counselling psychotherapy

eating disorders

To the Bone Review [Video]

Image Credit: Netflix

To the Bone Review

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the Netflix movie, To the Bone. As a former long-time sufferer of bulimia and as a counsellor and psychotherapist who has worked for nearly 20 years with women suffering with eating disorders – I get it.

I viewed To the Bone as a slice of one person’s struggle, at one point in time. Unfortunately that means it can’t be representative of all people who suffer and all types of eating disorders. From this place, I didn’t find it as bad as some of the reviews because it does raise some important talking points. The only real disappointment for me is that it lacked a depth exploration of the main character Ellen’s suffering and what it really takes to recover.

 

Here are my thoughts about To the Bone (with spoilers):

The focus on the dysfunctional relationships within Ellen’s family system

The story starts by highlighting the relationships between Ellen and her family. Ellen’s mother and father are separated. We don’t see the father throughout the movie – he is physically and emotionally absent. Ellen’s mother and step mother are completely unaware of Ellen’s needs and are distracted by their own lives. Ellen lacks a nourishing mother.

There is sometimes a reluctance amongst eating disorder therapists to talk about how certain parenting styles contribute to the development of the eating disorder. This is concerning considering in nearly 20 years of working with women with food, weight and body image concerns, almost every client I have worked with has grown up in a family where she has suffered at very least childhood emotional neglect, at worse, narcissistic wounding and complex trauma related to experiences within the family system.

The child with the eating disorder is often expressing the dysfunction within the family system; she does this through her behaviours and symptoms. Her body and her relationship with food, express what her words cannot. The tragedy is that the whole family is in crisis but the focus turns to the ‘sick child’ (who often feels like the problem). This is not about blaming families, rather, thinking systemically about what is really going on within the whole family system.

I like that To the Bone highlights this but I felt it lacked a depth exploration, particularly in the therapy scenes. Focusing on calorie counting and other behaviours distracts from the deep suffering that Ellen is experiencing. It also stops the audience from really connecting with Ellen’s pain. Like treatments that only focus on meal plans, food and weight restoration, To the Bone gets caught on the surface, rather than seeking to understand the whole story, the underlying trauma, and the value, meaning and purpose of the symptoms. To achieve long-term recovery, the focus needs to be redirected to the underlying emotional, cultural, psychological and spiritual concerns.

Ellen connects with others in a group home treatment facility

Whilst there didn’t appear to be a lot of supervision at the group home, I liked that it showed how Ellen was able to build connections with others in treatment. As we know, many of the issues underlying eating and weight issues are relational and attachment related.

Some reviews of the movie are concerned that it focused on a glamorised, smoky eyed, attractive white female. It’s important for the public to understand that disordered eating comes in all types, shapes and sizes. I liked that the residential treatment centre included different types of people (including a guy), different types of body sizes and different types of eating disorder behaviours and symptoms.

Ellen hits rock bottom

There is a lot of criticism about this part of the storyline. Not everyone hits rock bottom before they seek treatment and not everyone needs to hit rock bottom before they seek treatment.

My personal experience is that I did hit rock bottom and shortly after, I found a psychotherapist who specialised in eating disorders. It was the start of our 6 year journey in weekly therapy together; therapy that ultimately helped me save my life.

So although this storyline doesn’t fit for everyone – it is certainly something I have personally experienced as well as many of the women I have worked with over the years. Wanting to die, versus the realisation of, ‘I might actually die’, can often be the motivating force for choosing recovery.

Ellen’s dream in the desert

The scene where Ellen goes to the desert really spoke to me. When I first entered my own counselling and psychotherapy for bulimia, my therapist shared with me an article by Jungian Analyst, Mary Esther Harding, ‘The value and meaning of depression’.

‘Depression’, she says, ‘symbolises a psychological condition or experience when one has the feeling of being in a desert, or in the wilderness – a feeling of being lost, lost in a barren region, so lost that one is in a state of despair.’

‘For the wilderness of course is a place where there is no water. Life is precarious, human life almost impossible. A human being in the wilderness is alone, isolated, [her] life in danger’

The name ‘wilderness’ means wild-land and wherever the wilderness appears in a myth or a dream, it refers to a place of stagnation, where there is no life, where everything is arid and nothing can grow. In psychology it refers to a condition of having this same characteristic – a condition where the flame of life sinks. All energy sinks into the unconscious and the individual suffers from depression and inertia.’

‘A spirit of dullness and gloom and hopelessness falls upon one at such time and nothing seems worthwhile. Life has temporarily lost its meaning.’

This is exactly what it feels like to be stuck in the despair of the depression underlying the eating disorder. Life has lost all value, meaning and purpose. It is a place of no life energy and no will.

Essential to long-term recovery is an exploration of value, meaning and purpose at two levels:

  1. How has the eating disorder been of value? What is its meaning? How has it served? What is the emerging purpose of the symptoms? What are the symptoms calling for the person to awaken to in themselves?
  2. Life has lost its value, meaning and purpose. The work of recovery is a spiritual journey to discover that which brings value, meaning and purpose in life.

To the Bone offers hope

Ellen and her fellow companions in treatment all have a bumpy recovery journey – this is resonant with real life recovery. After Ellen’s experience in the desert and hitting rock bottom, her life energy and will was no longer trapped and she made a choice to go back into treatment. For me, this shows that even though recovery is full of ups and downs, it is always possible. The ending was a hopeful one.

Hope is the starting point for recovery.

For therapists working with eating disorders, the person suffering comes to us drowning in a sea of despair and hopelessness; it’s therefore imperative that we hold hope and continue to nourish her until she is able to do this for herself.

To the Bone is triggering

Yes it is. And … so is life.

