To All Us Body-Haters…

9 out of 10 American women have disliked their body for a long time.

liz v kateAfter all, many of us have seen our body as “The Problem” since we were teenagers. We have a constant stream of unrealistic skinny-body images that keep our body-dissatisfaction alive and well.

It’s precisely that long-standing belief that our bodies are the problem, and the consequent negative feelings, that can keep us stuck.

We’ve been feeling this way so long that we might not realize we can challenge it. It’s time to reconsider whether or not this thinking is helpful or true.

We can change our minds.

Here’s a good start:

“Lay down your tired weapons of condemnation. Relinquish the striving. Take a deep breath and decide to step completely out of the battle for thinness and step into the joy of living fully, vibrantly and freely in the only body you will ever have.

“Stop and consider this: your best memories were experienced through that body you live in right now. The most fun you’ve ever had was possible because of your body. The last thing you saw that took your breath away was seen through those eyes in that body. The most moving music you’ve ever heard went through those ears. The dearest expression of love you’ve ever given or received was given and received through that body. That body is uniquely yours. It is the warm, pulsing vessel that houses the essence that is you. It has been your constant companion. It was with you before you breathed your first big gulp of air, and it will be with you when you breathe the last.

“That body is something to be revered and respected.” 

What could happen if you devoted yourself to a deep appreciation of that body, as it is right now?

Where might that affection take you and your health over the next year?

What might happen if you began to treasure that body, to seriously listen to her cues, to lovingly honor her needs?

What might happen if you began to nurture a life-long friendship, a devoted partnership, with your body today?
*adapted excerpt from the newly revised book, The Liberated Eater, by Cindy Landham

 

3 Critical Keys To Permanent Weight Loss

number 3If you want to weigh less, permanently, here are three important things to consider:

  1. You will need to eat less (and possibly better quality) fuel, permanently.
  2. This smaller amount of fuel will need to be satisfying to you or you won’t be able to sustain it.
  3. To consistently eat reasonably requires having a peaceful, balanced relationship with food, so you aren’t compelled to eat when you’re not hungry.

These three reality checks can help us come to grips with what it takes to reach and keep our goals.

Hint: HCG shots and Nutri-system will not cut it long term.

Here’s how this played out in my life: I didn’t gain the freshman 15. I gained the freshman 40, and I enjoyed getting there with reckless abandon…bottomless Dr. Pepper while studying, drive-thrus, stacks of Cowboy cookies from Safeway, Waffle House at 2 in the morning. The only problem was I hated my body, and food preoccupation was stealing my very life.

Fast forward 40 years. After three decades of brutal food-dysfunction, chronic dieting and body-hatred, I stumbled into recovery and now help others do the same; that’s a long story for another time.

Right now let’s take a closer look at how the three keys apply to a real life – mine:

1. To keep a comfortable weight I will need to eat less for the rest of my life – not just for the duration of a diet. I’m around 40 pounds lighter now and if I want to stay here I need to consistently live with the smaller amount of fuel my body needs to maintain this lighter weight.

This boils down to biology:

  • Small bodies run on a smaller amount of food.
  • Medium bodies run on a medium amount of food.
  • Larger bodies run on a larger amount of food.

2. I had to find a way of eating I really like, one I could easily and happily continue. It’s gotta be a lifestyle, not a diet. Here’s the beautiful irony – I enjoy eating now more than I ever have. Savoring, appreciating, getting up from a meal feeling deeply satisfied and refreshed. I wouldn’t go back to feeling heavy, stuffed, numb and miserable for anything!

3. Eating reasonably meant I needed to build a new relationship with food and my body. Peace with food is not about muscling through by sheer will power. I needed an authentic change from the inside out.

ONE MORE REALITY CHECK: WE CAN’T HAVE BOTH: No one can deeply enjoy their life while living in a love/hate relationship with food or body. Our human capacity simply does not allow room for both. A rich life demands your whole heart. And so does an addiction*.

