Karen's Blogs

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Dissatisfaction About Weight

A few months ago, a client and I had a discussion about her changing feelings about the largeness of her body. For years, her reflection in the mirror didn’t even register; then one day she realized that she couldn’t stand to look at herself. She’d gone from one extreme to the other: from denial about her growing size to being disgusted by it.

Many people view their larger-than-they-wish bodies either by exclusively denying or exclusively hating themselves for their size, or yo-yoing between denial and contempt. Makes sense, as disregulated eaters often possess an all-or-nothing mentality about food and weight—and most things in life. If they’re not thin, they must be fat; if they’re not dieting, they have no use for rules about eating. If they’re not perfect, they’re horrid. Moreover, our culture reinforces engaging in both sets of unhealthy attitudes and lifestyles, as well as obsessing about thinness and living in fear of fat.

Can you imagine what having a non-denial, non-contemptuous view of your body would be like? It involves feeling just the right amount of dissatisfaction with your current size to promote change. Feel too little discomfort and there’s no impetus to initiate change because nothing much is at stake. Feel too much discomfort and you’re overwhelmed with shame and shut down, paralyzed to take action. The goal in initiating and sustaining change is to experience exactly the right amount of discomfort to move you to do things differently, to feel dissatisfied without judgment. This is a difficult state to stay in for disregulated eaters who tend to love or hate their bodies.

To change your eating, you want neither to hate your body nor feel that you wish for it to stay as is. You want to feel discomfort in the short run that will make you comfortable in the long run. If you can regulate the dissatisfaction, and succumb to neither denial nor shame, you’ll be in the perfect mindset for change. The problem is that you may have difficulty tolerating even the teensiest bit of dissatisfaction because you flip it into judgment and self-loathing. And that feels so awful that you wall up your feelings completely and deny that there’s anything wrong. It’s time to get off that see-saw.

Instead, allow yourself to feel dissatisfied with your size because you desire health and fitness, refuse to feel disgusted and ashamed, that is, resist believing that everything is okay or that you can’t be different. To find that balance and middle ground, you will have to work hard to reject extreme emotional states. You will have to trust that tolerable dissatisfaction is your ally and that it will help you become a “normal” eater.

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