Ep 14 – Building Body respect when you need help with an Eating Disorder

In this episode, I describe the ways in which we can move from body loathing to body acceptance practices, whilst in eating disorder recovery

Read more here: BLOG: Building body respect when you need help with an Eating Disorder, Why you shouldn’t comment on someone’s weight loss

Episode 14 Transcript

Hi, and welcome to the Food Freedom Podcast with me, Claire Feldman. I’m a CBT therapist, hypnotherapist, and eating disorder recovery practitioner. And having recovered from my own history of disordered eating, I wanted to create a podcast where I could bring bite size episodes to help you with tools, techniques, and strategies to overcome your own food, weight, and body image issues. 

Hi everyone, and welcome to today’s podcast episode in which I’m going be talking about how to build a better relationship with your body whenever you struggle with disordered eating. I suppose the first thing that I should probably say is that having poor body image definitely isn’t exclusively for people who struggle with disordered eating. I still struggle with my own body image from time to time. It’s something that I continually have to work on, and I think a lot of women probably feel the same. I think it’s very rare, and unique nowadays, unfortunately, to find, find a woman who is completely comfortable in her skin, is completely comfortable with her body, and is not on some sort of pursuit to try and change something about herself. So hopefully this episode will actually be helpful for anybody who struggles with their body image and not just solely someone that has disordered eating patterns and behaviors. 

As well, the whole reason, like the history of why do we struggle with poor body image, we could probably go down many, many rabbit holes and be talking for many hours about weight stigma, talking about the pressure through social media and TV that women are put under and the pursuit of kind of the thin ideals and all its roots. But we’re not gonna go down all of those avenues today. Instead I’m just gonna talk a little bit about maybe some suggestions of ways in which we can show more kindness towards our body, ways in which we can maybe challenge the narrative that we have around, um, our body as well. It’s important probably as well to say at this point that whenever people see perhaps on social media, they see a lot of posts or follow accounts and a lot of hashtags around maybe body positivity and body acceptance. 

I think there can be maybe a bit of a perception that the goal for anybody going through eating disorder recovery or the goal of anybody just kind of working through their issues is to get to this place of like feeling really positive and feeling really in love with your body. And I think for the most part, that isn’t necessarily realistic for many people. So it’s not about going from this place of really hating loathing and criticising everything about yourself and everything about your body to this place where you think you’re wonderful and you love every single inch. I think the best that we can often be striving for is getting to some kind of middle ground, some kind of place where we can be more accepting of the way that we are, where we’re not engaging in really self-destructive behaviors to towards our body, and that we can learn to show respect and kindness towards our body. 

So whenever I talk about body respect, I suppose, like body respect is about really being able to be attuned to your body and, and I guess have recognising what your body is able to do for you and to be able to serve your body in a way that is showing it care. That is absolutely nothing to do with size. And that can be through many different means. That can be through honoring my body by choosing foods that I know nourish it, that make it feel good, that give it energy and help me get through the day. It can be just respecting my body in terms of the boundaries I have in terms of other people and how I use my body or let my body be used by other people. It can be down to tasks, like moisturising my body, ensuring I’ve got an SPF on my skin, on my face, you know, that there are so many different ways in which we can show our body respect even when we don’t love it or even when we’re struggling with disordered eating recovery. 

So that’s what I’m gonna talk a little bit about today and share some examples of how can I start to show more respect and kindness towards my body. So I suppose the first one is to recognise really what your body is able to do for you. And I think this is something that we always take for granted, and it’s in those sorts of, it’s only in the moments where we see someone who’s much less fortunate than our ourself that we kind of go within and have a little word with ourselves and, and kind of tell ourselves, God, we should really be so grateful for what we have and where we are right now. And I’m talking about perhaps we see someone who has a disability, someone who’s unable to do the things that we are physically able to do that in those moments we kind of catch yourself and we express great gratitude for what our bodies are actually able to do. 