The good news is that you can, I can, anyone can live peacefully with food & body. Both are our friends. Your body is your constant companion and food keeps it running so you can go live your amazing life.

With encouraging support, solid science, life-giving thoughts and time, you can have the comfortable and stable weight you’ve dreamed of.

 

*There are different schools of thought about whether we can be addicted to food, technically speaking. Food is a different substance from drugs and alcohol. Never the less, a dysfunctional relationship with food (and body) steals life-energy from us as surely as any chemical addiction does.

 

You Need To Know 2 Things…

girl-872149_960_720As dieters we were often, consciously or unconsciously, waiting to live, putting our lives on Pause until we reached some illusive, magic goal weight.

Problem is, there are serious unintended consequences with this line of thinking.

Putting our true selves “on hold” inadvertently sets us up to stay stuck where we are. It creates such a vacuum, a soul hunger, that it forces us to fill it with lesser and more convenient substitutes.

The very thing we do not want to do (turn to food) becomes the very thing we feel compelled to do.

And doesn’t this make sense? If we’re not stepping into the fullest version of the life we’re made for – no wonder we want to go eat cookies!

This is a fundamental piece of the liberated eating journey. We dare to begin to step out, and as life becomes more satisfying, late night eating and drive-thrus lose much of their pull.

Be you now.

Not in some distant thinner future.

When we start believing we deserve to LIVE RIGHT NOW we open the door to creating, connecting, and cultivating the interesting life we want. We won’t need to sit on the couch with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s nearly as often.

In fact – this is another irony of this amazing path we’ve chosen – when we start living from our true core the other stuff (like eating less) naturally begins to fall into place. This begs the question…

Are you playing it safe?

What do you imagine you would be doing differently if you were at your goal weight right now? Looking people in the eye more often, enjoying dance lessons or a writer’s group, walking with a confident pep in your step, wearing clothes you enjoy?

If so, you need to know two things:

  1. You will never deserve those things more than you do right now.
  2. You will not be a different person when you weigh less.

As a coach I get to be around people all the time who have reached goals – and yes, it feels very good indeed. AND, I hear quite often, “You know, I thought when I got here I would feel more different on the inside. I’m still me.” As we explore this further there is often a poignant discovery:

You were worthy all along…

worthy of living big, worthy of truly loving yourself and your one amazing life

just as you are.

Does Body-Hate Motivate?

This is shocking…                                                                                                                                      war

  • 9 out of 10 American women are unhappy with their body
  • 81% of 10 year old girls in the US are afraid of getting fat

What in the world is going on here? We grown-ups have struggled for years and now our children and grandchildren are struggling too. It’s time for a big cultural change. Let’s start by doing a little myth-busting…

BIG MYTH: I will love my body (and myself) after I lose weight.

Please listen to Kay Arnold, respected therapist with decades of experience: “I have counseled slender, drop-dead-gorgeous teens; lovely, healthy young adults; attractive inside and out middle-aged women and men. The most common verbal thread has been ‘I hate my body . . . I hate how I look.’ I have concluded there is not a size that makes someone love him or herself. It is a choice to love your body as you are, as you continue to move through life’s phases.”

Let this sink in. This myth has it backward. Choosing to love your body now must come first.

BIG TRUTH: Loving your body now is what frees you to discover and sustain a lifestyle that will bring the health and comfortable weight you want.

When you begin to do the work of accepting, and eventually treasuring, your body you will naturally begin to take good care of it. In the process you’ll discover the best way to live in your body – which, by the way, is not a one-size-fits-all answer. Respecting your body — flaws and all — opens the door for real change.

BIG MYTH: Shame is a motivator.

Allowing harsh self-criticism, tolerating feelings of chronic dissatisfaction or even disgust, rehearsing the same old mantra of “I hate my thighs, belly, arms…fill in your blank” is dangerous. It drains your energy, crushes your spirit, diminishes your confidence, robs your joy, side-tracks you with endless dieting, and can create a road block to true intimacy.

