My client, whom we'll call Sally, was telling me how she's been reading up on all sorts of positive body image blogs. You know, blogs that encourage you to love yourself and accept yourself as you are right now. And that
was just all too far from reality for her to be able to swallow. She told me "I can't love my body. I can't stand living in it. I don't feel good physically
in my body. Why would I accept something that makes me so miserable?"
And I understood what Sally was saying. Often, people confuse self-acceptance with stagnation. Staying miserable, learning to put up with something you hate. Many people wrongly assume that they'll never change if they accept themselves (not to mention love themselves!) as they are right now. But it turns out that isn't true.
ACCEPTING SOMETHING DOESN'T MEAN YOU HAVE TO LIKE IT. The reality is that self-acceptance FACILITATES CHANGE. Acceptance can be defined as "the act of assenting or believing." Once we come to truly accept where we are at in life, what works for us, and what doesn't, we are then able to make decisions based on that reality. Here are a couple of diagrams to show what I mean.
Cycle of Non-Acceptance
Cycle of Acceptance
I share this message with you as a new year is about to begin because it's a time that you might be thinking about setting goals and contemplating how you'd like to improve upon this past year. So you just might want to consider adding self-love and self-acceptance to the top of your list. Ironically, it just might help you accomplish everything else you had in mind.
I'm going to leave you with a quote from a fabulous book that I stumbled upon while researching this blog post. The quote relates to accepting your body as it is right now.
How can you begin to learn the lesson of acceptance? By recognizing that what is, just is, and that the key to unlocking the prison of self-judgment lies in your own mind. You can either continue to fight against your body's reality by complaining bitterly and immersing yourself in self-deprecation, or you can make the very subtle but powerful mental shift into acceptance. Either way, the reality remains the same. Acceptance or rejection of your body only carries weight in your mind; your perception has no bearing on how your body actually looks, so why not choose the ease of acceptance rather than the pain of rejection? The choice is yours. "
Found in "If Life is a Game, These are the Rules" by Cherie Carter-Scott PhD
Have you had an experience with self-acceptance? Please share it!
One of my favorite routines after getting out of bed in the morning involves making a steaming hot cup of coffee and taking a moment before taking my first sip to pause, gaze out my kitchen window, and set an intention for my day ahead. This ritual started a couple of years ago as I began to realize how busy the days can be and how easy it is to fill the waking hours to the brim without taking the time to slow down and check in. I found myself talking with clients and friends about the importance of mindfulness, self inquiry, and pausing, but realized that I too needed to hear that message and bring focused attention to sloooowwwwwwwwwingggg down.
Sometimes setting an intention to set an intention is the hardest part
At first, I had to remind myself to take that moment or would chide myself with self-criticism if I'd rushed around after waking up too late/hitting snooze and had forgotten about the intention to set an intention altogether. Just like any type of habit change, however, with enough practice and repetition, the new ritual stuck and now it's the part of my morning I look forward to most. This “mindfulness moment” allows me the opportunity to assess how I'm feeling, what I'm grateful for, what I'm worried about, and what I'd like to practice for the day ahead. Solidifying this habit in the morning has also helped to make it much more natural to return to this practice throughout the day.
Even the fullest days can hold mindful moments
Maybe it's taking a moment to check in while waiting in line at the grocery store, sitting down to eat lunch, or washing dishes at the end of a long day – wherever it may be, the realization that there IS time to take time throughout a busy day has been a huge change for me. We all have the ability to slow down and check in with ourselves, no matter how full our time may seem.
This past Christmas, I received the perfect gift to accompany this morning ritual - “Journey to the Heart” by Melody Beattie. This book has a daily reading for each day of the year and always seems to deliver just the message I need to hear. There was a reading a few weeks ago that gave me pause for thought and it felt important to share. It's entitled “Look at What's Right” - a reflection about how we can spend so much time looking for flaws in ourselves, even in the name of self improvement,”that we often forget to stop and take stock of what is going well or what we value within ourselves. Here's the reading:
“Take time to notice what's right in ourselves, in others, and in the world around us. We may become so concerned with correcting ourselves we become habituated to seeing what's wrong. Not just seeing it – constantly looking for it. The question itself – What's wrong? – is enough to keep us on edge.
"There are times to take stock, do an inventory. Times to learn and grow. But spirituality and joy do not stem from trudging around in the muck of what's wrong with others, ourselves, and life. We do not have to seek out mistakes and errors, poking and picking at ourselves to continue our growth. Poking and picking hurts. Our lessons will be revealed to us, and they will present themselves naturally. Growth will occur.
"Give yourself a break. Ask yourself what's right, what's good, what's true, what's beautiful. Sometimes the lesson isn't in discovering what's wrong. Sometimes the lesson is discovering that the world is all right – and so are you.”
So, with that, I'd challenge all of you to practice taking a pause today (and maybe eventually every day) to acknowledge what's right. Give yourself the
gift of self compassion, give yourself some space from that internal critic, and call out a strength you possess – even if it seems tiny or insignificant.
With practice and persistence, everything gets easier.
The Need for Well-Trained Clinicians
This blog post was originally posted on the Binge Eating Disorder Awareness Blog. I've reposted it here to spread the word!
Binge eating disorder (BED) may seem new since it was just added to the official list of mental health diagnoses. But the truth is that using food to manage difficult internal experiences and emotions has been around a long time! While it’s official status is “young” in the eating disorder (ED) world, well-trained clinicians are desperately needed! The problem being that many clinicians haven’t been properly trained on how to treat BED, which is distinctly different than treating weight. Often, clinicians conflate the two and unintentionally create a whole host of problems!
While the ED field has a long way to go in developing substantive research to guide our treatment protocols for BED, we must borrow from related fields of research to guide our way.
The first area of research ED clinicians need to become familiar with is weight stigma. Similar to other oppressive forces in our culture, weight stigma infiltrates all of our lives in sneaky and insidious ways. And sadly, even ED clinicians are top offenders when it comes to bias and stigma relating to weight.
What is Weight Stigma?
Check out this succinct PDF on weight stigma developed by BEDA. In short, weight stigma is negative judgment, bias, assumptions, attitudes, and treatment based on a person’s size. Most importantly, when a person experiences weight stigma it makes them vulnerable for WORSE health outcomes. This means that when people are stigmatized they are less likely to get proper care and are less likely to improve in any health parameters. This is why a weight neutral approach to improving health of people suffering with BED.
Why A Weight Neutral Approach
A weight neutral approach makes no assumptions about a person’s health or habits based on appearance. And it deems every individual deserving of health enhancing interventions regardless of whether it produces a change on the scale. Two important philosophies, Health at Every Size (HAES) and Intuitive Eating (IE), provide the scaffolding and guidance for clinicians to generate interventions that will improve the health of clients without interjecting harmful weight stigma. Integrating these philosophies into the backbone of BED treatment is critical to helping without harming.
Seeking Additional Treatment
It is imperative that ED clinicians seek additional training in weight stigma, HAES, and IE. I have developed an online training for ED clinicians that is focused on how to provide nutrition specific counseling that is HAES informed, weight neutral, and grounded in research. I developed it because I am passionate about reducing weight stigma and improving treatment for people with EDs. There are relatively few resources for clinicians so I created am online training that is affordable and accessible from your own home. You can learn more about my online training for dietitians interested in eating disorder work here.
Additionally, here are some other resources I recommend:
- Become a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor
- Attend the BEDA Conference; Attend The Association for Size Diversity Conference
- Familiarize yourself with weight stigma research
Let’s elevate the field of ED treatment and provide our clients with BED with the best possible care.