And we see someone who isn’t able to do those things, but those moments tend to be quite fleeting and quite brief. So something that we can try and do more often is more regular practice of actually having gratitude for what our body enables us to do. I’m really fortunate that I live quite close to the sea and getting down for walks along the beach or something I try to do if I can on a daily basis. It’s incredibly important for my mental health. It’s my thing that I do on my own. I love it. I just kind of disconnect and go get some fresh air. And if I’m really lucky, which doesn’t happen very often in Northern Ireland, I might even feel some sunshine on my face. So that for me is like my medicine. And so when I’m doing things like that where I’m surrounded, you know, walking along a beautiful beach and beautiful surroundings and sea air and all these wonderful little things, I try to have gratitude for the fact not only for where I live and that this is accessible to me, but also that my body enabled me to get down here. 

You know, my body enabled me to get down here and to experience this moment and these beautiful surroundings and, and isn’t it amazing that it’s able to do this for me? And I suppose doing things like that, it’s often taking the conscious time, the conscious effort to do things. We don’t often do that and we can’t set plans and schedules every single day for I must, you know, be grateful and I must express gratitude for my body. But sometimes it’s in those little moments, those little moments where you’re doing something and you’re thinking, wow, or you’re doing something you really enjoy or you’re doing something that you’re getting great pleasure from. It’s in those little moments that it’s good to really recognise that you just simply by being alive, <laugh>, I know that sounds really dramatic, but by simply being alive, you’ve been able to do this activity by just existing, you’ve been able to do this, this activity. 

So taking that moment to really acknowledge that, you know, isn’t it amazing that I have these legs that have enabled me to walk down to this beautiful beach and to soak up this moment? I feel the same about the gym. I go to the gym again for my mental health, but I like the feeling of being strong. So I feel really grateful that I’m able to lift heavy weights and feel my muscles building and growing because I like that feeling of having strength in my body. So yeah, just taking those moments regardless of what it is, whether it’s walking somewhere, just simply getting out of bed in the morning and being grateful for being able to get up another morning. And even just recognising just like our bodies perform miracles every day that we pay no attention to because it’s all going on inside within us. 

We don’t always think about it, but your heart is pumping blood around your body, oxygen’s going, moving around your body to keep you alive, to enable you to be able to do everything, to listen to this podcast. Your body is literally performing little miracles to ensure that everything within your body is functioning as it should and enabling you to be here, in this world. I know that sounds awfully dramatic, but it is a miracle what our bodies do every day. Even just with things like illness and how our bodies will fight to work through viruses to overcome illnesses even with eating disorders, no matter what we put our body through, whether it be completely and utterly starving our body, or whether it be chaotic compulsive eating, that those behaviors are harmful to our body. But no matter what we do, our body fights desperately, desperately hard to keep us alive in those sorts of situations. 

And just having gratitude for the fact that that’s what it’s doing. And our bodies are only ever doing their job and our bodies are only ever responding to what we’re doing, you know, the behaviors that we’re engaging in. So when we, for example, embark on like a crash diet and we go through a really really low calorie eating plan and we might lose lots of weight that our body’s responding to the dramatic loss in calories, but when we end up having like a weight rebound, that’s actually our body’s way of trying to, your body’s trying to protect you because your body thinks that you were starving it thought you were gonna die. And so it’s trying to do anything it can just to help you. So it’s conserving whatever energy you now are taking in and it’s conserving energy and storing it in your body as excess weight because it’s literally trying to protect you and to keep you alive. 

So as much as we may not like things like weight rebound after dramatic weight loss, it’s actually your body doing exactly what it is supposed to do, even if we don’t like it. It’s just trying to protect you. It’s trying to do its best by you. So that’s one way that we can think about showing greater respect to our body, just having those little moments of gratitude and appreciation for what en enables you to do. The next thing is to stop comparison. And I know that this is so hard to do because as women in particular, we’re always sizing ourselves up, we’re always comparing ourselves to other people and there’s like this primal, driver that tends to be inside us that when if we walk into a room, we’re literally sizing ourselves up in comparison to other females in the room. 

And how do we measure up in terms of weight and size and beauty and all that kind of stuff. It sucks that we do that, but that is unfortunately just the way we tend to be conditioned and the way we often are. So trying to avoid comparisonitis is probably something that takes a little bit of action on our part and something that really takes some clear kind of intentions. I was listening to a podcast the other day and the gentleman who was on the podcast made a really interesting point, and it’s something I’ve said loads before and I’ve heard lots of times before, but it was really good to kind of be reminded of this. And he said that it would not matter if every single one of us at the exact same number of calories every single day and engaged in the exact same amount of exercise every single day, we would all still be in very different bodies. 