Self-criticism weakens you as a human being.

No one can shame themselves into real change. If berating our bodies helped we would’ve been thin a long time ago.

And then there’s BODY CHEMISTRY: Chronic negative thinking releases cortisol, a stress hormone, which can literally make you sick over time…not to mention, gain weight. Tolerating body-hatred is toxic.

BIG TRUTH: Love is the most powerful change-agent on the planet.

At its core, changing a lifestyle (which is what it takes to change your body) is about loving yourself enough to care deeply. You will not have the emotional rigor, the personal power, or the resilience to change a body you don’t value.

HOW’S YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR BODY?

Think about what relationship means. What words do you use when describing your best relationships?

Connection, love, enjoyment, trust, “at-home-ness”, understanding, wanting each others highest good

Now, what would happen if you began to nurture that kind of relationship with your body? What if you sincerely befriended her or him?

What if the two of you started hanging out – just because you enjoy each other. Speaking kindly. Listening attentively. What if you went on walks together, shared lovely thoughtfully-chosen meals, made sure you got enough rest. What if you trusted each other to figure things out? What if you were careful with your inner dialogue – being sure to build up and not tear down?

This is how the revolution begins! Each of us doing the noble work of learning how to love our bodies again – appreciating the unique human form that we’re born with – our own particular one-of-a-kind gene combo.

REALITY CHECK: Of course this doesn’t mean you have to crazy-love every inch of your body. It does mean you begin to cultivate an authentic loving partnership with your one body. That body was with you before your first breath, and will be with you at your last. That body is your constant companion and deserves your tender affection.

So, how are we going to jump start this personal reformation?

Here are a few strategies that can get us started. Pick a few and start to feel the love:

  • GET SOME BODY WOW:  Notice and be amazed at all the incredible things your body does for you—seeing, strolling, hearing, breathing, laughing, sleeping, thinking, dreaming, hugging…
  • TOP 10 LIST: Start a list of things you like about yourself—things that aren’t related to how much you weigh. Keep it where you can read it often. Add to it as you realize more things.
  • TAKE BACK BEAUTY: Do not let pop culture or marketers tell you what beauty looks like. Carry yourself with confidence, self-acceptance, openness and your own personal style and grace.
  • SEE THE WHOLE PICTURE: View yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts. See yourself as you are and as you want others to see you – mind, soul, spirit and body.
  • BUY FUN CLOTHES NOW – Don’t wait to enjoy getting dressed until “after I lose this weight”. Wear clothes that make you feel good now.
  • NURTURE YOUR BODY-FRIENDSHIP: Do something refreshing for yourself regularly— take a relaxing stroll, enjoy a bubble bath, get a massage. When you do this be aware of the benefits you feel afterwards.
  • BANISH THE CRITICAL JUDGE: Catch and shut down the negative voices in your head. Have some positive and true statements, quotes, music or Scripture ready. Don’t leave a vacuum – replace those negative thoughts with positive ones.
  • EMBRACE YOUR GENES: We all inherit traits from our fore-mothers and fathers. Celebrate and enjoy your unique family tree and the part you play in it.
  • REWRITE YOUR LEGACY – Doing the work of healing your relationship with your body is important work. Children naturally tend to pick up, and adopt, the way we see ourselves.

Your relationship to your body is ever changing because you are ever changing – so -this is a great time to begin to change in a positive direction. What you believe about your body powerfully influences your behaviors, your family, your contentment, and your health.

A cultural change is needed and is possible; it starts right here, right now with you and with me. No matter how you may feel about your body, you can lay down your weapons of condemnation, take a deep breath and decide to step into the joy of living fully and freely in the only body you will ever have.

And if you aren’t sure where to start, please give me a shout. I’m on your team even now.

Helping Kids Build a Healthy Food-Life – Part 3: At the Table

Helping our children navigate this food thing can feel overwhelming! Our own food and body issues kid 1can get in the way as we try to help them feel positive toward their body and intuitive toward their food.

