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Ashley Solomon, Psy.D is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness.

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11 Apr

Body Love: Perfectly Imperfect

Guest Post 10 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

Can we love our bodies while still feeling imperfect or dissatisfied? Becca Clegg, a therapist, educator, and coach, tackles this important question in today’s guest post. If you like what you read, go check out more of her insightful musings at Life Beyond the Diet.

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This week, I did a talk for a group of mental health clinicians on Eating Disorders.  The talk went great, and I was feeling really pleased with myself for being able to help other therapists learn more about a topic that I am so passionate about.

As I was packing up my stuff to head out, one of the therapists stopped and asked me a question.

“So, you talk about all this stuff, but you are slim.  Do your client’s ever ask you how you can talk about struggling with your body when you don’t look like you do?”

I answered her as honestly as I could, telling her that you can’t look at someone’s body and know what their own struggle is, as the relationship we have with food is truly internal, and doesn’t really have to do with how the body looks anyway.

I left and didn’t really give her question much thought, but later that day, her question came back to me & stated to morph into self-doubt.

I have been at peace with my body for a long time, but how would I feel if my body changed drastically?  Would I still love myself the way I do now if something external shifted?

Does the peace I feel about my body come from within, or is it more related to a judgment that things on the outside are “ok”?

Could I practice what I preach if I lost this sense of peace? 

One thing I know deeply is that every part of me is devoted to the idea of self-love and body acceptance.  I have a deep knowing that to help women learn to find acceptance is my passion.  So to be in this space of questioning was extremely unnerving, and I’ll admit that it hit me between the eyes.

As I started to think about how I relate to my own body, it dawned on me that I don’t actually think everything about my body is ok.  In fact, I still judge plenty of things that I see in my body as “wrong” or “not good enough”.

I break out.  I have awful hair days that even a hat can’t fix.  I am aging, and I am starting to see the laws of gravity demonstrating themselves.  I have flab here, and wrinkles there, and if I’m looking for it, I can usually find something that is “out of place”.

At first these thoughts jumped out at me as evidence that I must be an imposter. “Oh crap!”, I thought,  “How can I think those things and have the nerve to write blog articles about loving your body?”

And then I remembered a concept that I have been following for some time.  It’s the basis of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which basically espouses the following:  We are culturally indoctrinated with certain thoughts.  To try and change those thoughts is nearly impossible.  It is much kinder, loving, and quite frankly, easier, to accept those thoughts as what they are, old cultural ideas that have just gotten in your head.  Then you move on to commitment to change.  Commitment to living from a kinder, gentler thought that is more aligned with what you want to believe.

When I realized this, it gave me a sense of peace.  Quite the contrary to feeling like an imposter, it made me realize that of course I still have the judgments about my body that are less than loving.  I am human.

I am also, however, fortunate enough to realize that my judgment about my body is the cultural lie, social conditioning left over from being raised in a society that taught me that there is a boiler plate standard for what it means to be “good enough” as a woman in this world.  I also realized that the deepest part of me absolutely knows that this is a pile of B.S.

I can be committed to loving my body and have wonderful, blissful days where I am 100% full of gratitude for everything about it.

I can still be committed to loving my body and have days where I question and doubt and think thoughts that are less than ideal. Body love, like everything else in life, it isn’t all unicorns and rainbows.

I remind people all the time that they should avoid black and white thinking, and search for the middle ground.  I came out of this realizing that I needed a dose of my own medicine.

The lesson I took away was that trying to be ‘perfect’ at love, be it self-love or body-love, is as unrealistic and as stressful as trying to be ‘perfect’ in our bodies themselves.   I choose to ignore the thoughts that I know aren’t kind, and align with the thoughts that are kind and quite frankly, feel better.  That is my daily commitment.  And the biggest lesson of all is that that is enough.

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Rebecca Clegg, LPC (www.rebeccaclegg.com), is a therapist, writer and speaker specializing in helping women overcome unhealthy eating patterns and body image issues.  For the last decade, Rebecca has worked in both hospital and outpatient settings, and has worked extensively with a variety mental health issues. She is the President and founder of Authentic Living, LLC, and creator of the blog, www.lifebeyondthediet.com, both committed to the growth and empowerment of women everywhere. 

 

08 Apr

Fat Talk, Old Talk, and All That Other Self-Deprecating Talk

Ideas to Consider 4 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

 

These days, a few hours spent at a baby shower, a salon, or another female-dominated locale can start to sound like an episode of Real Housewives. From bemoaning the flab on one’s arms to debating the merits of Botox, groups of women often seem to have an endless supply of topics that share a similar theme — how darn flawed they are.

The fat-talk is almost a given, but what research is now revealing is that “old-talk” is sweeping in, and with similarly detrimental results.

Carolyn Black Becker, a psychologist at Trinity University, and her colleagues recently published an article in the Journal of Eating Disorders about the new wave of “old-talk.” They recognized that as the Baby Boomers have gotten older, the incidence of self-deprecication around age has increased. Not only that, but it’s correlated with body image disturbance and eating disorder pathology. A quick look at the magazine stand reflects this reality as well. Cover stories, ads, and products abound about how to look younger and hide the signs of aging.

While the large population of Baby Boomers might seem to be driving this phenomenon, old-talk is actually, well… old. Women – and men – have been lamenting aging for centuries. Perhaps it’s related to our fears of mortality, but chatting about the losses associated with getting older is one way that we connect.

And therein lies the problem.

My question is this: “Fat” or “old,” why is it that we have to criticize the realities of our physical selves in order to establish connection?