Like we are not all supposed to be one size and we’re not all supposed to be one, um, particular body shape. It’s normal for our bodies to all be different. And I think with the comparisonitis is that we’re often looking to, whether it be influencers on social media or whether it even be friends that have a certain body that we are aspiring to or that we really like, that we’re often looking to other people to be like, well, tell me what you did. You know, how did you get to that size? Tell me what your exercise regime is. Tell me what you’re eating every day. And those, you know, annoying what ate in the day type reels that we all are looking at those as if this is gonna give us a magic solution to being like that person. And it’s so important for you to know and to recognise that you can admire and look at that person all you want, but that is their body and that’s not your body. 

And your body is going to do exactly what your body feels is right and safe for you. And he also said in this podcast, which again I know and was good to kind of have a reminder of, he said that you have less control over your body weight than you think. And he is absolutely right because your body is continually trying to pull you back to a level it feels as safe and right for you. It’s called set point weight theory. And that might be something you might wanna explore and do a little bit of research around yourself, but no matter how much you’re trying to manipulate and control your weight, it may not be where your body actually feels as safe and right for you. So it’s really important just to, uh, as much as we don’t often want to hear it and we want to tune it out, you can do exactly the same, follow the exact same plan as somebody beside you. 

It does not mean that your body is gonna respond in the same way or that your body is gonna be anything like theirs. So how do we maybe detach ourselves a little bit from comparing ourselves to others? Well, I think one thing is to take on board that point that I just mentioned, that that’s their body. It’s not mine and it doesn’t matter whether I follow the same path or not. My body is my body and my body will respond in the way that my body sees fit to respond. A big thing is social media and I think we don’t often realize just how much we are triggered every day or how much we are impacted mentally and emotionally from social media. And if you’re like me and you have a little bit of a problem where your thumb is continuously scrolling on, whether it be Instagram or Facebook or whatever, that you’re continually being exposed to imagery of things that often aren’t even reality, that they’re completely filtered, that you’re only seeing people’s highlights, that you’re only seeing people at a certain time made up for a certain occasion. 

And that often people want to share on social media their best bits. You know, they don’t want you to see how rough they look, you know, first thing in the morning before they’ve had the coffee or before the face has been washed. Most people don’t wanna show you that, so you only see the groomed version. So something that is a good idea to do is to really do a bit of an audit quite regularly on your social media kinds and look at what you’re consuming, look at what kind of accounts you’re following, look at what kind of imagery reels, what sorts of things are coming up. If it’s loads of like weight loss, nutrition and fitness things. Ask yourself the honest question, is this actually motivating and inspiring me? If the answer to that is no, and actually it makes you feel a bit crap about yourself, then I would really recommend that you do some streamlining of your social media so that you’re following accounts that actually do inspire you and that make you feel good and make you feel more compassionate and kindness towards yourself. 

There was a great post that was shared the other day, I definitely encourage you to go and check it out by a lady called Joanna Kenny who is a body confidence influencer. And she shared a filter that’s on Instagram that, oh my goodness, she showed herself her face with the filter on and then her face without the filter on and completely and utterly looks like two different people. And again, what we don’t realise is that often when people are on Instagram, when they’re doing reels and videos and doing their lives, that they’re doing it with a filter on. And again, we’re make, we’re comparing ourselves to how that person looks and how they are. And that’s not even what that person looks like. So definitely check out that reel, Joanna Kenny, and just see, it was shocking, like really shocking what the difference was in the before and after. 

And imagine if you’re using, even if you’re using the filters yourself, you know, thinking about how does that even make you feel that perhaps you’re showing this version of yourself on social media knowing that perhaps that’s not really what you even look like. And then you might be comparing, you might be comparing yourself to your filtered version of yourself even though the filtered version of yourself isn’t real either. So something maybe just to have a little bit of a think about and is it that you decide that you don’t want to engage in filters or that you’re maybe being just more mindful of it whenever you are using it. And then the final thing is about engaging in self-care. And self-care is recommended <laugh> for just about anything, you know, doesn’t matter what’s happened to you, you’ve broken your leg? Self-care. Self-care is recommended and people tend to roll their eyes at it. 