Take a deep breath, give yourself and your family a lot of grace, and let’s take a look at some solid principles we can lean on…

I. KNOW WHO’S RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT:

    Grownups are responsible for:

  • What foods are offered
  • When foods are offered
  • Where foods are offered

    Children are responsible for:

  • What they choose to eat (from what you offer)
  • If they will eat
  • How much they eat
  • When they’re satisfied

This can feel too “soft” if you grew up with parents who controlled your eating, but we now know that an authoritarian approach to food doesn’t work well.

II. MAKE THE TABLE A PLACE YOUR KIDS WANT TO BE 

Making time for some regular family meals is truly worth the effort.

Here are a few ideas to try on for size:

  • Make the table a TECH FREE ZONE
  • Keep the mood and conversation positive and relaxed
  • Create an idea jar – draw out interesting or funny topics and questions to discuss
  • Put a world map on the table under a sheet of clear plastic and talk about new places
  • Best Thing – Everyone gets to share the best part of their day so far and why
  • Good News – Everyone gets to share funny or kind things you’ve seen lately
  • Follow the Food – Make a game out of tracing back how that sweet potato got to your table: Mom served it, Dad cooked it, we got it at the grocery store, the cashier…the grocer…the truck driver…the harvester…the farmer…the seed…the sun…the rain…WOW!!!

III. CHECK HOW YOU TALK ABOUT FOOD & NUTRITION:

DON’T CATEGORIZE FOOD: Try not to talk about food as “good” or “bad”, “healthy” or “unhealthy”, “fattening” or “non-fattening”. These categories can unwittingly make certain foods more emotionally charged than others. I know this can seem counter-intuitive but calling a food “unhealthy” can make a child feel guilty for wanting it or choosing it – even if the child is eating it reasonably. This can put them on a path toward disordered eating.

DON’T MAKE FOOD RULES: Make nutrition about taking good care of yourself and about feeling great – not about obeying food rules. Rules are eventually broken and cause us to feel shame, be tempted to eat in secret, and/or binge.

As nutrition comes up, you might talk about how some foods are “POWER fuel” and some are just for fun; this can help children understand that some foods are better eaten in smaller quantities and less often.

Take a fun, curious approach toward nutrition. Invite your kids into discovering more about food/fuel with you. Be sure not to talk about food in an anxious, authoritative or perfectionistic way. Bring it up in a way that makes your children want to hear more.

Remember, if you hound them or shame them they will not want your message – no matter how good it is.

IV. BEST FOOD PLAN – MAKE WHOLE FOODS EASY & YUMMY

Our best plan of action as parents and grandparents is to have high quality fuel readily available. Have fresh vegetables, grainy crackers, cheese, nuts, fruit, etc. washed, cut up, easy to grab from the pantry or frig. Let them see you enjoying these foods – and also – not acting like the occasional cookie is a shameful act.

You can cut back on nutrient-poor foods over time, being sure to put yummy whole food choices in their place. The trick is for the adults to be pleasant and not pushy about changes.

Note: Remember all kids are not alike. Some children will naturally eat reasonably, and others will lean toward overdoing it. Some won’t care about sweets at all, and others will have a built in sugar radar. Having nutritious, delicious food available will be a huge help for those of us high on the treat susceptibility scale!

QUICK SATISFYING BREAKFAST IDEAS

Model mindfulness. Encourage kids to listen to their body. As always, leading by example works best. You might say something like, “Our bodies are brilliant! And they’re talking to us all the time. Our bodies tell us when we’re thirsty, hungry, sleepy, or need to go play…” Help them think of their body as their own personal ally. It’s built to keep them running at peak performance.

Invite your kids to tune into what their stomach is saying. Occasionally you can ask if their stomach feels empty or “growly” or if their stomach feels full. Talk about how yours feels too.

