I want to apologize for the gap in writing. I have had to take some time off to continue dealing with COVID long haul issues and also to "re-boot" my mental health after a long and difficult few years. I recently posted something brief about how taking some publicity photos affected my own body image. While I am aware of all the movements in the field of eating disorders whether it be body positivity, body neutrality, fat activism, fat liberation and more, I'm also - like many of you - aware that it's not easy to like your body when it doesn't conform to the "societal norms." As I grow older and experience health issues that impact my body shape and size and just experience the results of working in a very stressful career for many decades, I've had to recommit myself to ignoring outside voices and re-focusing on my own love of and compassion for my body which, after all, has proved to be so resilient and strong despite all it has gone through.
Body image has nothing to do with your body.
This is something I tell my patients in the Anchor Program all the time. Body image issues, preoccupation or obsession about our body size or shape is really a red herring, it's "fake news." What I mean by this is that almost always when we say we are obsessing about our bodies, what is actually happening is that we are feeling negative emotions or having negative thoughts about something completely separate from our bodies, but because these thoughts and feelings may be unconscious, we instead assume we are feeling bad because of our size or shape. So, for example, when I've been very stressed about something, I often default to thinking I feel bad because of my size or shape. When I step back and think about what preceded my body image issues, it really had nothing to do with my body. Rather it was all about my stress or about some thought about whether I'm doing a good job at work, etc. that starts the body image cascade. I think we've been led to believe that focusing on our size / continuing to beat ourselves up to lose weight is what works. We've been stigmatized and body shamed because of size and doctors are the biggest purveyors of this behavior second only to our own families.
Here are some things that bother me.
- I feel that my weight is nobody's business but my own! Honestly, i'm sick of doctors recommending diets to me (for my health) - PS did hey forget that 1) I AM a doctor and 2) I'm a specialist in eating disorders and endorse the fact that you can be healthy no matter your size.
- I'm tired of doctors blaming my health issues on my weight. As an added thought, I'm tired of feeling I have to prove to them that I'm active and that my dietician says I have an exemplary diet. I recently had a conversation with a doctor who says that Pilates is not the right exercise (subtitle: to lose weight). I don't think he's ever done pilates but I can tell you that the way my pilates instructor teaches, I leave there dripping sweat and very out of breath. Plus pilates helps with core strength, flexibility, etc. - all of which help us as we age.
Dr. Carolyn's solution to (her own) and others anger at doctors:
- I no longer meekly get on scales at any doctor's office. I don't let anyone weigh me. That is not to say that I never weigh myself. I do, but very infrequently.
- I wish the impact of trauma would be taught in medical school. Maybe this would make doctors pause and think about some of the other reasons why someone may be living in a larger body besides that they are "lazy, don't exercise enough and eat too much."
- Size and shape are very complex issues and I no longer read articles, research, opinion pieces, etc. that talk about diets. I avoid social media sites where people are trolling someone for losing weight (when they have previously been models of body positivity) or gaining weight (after having lost weight / promoted dieting or having anything to do with weight.
- Finally, I'm becoming hardened to weight stigma, attempts by doctors and others to shame me about my size.
- The hardest task is to root out our own internal weight bias, the negative thoughts when we pass a store window or when we don't fit in clothes. Internalized weight stigma requires constant vigilance and an enduring and fierce compassion for our bodies and ourselves.
Life is too short!
One thing that the last two years of quarantine, recovering from COVID long haul and seeing the the million people who lost their llives from COVIDhas taught me is that life is too short to spend precious time, energy and money worrying about my size - because in fact there is nothing that I can do about it other than what I'm already doing. I feel I have more to offer than just how I look. I feel my life has more meaning than whether or not I'm a certain size. I have so much I'd like to accomplish (still!!) and worrying about my size gets in the way of all that.
What about you? Are you ready to move away from the tyranny of the scale and back into your beautiful life?
I'm here to help! All the best,