Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Challenging Your Bad Body Image - Part 2

At The Awakening Center we're gearing up to participate in "Fat Talk Free Week" which is sponsored by Tri Delta Sorority (see their website: http://www.tridelta.org). FTFW takes place October 18 - 22, 2010 - and we'll be having activities and workshops about Challenging Body Hatred & Making Peace with Our Bodies during that week. Keep checking our facebook page for more info. (Won't you become a fan of The Awakening Center on Facebook?)

So my blog article today builds on my last blog article Challenging Bad Body Image from July 15, 2010 - click on the July button to the right to read Part 1. This is an excerpt from my upcoming book on recovery from eating disorders, which I will hopefully finish writing soon - I'm on chapter 12 (of 12!).

As I asked last time, anyone know a publisher? Editor? Agent?


Amy Grabowski

Challenging Your Bad Body Image - Part 2

Okay so how do we Challenge Body Hatred? When we say, “I hate my body” we need to dispute that sentence from many angles. First let’s look at the word ‘hate’ - it's quite a powerful word. Think of every possible thing in the whole wide world that deserves the word hate: violence, war, rape, racism, child abuse, cancer, terrorism, world hunger, global warming, slavery, genocide, pollution, torture, drive by shootings…– these are big things in the world! I’m sure you can think of several more things that deserve the word ‘hate.’ Notice what happens when you consider these things. Now consider where does the size and shape of your body fit on this list? Most people realize, it doesn’t!

So let’s eliminate the word ‘hate’ when we describe our bodies and save it for things that deserve it. Think of ‘hate’ and ‘love’ as two ends of a continuum. (You know how much I enjoy continuums). What words would you put in between? We need to find a softer, gentler word or phrase – dislike, not so crazy about, not my favorite, lukewarm about, half-hearted about. How about, “I am critical of my body.” That feels more accurate. And we are going to challenge even that in several ways…

Next let’s look at some things that are not said, but rather implied when you state, “I am critical of my body.” Let’s challenge the word “I.” As you know, we have many Parts. When you say “I” you imply that all of you, all of your Parts are critical of your body. But it feels very different to say, “Some of my Parts are critical of my body.” It leaves the possibility open that there are other Parts who are not critical of your body – there may even be the possibility that there are Parts who like your body, enjoy your body, and maybe even find your body beautiful! (Am I pushing it too far here?)

So we’ve changed the sentence to “A Part of me is critical of my body.” Now let’s look at ‘my body’ – this implies 100% of my body, 100% of the time. I know there are times when what you look like is important: your wedding day, going on a job interview or a first date. When I gave an important speech to a group of psychotherapists, it was important to me to look polished and professional. But if you think about it, these are the minority of our life. There are so many more times when what you look like is irrelevant or unimportant, like in the example with Gabriela (Amy's Note: See Part 1). It’s not that in those moments you adore your body, it’s more of an absence of criticism or judgment. Sitting alone on a porch swing, reading an engrossing novel, walking the dog early in the morning, hanging out with a really good friend, or talking to your therapist – how important is it what you look like? Not very. There are many times when we are with people who know everything about us and yet, can still see beauty within and without. Who we are on the inside is what is important to them. Pay attention and notice all the times when what you look like is irrelevant or unimportant. Seek out these moments!

This changes the sentence to “Sometimes, a Part of me is critical of my body.” This implies that there are times when the Part is not critical of your body. (Although you may find that the minute you notice the Part is not critical of your body, the critical Part starts up again. Oh well! Just enjoy the brief reprieve and know that the more you practice this the longer the reprieve will be.)

The last step will be to challenge ‘100% of my body.’ Let’s look at your entire body – yes, there are parts of your body that you are not crazy about or dislike. Some of these parts are pretty universal. Most of us think our feet are ugly – if you think about what feet have to do they can get pretty beat up and unsightly. The majority of female clients find it difficult to like the very parts of their bodies that make them female: hips, thighs, rear. We’ll talk more about these parts later in the chapter.

But there are also parts of your body that you are neutral about – how do you feel about your elbows, your earlobes, your forehead, your wrists? And if push comes to shove, I’m sure there are parts of your body you like: your eyes, your lips, your teeth, your nails, your baby toes.

So this changes our sentence yet again to: “Sometimes, a Part of me is critical of some of my body.” Now let’s substitute a mantra you can practice telling yourself. Here are some suggestions, “Every body has beauty.” “My appearance is a small part of who I am.” “I look acceptable (or fine, or OK – pick a word that fits for you).” “I don’t have to look perfect to be lovable.” And then there’s the old standby, “I do not look like I feel. I do not look like I think I look.”

Look for Part 3 of this topic soon!