Because we know it’s good to have Epsom salt baths. We know it’s good to go to bed early and read books. We know it’s good to go for a walk. We know it’s good to eat nutritious food. We know all these things are really good. It’s the doing them is the problem. Particularly if we are the type of people who are used to putting ourselves last at the bottom of the to-do list and caring for other people and prioritising other people before our own needs, self-care often feels like it’s an extra chore. Self-care often feels like it’s even a stressor and it’s gonna make me feel even more stressed. But the reason why self-care is recommended so much is because it is effective, it is helpful, it is supportive in helping you to have a better relationship with your body and help you with eating disorder recovery. 

And often with clients, I’ll make recommendations of engaging in like physical activities or things that actually aren’t about the aesthetics of how the body looks. And for me, like one thing that is great for that is yoga. That yoga is a practice that not only is it helpful for reducing cortisol, reducing stress levels, but it’s also really good for developing a better appreciation for your body that there is generally in these practices, there’s no mirrors, it’s not focused on how you look, but it’s about settling into your body and learning how your body feels in certain positions and certain movements and working with your body as opposed to finding, fighting against it. So that’s something that I will quite regularly recommend to clients is a way of, of having that, that deeper I guess, connection with your body. When you struggle with your body image or when you’ve perhaps been used to engaging maybe in really grueling or punishing workouts to try and manipulate your body to be a certain way, that engaging in something that is gentle, that is flowing where you’re slowing down your breath, you’re turning your attention inwards and you’re noticing just how your body feels, that actually that in itself can be incredibly helpful for connecting back into your body. 

But think about ways in which you can show yourself care that are even just about being more respectful towards your body. Whether that is, you know, noticing that your muscles are quite sore, noticing that there’s tension in your back. You know, is that soaking in a bath or is that making a decision that you wanna go and say a physio or you want to go and have a massage around that? Is that noticing something about your body that doesn’t feel quite right and actually booking an appointment to go and see a GP? Or is it just that actually it’s cold weather and you notice that your skin tends to be drier in cold weather? And so creating a self-care routine around moisturising your skin every day, that these are all ways in which you can show your body a little bit of respect even when you don’t love it. 

And even when you still desire weight loss, that moving away from a relationship and where you feel that your body’s letting you down, that you feel you have to criticise your body and that you feel you have to punish your body in some way because it’s not doing what you want it to do, please just try to remember that your body is doing the best that it can under the circumstances in which it’s in. And perhaps even reflect on the fact that all the things that you have been doing, fighting it, punishing it, grueling workouts, criticising it, those things aren’t working. And maybe developing this kinder relationship, this one where you show your body respect, where you promise yourself not to engage in really horrible self-talk and poke and pull at your body and get really critical of it. That perhaps showing kindness and respect is actually the thing that might help you develop a better relationship with your body, a better self-esteem and take steps towards eating disorder recovery

And also maybe when you are being more respectful, being kind to your body, caring for yourself and your body more, how that might also influence your choices that you make and the way in which you engage with eating behaviors. Might it actually support you in your eating disorder recovery rather than fuel it even more? Because often what it does is it fuels disordered eating when we tend to engage in the harsh criticism and judgment. So just something for you to have a little thing about and reflect on. And I would love to hear if you have any particular thoughts on this episode, please do not hesitate to get in touch. And I look forward to speaking to you again soon. Take care everybody. 

So guys, that’s it for today’s episode. I hope you enjoyed it, ’cause this is a new podcast, I would love to get your feedback on how you have found it and hear any suggestions you have either for improving the podcast or even topics that you would like to be discussed in the future. I really would love and appreciate to hear from you. So feel free to drop me a DM on Instagram or send me an email. Also if you would like to find out more about my services and ways that you can work with me to support your eating disorder recovery, check out my website, which is www.eatology.co.uk

Otherwise that is it for now. Goodbye and I hope you tune in again soon. Take care.

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