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Thank you for visiting my thoughts and ideas site. If you want to speak directly or have my thoughts on something that is important to you email me at admin@ncfed.com

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Body Image: How Do You Feel About Your Body? Continued..

In 1982, a psychiatrist called Peter Slade wanted to rename the eating disorders as body image disorders. Most of you are familiar with the terms anorexia, bulimia and compulsive eating disorders. But while eating disturbance is what you get on the surface; Slade argued that the term "eating disorders" is akin to calling pneumonia a coughing disorder or measles a spots disorder. His view – which is shared by modern thinkers, is that starving, sometimes to death; purging, compulsive exercise, yo-yo dieting, obsessive weighing, taking slimming pills or steroids if you are male, and adopting strange eating plans like avoiding all meats and dairy foods; - all this is just a reflection of your altered perception of bigness, fatness and too much-ness from which you may be continually trying to escape in order to feel better about yourself.

But even those of us who don’t have eating disorders are somewhat unforgiving about the way we look. So how does it all go wrong?

Body image is subjective and open to change by social influences and personal social experiences. Most people on the planet have a reference group that furnishes information about the ideal appearance. In this country it is arguably a tall thin coat hanger and in Burma it is a very long neck. In all cultures, beautiful is the same as good . We are surprised to find a loving heart inside Beauty’s beast and its only lovely Cinderella or wafer thin Kate who gets a Prince.

For most of us, our  first reference group is in the home: with parents who might feed you instead of giving you a hug, or diet and rebuke themselves and name-call other people for their fatness. I bet you have heard them say "she's put on weight" a hundred times. You may have a bother or sister who teases you for being fat. If your best friend happens to be thinner (or stronger if you are a male) your body evaluation may shift. If you are taller or shorter than other people, if you have experienced abuse or violence at the hands of another person, you may turn your anger and sadness against your body which was the subject of their harms.

But what we see in the home is only a reflection of what is in our wider social world. Nowadays, it is the norms and aspirations of our society that we find reflected and, to some extent guided by a pervasive media which reaches deep into our lives. This media gives us clear messages that what is valued is youth and slimness that most of us will never reach. That’s OK, ideals were never meant to be attainable – that’s what makes them ideal!

But we are led to believe that our failure to get our appearance right means that we are weak, lazy, or unwilling to take of ourselves properly.

And where that takes us is,.... to be continued.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Body Image: How Do You Feel About Your Body?

I consider that my body shape is....?
When I think about my body I feel....?

The most real thing about us from the beginning is our embodiness - we sense our body even before we are born and have a natural knowledge of what is going on inside and outside of us. After we are born, we know if we are falling or comfortable, fed or empty. Something in our guts grips us when we are afraid and we put things in from outside which give us alternatively a sense of wonder or disgust. As we grow and mature, all of our experiences of bliss and dejection are felt - not in our head - but in the way the body works. Bliss is interpreted when our heart turns over warmth cascades up from our centre, and our pulses race, dejection will be felt as a pain in the heart, the hunch of your shoulders or a gripping in the throat.

Freud said that our first ego state is a body one; thus it is in the body that we first have our sense of self and how it is different from not-self.

Because we are embodied beings, we all develop opinions about our bodies which are both ABSOLUTE in terms of experiences like pain and comfort; and RELATIVE in terms of how we look. We may think of ourselves as tall or small, old or young, ugly or beautiful. But, in relation to what? Small in relation to what? beautiful in relation to what? How we behave, dress and relate to others has much to do with our body opinions and what those opinions mean to us. If we feel ugly, and if it is matters, we may hide away from other people, stay at home rather than go to a party and take holidays in an igloo. If we feel attractive we will dance on the table and walk tall in our clothes.

The natural sense of our body is basic to our survival. Pain alerts us to the fact that something is wrong. The adrenaline rush when you see a tiger enables you to freeze so that it won't see you or alternatively propels you to run away.

But, sometimes, our natural experience of the body goes wrong. If anyone reading this has broken even their finger for a while,  you become your finger, it seems to be bigger and more troublesome than it is. So our sense of the body is more than just feedback about what is going on in it. Our body sense becomes a big part of our sense of self. Sometimes, nothing is wrong with the body at all, but it comes to feel wrong and our natural wisdom goes astray. We are separated from our natural sense of self. It is in this type of ground that eating disorders can set in.

to be continued......

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Obesity Treatment: Enthusiasm and Desperation

Last week I led a 3 day course on managing weight problems. It was really interesting and the delegates, some with long standing weight problems themselves brought many good ideas into the room. The issue of helping people to be motivated was raised. It’s one thing trying to persuade someone to lose weight, and it’s quite something else to help someone to be fully committed to the hard work that weight loss involves. Goodness ! it would be hard for me to lose half a stone, how much harder to lose even more.