In the height of my eating disorder, I couldn’t leave the house without being triggered. I was triggered by my reflection in the shop window, the Krispy Kreme that popped up on the corner of my street, the diet talk around my office lunch table, the Weight Watchers advertisement on the billboard opposite my house, the cover of a magazine with headlines, ‘size 0’. For those suffering with eating and weight concerns, we are bombarded with images of how women should look and how they should eat. For me, flickering through Instagram celebrities and wellness warriors is just as triggering, if not more so. MacKenzie, the physician who treated Noxon who produced To the Bone says,  “I don’t think there are any triggers in there that young people of today are not already exposed to,” .For someone in the grips or recovery from an eating disorder, the trigger list is endless.

To recover, it’s about,

  • knowing that triggers are extremely challenging
  • learning to manage these challenges as part of recovery
  • understanding that even when we are triggered, we have a choice about how we respond to the trigger
  • realising that when we are triggered, it is not a time for acting out but a time to look inwards to build our capacity for self-exploration and self-awareness

What do people who have suffered with disordered eating make of To the Bone?

As with 13 Reasons Why, I asked the women I work with what they thought of To the Bone. Shared with permission here,

‘I didn’t feel so alone after watching it’

‘It was a good movie and it made me feel hopeful’

‘Not the best it could have been but I’m glad eating disorders are finally in the spotlight’

‘It’s really got people talking; that’s a good thing’

‘The reviews said it glamorized anorexia, I didn’t feel it did, that’s just what it is like’

‘I liked it and could totally identify with all of the characters’

‘It was ok but I wish they showed how much pain is being covered up’

‘It was painful to watch because it reminded me of how I used to be’

‘That could have been my family, it was spot on’

Should you watch To the Bone?

If you are struggling with any kind of food, weight and body image concern, use discernment about whether you should watch this movie. In an ideal world, my recommendation would be to watch prior to your therapy session or with your therapist or other support person so that you can process the themes in the movie with care.

About Jodieas-seen-in-december-16-pink

Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist + Eating Psychology Specialist, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. Over the last 20 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly, Allambie Heights and Frenchs Forest on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!

20 Powerful Books to Help You Befriend Your Body

Do you remember the last time you felt at home in your body?

Increasingly, many of us feel a sense of alienation, disconnection, a lack of safety, and insecurity within our bodies. At the core, this sense of dis-ease can often be the result of early childhood attachment and interpersonal ruptures, emotional neglect and/or trauma. In The Body Keeps the Score – a powerful book for befriending the body, Bessel van der Kolk writes,

“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.”

This profound sense of disconnection from our deeper selves is the underlying force and a major contributing factor to a myriad of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual disturbances and symptoms, including: addictions, anxiety, depression, food, body and weight concerns, eating disorders, health problems, a lack of self-worth, and relationship issues. Van der Kolk goes on to say…

“…child abuse and neglect is the single most preventable cause of mental illness, the single most common cause of drug and alcohol abuse, and a significant contributor to leading causes of death such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, and suicide.”

In The Body Never Lies,  Alice Miller writes,

“Frequently, physical illnesses are the body’s response to permanent disregard of its vital functions. One of our most vital functions is an ability to listen to the true story of our own lives.”

When we don’t listen to the true story of our own lives – via our body, feelings, mind and soul – our deeper self will continue to call us through our symptoms. Our symptoms often seek to be seen and heard until we become conscious, pay attention and take action. One way we can do that, is to befriend our bodies.

Here are 20 powerful books which can help us to deepen our relationship with, and befriend our bodies.

The recommendations here are from psychotherapists and health professionals from around the globe, and who are helping their clients heal the split between soma and soul.

Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) by Jonice Webb, Ph.D.

If you are self-medicating with food, have body-blame and shame, they may be linked to childhood emotional neglect (CEN).

This is an excellent book to start the journey of becoming friends with your body by increasing self-awareness and healing internal wounds caused by childhood emotional neglect.

The first part of the book helps you to understand how different parenting styles may lead to childhood emotional neglect. This is not to blame parents but to help you to understand your experience. Dr Webb lists symptoms often experienced by individuals whose parental figure(s) have not been emotionally available when growing up. She then gives suggestions and exercises for helping you to understand your emotions and start healing from CEN.

I really enjoyed this book that acknowledges the impact of childhood emotional neglect which is often difficult to understand because it looks at an absence of something rather than a traumatic event. The use of case examples really brings to life the impact of different parenting styles on emotional well-being and it provides great tools for increasing self-awareness. I have recommended this book to many professionals and clients.

Dr Mari Kovanen, Counselling Psychologist, London, UK

TOUCH The Neurobiology of Health, Healing, and Human Connection by Michael Changaris, Psy.D.

With safe contained touch, a child can begin to orient to the world and integrate proprioception and other sensations.

Touch plays an important role in our ability to self regulate because, along with sensation, it is our first language. The parent cannot always provide exactly what a child needs and this will ultimately create ruptures. Constant ruptures without repair can shrinks a person’s innate capacity to occupy their body and be able to feel and regulate their emotions. As adults, this inevitably leads to difficulty in relating and connecting safely with others.

This book highlights touch from many perspectives, some of which include culture, attachment theory, and the mental health arena. It also offers some helpful tools and homework. The author explains how touch can transform a person’s fight / flight response through engaging their ventral vagal system, which is not dissimilar from a mother’s containment when holding her baby.

The author credits many influences, highlighting Allan Schore & Peter Levine as his teachers along with Bessel Van der Kolk, Steven Porges and Robert Scare as some of the leaders in this field. I enjoyed how easily Dr. Changaris has woven in quality research that validates how touch is vital for human health and healing. For me this book is for those who want a deeper insight into the benefits of touch and its broader applications in a therapeutic context.

