Category Archives: VIP Blogs

Processing vs “Overcoming” Body Shame in Recovery

I often hear clients berate themselves over the fact that they “still struggle with body image” or ask how they can “overcome” difficult body image feelings once and for all. 

But struggling with body image—that is, having days where our feelings about our body are more difficult or uncomfortable than others—isn’t really something we “overcome,” 

it’s something that we learn to relate to differently in recovery—and which may heal slowly in its own time as a result of processing our feelings in a different way. 

This all to say—recovery isn’t really about the absence (or existence) of difficult feelings about our bodies—which are almost inevitable in a culture that is constantly judging and evaluating our worth on the basis of size,

but rather, about our ability to be kind and caring with ourselves in the midst of those difficult feelings—in the midst of pain, shame, fear, etc.

It’s about being able to make the self-loving choice not to harm ourselves through dieting—even when we’re having a hard time facing the internal or external realities of fatphobia in our world. 

It’s about being able to make choices in alignment with our values (values like weight-neutrality or self-care) even when we’re overwhelmed by fear, shame or other difficult emotions. 

In other words—the deepest body image work involves: 

learning to how to be with difficult feelings without judgment,

learning how to feel without agreeing with the narrative those feelings attach to,

and learning how to skillfully care for ourselves when such feelings inevitably arise.

if you’d like to work on these feelings-focused body image skills, sign up for free coaching emails and get new blogs sent straight to your inbox. If you’re still struggling in your relationship with food, make sure to check out my free Stop Fighting Food Video Training Series too.

Are you making “thin” your “God?”

Too many of us have mistaken thinness with the “power of God,” believing that weight control is the answer to all of life’s fears and discontents.

While it’s true that for the price of thinness—whatever that may cost us,

our culture sells us status (masquerading as love),
and social power (masquerading as acceptance),

these privileges are not enough to fill what some might call the “hole in my heart.”

Of course, when we treat our weight “like God,”

when we turn our weight into the thing that makes us “okay” or “not okay,”  “complete” or “incomplete,” 

our weight (and food) quite literally rule us—we become a slave to whatever we need to feel safe and whole. 

If we need weight control or thinness to feel safe, we will be ruled by, and obsessed with our food and the scale.

If we need money or “success” to feel safe, we will be ruled by, and obsessed with our work.

If we need a human relationship to feel safe, we will be ruled by, and obsessed with our human relationships.

The only way out of the chains of food and weight obsession…or any other material obsession for that matter (work, relationships, etc.),

is to start seeking safety and wholeness in something we cannot lose—something immaterial—something less vulnerable than physical form.  

To learn more about How To Stop Binge Eating for good, make sure to check out this important post for a full breakdown of my recovery philosophy.

When feeling “full” isn’t enough…

Fullness is what happens when your stomach pouch is full of a certain volume of food—when your stomach pouch is stretching or distended from being literally filled up.

Satisfaction, on the other hand, is a statement about desire. 

To be satisfied means, “I truly do not want any more food…I feel physically and emotionally complete with my meal.”

Sometimes satisfaction will require becoming very full—even uncomfortably full—while, other times, satisfaction will demand less.

Early intuitive eaters often shoot for some “acceptable” amount of fullness—rather than shooting for true satisfaction,

and then wonder what is wrong with them when they “can’t stop” at their own imaginary line of “acceptable fullness.”

The reality is, fullness alone is not always enough. If fullness isn’t accompanied by satisfaction, you will need—and you will eat—more

(…and that’s “normal”).

Satisfaction results from a complex combination of chemical and emotional needs being met in the body and mind,

including things like pleasure and relaxation, as well as adequate calories and macronutrients…none of which is guaranteed by a feeling of fullness alone.

For instance, you can fill your belly up to the brim with food…but if you’re anxious and fearful (of weight gain or disease) while doing so…satisfaction is unlikely.

Similarly, you can fill your belly up with all the vegetables and protein in the world…but at some point you will feel wholly unsatisfied without adequate carbohydrates and fat…and vice versa.

Of course, allowing yourself to become truly satisfied means making peace with the possibility of fullness beyond what diet culture has told you is “okay.” 

