If you follow my blogs, you’ll know that I sometimes remark upon how themes emerge during any given day or week in my practice. During one summer day, it seemed a series of eating dysregulated clients were into vilifying their bodies. They had all somehow reached a boiling point of frustration with their overeating, leaving them mired in disappointment at themselves and bashing their bodies to beat the band.
It occurred to me at some point that they were trying their darnedest to hate their bodies thin, and I realized that this is what many people who are dissatisfied with their weight do. As if hating their bodies hard enough would somehow produce the “normal” eating behaviors they longed for. This dynamic made no sense to me then, nor does it now, but I do recognize the pretzel logic behind it: don’t dare accept, love or value your body because if you do—watch out—you won’t try to change it.
I asked each of these clients if body bashing had helped them become more “normal” eaters and all of them said no. I asked if it had helped them lose weight or keep it off, and each sighed and shook their head. When they stopped to think about it, they couldn’t come up with any evidence that hating their bodies would ever change their appetite or size, but they still couldn’t seem to give it up.
I explained what I thought was going on. First, they were so frustrated that they had to take their anger out on something, and they were used to being someone’s punching bag. All of these women had grown up with one or two emotionally abusive parents who were highly critical and controlling and who had unrealistic expectations of them. Second, our culture eschews kindness and compassion and promotes change via tough love and self-punishment. We believe that only through hating a behavior will we be able to give it up, and that being angry at something can change it or make it better. This is why we yell at our partners, spouses, children and ourselves. Third, people who are critical about their eating and their bodies are pretty much just plain critical about themselves, period. If they were “normal” eaters and thinner, they’d find other flaws and inadequacies to hate about themselves. I’ve seen it happen time and again.
You cannot rid yourself of the pain from overeating or from being a higher weight than you wish by causing yourself more pain. Life simply doesn’t work that way. If you think about your experience, has hating anything about you made you do things differently or better? Then why all the hate? Do you think it will suddenly change you or are you just in the habit and don’t know how to give it up? Try replacing it with love and self-compassion and see the wonders that happen.