psychotherapy. Marg also completed a specialist course in couple therapy at Relationships Australia – a leading provider of relationship support services for individuals, families and communities.
Your brain and your heart need to be in sync to be able to ditch the diet and feel good in your own body. However, steadying the scales and losing the body image obsession by managing your thoughts, feelings and sensations is skilful. We think and feel stuff about our bodies all of the time. A lot of it is critical.
Tim Minchin the comedian in his song “Not Perfect ” captures the dilemma:
“This is my body …And I live in it
And the weirdest thing about it is I spend so much time hating it
But it never says a bad word about me.”
The external pressures that feed unhealthy body obsession are everywhere, on billboards, in the media and in the fashion industry. In the hairdresser, we pick up magazines plastered with headlines about a celebrity mum who has miraculously managed to do away with any evidence that she even had a baby six weeks ago!
Yet this is the media myth. It is a huge adaption and change process having a baby…huge… Yet there are no photos of 2am tears, tantrums and tensions. We devour the glossy pictures and the magical belief that this diet or celebrity can show us the way …
Understanding why you may be someone who hates their body is the key to change. I think it is an “inside out job” you do on yourself. It is all about your emotions.
The real heart of the problem is that you may have not learnt how to manage, soothe, and bear difficult feelings. No-one taught you how to “feel and deal” with life situations that trigger big feelings inside.
Yet you often think it is all about controlling the outside of your body – the way you look. You start off with the goal of changing your body, making it trimmer, stronger, sexier, more acceptable. Full of hope that a new diet or exercise regime will make you feel confident, successful and attractive.
The cycle goes like this:
So you hate your body for more complex reasons than just the way it looks. Your body holds emotional pain and you try to run from it by distracting yourself with comfort food or you avoid it by exercising strict control over your food because you don’t know how to make the pain go away.
It is a really common experience that clients come to a psychotherapist about – an eating addiction – and yet they end up talking about
“being anxious about fitting in, belonging, measuring up, being loveable and generally being socially acceptable.”
They come because they realize they can’t kick this inner critic to the curb on their own. They have tried many times and failed. They realize that if it were so easy to feel good in your skin, to truly be compassionate and kind to yourself on the inside no matter what happened, they would have done it by now.
You can’t live in a bubble, external pressures are inevitable in some form, but you can find freedom by looking at the root causes of body anxiety on the inside. The volume of the inner critic voice can get loud as these bad feelings about your shape and size create a world of pain. To combat this, Tara Brach has some sage advise she says
“my mind can be like a bad neighbourhood, so I try not to go there alone.”
So….If you catch yourself constantly criticizing your body maybe it’s time to consider getting some support. Therapy can help you learn to manage those overwhelming thoughts of “I am fat, this is out of control, I look awful”. A therapist can encourage you to foster a kind and compassionate relationship to your body. Don’t underestimate how relieving it can be learning to catch the judgy internal conversation early. This takes practise and many repetitions. It’s just like learning a new grip of the tennis racquet. You can learn to be curious about that critical inner voice, learn to challenge it and along the way develop a more compassionate way of reshaping your connection to your body.
PHOTO CREDIT: CANSTOCK
This post is by counsellor and psychotherapist Renee McDonald from Butterfly Courage in Bulli, Australia.
Renee is a Clinical Member of The Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia. She is also an accredited Clinical Supervisor with PACFA and The Australian Clinical Supervision Association. Over the past 15 years, Renee has worked as a counsellor and psychotherapist. She has been in private practice on the NSW South Coast for over 9 years. Renee is an integrative, client-centred therapist, who uses existential, relationship, somatic and mindfulness theories in her work.
As a mother and psychotherapist, I have worked with many problems, issues and life matters over the past 15 years. There are many, but there are none as fraught as issues with our own body.
How can we escape the feelings of shame and embarrassment we have about our body?
What if it is something we can’t do anything about?
Our body, the vessel we have been given for this life, is all we have to carry us around.
I am acutely aware of how personal attacks can feel in relation to how we look.