Amanda Howe, Somatic Experiencing, Relational and Body Psychotherapist – St Leonards and Mona Vale, Sydney, Australia

I Know I’m in There Somewhere by Helene G Brenner, Ph.D.

A woman’s guide to finding her inner voice and living a life of authenticity.

Many of us, without even realising we’re doing it, adapt ourselves to fit around the important others in our life (and even around what the media tell us we ‘should’ be like). It’s such an accepted part of being a woman, that the process can be almost invisible.

But the trouble is, that in the process of being (or trying to be) who others think you should be, you may feel like you’ve lost touch with who you actually are, what you feel, and what you really want in life. This book offers a new approach to understanding yourself, and helps you figure out what ‘being yourself’ actually means. Brenner teaches you how to use self-acceptance and awareness of body-based feelings, so that you can learn how to identify, trust and follow your true inner wisdom and guidance.

You’ll learn how to make friends with your body and your inner self, access your spirituality and your emotions, and live a life that feels real and truthful to the messy, glorious and unique reality of who you are.

Emma Cameron, Integrative Arts Psychotherapist – Colchester, UK

Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams by Eugene T. Gendlin

This is an excellent guide for those who are just beginning to work with their dreams as well as those who are more experienced and familiar with dream interpretation. The book consists of 16 questions that support the dreamer in the process of interpreting their dreams.  Dr. Gendlin breaks down how to ask each question so that your body responds.  By paying attention to your body’s responses you can discern 1) if you are connecting with the dream’s meaning; and 2) interpret what the dream is trying to tell you.

What I like best about this book is how Dr. Gendlin clearly and simply outlines the process of dream interpretation while still honoring the complexity and numinosity of dreams. This is why this is the top book I recommend for dream interpretation.  This book will resonate with 1) anyone who would like to learn how to interpret their dreams, and 2) those who would like to connect more deeply with their bodies and intuitive abilities.

Lourdes Viado Ph.D, Marriage and Family Therapist and Creator of Women In-Depth Podcast.

Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA.

If you don’t love it, don’t eat it, and if you love it, savor it. – Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch

Intuitive Eating is a book and program developed by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.

Intuitive Eating focuses on 10 principles designed to help us make peace with food. It takes away the guilt and shame associated with certain food choices. It gives skills to start paying attention to the body, in particular, our hunger and fullness.

These principles help you respect your body and nurture yourself with food instead of using it for reward or punishment. The principles normalize the urges around overeating and goes into the science behind our relationship with food.

This book helped me to befriend my body, it changed my life and I use it with every single client!

Michelle Lewis, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Owner/Therapist at Salt Lake Weight Counseling – Salt Lake City, UT, USA

Fat Yoga by Sarah Harry

All bodies are yoga bodies. – Sarah Harry

Yoga as a practice is over 4000 years old and the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual benefits are countless.

This is a yoga book written by a fat yogini for all people who struggle to feel at home in the current yoga culture! Yoga is not just for teeny tiny bendy young things! It’s for everyone.

This book is to bring yoga to those who don’t look like the people on the cover of a yoga mag. Covering everything from “do real yogi’s drink wine” to “how do I stop my boobs from smooshing me” so you can get on with the important business of feeling more at home in your body.

It’s practical, straight talking and easy to follow advice about how to practice yoga and get into and out of postures at any size, leaving you with the skills to build a sustainable yoga practice in your own home.

This is the ultimate resource for those wanting to befriend their body through yoga!

Sarah Harry, Counsellor, Lecturer, Researcher, Yoga Teacher and Author. Sarah is also the co-director of Body Positive Australia – Melbourne, Australia

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West

Lindy West packs no punches when talking about what it’s like to be fat in a fat-shaming society.

Shrill is not a self-help book, but it will help anyone who struggles with befriending their body. West’s style is especially perfect for young women who will totally get on board with her language, manner, and the internet world she knows so well.

You may already know of West’s public storms with colleagues, comedy, and internet trolls, but the linking narrative between all these events, beginning with her childhood, is a sharp, funny and honest look at herself and the society we live in. You can literally feel the hurts and triumphs jumping off the page as she implores you to look through her eyes and experience the world as she does: a woman who is ‘not normal’ and refuses to be quiet about it. I could certainly relate.

The most extraordinary aspect of travelling away from ‘waiting to be thin’, is how she actions it. I was transfixed and inspired by the myriad of ways she exposes herself to fatness, and in the process teaches us all that we can, simply, choose what is beautiful:

“I reject the notion that thinness is the goal, that thin = better—that I am an unfinished thing and that my life can really start when I lose weight. That then I will be a real person and have finally succeeded as a woman. I am not going to waste another second of my life thinking about this.”  

I can’t promise that I won’t waste another second Lindy, but I sure am gonna try!

Nicole Hind,  Online Counsellor – Australia

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance. – Brené Brown.   

Daring Greatly is Brené Brown’s third book and in my opinion her most powerful. In this book she explores our relationship with society’s scarcity culture, vulnerability and shame. In the current landscape of ‘never good enough, thin enough, young and beautiful enough’, Daring Greatly offers some practical ways of fighting back shame, and ways of nurturing your authentic self. She offers skills on how to practice shame resilience and how to befriend your body. The idea of stepping into the arena that runs through book is visceral and enticing. Brené really gets you connected to your body and to the idea that it is possible to show up, be seen, and live brave.

Andrea Szasz, Clinical Psychotherapist, Somatic Experiencing Practitioner & Trauma Specialist – Bondi & Crows Nest, Sydney, Australia

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Interventions for Trauma and Attachment by Pat Ogden & Janina Fisher 

The title may sound heavy and dry but this book is actually a treasure trove of information into befriending the body.

