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Eating Disorder Awareness

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Written by Jessy Pucker LMSW

February 25th 2022

This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week. There are several risk factors that can increase chances of developing an eating disorder, including: age, gender, social environment, familial environment, and genetics. The way bodies are spoken about in TV shows, movies, magazines, and social media is also a risk factor for developing eating disorders. We are exposed to the media whether we choose to be or not. It is in the advertisements we see, in the content we consume, and in the way we speak to one another. Our societal standards of beauty are reflected, and sometimes created, by messaging from the media.

As the images we see and words we hear about ‘perfect’ bodies trickle down into daily conversation, we begin to create a narrative about our own bodies. When we are surrounded by people speaking about how they wish they looked or how someone else looks, it is hard not to internalize these messages. The thought process can be, “if they think this person is unattractive, what do they think of me?”. These conversations begin to shape how we see ourselves. If the beauty standard is set at an unattainable level, how could we possibly measure up? If the beauty standard is always shifting, what are we supposed to look like?

The one thing we can control with all of these mixed messages is how we speak to ourselves. It can be hard to turn the camera on yourself and become aware of our harsh self-criticism. Oftentimes we see our flaws more clearly than our positive traits.

So the question is: when you look in the mirror, how do you talk to yourself? Try to view it from an outside perspective. Are you harsh? Are your comments constructive? Could you be kinder?

If you don’t like the way you are speaking to yourself, you can change it! Reframing is a commonly used tool in psychotherapy. It asks you to identify your automatic thoughts and replace them with healthier, more balanced ones.

The first step in reframing your thoughts is to practice noting them when they come up. Try not to judge yourself for having these thoughts; just note their existence and frequency. Step two is to evaluate these thoughts. Are they helpful or harmful? Where are they coming from? What is their impact? The last step is to work on speaking to yourself like you would speak to someone you love. Reframing negative thoughts does not always mean creating positive thoughts that feel disingenuous. Try reframing the negative thoughts about yourself and your body into realistic, compassionate thoughts. For example, “I don’t want to go out today. I look gross”, can change to, “I don’t feel confident in my looks today, but I won’t let that stop me from enjoying my day. No one feels good 100% of the time.”

We are bombarded with comments about beauty and bodies all day. Work on reframing the negative thoughts that result from this. Show yourself some compassion because you deserve it.

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