Updated: Sep 28
How we look, and what we weigh is so tied up with the feeling of receiving love and acceptance from mother figures. This is a recurrent theme that I find in my work with so many women.
Where does this come from? Has this been something said out loud to them or a suggestion made?
I love you, but if you looked a certain way or if you were thinner then I would love you more and without condition.
It is in our emotional DNA and it can cause anxiety and a distorted relationship with food and body.
One of my clients we’ll call her “Annie”- not her real name( a 20-year-old) has for the last 12 years of her life been told by her very well intending mother that she was not thin enough.
Yes, this all started at the age of 8 when her mom took her slightly chubby daughter off to the first weight loss specialist for injections and a restrictive diet plan.
Fast forward to the current day, and this same beautiful soul has had enough of the restrictive and binge cycle she finds herself in. This merry-go-round of eating as little as possible, because thinness is associated with acceptance and love, triggers a ferocious binge, accompanied by the familiar feelings of guilt, shame, self-loathing, and the promise to starve again tomorrow.
So we are working weekly to unravel the dieting mindset and food fears. She is brave and vulnerable and each step she takes is questioned carefully. Will this really work? Can I really eat these foods without guilt?
And on the back end of it all, her mother is still questioning if she has been “good” and if she is sticking to her “diet”.
Another client “Shelley” (43 yrs) has a goal to lose weight because her mother is coming for a visit in 4 months' time and she is heavier than the last time she saw her. Even though weight was not made out to be such a big deal for her growing up, even now as a mom herself, she is still concerned that her own mom will comment or she will feel uncomfortable if her mother doesn’t approve of how she looks.
And then there is “Chantelle”(46 yrs) who is worrying about not looking good enough when she travels back home for a family function.
Her parents have always insisted on her being thin and for this, she was showered with love and was the favorite child. Now that she is dealing with perimenopausal weight gain she is working on healing her relationship with food. These ingrained thoughts are incredibly triggering and suck her back into patterns of wanting to restrict in order to meet the approval that is interwoven with how she looks.
This dynamic of self-worth, acceptance, and love that is predicated on weight and appearance is a challenging dynamic and can stand in the way of self-love, self-acceptance, and eating in a way that nourishes one’s body. The strive for thinness or to be at a certain weight can cause more disordered eating patterns and behaviors that are so ingrained and challenging to unravel.
Society reinforces this, as does social media. There is so much noise and advice about what the best “diet” is. So many conversations are had over food. Just this past Shabbat the ladies I spent time with were “joking” about how "calories don’t count on Shabbos" while they ate the foods they would NEVER allow themselves during the week. One admitted to me..
All week I am so good and I work so hard to eat “well”. But then Shabbas comes and it all gets undone. I just can't get rid of the extra weight on my tummy.
This is linked to an all-or-nothing approach. Foods that are listed as “good” and “bad”. When I eat foods on the “good” list then “I am good”. When I eat foods on the “bad” list then “I am bad”.
It’s exhausting, it’s damaging and it’s time to stop.
How would it feel to break free from dieting & live without:
Worrying about calories
Obsessively portioning out foods
Thinking about what you ate and what you are going to eat
Expending willpower to avoid foods or resist your body's hunger signals?
How would it feel to remove guilt and shame from your relationship with food and your body?
So where does one begin? How can this complex web be unravelled?
Step one - is awareness and deciding that it is time to get off the rollercoaster.
Step two - find a specialist who can guide you on how to nourish your body and work on your mindset and triggers. (I advise working with a dietician, like myself who is weight neutral and has a mindful and intuitive eating approach and who will not reinforce dieting messages and add extra food rules)
In order to nourish your body it will mean including foods that give you good energy, paying attention to signals of hunger and satiety. Not eating by the clock, not avoiding foods that may have been categorized as “bad”.
You will be working from the inside out. This means learning to be intuitive with your body, not only about hunger and satiety but with what foods feel right to you. What gives you better energy, which foods boost your mood?
A key aspect to this process is paying attention to your inner voices and messages, and questioning who is that speaking and why do I believe that to be true? Have I taken on someone else's voice and expectation of who they want me to be?
WARNING! This is not an overnight magic pill.
This takes consistency and accepting that you will have many imperfect days. You may doubt the process, you may fall back into old habits and thinking patterns. But this is all part of the journey and worth every step of the way.
Each small change you make course corrects you to end up in a different destination.
So where does this lead you to?
To a loving, respectful relationship with food and your body. A deep appreciation for the gift of life you have each day and the ability to infuse each day with joy and pleasure.
It frees you, to show up in the world as a whole person who is more confident and deeply connected to herself and her purpose.
It’s time to take that step.
Learn more about working with me and schedule a complimentary call here