It contains insights into how our bodies hold memory and emotions. Ogden and Fisher teach us how to listen to the innate wisdom of our body, through being mindful of our bodily sensations.  Written as both a self-help and professional manual, it contains countless, practical exercises focused on befriending the body.  Such exercises guide us in: being mindful of our bodily sensations, appreciating our strengths, identifying how to support ourselves creatively, learning to ground and centre ourselves, breath work and body postures.

The entire book is really about tuning into the wisdom of our own body, in order to connect more fully with ourselves and in turn, others. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed by their emotions, disconnected from themselves or others, anxious or depressed, or simply unsure of who they are.  Working through this book, helps to bring the whole of ourselves back into balance.

Toni Jackson, Psychotherapist & Counsellor – Perth, Western Australia

The Chakra Book: Energy and Healing Power of the Subtle Body by Osho

The word Chakra means moving wheel; points of whirling energy – close to our bodies.

According to many Eastern Spiritual traditions, chakras are recognised spiritual energy points that exist in the field just beyond our body in and around our aura. These centres are recognised in a variety of spiritual traditions and are known to exist beyond the physical plane. They exist in the ‘space between’ – ourselves and another – in the space beyond the actual physical body and exist in what some call the etheric body.

This book was an intriguing read and provides a deeper understanding of the following:

  • the relevance of spirituality and using the eastern traditions within psychotherapy
  • Japanese, Hindi and Buddhist understanding of the chakras
  • the subtle body experiences Kundalini and Tantra
  • chakra meditations which are particularly helpful for points of stuckness in body or mind
  • the healing power of chakra balancing

This wisdom can assist us to ensure we remain of right mind, have a healthy body and heart and live long and happy lives.

Ultimately, Osho encourages us to listen to our bodies and hearts – when we do this, we can’t go wrong!

Renee McDonald, Counsellor, Psychotherapist & Coach – Bulli, Australia

Wired For Love – How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build A Secure Relationship by Dr. Stan Tatkin

Understand your brain, improve your relationships.

As a relationship therapist with 20 years of practice behind me, I almost always recommend this book to couples because Wired for Love intelligently lifts the lid on how couples relate, offers innovative ways of understanding what’s actually happening in our brain, body, feelings and mind, and how to make the changes needed to get things back on track.

The book is all about bringing mindfulness and consciousness to our relationships and gaining an appreciation of how our brains operate in conflict. Our nervous system plays an important part in how couples “fight” and this book discusses some simple things like using our breath to calm our cardiovascular and respiratory systems so that arguments can be worked through “safely” and without threat.

For example, couples that have an awareness of how they soothe each other through touch, words, facial expression and body to body contact on greeting, can transform the nature of conflicts and learn to “fight fair”.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to have a deeper understanding of how their body and brain impact their relationships, and who want to be able to say and express what they need, yet still create a safe environment for their relationships to grow.

Melissa Ferrari, Psychotherapist & Relationship Therapist – Penrith, Sydney, Australia

Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

We might begin by scanning our body . . . and then asking, “What is happening?” We might also ask, “What wants my attention right now?” or, “What is asking for acceptance? – Tara Brach

Radical Acceptance is an incredible book filled with wisdom from Tara Brach, who is not only a clinical psychologist but a meditation teacher as well.

This book is for anyone struggling with feelings of perpetual “unworthiness”.

Brach does a wonderful job of weaving in advice and guidance, personal antidotes from her own life and her work with her clients, along with guided meditations on self-acceptance and getting in touch with one’s true feelings (which may have been somatised in the body).

I have recommended this book to many of my clients in my own psychotherapy practice, and their response after reading this book is often, “I feel like she is saying exactly what I say to myself”. The idea of general unworthiness is an underlying thought that so many of us have, and it often leads to destructive behaviours such as eating disorders, addictions, and self-harm.

This book gently guides the reader to feel and accept their feelings, forgive themselves, and move in a direction of self-acceptance.

Radical Acceptance has proved to be extremely useful and effective in my practice working with people with eating disorders, as well as for myself, and my own journey towards befriending my body and cultivating qualities of self-love and self acceptance.

Melissa Preston, Licensed Professional Counselor, Registered Dietitian – Denver, Colorado, USA

Rushing Woman’s Syndrome by Libby Weaver

Stop the rush and come home to your body.

Do you regularly find yourself tired but wired? Constantly rushing around to give more, do more be more and yet enough is never enough? Deep down you probably know you can’t sustain this pace for too much longer and your body is starting to give signals that enough is enough. If this is you, you’re not alone. I see this situation played out woman after woman in my practice. The woman’s mind is saying “I must”, and yet the woman’s body is saying, “no more!” New Zealand biochemist Dr Libby Weaver addresses this issue brilliantly in her book Rushing Woman’s Syndrome. She helps us as women to understand that more rushing dose not equal a happier life, in fact it’s a recipe for stress, anxiety and ultimately, if ignored long enough, sickness and disease.

This book was inspired by the struggle Libby saw in her practice that so many women are facing in juggling multiple roles and the internal and external demands to achieve and to please everyone. This book will give you clear, practical advice in how to get off the rush treadmill.  She gives us an experts tour of our bodies and the impacts the constant push-pull a frantic pace of life has on our health and well-being and offers a way out of the rush to come back home to the body. This book, in my view, is a must read for every modern women who is constantly feeling the pressure to do it all and yet longs for well-being, tranquillity and the ability to feel at peace in her own skin. I recommend this book to every one of my female clients who is looking to have a better relationship with herself and her body.

