One of my favourite mentors in the field of food, weight and body image issues is Geneen Roth, author of Breaking Free From Emotional Eating, When Food is Love, Feeding the Hungry Heart, When You Eat at the Refrigerator Pull Up a Chair, Women, Food & God and Lost & Found.
In my private practice as a therapeutic counsellor, life-coach and psychotherapist, I have worked with 100s of women from all walks of life; many of them have suffered with food, dieting, weight and body image issues. Alongside therapy, I often recommend this Raisin, Chip & Chocolate exercise to learn how to eat mindfully by Geneen Roth featured on Oprah.com.
As with any psychological exercise /visualisation, this exercise can evoke strong feelings. Please make sure you seek appropriate support if you are suffering with disordered eating/ an eating disorder.
Jodie is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing. She has a wealth of personal and professional experience and knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Her experience includes a Master’s thesis on eating disorders titled ‘Call off the Search: Eating Disorders a Symptom of Psychospiritual Crisis’, (you can read an excerpt here), post graduate training in addiction and ‘women’s business’, work experience in the ‘Eating Disorder Unit’ at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, the Eating Disorders Foundation (now part of The Butterfly Foundation) and Women’s Health NSW. She is an ‘approved service provider’ for South Pacific Private Addiction and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice, treating eating disorders as well as other women’s issues in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.
This meditation was devised by Roberto Assagioli and is in his book, Psychosynthesis (1969). It is now widely used in mindfulness based therapies including ACT: Acceptance Committment Therapy. It should take about 20 minutes. This meditation is useful for fostering and observing, authentic self and helps to move away from being overly identified with body, feelings or mind and thoughts.
Put your body in a comfortable and relaxed position, and slowly take a few deep breaths. Then make the following affirmation, slowly and thoughtfully:
I have a body and l am not my body. My body may find itself in different conditions of health or sickness, it may be rested or tired, but that has nothing to do with my self, my real I. I value my body as my precious instrument of experience and of action in the outer world, but it is only an instrument. I treat it well, I seek to keep it in good health, but it is not myself. I have a body and I am not my body.
I have feelings and I am not my feelings. My feelings are diverse, changing, sometimes contradictory. They may swing from love to hatred, from calm to anger, from joy to sorrow, and yet my essence—my true nature—does not change. ‘I’ remain. Though a wave of feeling may temporarily submerge me, I know that it will pass in time; therefore I am not this feeling. Since I can observe and understand my feelings, and then gradually learn to direct, utilize, and integrate them harmoniously, it is clear that they are not my self. I have feelings and I am not my feelings.
I have a mind and thoughts and I am not my mind and my thoughts. My mind is a valuable tool of discovery and expression, but it is not the essence of my being. Its contents are constantly changing as it embraces new ideas, knowledge, and experience. Sometimes my mind refuses to obey me. Therefore, it cannot be me, my self. I have a mind and thoughts and I am not my mind and my thoughts.
Who am I then if I am not my body, feelings or mind I am a centre of pure awareness, love and will. This is the permanent factor in the ever-varying flow of my personal life. It is that which gives me a sense of being, of permanence, of inner balance. I affirm my identity with this centre and realize its permanency and its energy. I realize that from this centre of true identity I can learn to observe, direct, and harmonize all of my psychological processes including my body, feelings and mind. I choose to achieve a constant awareness of this fact in the midst of my everyday life, and to use it to help me and give increasing meaning and direction to my life.
I have a body and I am not my body
I have feelings and I am not my feelings
I have a mind and I am not my mind
I am a centre of pure awareness, love and will.
NB: Some psychosynthesis practitioners prefer to use ‘more than’ instead of ‘not’. I use both. If you are a Psychosynthesis practitioner, feel free to comment below regarding ‘more than’ or ‘not’.
Which aspect were you most identified with?
Is there one part that you barely know?
How could you build a better relationship with these 3 aspects?
What was it like to realize that you are a centre of pure awareness, love and will…and not in fact your body, your feelings or your mind/thoughts?
This is a powerful exercise. You may want to find a psychotherapist experienced in this kind of meditation to help you work through an over identification with the various parts of who you are.
You can change this to suit any area of your life that you wish to separate and disidentify from.
I have a mother and I am not my mother
I have work and I am not my work
I have an eating disorder and I am not my eating disorder
I have things and I am not my things
I have a victim subpersonality and I am not my victim subpersonality
Jodie Gale MA Psychosynthesis Psychotherapy, Dip Therapeutic Counselling, CMPanzA, CMCAPA has a wealth of personal and professional knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Her experience includes a Master’s thesis on eating disorders titled ‘Call off the Search: Eating Disorders a Symptom of Psychospiritual Crisis’ (you can read an excerpt here), post graduate training in addiction and ‘women’s business’, work experience in the ‘Eating Disorder Unit’ at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, the Eating Disorders Foundation (now part of The Butterfly Foundation) and Women’s Health NSW. She is an ‘approved service provider’ for South Pacific Private Addiction and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice, treating eating disorders as well as other women’s issues in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.
54% of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat.
81% of 10 year old girls fear being fat.
10 million women in the US are suffering with anorexia and bulimia. This is more than with breast cancer.
1 in 3 Australian females cite body image as their major concern (Mission Australia Youth Survey, 2010).