It’s easy and hard to lose weight. You can lose a few pounds without even touching your fat stores. A few days of eating very little will remove a great deal of water and stored sugars from your body. People think they have lost weight and congratulate themselves but nothing has really changed at all. Losing fat is something else entirely and floaty-light- fat is so energy-dense that you use up very little to meet your daily energy needs. Your motivation must be realistic and stand up over time in the face of the stresses and strains of life.

We mustn’t confuse motivation with enthusiasm or desperation. Wanting to lose weight is not the same as wanting to stop eating your favourite foods. It’s now clear that obesity is a long term medical condition which is self perpetuating and which needs lifelong management. Some people might be better off not trying at all. If people engage in dietary oscillations, like eating little all week and feasting at weekends, they will regain their weight. If people do not move around a great deal, they will regain all their weight. If people return to baseline behaviours, like keeping crisps at home for the children, they will regain all their weight. Unless healthy behaviour becomes intrinsically gratifying, people will regain all their weight.

Susie Orbach said that fat was a feminist issue. I think we have moved on. It’s a commitment issue, with enthusiasm and desperation playing very little part in changing behaviour at the end of the day.

Binge Eating and Food Addiction

I have done a short presentation at a medical conference "Addiction and the Liver" in London. My topic was to discuss the link between food addiction and binge eating; a big subject for a short presentation. The weblink for the presentations is: www.mahealthcareevents.co.uk/addliver/0611/presentations. No login is required. Scroll down to find my name and the presentation is there. I prefer the view that binge eating is more complex than an addiction and a great deal of what we believe to be emotional eating is in fact driven by thoughts and the feelings that arise from those thoughts. But people think that its only about feelings. I feel a mega blog coming on, so perhaps another time.You can read all about binge eating on the information page of our website http://eating-disorders.org.uk/

Friday, 10 June 2011

Children and Body Image: How to Help

Here is another useful opinion piece. Food for thought. Pass it on, the wiser we are the more we can share out wisdom with others. What was it like in your own home. If you have a parent who does a lot of fat talk, time to get it to stop, dont you think?


Getting there is another thing entirely. If you have a parent or your child has a grandparent who parades their own unhelpful opinions about weight and eating, get in touch. Visit http://www.eating-disorders.org.uk/ or email admin@ncfed.com for advice.

Children, Body Image, Eating Disorders & Sexualisation

Sexing up our children is in the news this week. One mother is reported to be buying her 7 year old "breast surgery" (to implant ping pong balls?).

In girls particularly, there is a link between early growing up, sexualisation, low self worth and eating disorders. So there you have it, there is no way to twist away from that one. Buy your child the wrong clothes or send her out to play in make up and you get what you get down the line.

My little grandgirl loves to wear my necklaces and I think it is wired into children to mimic their parents, they cuddle their teddy bears and put them to bed. This kind of play practising  is what helps them to grow up. But how do we get the balance right?  It is OK to play with our children in the park or take them out for bike rides. But when we show them that mummy "has" to go to the gym, or when we show them that "mummy isn't eating carbs today" we cross over the line. Children are like sponges, they soak in our own insecurities and our own self doubts and embody these as their own body hatred.

I have had many young people with eating disorders who find their parents' obsessions with running, workouts and exercise toxic, although they dont know it. They resent this behaviour in their parents - it sends out the wrong messages about what it is to be a relaxed human being. Because they can't admit to their resentment, they simply feel ashamed, not knowing why.

Please let your kids be kids, and, get a life. Say no to things which aren't suitable for 8 year old girls. Don't be drawn into competition with parents. Read a good book, take a walk in the rain, eat good food without dietary quirks and read the article below which says it all.


Worried about your child, email admin@ncfed.com or visit http://www.eating-disorders.org.uk/

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Binge Eating Treatment

Let food by thy medicine and let medicine be thy food,  said Hippocrates more than 2000 years ago. How right he was. Its an important part of treatment for binge eating and I've been saying this myself for years.

Tomorrow I give a lecture on the treatment of binge eating and food addictions. I will be making a case against regarding binge eating and even compulsions to eat food like chocolate as an addiction.

There is a lot to say in half an hour. Its not helpful to view people as carbohydrate addicts or anything similar. Our eating is driven more by what we believe about food, what we say to ourselves when we start to eat it. Ive blown it now.... this will make me fat.... I shouldn't be having this.... I can't control this. These thoughts do more damage than any property inside the food. If we treat compulsive eating with abstinence programmes, we only make desirable food seem even more desirable and forbidden.

Treating binge eating is complex. We will use food as medicine - thanks, Hippocrates! We work with emotions, help you manage relationships, we will correct poor body image and transform unhelpful thoughts so that they dont propel our eating. We know what to look for and what to work on. Everyone is different, so if you purge we may need to add some therapy and if you have very low self worth we would have to do something about that too. If you accept yourself better you feel more in control.

Need help? Eating can be fun and rewarding. Food is life.  Visit http://www.eating-disorders.org.uk/binge-compulsive-recovery.html   If you binge eat and it is ruling your life, we can help.