Marcia Watts, Relationships & Wellbeing Counsellor – Brisbane, Australia

The Language of Fertility: A Revolutionary Mind-Body Program for Conscious Conception by Niravi Payne, M.S

The mind and the emotions have the power to affect the body. – Niravi Payne.

From the minute an individual or couple is dianosed with ’infertility’, they are usurped into a medical whirlwind of tests and medical procedures. Little time is afforded for couples to stop and reflect on the deeper issues arising from their diagnosis or the underlying issues which may be interfering with their ability to conceive.

This soulful book explores the emotional and psychological factors that can be a barrier to conception. It delves deeply into family dynamics and generational beliefs and behaviours which may be impacting a couple’s inability to conceive.

The exercises in this book will help the reader to befriend the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual concerns that they may be struggling with around their fertility.

This is a hopeful book, which offers a mind-body approach to fertility and conscious conception. It is a must read for anyone struggling with fertility issues, and is a great accompaniement for those going through assisted conception and IVF treatment.

Robyn Wunder, Gestalt Psychotherapist and the founder of Donor Conception Counselling.

Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication by Paul Ekman

Emotions; we all have them, and sometimes we can be overwhelmed with the raw power of the things that we feel.

When this happens, we can feel confused, isolated and detached; even at war with ourselves. These strong emotions can be experienced within our minds, but given the close relationship between emotions and the body, the effect of these strong emotions can often be felt as overwhelming forces within our bodies as well.

Ekman, through helping us understand our emotions, grants us the prospect of coming to peace within ourselves. His book gives great insight into how our emotions develop, how they are expressed – and what we can do about them. His research over 20 years is notable for his focus on how emotion affects our bodies. When we better understand what we feel in our minds and our bodies and why we feel it, we are in a better position to accept, forgive and befriend ourselves. A critical part of this is how we can use this increased understanding to ultimately accept, forgive and befriend our bodies.

Tim Hill, Counsellor & Psychotherapist. Tim is also the founder of Beyond Porn Addiction  – Richmond, Victoria, Australia

Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon

You only have one body and despite how well you live your life, it may never change. Can you afford to hate yourself for the rest of your life? – Linda Bacon

This book is a must read for anyone who has ever been on a diet or who is a health professional telling others how to lose weight.  It is not another diet book. In fact, it is the opposite.  Linda recommends ditching the diet and learning to listen to and trust our own body wisdom.  Even better… the book advocates no more deprivation and no more guilt.  Sounds like a dream come true right?  Maybe too good to be true but in fact the Health at Every Size Programme (HAES) is based on a USA Government funded academic study.  In other words it’s science based and proven to work.

The book is in two parts. Part 1 is designed to educate & debunk many of the common weight loss myths.  The author, Dr Linda Bacon (PhD) provides logical & easy to follow reasoning which just makes perfect sense in explaining why dieting just doesn’t work.  Our bodies are actually geared to resist weight loss.  Part 2 of the book provides simple, practical step to help change your mindset and embrace the HAES principles into your life while re-introducing pleasure in food and saying goodbye to guilt, deprivation and diets.

It truly is a revelation & I now have it on the top of my list of recommended books for my clients with weight & body image concerns.

Pam Bailey, Feel Good Facilitator – Perth, Australia

The Wisdom of Menopause by Dr. Christiane Northrup

Menopause is actually about coming home to yourself. – Christiane Northrup

This book was my bible while going through menopause and it is still a resource I check out every now and then. Initially, I thought I would read from the beginning to the end –  I started to do that but different symptoms kept popping up. In the end, I found the best way was to have the symptom and look it up, because things were happening too fast to read it from cover to cover.

I’d apparently been pre-menopausal for years but my doctor didn’t inform me of that. My husband was the first to notice the change in my mood – he thought I was manic/depressive. My moods must have driven him crazy! Like most women, my mother had never told me what menopause was like and I wasn’t prepared for the miserable stage of life I had found myself in. I was in a bookstore one day and this book practically jumped off the shelf at me.

The Wisdom of Menopause has 14 chapters, with fabulous titles. These are a few: Menopause Puts Your Life Under a Microscope; The Brain Catches Fire at Menopause; Nurturing Your Brain, Sleep, Depression and Memory; Sex and Menopause- Myths and Reality.

This book is packed with practical information on how to befriend the body and simple explanations on how to make changes to lifestyle. My life was changed forever!

I highly recommend this book to all women and their daughters. Read it as a book club, read it with friends, don’t be afraid of menopause, make it your friend and live the life you deserve.

Cait Wotherspoon, Psychotherapist Specialising in Grief, Loss and Bereavement  – Penrith, Sydney, Australia

Eating in the Light of the Moon: How Women Can Transform Their Relationship with Food Through Myths, Metaphors, and Storytelling by Dr. Anita Johnston Ph.D.

Recovery from disordered eating calls for a new way of relating to our femail bodies, one that honors and values what they have to offer us. It requires that we appreciate what it means to come into the body of a woman. – Anita Johnston.

Dr Anita Johnston discusses a range of concerns related to body dissatisfaction and disordered eating through the creative use of myths and storytelling.  This is not your usual self-help book – it is much deeper than that – it is full of soul!

Clients often comment that this book helped them not only to befriend their bodies and change their relationship with food, but it also helped them to transform their lives.

The chapters are short and since much of the book is told through myths or stories, it is much easier to relate to than a dry, medical book about these topics.

It’s hard to articulate how powerful the chapters are but trust me – review after review also states similar sentiments.  I feel this is the best book out there for women to explore the relationship they have with food and their body.