V.  INVOLVE KIDS IN THE PROCESS:

  • They can help you write out the week’s menu, go to the grocery store and put groceries away. This involves them in picking the foods they would like to have in the house.
  • They can make their own lunch, set the table and do some cooking.
  • Talk about how human bodies need certain nutrients and vitamins to grow strong. It’s not a matter of “good” or “bad”. It’s a matter of what works well and what doesn’t…just like your car runs best on high quality fuel.
  • When introducing new food, serve a small amount along with more familiar foods. Offer, but don’t force. Introduce a new food five or six times over a few weeks. The more exposure children have to a food, the more familiar it becomes and the more likely they will be to try it.
  • Respect their refusal to eat it. No one wins when we make food a control issue.

STOP WORRYING:  Children don’t necessarily eat the same amount everyday. It‘s normal for a child to ask for second helpings one day, and then eat almost nothing the next.

BIG NO NO’S:

  • Don’t offer bribes or rewards for eating certain foods – like vegetables. This only reinforces that some foods are yucky and others are special.
  • Don’t use food as a reward. Hugs, kind words or a trip to the park are all good choices.
  • Don’t use food to silence tantrums or tears. Comforting kids with food sets up an unhealthy food attachment. Use words, kindness and a reassuring touch.
  • Don’t use adult-sized plates for pint-sized kids. Use kid-sized plates, utensils and cups. Over-served children eat more and take bigger bites.
  • Completely restricting certain foods is a bad idea. This makes that “bad” food more special by virtue of being forbidden, and can lead to sneaking and shame, which can lead the way toward disordered eating.
  • Don’t say “clean your plate” or “just eat 3 more bites”. This teaches children to disregard their body’s natural messages of hunger and fullness and leads to overeating.

BIG YES: Dear parents, trust yourself to find your way through. You will. No one does it perfectly and no one has to. If you find you would like some help, I’m all yours.

You are learning, growing and figuring things out just like your children are; feel free to let them know you’re learning too. Discovering how to live well with the good gift of food can be a family adventure!

Pick a few things you can do this week and start moving forward. The rest will take care of itself.

Helping Kids Build A Healthy Food-Life Part 2: Body Image

kidsHow do we help our children navigate the image-saturated, skinny-worshiping, body-perfect culture we find ourselves in?

In Part 1, we looked at helping our kids build a sound relationship with food. Now let’s look at a few ways we can help them develop a healthy relationship with their bodies. These two – food and body – are inextricably connected.

Media Madness: By the age of 17 the average child has received over 2 million commercial messages telling her how she’s supposed to look and live, and the models in these ads are 23% thinner than us “average” women.

Lucky for us, involved parents still have the most influence.

YOUR WORDS ARE POWERFUL:

I. Talk about qualities that have nothing to do with appearance.

It’s easy to be saying more about being pretty, little, big, tall, cute, etc. than we realize. With a little thought we can move our daily conversations more in the direction of inner qualities. For example:

“Great job working so hard at your math. I know that wasn’t easy, and you saw it through.”

“I heard the kids gossiping today, and you didn’t join in. I really admire that.”

Our culture will lead them to focus on their appearance. The more we shine a light on their true personhood, the more likely they are to value their inner strengths.

II. Use the media as an avenue to discuss body image and beauty.

Blocking all media isn’t realistic but we can help our kids interpret the messages they see and hear.

Ask questions about what they think is real and not real in the media they watch. Listen well. Over time help them understand what advertising is and how it works. Show them how images can be manipulated. Help them think for themselves.

Rich conversation can help our children understand that bodies in the real world are more diverse and unique than those portrayed in media. Talk about the beauty of differences. Children learn to appreciate and value what we appreciate and value. Help them see that beauty comes in all colors, shapes, sizes, and ages and that all human beings are intrinsically valuable.

III. Listen, Sympathize & Share

If your daughter is unhappy with her body, listen to her concerns, acknowledge her feelings, and let her know if you’ve wrestled with those feelings too. You might say something like “When I was growing up I was always self-conscious about my arms; I thought they were too big. Now I’m realizing that these arms let me hug you, and wrestle with Daddy and plant our wonderful garden. This body of mine is one of my dearest gifts!”

