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In a culture consumed with the mindset that skinny is beautiful, worthy of attention, and healthy, those of us who do not fit into that body size may experience unnecessary suffering. If this is you, and you have found yourself tangled in a web of compulsive eating, know that you are worthy, you do belong, and there is a way through.

Body shame, i.e., feeling ashamed about how you look, is an internalized thought. Most likely you heard something somewhere about preferred body size in society or about your body in particular, came to a conclusion that you (or at least your body) are unworthy of full-blown love and acceptance, and blueprinted this thought on a cellular/emotional/spiritual level.

Here’s the good news; thoughts, however deeply ingrained, can be changed and rearranged, outgrown, disbelieved and disowned, diminished, abolished, and put to rest forever. This means that YOU are empowered to direct the course of the quality of the life you are living.

That thought, the one about your body not being good enough… can be ever so gently Kicked to the Curb for the very last time!

3 Ways Body Shame Creates Compulsive Eating

#1. Isolation

Do you avoid looking into mirrors? Or maybe there’s that one angle that’s okay, perhaps from the neck up? I know the drill because I have practiced it for decades. Just the other day I had my hair trimmed; I noticed that when the hair stylist was finished, I got up out of the seat and avoided making eye contact with the mirror in front of me… with ME. Apparently that was more of a private matter… if you know what I mean.

If you do not like your body, there is a good chance you do not want to be seen. It’s a logical equation that may leave you spending quite a bit of time alone. One activity (there are many) that seems to pair well with time spent “solo,” is eating. While there is nothing inherently wrong with eating alone, eating while feeling overly isolated can serve as a distraction from what’s really going on under the surface—body-shame/hatred, checking-out/numbing, and doing a disappearing act.

#2. Secrecy

To quote body-positive teacher and colleague, Isabel Foxen Duke, do you “Eat cake really fast, standing up, while nobody’s looking?” I did… or do… or did, do. Yes, still do. How about that pastry from the cafe that you order “to-go,” even though you are going to sit down at a table? Do you keep it tucked away in the little brown bag, breaking off pieces hoping no one will notice, while you proudly showcase your beverage of choice? At a potluck or gathering, have you smoothly slipped away from the group because you’d rather be alone at the food table swiping that last cookie or handful of chips?

If you have internalized body-shame (telling yourself your body is not okay, perhaps even awful), it is likely you won’t want others to see you eating, especially if what you’re eating isn’t a vegetable! Another simple equation—if you think you’re doing something “bad,” you’re not going to want to be caught with your hands in the cake. Why? Well because others will judge you… or at least you think they will. The truth is that you are judging yourself.

Isabel just released her transformative, free 3-part video series, Stop Fighting Food. The first two videos are live now and the third is on its way. In unique fashion, she brilliantly tackles the ridiculous myth of self-control, the 3 reasons why any of us eat, and the biggest trigger to emotional and binge-eating. You can (and should) watch it here.

#3. Instant Gratification

Do you like (or feel you “need”) the experience of the instant rush of goodness that surges through your body when you consume grain flour or processed sugar? This includes products such as wheat or rye bread, bagels, pretzels, cookies, crackers, cake, muffins, gluten-free baked goods, and more. Or perhaps for you it’s the satiety of the oils and table salt found in chips, popcorn, pretzels etc. Or is it the bubbly of a regular, diet, or “natural” soda?

I get it; I find them all scrumptious, junky or not (well, except for the regular or diet soda). Here’s the distinction that needs to be made. It’s one thing if you’re eating the above from a conscious state of mind, aware that what you’re eating may not contain too many useful or beneficial nutrients, but it’s a now-and-then risk and pleasure you’re willing to enjoy.

It’s quite another matter if you’re using these foods as a quick shot of “feel good” because you don’t already feel good about yourself. This is body-shame in action—internalized harmful thoughts about your body masked by the pleasure of a plate of food (or often, food-like products). If you find yourself in this camp, as Drs. Ron and Mary Hulnick (my teachers and creators of the master’s program in Spiritual Psychology at USM) would say, “Your school is in session.”

3 Ways to Break Free from Body Shame & Compulsive Eating

So “your school is in session,” now what? Now’s the time you’ll make some self-empowering decisions that will support your desire (and right) to live a joyful, free, and inspired life.

I encourage you to do this with the support of a friend or family member, colleague, mentor, coach, or community group. This is not meant to be a solo endeavor; teamwork can be magically transformative.

#1. Connect

Do what it takes to pull yourself out of isolation. Whatever that next step is for you, take it. Make that call or send the email; get yourself to the __________ group in your community you have been eyeing. Reach out to a potential new friend; even if she is unresponsive you will have done your part. Each step you take builds inner strength and gives you an empowerment star—a feel-good moment acknowledging how super-wonderfully-worthy you are.

body shame & compulsive eating

#2. Walk Through

It’s time to unveil your secrets and discover the layers underneath. You can start this exploration on your own, but since we are talking about healing patterns of secrecy, at some point soon (perhaps now) it’s a good idea to share your process with somebody. It’s time to walk through the door to uncover old, internalized thoughts and limiting beliefs that have brought you here… to a place of unnecessary suffering.

#3. Create

Up ahead on the trail is your friend, Instant Gratification. You’ll feel yourself approaching, but there is a fork in the road that will take you someplace else. In fact, you’ll be so immersed in your creativity, that today you may not bump into instant gratification at all. Whatever it is you love to do, do it, express it, wear it, and become it. This is your new destinationthe portal of your own creative expression; the place where you feel good about YOU.

What Do You Choose?

While your experience may not be an “overnight sensation,” I guarantee that as you Create, Walk Through, and Connect, you WILL begin to embody “the power of choice,” and strengthen your capacity to love your body and listen to her compass, intuition, and calling.

So I ask you… what do YOU choose? I’d love to know how you will connect, walk through, and/or create the most magnificent you possible.

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