Megan Bearce, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist – Minneapolis, MN, USA

Sweat Your Prayers: The Five Rhythms of the Soul — Movement as Spiritual Practice by Gabrielle Roth

5Rhythms is a dynamic movement practice—a practice of being in your body—that ignites creativity, connection, and community. – Gabrielle Roth.

In Sweat Your Prayers, Gabrielle Roth, provides the reader with a deeper understanding of her dance practice, 5 Rhythms, which is a combination of psychology, spirituality and body movement. She offers a journey through the five universal rhythms: flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness. Roth teaches us how the rhythms can free the body and spirit from ordinary realms and generate motion deep within the psyche. Each sacred rhythm is a teacher and a gateway to the soul.

This book is full of wisdom for befriending your body and healing the mind-body split. Once you have read Sweat Your Prayers, find a class near you!

Kylie Beatie, Managing Director at Byron Private Holistic Treatment Centre – Byron Bay, Australia

The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse by Ellen Bass

…To fully heal, this release needs to happen in your body as well. – Ellen Bass

The Courage to Heal and the accompanying workbooks have been an invaluable resource to all the woman survivors of child sexual abuse that I have known, and, unfortunately, there are many. Throughout the book, stories of fellow survivors assure women that that they are not alone, and that healing is possible.

The chapter on “Learning to Live in Your Body” includes the relationship among body, mind and spirit, and exercises on moving from hating your body to befriending your body; how to come back into your body when you’ve been triggered; grounding; and moving from numbness to feeling, among others. I highly recommend this book.

Renee Beck, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Clinical Consultant & Supervisor – Oakland, California, USA

Women, Food & God Coloring Book by Geneen Roth

The problem isn’t that we have bodies; the problem is that we are not living in them. Sigh. – Geneen Roth.

Having attended a week-long retreat with Geneen in 2016, I just had to share her first colouring in book!

The Women Food and God Coloring Book is full of enchanting black and white illustrations to colour in, relax and integrate the wisdom of Geneen’s #1 New York Times bestseller, Women, Food & God.

Many people who struggle with addictions and eating disorders often act out when they are angry, anxious, bored, sad or stressed. I love that this book is a practical tool which can used for self-soothing and self-care. It is also a guide for deeper contemplation and discovery of what is going on beneath the symptoms and at a deeper soul level.

For anyone suffering with food, weight and body image concerns, this book will help you to befriend your body (and soul).

Jodie Gale, Blog Author, Soul-Centred Psychotherapist + Eating Psychology Specialist, Private Practice Business Coach – Allambie, Frenchs Forest & Manly, Sydney, Australia

About Jodie

Jodie’s journey to become a soul-centred psychotherapist + eating psychology specialist began with her own recovery from bulimia over 20 years ago. She now works in private practice in Sydney, Australia and is the Disordered Eating Consultant for Byron Private Holistic Treatment Centre and former Assistant Clinical Director of a Sydney Eating Disorder Outpatient Treatment Program in consultation with Dr Anita Johnston. Jodie’s extensive work experience in the eating disorder field includes stints at the Eating Disorder Association of NSW (now The Butterfly Foundation) and in the Eating Disorder and Feeding Unit of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London. She regularly appears online, in print and on National radio regarding her work with women and disordered eating. Jodie’s first eBook, ‘Befriending Your Body’ will be out later this year – sign up here to be the first to receive a free copy.

Transform Your Relationship With Food, Body & Soul™

Let me help you transform your relationship with food, body and soul!

eating-psychology-growDo you feel crazy around food?

Are you fed up of dieting? …and fed up of falling off diets?

Do you obsess about good or bad, health or unhealthy food choices?

Do you suffer with comfort, binge, emotional or overeating?

Is your mood dependent on Fitbit or the scales?

Do you fat shame and hate your body?

Do you fantasize about how you will be happy when you lose weight?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions – you are not alone – 81% of 10 year old girls fear being fat and 54% of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat (Tri Delta).

What are Transform Your Relationship With Food, Body & Soul™ sessions?

These sessions are based on a similar format to my SOUL sessions. In 2016, 40 out of 45 were sold out.

Transform Your Relationship With Food, Body & Soul™ can be structured:

  • 1-1 in person or via Skype
  • as an intensive  – over one day or a weekend

What does Transform Your Relationship With Food, Body & Soul™ include?

-You will be guided through a creative visualisation which will focus on your relationship with food, body & soul.

-We will explore experientially how your life energy gets stuck in unhealthy patterns around food & body, and what it is that sabotages or gets in your way of achieving your health and well-being, dreams and goals

-An experience of a guided meditation, a tool that you can continue to use at home

-Getting in touch with your intentions, new ideas, opportunities, hopes, dreams and passions

-Expressing your creativity through the use of art therapy – don’t worry, you don’t have to be Picasso!

-Fostering your authentic self and SOUL qualities such as self-acceptance, self-care, self-compassion and self-love

Who is Transform Your Relationship With Food, Body & Soul™ for?

This program is for anyone who eats and who wants to transform their relationship with food, body & soul.

If you are struggling with anorexia, bulimia, or other complex eating disorder – this program is suitable as a starting point – however – long-term depth psychotherapy is my recommendation for eating disorder recovery.

Transform Your Relationship With Food, Body & Soul™ can help you by:

  • Learning a hopeful, positive, uplifting approach to food and body
  • Exploring what your challenges with food and body are here to teach you
  • Discovering hidden wisdom, secret messages and important connections between food, body and all other areas of your life
  • Learning how to slow-down and listen to your unique body wisdom
  • Aiding your healing and transformational journey around your relationship with food and body
  • Changing your perceptions about nutrition and nourishment, exercise and movement
  • Finding out what it is that you are physically, emotionally, mentally, sexually and spiritually hungry for
  • Experiencing a truly holistic approach; body, mind, heart and SOUL!