As your children get older you can have honest conversations about your own struggles, and that even now, you don’t have all the answers, and that’s ok. You can let them know that wanting to be thin or beautiful can feel very important to any of us, but that it’s even more important not to let these desires take over or get in the way of being who you want to be, or doing what you want to do.

IV. Teasing, or allowing teasing, about appearance is off limits.

Do not tease a child about their body, any body part, their weight, or their appearance in any way. Just don’t. We now know that even commenting on weight can set our kids up for body dissatisfaction later.

Click here for more…

V. Stop using the F word.

Stop saying: “She’s fat” or “Look at all these fat people.” These statements are not helpful or kind, and they give our children the go-ahead to judge, and possibly feel judged themselves.

I am not saying that we should pretend being overweight isn’t real – I am saying that judging or disparaging people is harmful.

VI. Curb your conversation.

If we are stuck in body-preoccupation-mode our daily conversations and attitudes will pass on to the next generation by default. Complaining about looking fat when you try on clothes sends a strong negative message. On the other hand, when you say things like “I feel stronger since I’ve been walking – and that feels really good” you are sending a positive message.

This extends to food as well. Saying “This ice cream is going straight to my hips” sends alarming messages about food and body. Saying something like “Sharing this ice cream with you reminds me of a fun childhood memory. We used to churn home ice cream on the porch at MawMaw’s and…” This makes an occasional sweet treat a simple and neutral gift.

YOUR EXAMPLE IS POWERFUL:

I. Become an honest role model for having a healthy body image.

Our children are soaking up how we view the world and ourselves in it. Those of us who struggle with our own negative body image may find this challenging, but it’s important to be aware of the language and phrases we choose to use. It’s essential that we find the strength and the help we need to stop making negative comments about our own bodies. Modelling respect and compassion for yourself, not just for everybody else, is powerful indeed.

II. Daddy plays a big part too.

Girls need to hear sincere, appropriate and positive feedback from their fathers. What they hear their dads say about their mothers, and women in general, is just as influential. Click here for more…

III. Set your kids up to feel comfortable and able in their body.

Helping your kids find physical activities they love is another huge life-gift we can give, and leading by example is by far the most powerful tool you have. Please know this doesn’t need to be about being athletic; this is about the pleasure of living in a body. Gardening, fishing, rope jumping, skipping, sailing, swinging, hiking, trampolining, biking, tree climbing, hop scotching, dancing, prancing…the fun-stuff list is endless!

Help them make the connection that the stamina and agility that comes from being active feels good. The emphasis is on feeling joyfully embodied – not on being thin. Help them recognize the thrill of vibrant health, rather than in chasing the illusion of a “perfect body”.

Becoming physically active and playful is almost magic. It’s a mood-lifter, a stress reducer, a memory maker, and it sets us and our children up for a robust life, inside and out.

WHAT ABOUT US?

We cannot give our children what we ourselves do not possess.

Research and experience teach us that if a mother feels negatively toward her body, it will probably pass on to her daughter. As a 30 year disordered eater and the mother of 2 grown daughters and one granddaughter, this gives me pause.

Passing on the legacy of appreciation for and enjoyment of our body, at every age, size and stage, is one of the most valuable gifts we can give those we love.

If you don’t have a peaceful relationship with your body, reading this can feel disheartening, but the good news is that your outrageous love for your children can become the impetus for finally getting the help you’ve been worthy of all along.

There is a sane way through – and it won’t be another diet.

If you want to make changes, there’s a path for you. Give me a call at 615-330-8884 or email me at cindy@theliberatedeater.com and together we will find effective steps that fit you, your life and your situation.

This struggle can be the very door through which you – and your children – find a deeper joy of living in your bodies than you have ever known.

 

Next week: Part 3    Making the Most of Family Meal Time