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Seeing Yourself Clearly

I start my “Quit Fighting with Food” workshops by asking each group member to
say one thing they like about themselves. Often, members are stumped or mumble something like, “I’m nice,” or “I’m good to others.” The reasons for beginning the workshop this way are three-fold: to help break the ice, to establish a mindset that members are more than just people with eating problems, and to get a sense of members’ ability to assess themselves accurately. In all my 30 years of teaching, it’s rare for a workshop member to come up with something really unique about themselves, and I can’t remember when I last heard a positive assessment strongly asserted. Usually group members look pained and embarrassed and appear to feel they need to come up with something that won’t make them sound as if they’re boasting.

What, you may wonder, does asserting something positive about yourself have to do with “normal” eating. A lot. First, it’s essential to recognize and comfortably acknowledge the positive aspects of self as strongly and clearly as the negatives. It’s unhealthy to assess yourself as mostly bad or lacking, with a smattering of good thrown in. As long as it’s true, it’s healthier to view yourself as mostly good, with a little “could do better” tossed in to keep you humble and striving. Second, it’s destructive to let your eating blues crowd out all the other areas in your life in which you’re doing a super job. Yes, eating troubles may permeate your day and weight issues can painfully affect many aspects of your life, but having food problems does not mean that all the positive, wonderful, talented, special things about you don’t exist or needn’t be honored.

It should come as no surprise that most clients and students notice the times in which they eat dysfunctionally more than the times in which they eat “normally,” generally focusing on the negative about themselves while overlooking the positive in eating as well as non-eating realms. It’s my job—at least initially—to point out their selective attention to what’s wrong or not right. In the long run, however, every problem eater must make it their business to maintain a balanced picture of themselves. Just as eating “normally” requires a healthy dose of yes and no, so does functional living require a neutral inventory of personal pluses and minuses.

So, take a minute now to focus on your pluses. Right now, stop and jot down all the sensational, unique gifts you have—without using the words “good” or “nice.” Consider your talents, achievements, personality, and what makes you stand out in a crowd. Enjoy these attributes even if they make you uncomfortable. Go on, boast a little!