Why work with me?

My journey as a Soul-Centred Psychotherapist and Eating Psychology Specialist began with my own struggle and recovery  from food, weight and body image concerns. My biggest frustration – and that of the many women I have worked with over the last 15 years – was finding a specialist or program that was holistic but also grounded in the best that psychology had to offer.

Many programs for food, weight and body image concerns are heavily based in the fitness and diet industry or the medical, illness and disease models. I take a holistic, forward thinking and soulful approach which is based in Psychosynthesis and Dynamic Eating Psychology™ and Mind Body Nutrition™.  

Please head over to my About Jodie  page to read more about my extensive personal and professional experience and training in the eating psychology field.

NB: I take a Health at Every Size approach and I am an approved HAES Australia psychotherapist.

Upcoming dates and availability – Book your session now – last year 40 out of 45 booked out!

If the date you require is taken, please email me as I sometimes have space on Friday during school hours.

January

Saturday 14  – 1.30-3.30 Booked Out

Saturday 21 – 1.30-3.30 Booked Out

Saturday 28 – 1.30-3.30 Booked Out

February

Saturday 4 – 1.30-3.30 Booked Out

Saturday 11 – 1.30-3.30 Booked Out

Saturday 18 – 1.30-3.30 Booked Out

Saturday 25 – 1.30-3.30 Booked Out

March

Saturday 4 – 1.30-3.30 Booked Out

Saturday 25 – 1.30-3.30 Booked Out

July

Saturday 1  – 1.30-3.30 Booked Out

Saturday 8- 1.30-3.30 Booked Out

Saturday 15- 1.30-3.30 Booked Out

Saturday 22- 1.30-3.30

Saturday 29- 1.30-3.30 Booked Out

August

Saturday 5- 1.30-3.30

Saturday 12- 1.30-3.30

Saturday 19- 1.30-3.30

Saturday 26- 1.30-3.30 Booked Out

September

Saturday 2  – 1.30-3.30 Booked Out

Saturday 9 – 1.30-3.30

Saturday 16 – 1.30-3.30

Saturday 23 – 1.30-3.30

Venue

Allambie Heights in person or via Skype (please note Skype are only 1-1 not for small groups)

Public transport is available via the 280 bus from Chatswood to Warringah Mall or the 142 from Manly to the Skyline shops.

Inclusions

Art materials and a journal to take home (not available for Skype)

Preparation

I will email you a questionnaire and provide you with a short reading prior to your session

Transform Your Relationship With Food, Body & Soul™ Packages

For individuals

1 x 2 hour taster session = $299.00

1 x 2 hour session and 2 follow up 50 minute sessions = $579.00 (follow-up sessions can be taken separately or as an intensive over one day)

1 x 2 hour session and 5 follow up 50 minute sessions = $949.00 (follow-up sessions can be taken separately or as an intensive over one day or a weekend)

*Because these sessions are in high demand, payment is required on booking to hold your space*

Book your sessions now!

Image Credit: Institute for the Psychology of Eating

About Jodie

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Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist + Eating Psychology Specialist, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being.

Over the last 15 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!

Move Beyond the Brokenness and Connect With the Place That Has Never Been Broken

Image Credit: Iryne R on Flikr

Image Credit: Iryne R on Flickr

I am so excited to share with you my first guest post on Recovery Warriors: Move Beyond the Brokenness and Connect With the Place That Has Never Been Broken.

In this blog, I write about

-how our body is the home for our soul

-our true identity

-the trance of unworthiness

-the call of the soul.

Recovery Warriors are dedicated to boosting the emotional intelligence and resilience of people struggling with depression, anxiety and eating disorders. They believe that no matter what has happened to you, no matter how far you seem to be away from where you want to be, that with hope and the right support things will work out. The long road has a purpose. Your story has meaning. Their resources are designed to help you find that meaning.

Image Credit: Iryne R on Flickr

Let me help you Transform Your Relationship With Food, Body & Soul™. Book your package here!

About Jodie

asseeninmaster2 (600x124)

Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist + Eating Psychology Specialist,  Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being.

Over the last 15 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Jodie also works with clients world wide via Skype.
Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!

 

Disordered Eating: A Search for Wholeness Podcast with Lourdes Viado

women-in-depth-episode-9Disordered Eating: A Search for Wholeness Podcast with Lourdes Viado

I am so excited to share this podcast with you.

I was recently interviewed by Women In-Depth host, Lourdes Viado, about disordered eating.

You can subscribe to Women In-Depth: Conversations About the Inner Lives of Women on iTunes.

I hope you enjoy hearing about disordered eating from a soul-centred perspective.

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • My private counselling and psychotherapy practice in Sydney
  • How my passion stems from my personal recovery from bulimia
  • Psychosynthesis: the approach I use to heal
  • Eating disorders as a search for wholeness
  • Our attempts to change the body, what’s it really about?
  • Why we need to lose the language around healthy and clean eating
  • What an eating disorder REALLY means
  • Common symptoms of eating disorders
  • The mistake of filling our needs with food or exercise
  • Sub-personalities—find out what they need
  • Dis-identifying from the PARTS/Identifying with the WHOLE self
  • The heart of eating disorders and spiritual needs
  • Recovery: the journey of the soul
  • Spiritual bankruptcy that needs love, compassion, connection, and acceptance
  • Brain changes that happen as the soul heals
  • YOU ARE NOT BROKEN!

Jodie has an eBook in the works – Befriending the Body – be the first to receive a copy FREE when it is released. Sign up here!