Take Nick Vujicic for example,
“Without any medical explanation or warning, Nick was born in 1982 in Melbourne, Australia, without arms and legs…
The early days were difficult. Throughout his childhood, Nick not only dealt with the typical challenges of school and adolescence, but he also struggled with depression and loneliness. Nick constantly wondered why he was different than all the other kids. He questioned the purpose of life, or if he even had a purpose.”
Nick was bullied and suffered cruel attacks, however, he is now a motivational speaker and he has not let the attacks dampen his spirit.
Nick has become the alchemist. He turned something truly terrible, horrible and shame inducing, into his biggest lesson to become a better person. He is symbolically true to the alchemy tradition, which stems from Egypt and Eurasia. Alchemy is a process of purifying metals or elements, to become something else. For example, after going through a purification process, it could be turning lead into gold, or transforming substances to cure diseases. Nick found value, meaning and purpose out of his suffering.
I look to someone like Nick as inspiration.
He can inspire us all, in that many of our limits are those which may be in our minds, or socially constructed. It does not mean that we do not have limits at all – it means that many limitations can be overcome with adjustments and some humour.
He has changed the narrative of those before him to show others that regardless of difference, and a traumatic history; it is possible to lead a full and happy life.
Nick speaks passionately of learning to like and accept the body we have.
Our work is to realise…
Our body isn’t perfect and that’s okay
We aren’t all the same and that’s okay
Our body matters – because it’s the only one we’ve got!
If we have suffered trauma, abuse or other incidents to the body – our body can stop feeling like a safe place to be in.
There are many researchers and clinicians who have written about the subject of trauma and its link to the body. For example: Bessel van der Kolk and his work ‘The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma’; Babette Rothschild on ‘The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment’ and Stephen Porges, ‘The Polyvagal theory: Neurophysiological foundations of emotions, attachment, communication and self-regulation’. For me, it is especially Stephen Porges’ work which has changed the face of theory and practice regarding the connection between the mind and body and how holding this mind-body connection context is at the heart of change.
Bringing the two concepts I have mentioned above together – that of the alchemist, Nick, and some of the more recent research on mind-body connection – our trauma history can lead us to become our own worst critic of our body. Our shame can stop us from reaching our potential.
So, how do we hold this shame or lack of worth in our body? Some people may develop eating disorders and other weight concerns such as chronic dieting or obesity. Others may self-harm. Then there are some who may experience episodes of depression, anxiety and other emotional, psychological or spiritual concerns.
Brené Brown – famous for her TED talk, ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ – is a social worker whose research focuses on shame and vulnerability – two of the most painful and hard to be with feelings within our society. Her work, which I draw upon in my counselling practice with clients, is a powerful resource for working with shame, vulnerability, body image and how the relationship with food has become the panacea for the issues we may be facing.
If you have experienced trauma and/or you are using food, feeling shame about your body, or you identify with any of the other concerns mentioned above, reaching out to a counsellor or a somatic psychotherapist who specialises in disordered eating and body-related issues can help you to heal and see things differently. Like Nick, it can help you to overcome trauma and find value, meaning and purpose out of your suffering. It can help to realise your wholeness.
If you would like to work with Renee, you can contact her here.
PHOTO CREDIT: CANSTOCK
This post is by counsellor and psychotherapist Miranda Egan . Miranda is a Master’s Qualified Integrative Psychotherapist. She is passionate about working with adults and young adults in her private practice in Lane Cove in Sydney, Australia. Miranda works with clients regarding issues to do with the loss of self and connection to others. She sees people in person and via Skype.
Here Miranda shares with us her own struggle with an eating disorder and how therapy, self-care and mindfulness are crucial to recovery.
The job, ‘psychotherapist’, is often met with the presumption that we are completely sorted as human beings; in fact, most of us are wounded healers.
We all have vulnerabilities – it’s what makes us human.