I'd love to hear your comments, suggestions, questions, reactions.... Feel free to email me at awakeningcenter@aol.com



Thursday, September 9, 2010

Inviting Your Emotions With Tenderness

As you may have heard the therapists at The Awakening Center say, we all have many Parts -it's normal and natural to have different personalities within us. There's a Part of you who wants to sit on the couch and watch a movie, while another Part knows that you need to study for a test tomorrow. There's a Part which is supposed to be in charge of all the Parts - this is your Self - the person you were meant to be. Sometimes when we lose our Selves, another Part takes over and tries to 'run the show' - the Pseudo-Self is usually critical, judgmental, perfectionistic and very vocal! I call this Part "The Bully". The Bully tries to berate us into change - but it doesn't work. We usually end up feeling hopeless and then another Part rebels against the Bully and does the opposite of what the Bully is yelling about.

So how do we change this negative pattern? By trying something completely different - by "Inviting Your Emotions With Tenderness". Jennifer Schurman, one of the therapists at The Awakening Center has written an article about using tenderness rather than criticism and judgment. Finding our Selves leads us to inner peace and contentment - the opposite of hopelessness and rebellion!

Oh, BTW, Maureen McNichols is running a workshop "Women and their Inner Bully" on November 13! If you would like more information, call Maureen at (773) 929-6262 x 12.

Amy Grabowski

Inviting Your Emotions with Tenderness
“All any feeling wants is to be welcomed with tenderness. It wants room to unfold. It wants to relax and tell it’s story.” From “Women, Food and God” by Geneen Roth

Often when working with clients I find myself saying over and over it’s not about the weight, it’s not about the food, what’s going on that brings your attention back to these things? It seems at times that it is far easier to obsess over what to have for lunch, how many calories are in that latte, or when the skinny jeans will fit. But this focus is keeping one distracted from what is connected to these things. It’s simpler to think that if we do all the “right” things related to our eating it will calm our minds, give us peace, and bring us happiness. This is yet another empty lie. We begin focusing on solving what’s not quite right by focusing on our body rather than ourselves, our emotions or our needs. We look to our bodies to solve what is beyond them to solve and in the meantime beat them up and demand they give us what we are looking for. It is like getting stuck on a path that promises to bring us what we need yet just keeps us going in loops of pain and disappointment. So if our bodies can’t give us these things where do we look? Inside at ourselves.

Some of the most crucial and amazing work begins when clients begin trusting themselves, listening to their voice and hearing what they need. Choosing to slow things down, invite and spend some time with our emotions is what brings us closer to a true sense of recovery. Beginning to make the transition from the focus on our bodies to the focus on our true selves is a scary step as it brings us to the feelings that perhaps we have been avoiding. However, reminding ourselves that this work of feeling what is there, using it as a signal for what we are needing and responding in a caring way is the beginning of finding what we have been looking for. It’s getting onto a new path that has the potential to lead us to true peace, contentment and happiness. It’s not a simple or speedy journey but one that leads to a place of reconnecting to ourselves. Beginning to rely on ourselves and trust that our emotions have a positive intention for us are the first steps on this new path. My hope is that when you feel the focus shifting to your body bringing you answers you challenge yourself to look inside, spend some time with those feelings and ask them some questions as they may have something important to say. Something that just may take you a step closer to finding all that you long for.

Jennifer Schurman, MA, LPC
Jennifer leads a therapy group on Monday evenings for those trying to recover from eating disorders and disordered eating. Please call her for more information: (773) 929-6262 x 20.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Running from the "I Can't's"

Running from the “I Can't's”
I always thought running was not for me. While I watched both my brothers run long distances I scoffed at the idea that I would ever run more than a few feet. I had every excuse for not running as well; my knees hurt, it was boring, my body just could not do it, and the list went on which made not running much easier than actually trying it.

Being that I am the only girl in the family between two boys, I have always tried to keep up with them. If the boys did it, I wanted to as well. After years of telling myself that I could not be a runner like them, my desire to be like the boys caught up with me. I bought a pair of running shoes and embarked on a sweaty new journey. A friend who had always been a runner took me for a short run on the lake front path encouraging me to run just a little further. When I got home, red in the cheeks, out of breath and smelling quite like a runner I had never felt a high quite like this. There was a spark in my mind and all of a sudden I realized that I had been lying to myself; I could run. From that first run a little over a year and a half ago, my love affair with running has exploded.

Today I lose myself in running on a regular basis. While I now run much longer distances, the first few miles of my runs feel just like that first run. My mind is racing with my schedule, replaying the day's events, making to-do lists and more. The loudest voice over all this is the voice telling me I can't. Those excuses come back to me and I contemplate turning around and walking home during this time. There is a much smaller voice that strengthens as I continue on my way though. This voice tells me I can and shuts down all the thoughts racing through my mind until it finally squashes that voice telling me I can't. At this point I can focus on what matters: me. I can listen to my body properly and judge my capabilities accurately, making for a safe and healthy run. Best of all, I can enjoy my run.