My guess is that these seem like safe topics in mixed company. With politics, religion, and sex usually on the taboo list, most women feel pretty safe talking about diets and their crow’s feet in just about any social situation. We figure that others can relate. Doesn’t everyone want to change themselves?

I suspect it also has to do with a key element in the way that women relate to one another. Ever cautious to come across as conceited or, heaven forbid, powerful, women use fat-talk, old-talk, and other self-deprecating talk in a delicate social dance. The dance says, “Don’t worry. I don’t like myself and I’m flawed. I’m not a threat, so you can trust and connect with me.”

Well, I personally think this dance is a little outdated. I’d like to see women establish connection in other ways, ones that don’t require negative self-evaluation. I don’t think it’s necessary to complain about my thighs or my sagging breasts in order to generate rapport with someone. I know this because I’ve focused on not doing it over the past several years (since learning more about fat-talk) and have managed to find plenty of things to talk about in groups of women.

So my challenge to readers is to do the same. See if you can’t go an entire day – or week – without fat, old, or negative self-talk. When you’re interacting with other women, share what you love about yourself or something that recently made you proud. Can you imagine the revolution that would transpire if we all committed to doing this? We’d feel better about ourselves and promote others in feeling better about themselves as well.

Now that’s the kind of talk I like to hear.

05 Nov

Announcing… the 2012 Nourishing Body Image Award Winners!

Current Events 5 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

Organizing the 2012 Nourishing Body Image Awards has been such a blessing. Each year I’ve hosted the awards, I’ve been introduced to so many amazing people, organizations, movements, and websites, which in turn has truly enriched my work and life. From inspirational posts that moved me in profound ways to organizations who inspired me to share, donate, and stand up, the work of the award nominees is truly amazing. I feel honored to get to recognize the incredible efforts.

The truth is, body image advocacy is not easy work. It’s not popular work, and it’s not always rewarding in the same ways as other work. But it’s important work. Vital work. And I’m so grateful to the individuals behind the nominations. Day in and day out, they go against the grain of society by standing up for radical ideas — like the fact that our worth should not be determined by the size of our waist or that beauty is something inherent in all human beings

I also humbled by those of you who took time to post, comment, email, and send messenger pigeons (okay, that was just one of you…) with your nominations. Thank you for taking an active part in recognizing how amazing this work is as well.

Without further ado, I’d like to share the nominations and winners of the 2012 Nourishing Body Image Awards.

 

Best Body Image Blogger

Nominees:

Arielle Lee Blair at Actively Arielle

Margarita Tartakovsky at Weightless

Sydney Bell at Body Respect

WINNER: Arianna Merritt at Arianna’s Random Thoughts

 

Best Body Image Website

Nominees:

The Kissy Project

My Purple Dreams

Voice in Recovery 

WINNER: Adios Barbie

Most Body Positive Magazine or Book

Seventeen

Vogue 

Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

WINNER: Operation Beautiful by Caitlin Boyle

 

Best Body Image Post or Article

Nominees:

Good Food vs. Bad Food on Baby Dust Diaries

The Art of Listening to Your Body on Weightless 

The Body Love Timeline on Already Pretty

The Power in Imperfection on Medicinal Marzipan

WINNER:  You Only Think the Bullies Are Helpful on Eat the Damn Cake

Best Body Image Boosting Organization

Nominees: 

Rewrite Beautiful

Endangered Bodies NY

Healthy At Every Size

Hungry for Change

Girls On The Run

Proud 2 B Me

WINNER: BE ME Foundation

Most Body Loving Company

Nominees: 

American Girl

Lane Bryant

Jean-Paul Gaultier

WINNER: Curvy Yoga

 

Best Body Positive Photo, Video, or Image

Nominees:

Be Weird, Be Random, Be You

Be Proud of

Media Spin

Some Thoughts on Confidence

WINNER: Self Esteem

 

Most Body Positive Celebrity

Nominees:

Demi Lovato

Lady Gaga

Christina Hendricks

WINNER: Ellen DeGeneres

I invite all of the nominees and winners to proudly display their recognition via the badges below. Thank you for all that you do. Because of you, I have confidence that my friends, family, patients, and self will live in a world more accepting and nurturing tomorrow than we do today.
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25 Aug

You Should Know :: Body Loving Homework

Book Review, You Should Know 3 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

Okay, so I’m a little late to the party. But hey, I like to make a statement, so it’s cool.

If you’ve been an avid follower of the self-love mecca, Medicinal Marzipan, (and why wouldn’t you be?), you may already know about the cool renovation project over there. Mara has done more than added a fresh coat of paint – she’s totally revamped her space and launched a stunning new site – MaraGlatzel.com – that is as resourceful as it is beautiful.

One of the coolest things about the whole she-bang is that Mara launched a fantastic new e-book along with the site. It’s called Body Loving Homework and it’s a collection of writing prompts that inspire you to create your own personal narrative. My professional, personal, and every other kind of opinion is that writing is one of the most powerful tools we have to access our truest selves (which was the basis for the Self-Discovery, Word by Word project and is also why I kicked off the Start Write Now series recently).

A collection of writing prompts sounds a little boring, and Body Loving Homework is anything but. Consider it your jump start to digging into the most important material in the world – what’s already inside of you. It’s an invitation (and roadmap) to incredible self-discovery. It covers topics from your emotional body to sex and intimacy to unraveling a media-fueled education (awe-some). Not only that, but it’s absolutely gorgeous. No, really. You have to see for yourself to know what I mean. So consider this your kick in the butt to check it out.

Have you come across any great self-love tools lately? Been writing as a means of self-discovery? Do share!

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