Helping Your Life Work
June 1, 2008
Volume 4, Issue 6

Are You At War With Your Body?

If you are like most people, you have dieted at some point in your life. Chances are, you are dieting now, in an effort to trim down for the summer months. This effort may be one of many following the diet you started in January, which, in turn, followed December indulgences. In fact, you may have dieted so often, that you have lost track of the number of times and the types of methods that you have tried. For many of us, the proverbial “Battle of the Bulge” has become a full-time, all-out war.

It is not news, that as a culture, we are obsessed with our bodies. Dieting is a preoccupation that has no gender, age or race boundaries. Any perusal of the magazine and self-help sections of our bookstores suggests that our taste for dieting is insatiable. Of course, these days we don’t call it dieting, but healthy eating, but even that can be taken to extremes. In Michael Pollen’s bestseller, “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto,” he introduces the term “Orthorexia Nervosa” to describe the rise of an “unhealthy obsession with healthy eating.” This joins the lexicon of new terms related to dieting, including “manorexia” to describe men who have taken their obsession with having the ideal body to extremes.

As I walk through my local bookstore, I notice that the pursuit of losing weight is spilling into other disciplines. Non-dieting experts are now writing diet books. For example, Peter Walsh, an organizational expert, has written a book linking diet and organization. In his book, “Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? An Easy Plan for Losing Weight and Living More,” Walsh hypothesizes that the clutter around us is directly related to the ‘clutter’ on our bodies and by learning to better organize ourselves, our kitchens and our ways of eating, we can lose weight.

Similarly, Julia Cameron, a well-known creativity expert and author of “The Artist’s Way,” has been helping people unblock their creativity for many years. When she developed a group program based on the book’s writing exercises and activities, she discovered an unexpected byproduct of her program. As people unblocked their creativity, they began to lose weight. By writing stream of consciousness “morning pages” or journalling thoughts and feelings, participants were able to make connections between their physical hunger and their emotional hunger and were better able to deal with both.

This led to Cameron’s latest book, “The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right Size.”  While the concept is great, and psychotherapists and eating disorder specialists have been using these types of exercises for years, the title’s implication that there is a “right size” seems to defeat the whole idea of using creativity to develop more fully. (Please see previous newsletter for more about creativity and psychotherapy.)

On TV, we have been inundated with advertisements, fashion and reality shows that treat excess weight in the most hostile of terms. A series of actresses and even former royalty have been shamed into losing weight and becoming spokespeople for various dieting empires: Lynn Redgrave and Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York with Weight Watchers and Valerie Bertinelli and Kirstie Alley with Jennie Craig. They all succeeded in winning their fan bases back by losing weight. It would appear that Oprah maintains her fan base partially because of her constant attempts to attain a slimmer body, an objective her fans can relate to.

There is a lot of self-loathing when it comes to body image. Our self-acceptance and self-esteem often teeter over an extra 5 pounds. While many will say their concern is health-related, their motives become questionable when they reach for a cigarette or a drink rather than some feared food.

If you are tired of being on this dieting merry-go-round, if you have had enough of being angry with yourself for every extra piece of food that you “shouldn’t” have eaten, then let’s talk. Starting this September, I will be offering a group for people who are eager to wave the white flag and stop the war with their bodies. Please call for more information.

Barbara Fish, M.Ed.
Personal and Career Counsellor
416 498-1352

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