I remember the first time I fat talked – I was 5. For the school photo, I stood next to the ‘fat’ boy so that no-one would notice how fat I was. The next fat talk etched in my memory was at 8 when I put a t-shirt on to go swimming in our backyard pool – I didn’t want anyone to see my fat body. I wasn’t even fat. On both occasions, I was a normal weighted young girl. 20 years of food issues, yo-yo dieting and body/self-hatred followed.
I was fortunate enough at 27 to find a psychotherapist who specialised in disordered eating and body image issues. Over time, I worked through my chronic low self-worth and self-loathing. It was a long journey back to health and well-being. It was also the start of my journey to become a psychotherapist and what Jung called, a ‘wounded healer’. Through my own experience, I now help women transform the way they feel and think about body and self.
Nowadays, I practise being compassionate and kind to myself. I no longer excessively exercise to burn calories as I did for most of my 20s and 30s. Rather, I swim regularly because I enjoy being held by the water. I have redirected my focus from a torturous longing to be skinny to being healthy and accepting of every size.
Recently I went Christmas shopping online for a doll for my 3 year old daughter. I felt overwhelmed with fear as I searched for one that did not have insect sized legs and a size 0 waist. Although I don’t subscribe to measuring BMIs, from a medical perspective – if Barbie were a human being, her BMI would be 16.24 and would therefore fit the weight criteria for medically diagnosed anorexia.
Internalized images from children’s dolls and the media are in no way solely responsible for society’s eating and body image issues. But…they do make up part of our critical inner voice. What hope do women and girls have when the majority of dolls on the market and the images we are bombarded with, mirror such distorted and unhealthy body sizes. Fat talk reinforces these unrealistic beauty ideals.
Fat talking to ourselves and with friends and family doesn’t just affect women and girls suffering with eating disorders. Unfortunately, fat talk has become a part of our everyday lives. Due to the widespread use of technology, even third world countries are no longer immune.
If we are stuck in fat talk, it frequently starts on waking as we look in the mirror and get ready for the day. The mirror and/or the scales become a harsh critic that determines what kind of day we will have. A single pound can start a tirade of punitive, self-abuse that can torment us until the next weigh in when hopefully we have lost it again.
The crazy thing is, ‘I am fat’ cannot even be; Roberto Assagioli suggests that this is psychologically, grammatically incorrect. ‘I’ (self) cannot be fat! The ‘I’ is the essence of who we are. At the core – we are whole, unbroken, beauty, love and ultimately, a spark of the Divine (or nature, goodness, oneness if that fits better for you!). Our work is to realise this.
If you are willing, close your eyes and imagine yourself standing with a young child, perhaps 7 or 8 years old. Now say to her in your best fat talk tone,
‘You are fat’
‘You are disgusting’
‘You can’t wear that’
‘No you can’t go to the party because you look too fat’
How do you feel when you talk to the child in this way? You wouldn’t dare say this to a child. Yet…every time you fat talk to yourself, you are being self-critical and hard on yourself. Often what follows is a binge, a starvation diet or excessive exercise to soothe or punish yourself even further.
Now try this version in a loving and compassionate tone,
‘I love and accept you just as you are’
‘You have so many wonderful qualities’
‘Your body is sacred and you keep it in balance’
‘What does your body need right now – sleep, food, to dance, a swim?’
Now how do you feel? Can you feel the difference? If not, keep practising, it takes some time to shift a strong inner critical voice.
Fat talk free week was conceived by Tri Delta. Check out their 2012 youtube clip about Fat Talk Free Week.
Following are some suggestions to help you on your journey. Start with small steps…
Stop Dieting & Weighing
Since writing this article yesterday, I have just seen this article via the Butterfly Foundation’s FB page about realistic dolls for children
‘MOVE over Barbie, a new range of fashion dolls has been launched in Australia to address growing concerns about the impact on young girls of negative body image issues associated with dolls such as Barbie, Bratz and Monster High.
Unlike her now 53-year-old counterpart Barbie, the new Lottie doll has a childlike form, modelled on the average nine-year-old girl’s body shape and has practical clothes, realistic hair and healthy outdoor hobbies.’
Read more: http://bit.ly/Vff4UM
Jodie is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and wellbeing. She has a wealth of personal and professional experience and knowledge in the field of addiction and eating disorders. Her experience includes a Master’s thesis on eating disorders titled ‘Call off the Search: Eating Disorders a Symptom of Psychospiritual Crisis’, post graduate training in addiction and ‘women’s business’, work experience in the ‘Eating Disorder Unit’ at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, the Eating Disorders Foundation (now part of The Butterfly Foundation) and Women’s Health NSW. She is an ‘approved service provider’ for South Pacific Private Addiction, Eating and Mood Disorder Treatment Centre and works in private practice on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
To cite this Journal article: Gale, J. (2011). Eating Disorders: A search for Wholeness. The CAPA Quarterly, Journal of the Counsellors and Psychotherapists Association of NSW (4)pp. 14-17, retrieved from http://jodiegale.com/eating-disorders-a-search-for-wholeness/ (updated 2011 & 2012)
‘At the heart of every eating disorder, whether it is compulsive eating, bulimia or anorexia, there is a cry from the deepest part of our souls that must be heard. It is a cry to awaken, to embrace our whole selves… It is a cry to deepen our understanding of who we really are. It is a longing to know ourselves in mind, body and spirit’ (Normandi & Roark 1998: 119). Continue reading