I have a long and troubled relationship with my body, as the majority of women do. My eating disorder was hidden and undisclosed. When I did talk about it, people often replied, ‘you have nothing to worry about’ or ‘there is nothing wrong with you’, which pushed my shame and my inner voice further into the shadows.
I have always been complimented for my figure – ‘Oh you are so tall and thin, lucky you!’ I would accept this compliment and thought nothing of it until I had a period in my life which caused me to feel very out of control of events and people. The more I tried to have influence in my life, the more helpless I felt. I found my way to have influence; to stop eating, to get thin.
Control is something most of us want in life, or at least a degree of influence. This is why we write lists, plan and seek structure. It manifests itself in whatever way it can. Sometimes this appears in healthy ways and others not so healthy. Either way, I am clear it is in response to the need to self soothe and cope with life.
When I was in my eating disorder – I starved myself and ate so little I could just about get through the day. I became addicted to the dizzy spells, to the stomach cramps and the fight with my will power to withhold food. After a while I moved from feelings of empowerment, to a connection with my own self–destruction. I started to believe my own ‘hype’ – thoughts such as, ‘you do not deserve food, or nurturing’ and ‘you can just waste away’. These voices became louder and clearer to me. I learnt through my eating disorder that I could live and die at the same time, undercover. I was just existing.
When I look back on this stage of my life, I am horrified at how unkind, and uncompassionate I was to myself.
However, what an insight into my own psyche I was given during this time. As I have healed, I know now when I am feeling vulnerable, I now have a choice; I can either choose to starve myself, denigrate myself, reduce myself or I can make the choice to talk about my fears, my vulnerabilities, look for influence and take up space in positive ways.
I now know that in order for me to heal from my eating disorder, I need to eat mindfully and choose food that I love and which nurtures me through nourishment.
I may always have the shadow of this attachment to restricting myself or a propulsion to revert to old behaviours should I feel as though I am losing control. However, I am now kinder to myself and if I fall into restricting food on occasion, I accept that there may be something I am struggling to control in my life, thus an inner conversation takes place about what is missing or what can I do differently to help me deal with what is going on externally in my life. This acceptance allows me to be okay with myself without chastising or criticizing the part of me who feels small and vulnerable.
I learnt how to be in dialogue with myself in this kind and caring way with the help of a good therapist. I learnt that I needed to nurture a new relationship with food. I did this by planting vegetables and tending to them as they grew. I took joy in offering them to others and slowly I felt able to connect with food as nourishment again. This mindful activity helped me to understand it takes work to create food; it is an act of love and toil. So should be the relationship with myself.
Although I perceive this time as passed, it is sometimes a struggle for me that people close to me still refuse to acknowledge that period of my life as an eating disorder. Almost like it is shunned or not considered as dangerous as someone who was hospitalized with acute Anorexia. Many clients feel like this if they don’t fit the DSM criteria. In addition, I am facing a new time in my life where I am needing to take medication with side effects which have altered my body shape and I am back in a phase of not being in control of how I look right now. It is a constant open dialogue I have with my body, mind and heart. One that offers acceptance of the vessel I inhabit, the relationship with food that I love and a good relationship with myself. There will always be judgments from external sources, they do not know my story, and they have their own narrative.
Self-care, as a daily practice, is essential at times of darkness and vulnerability.
The practice of keeping an open dialogue with myself about what I want and need is crucial, for example, ‘what needs to happen for me to feel okay?’ And the reminder to just ‘be’ is often considered new and alien. Gentle reminders that I am important via myself, loved ones and in therapy, present a wondrous opportunity of building a good quality relationship with self and others.
I have travelled this stormy journey of eating disorder recovery and I now work with others to help them recover their loss of self. Contact me for an appointment if you need support in your recovery.
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PHOTO CREDIT: CANSTOCK
I was recently interviewed by Danica Baker, Features Writer at DOLLY, CLEO & CLEO Fitness for the final edition of CLEO Australia (Collector’s Edition). The final edition of CLEO is out today (March 22, 2016). Grab your copy now to read more about ‘The Friendship Divorce’.