What tools / strategies would you recommend for someone dealing body image issues?

I have dealt with body image issues and low self esteem since high school. My high school environment was very unhealthy and produced a very unhealthy relationship with food that I've grappled with for 10 years. I feel the need to restrict myself from certain foods but will often sneak that type of food when I know people aren't around/watching. This triggers overeating and I end up in a spiral of low self confidence. I feel like I am constantly comparing myself to a thinner body image that I feel like is not attainable. Looking for ways to deal with the sadness and spirals and develop a healthier relationship with food and more confidence in my own appearance.
Asked by PumpkinSpiceGirl

Hello PumpkinSpiceGirl,

Thank you for your question and for sharing your thoughts.  I think at one time or another most people have experienced feelings of low self-confidence and that is perfectly normal.  It can become problematic however when those feelings of low self-confidence take up residence in our heads and cause feelings of sadness and low self-worth.  You have given a good example of this and of how thoughts-feelings-actions are intertwined. 

I understand the struggles of comparing yourself to others in a world where we are bombarded by unrealistic expectations and only provided with a superficial glimpse of others.  Just as others have no ideas what is going on with us, we have no idea of what others are going through, despite how they look on the outside.  When we compare ourselves to others, we are actually only comparing ourselves to one facet of them and not the whole person who may have struggles of their own that we know nothing about.  To think that one's life would be better if they were thinner, taller, etc is faulty thinking that is not necessarily based on fact.  Additionally, when we spend time and energy comparing ourselves to others, we tend to ignore our own strengths.  One exercise I would recommend is to make time on a daily basis to recognize the positive things about you and your life.  Journal or jot down what went well today, what you did to help someone, what you did to make someone else happy, things that you are good at, things you like about yourself and your life, etc.  This may seem challenging at first but if you stick with it, it will become easier.  

It sounds like you have already come to the conclusion that restricting food is not an answer.  (Been there, done that!). I had an unhealthy relationship with food which had gone back to childhood.  I love food but came to the realization that I was not honoring myself (or the food) by the way I was eating.  One book that helped me with this is Intuitive Eating:  A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDS, and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN.  It is not a diet book and is not intended for weight loss, but instead, focuses on honoring the needs of our bodies and enjoying our relationship with food.

PumpkinSpiceGirl, I hope this reply helps you on your journey and if you feel like you need additional support, you can always schedule with one of our therapists.

Take Care,