I was on a The Counseling Podcast with Dr. Jaclyn and Dr. Stokes. We talked about eating disorders, weight stigma, and a whole lot of other things. Check it out here!
To elaborate on a few of the topics, here is some more information and a link to the Anti-Diet Culture resources.
The effect of constant comparison
When we compare ourselves to others, we rarely do so with a balanced approach. We usually only look to confirm our anxieties and make negative comparisons. One of the things that can be helpful is to remember the idea of confirmation bias. The ‘algorithms’ in social media make it so whatever we look at, we see more of. The things we look at longer, click on, or like become more central to our experience on that platform. At that point, we are not even aware how skewed our perspective has become.
When you do this, you forget to look at the other side. Chances are, in whatever comparison we are making, there is a much larger field that we are not taking into account. The example that I generally use with regards to body image is going to the beach. We will generally compare ourselves only to people we want to look like – not to the wide variety of people that are there! When we make the continuum more inclusive, it changes the comparison.
Understanding your values
One of the most useful exercises I do with clients with all diagnoses is the Values Sort. This is an ACT intervention, or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. I have adapted it to use with DBT and RO-DBT over the years, and again to use with groups and with telehealth. This used to be one that we would do with cards and sort them in the office. Now, there is a worksheet with a values list and it asks you to identify which are “Not Important,” “Important,” and “Very Important.”
In addition to identifying and ranking your top ten values, you also have to define them. Everyone tends to define things differently, and the nuances can be very important.
What is body neutrality?
It is not necessary for everyone to have a positive body image all of the time. There are too many factors! Changes we go through because of medical issues, stage of life (adolescence and pregnancy and menopause), and stress make total stability impossible.
We need to stay in the gray area when it comes to body image – which means neutrality. We need to stay in the gray when it comes to our own bodies, but also in general. It applies to other peoples bodies. It also applies to a range of other aspects of our self perception.
I frequently tell people to look at their weight bias using the Harvard Implicit Attitudes Test on weight. One goal, with this assessment. is to become more aware – of your bias in general, but also as far as how you view others and how you view yourself.
People are usually kinder to others than to themselves – I am not a fan of those double standards, so a secondary goal of the IAT is to realign your comparisons.
Tolerating your own body, treating it with kindness, and having compassion for yourself and others all improve body image. It is really not about perfection.
Most common age range eating disorders affect
Eating disorders affect people of all ages. We tend to think of teen and young adult women, but it happens in those as young as 6 (school age) throughout our lifetimes. For several years, the population with the most increase in eating disorder diagnoses has been middle-aged women. Most of these are people who have had their eating disorders for decades, and have never gotten help. Some of them have not even realized how disordered their eating and body image behaviors have become.
The most dangerous set of behaviors
In the podcast, I talk about a range of behaviors to look out for in the realms of restricting, binging, purging, and over-exercising. I mention the ‘most dangerous’ set of behaviors as restricting and purging together, though over-exercise and binge behavior can be present as well.
I would emphasize that malnutrition across the weight spectrum is the most pressing and difficult to address. Part of this is because no one asks about nutrition unless you as the client identify it as a problem. People can be malnourished at any weight, and it has significant negative health effects.
I hope you enjoy listening to the podcast – feel free to email me if you have any questions or comments!