Allowing yourself to become truly satisfied means making peace with where ever you happen to land on the fullness spectrum when satiation occurs. 

PS—if you’re having trouble reaching “satisfaction,” this blog may also help.

PPS—to learn more about How To Stop Binge Eating for good, make sure to check out this important post.

How to do “health” without dieting

“How do I make ‘healthy’ choices without falling back into diet-mentality?” 

This is a big question (which I cover at length in my coaching programs), but here are some key conceptsto consider when addressing this important question, as well as some of my most popular blog posts on this topic:

#1 – CHECK YOUR MOTIVATIONS

The most common reason that attempts at ‘health’ fall apart, is that people confuse—or commingle—their desire for healthwith their desire for thinness

Making ‘healthful’ choices for the sake of actual health(e.g. balanced blood sugar, increased energy, improved digestion, etc.) is a very different biological and psychological process than making ‘healthful’ choices for the purpose of weight control (a.k.a. dieting).

Confusing these two motivations—or letting hopes of thinness interfere with your health decisions—is one of the most common causes of rebound, obsessive thoughts, binge-eating, and/or “falling off the wagon.”

More on this here.

#2 – “HEALTH” must include “MENTAL HEALTH”

Diet culture trains us to focus on food choices as the predominant determinant of health…when in reality, food choices are only a sliver of the pie.It is widely evidenced that stress, stigma, and our emotional world play an enormous role in our physical health outcomes…not to mention our general happiness, which in my opinion, is the whole point of pursuing health, to begin with.

If your pursuit of health is making you stressed out or unhappy, it’s time to seriously reconsider your definition of health—to one that includes *mental health* and quality of life.Our pursuit of health should support our happiness and well-being, not compromise it. This may mean having a cupcake for no reason sometimes, and it will definitely mean learning to let go “imperfect” health choices when (not if) they occur.

More on this here.

#3 – HEALTH IS NOT A MORAL ISSUE

Even if you are approaching health from a *truly* weight-neutral lens (which is unlikely…I have yet to meet a client who wasn’t struggling with some form of fatphobia), you may still fall into “on-and-off-the-wagon” thinking if you feel emotionally attachedto performing health “correctly.”

In other words, if you feel anxious or badly about yourself when you make “unhealthful” choices…be prepared to feel stressed out around food frequently…and possibly rebound as a result. 

More on this here & here.

#4 – HEALTH IS A SPECTRUM, NOT A BINARY

Approaching “health” as a binary—
that is,

a thing we can achieve or failat,
a thing that is black or white,
a wagon we can fall on or off of,

is not a useful or realistic paradigm. 

It’s more accurate to understand health as something that’s constantly moving and changing on a spectrum basis—a continuous gray area that we’re swimming around in all the time.

Learning to live comfortably “in the gray” is critical for both sanity and sustainability. 

More on this here.

#5 – DOING “HEALTHY” THINGS IS EASIER THAN NOT DOING “UNHEALTHY” THINGS. 

If you’re in early recovery from what I like to call “post-diet-stress,” restriction for any reason (including weight-neutral ‘health’) may not be entirely realistic for you right now. And that’s okay—you have to meet yourself where you are. 

That being said, there are so many ways to improve health (including food-related conditions, like diabetes) that have *nothing* to do with restriction.For instance, moving your body, getting lots of fiber/protein, eating regular meals, etc., are all things you can ADDinto your life to help manage blood sugar, for instance, without actively restricting anything. 

This may sound simplistic, but I feel compelled to point it out since so many recovering dieters immediately leap to what they should “take out” when pursuing health—as if restriction were the *only* way to improve health markers.

The adage,“health isn’t all about avoiding things that make us feel bad—it’s also about adding in things that make us feel good,” is especially important for those recovering from “post-diet stress,” who may not be able to handle restriction (even for ‘health’ purposes)all that well.

Was this post helpful? For more insights on having a “normal,” non-crazy-making relationship with food, check out my free video training series here

Also, if you’re struggling with binge eating specifically, make sure to check out this important post: How To Stop Binge Eating for good.