For me running has become an activity in which I find peace of mind. Most of my day is spent rushing from class to appointments to meetings to home where my homework awaits. Being able to escape the chaos of the day can be difficult for anyone. I have found for me that the clarity from running calms me for the other challenges in life. Whether it is running, yoga, painting, reading or whatever, finding that one thing that allows you to clear your mind of the to-dos will refresh you making the to-dos in the day more manageable.

Beyond being able to find something that helps me bring my mind to peace, running has helped boost my confidence as well. By challenging all the “I can't's” I have been able to find strength and motivation to complete my first 5k and train for my first half marathon. While this upcoming challenge makes me nervous, I know I can rely on the second voice to crush the voice that tells me I can't and come to a place of clarity and peace in order to finish my run.

Katie Infusino
Katie is a Bachelor level intern from DePaul University who co-leads the Tuesday evening ANAD Support group at The Awakening Center.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Last year I joined a Women’s Group. At one of the meetings we were repeatedly asked, “How is your Spirit?” At first I noticed that I answered the question from my head. After a few times, I started listening for the answers from my heart. Then, I heard the answers from deep within, from my Spirit or soul. Our culture does not encourage us to listen to our Spirit. We have to find ways to reconnect to our Spirit – and when we do so, we reconnect to our “Self”.

Erin Diedling, a psychotherapist at The Awakening Center, has written a poignant article about reconnecting to our Spirit. I hope you find it uplifting!

Amy Grabowski
I was at a wonderfully lavish networking event recently. All invited were asked to go around the room and tell a bit about counseling specialty and to tell what it is that we are passionate about in our work. In my work I’m passionate about spirit. With both trauma and eating disorder clients, it is exciting to see clients inviting spirit into the body and watching the body connect to spirit. One of the reasons clients are drawn to The Awakening Center is because of our holistic approach. My version of that holistic approach is to acknowledge the connection between body and spirit. In my work lately, I’ve been coming across this concept; my clients and I get to explore what this means for them.

I find that this concept can get confusing at times. Is it correct to honor the body? Or to honor one’s spirit? How about both? Some think that if we focus too much on the body experience, then we are not being spiritual enough. Others say that being spiritual is to transcend or even ignore the body. I find that it is important to invite that spiritual aspect, that certain level of awareness, into the body and to allow the body to strive toward an experience of ones’ spirit self.

Internal Family Systems, a popular psychotherapy approach we espouse at The Awakening Center gets around both by calling this “SELF” energy. Smart move. Then our friend Oprah says, “we are spiritual beings having a human experience”. As contrary as I like to be at times, I gotta go with Oprah’s take.

And you know when that is happening, when you are engaged in the moment and something profound is occurring. Maybe it’s the experience of smelling fresh popcorn popping or the joy you feel on the open road, music blaring, singing to yourself in the car. It’s when you cannot put that book down so you stay up all night engrossed in story. It could be at a nightclub, or that warmth in the air at a wedding.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to think of myself as a spirit who wants to have body experiences from the simple to the sublime. When life gets overwhelming, it can be very tough to remember this. And eating disorders can really cause individuals to forget their spirit and deny the body. Eating disorders are designed to send away the aspects of one’s present Self awareness. Eating disorders are a way to escape the body. Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC, founder of the Awakening Center often says that many of our eating disorder clients wish they could just carry their heads around on a stick, like a lollipop. In my opinion, it’s the integration of body and spirit where recovery happens and the rubber meets the road. And that is one place I find the passion for my work.

Recovering this awareness (an aspect of one’s spirit or Self energy) is a great way to overcome eating disorders. The way I like to think of it is that your spirit would never do you wrong. That part of you that is moved by a nature, travel, a movie, a song, that part of you would never lead you astray. Listening to that inner awareness is a way to move towards wellness (body mind and spirit wellness). There is a Buddhist tenet the holds that we can learn through joy or we can learn through suffering. Dr. Ira Sacker, M.D., a well known eating disorders specialist out of Columbia University in New York endorses this approach. He uses his clients’ passions to move forward in their recovery process by getting them involved in the very things that they are deeply passionate about but haven’t allowed themselves to pursue. I like that. It’s much more fun. And that is where my client work has taken me lately.

But you don’t have to have an eating disorder or even be a psychotherapy client to be invited to connect to your spirit, your passions, your truth.

What is it for you – what connects your spirit to your body? No, seriously. What is it? Have you allowed yourself to have that lately?

For some it’s pilates or yoga. For some, running is a way to connect to body to spirit, (for others running may act as a mechanism to disconnect from and escape the body). For some, connecting body to spirit is painting – a canvas or a wall. For others it’s creating a meal or having a culinary experience of taste, smell and texture in the moment.

What are your moments in life when you have been very clear that your body and your spirit were connected? How can you bring more of that into your life now? Or are there new ways you’ve been wanting to bring forth that connection? Maybe you could give yourself permission to take a step and have that thing! Your body might just thank you.

Erin Diedling, MEd, LPC
Erin is beginning a meditation group at The Awakening Center. Please call her at (773) 929-6262 x 19 if you would like more information.