Resources mentioned in the podcast:

Emily Rosen, CEO of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating

The Recovery Warrior Podcast with Jessica Raymond

Women, Food & God by Geneen Roth

Eating Disorders: A Search for Wholeness Journal Article by Jodie Gale

If you feel like this content is valuable and you wish to share it with others, please hit one of the share buttons below.  I appreciate any re-tweets or re-posts of this content.

Let me help you Transform Your Relationship With Food, Body & Soul™. Book your sessions here!

About Jodie

asseeninmaster2 (600x124)

Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist + Eating Psychology Specialist,  Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being.

Over the last 15 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Jodie also works with clients world wide via Skype.
Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!

 

Body Positive Australia: 10 Tips for Body Love

I was excited to attend the Kelloggs Special K #OwnIt Workshop in Sydney with psychotherapist and yoga instructor at Fat Yoga, Sarah Harry and dietitian Fiona Sutherland; together they are Body Positive Australia. These women really know their stuff… and they are totally owning it!

#ownitBPA

Body Positive Australia have been working with Kellogs Special K on their project #OwnIt. It’s great to see the move away from weight loss to the focus on nourishment and health.

Here are my top 10 tips from Body Positive Australia for body love

  1. Remind yourself often – the most interesting thing about you is not what you look like.
  2. Fat is not a feeling. If you are ‘feeling’ fat, ask yourself, ‘what was happening right before you had the thought, ‘I feel fat?’ Invite your feelings to tea – befriend them. Underlying all eating and food challenges, it’s about building a relationship with your feelings (and needs).
  3. Cut down on checking – checking weight, checking in mirrors, checking fat rolls, checking for collar bones, checking measurements, checking calories, checking how clothes fit etc. The underlying work here is about building self-worth and self-compassion.
  4. Stop the fat talk and watch the language you use to describe yourself – is it kind? Show yourself ‘kindfulness’.
  5. Ditch the appearance based comments when greeting others and find other meaningful ways of connecting – this is especially important in front of children.
  6. Image is a construct – you didn’t just decide to hate your body, you were taught to. The underlying work here is about challenging social constructs and unlearning the negative messages you have received and internalised.
  7. You are bombarded with messages that you aren’t good enough so that you will buy diets, gym memberships and beauty products. The underlying work here is about building awareness and discernment.
  8. Change-up who you follow on Instagram – images are powerful and can change the brain for better or worse. It’s important to follow other healthy brains.
  9. Don’t wait until you are thin to live the life you desire. Start living now.
  10. Draw your attention inwards and take time to be in the body – it is your true home.

Thanks Kellogs and Body Positive for a great day and fab gift bags!

#ownitworkshop

Let me help you Transform Your Relationship With Food, Body & Soul™. Book your sessions here!

10 Tips for Mindful Eating

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).

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mindfuleatingappreciate

mindfuleatingfocus

mindfuleatingtaste

mindfuleatingnotice

Let me help you Transform Your Relationship With Food, Body & Soul™. Book your sessions here!

Embrace – the Documentary: One Woman’s Journey to Inspire everyBODY

“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

embrace

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.

o-TARYN-BRUMFITT-570

The Body Image Movement has the following philosophy,

They say no to…

  • Excessive “Photoshopping” of body images in the media
  • Being programmed by the media and corporations into accepting unrealistic body images
  • Prescribing to the notion that being a certain weight determines whether you’re healthy
  • Sexualisation of girls in the media and modern culture
  • The objectification of women
  • Society and advertising preying on women’s insecurities

And they say yes to…

  • Body diversity and embracing all body types, shapes, sizes, colours and revelling in the beauty of the human form
  • Celebrating the journey our bodies have been on
  • Giving an alternative to cosmetic surgery, and learning to live and love your body
  • Growing old, and acknowledging the privilege to do so
  • Women focusing on things that are important, rather than comparing ourselves to others
  • Teaching women that their body is not an ornament, but a vehicle to their dreams
  • Teaching women to arm themselves with the skills which will make them resilient and unshakable when bombarded with negative body image in the media
  • Being healthy at every weight

About Embrace – the Documentary

“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!

Don’t miss this film! Check out upcoming dates in Australia and the US & please share this short of Embrace to help create positive global change.

About Jodie

asseeninmaster2 (600x124)

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.

Over the last 15 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Jodie also works with clients world wide via Skype.
Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!

How An Abusive Relationship Can Impact Your Self-Esteem & Self-Image.

isadoraduncanquoteWelcome to my guest blogger series women and the body.

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.

Self Esteem in an Abusive Relationship

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).

The Dynamics of Domestic Violence

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.

The Individuality of Self Esteem

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.

Recovery from an 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.

About Jodie

asseeninmaster2 (600x124)

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.

Over the last 15 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Jodie also works with clients world wide via Skype.
Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!

 

Ditch the Diet and Steady the Scales

scalesshutterstock_360287792Welcome to my guest blogger series women and the body.

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.

Ditch the Diet and Steady the Scales

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 …

Reshaping how you feel about your body

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:

  • You participate with enthusiasm but then hit an inevitable road block
  • You become increasingly emotionally reactive which eventually leads to eating slip ups
  • Next, your internal critical voice starts up saying, “why bother, I’ve mucked it up anyway, may as well eat that cake.”
  • Then you get angry, irritable, reactive and you begin feeling overwhelmed
  • And on and on it goes in a vicious cycle of bingeing / dieting /excessive exercising and self loathing …

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.

Find relief from your body image woes by digging deeper into how and why…

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

About Jodie

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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.

Over the last 15 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Jodie also works with clients world wide via Skype.
Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!

Let me help you Transform Your Relationship With Food, Body & Soul™. Book your sessions here!

Let your light shine and live the life you have always dreamed of! Contact me now to book your first appointment.