Breaking the Perpetual Dieting Cycle: Your First Priority
By Lisette Cifaldi, LMSW, CEO & Owner, Eating Sanity, LLC, eatingsanity.com
One of the heartbreaking side effects inherent in a long-term struggle with weight gain, compulsive eating, and binge eating, is a profoundly pervasive, negative body image. For people stuck in the riptide of perpetual dieting, a seemingly innocuous question like “How do you feel about your body,” can produce woeful responses such as “disgusted,” “ashamed,” “disappointed,” “repulsed” and “depressed.”
The problem with this devastating dynamic is that it creates a vicious cycle that is counterproductive to the goals of achieving both a healthy body weight and loving relationship with your body. The cycle goes something like this…
You look in the mirror and hate what you see, which is followed shortly by an exasperated, “F*@k This” and a large pepperoni pizza, soft drink, and Baskin Robbins. The original self-loathing brought on by your reflection in the mirror is compounded with guilt and shame from self-destructive eating. The next morning it starts over again, but instead of the mirror instigating the cycle, it’s the scale.
It doesn’t make sense. Logic would dictate that if we’re unhappy with our body, our dissatisfaction should be all the motivation we need to make healthier decisions. Unfortunately, reality rarely plays out that way. As we’ve learned, negative body image converts into more self-sabotaging behaviors. Therefore, it is essential that improving your body image become a priority. It is the most effective way you can begin breaking the destructive cycle.
The path to improving body image might seem like a conundrum. How do you improve your body image now when enhancing your body can take some time? You begin by loving your body with where it is today. I’m not saying you have to prance around in a bikini announcing to the world that you’re all that AND a bag of chips. I’m merely saying that you can love your body and still want to improve it.
You start with the realization that your body is a fantastic vehicle that allows you to experience life. Every joy you have ever had has been given to you by that amazing vehicle…
That belly-laugh with your best friend — a gift from your body.
The comfort of a warm embrace or a passionate kiss – a gift from your body
A beauty that takes your breath away – a gift from your body
The feel of a newborn in your arms – a gift from your body
The thrill of adventure and the satisfaction of achievement – a gift from your body
The warmth of the sun on your face and smell of the ocean – a gift from your body
Feet that carry you, eyes that guide you, ears that reward you with music – a gift from your body.
Your body itself is the greatest gift you have ever been given. It shows up for you day-in and day-out, regardless of how you neglect it or treat it poorly. Despite how disparagingly you talk and think about it, your body is your best friend. It does not judge you as you judge it.
The best way to begin improving your body image, mending the friendship with your body, and ultimately breaking the vicious cycle of shame and unhealthy eating, is to shift your attention from your unhappiness with the way your body looks to gratitude for all the experiences and accomplishments your body provides you each day.
Before bed, each night reflect on your favorite moments of the day and ask yourself how your body contributed to those moments. As you exercise, thank your body for the gift of movement. When you notice the beauty of nature or a loved one’s smile, thank your body for the awareness. When you wake after a good night’s sleep, thank your body for the replenishing rest. Take five deep breaths and focus on the blessing of working lungs and the power of your beating heart.
The truth is, all healing begins with gratitude. It is the ultimate restorative elixir that always sets us on a healthier path. Drink that elixir for your body and watch the healing begin.
Lisette Cifaldi, LMSW is a food addiction specialist offering food addiction recovery coaching, education, and advocacy. She is also a nationally known corporate and community motivational speaker who has a gift for empowering others. You can learn more about Lisette at eatingsanity.com or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org