All Change Begins in the Mind
As women we have all felt the shame of gaining weight at some point in our lives. Perhaps it is simply a few extra pounds, holiday weight, or perhaps we have been working long hours and have little time to care for ourselves. We may be going through profound life changes: college, pregnancy, divorce, job loss, economic insecurity, or family illness, which create significant stress in our lives. That stress may be enough to upset the hormonal balance in our bodies, depleting our adrenal glands and slowing down our thyroid. At times we simply do not know what to do with our negative emotions and stuff them down with food or self -medicate with alcohol, which then reinforces our poor self -image.
But where does that pervasive feeling of shame come from? We feel as we have somehow failed to attain the perfection required of us. The media, fashion ads, the multi-billion dollar diet industry all reinforce and thrive on that negative self- image. We compare ourselves to models and actress who are not only surgically, but computer, enhanced. Perhaps it is even our Puritan heritage which implies that in a time of plenty we should have the discipline for self -denial, to keep our food portions small, to be in top shape, or even thinner than our heritage and genetic coding allows for. We are shocked to read that girls as young as eight have been found to suffer from a distorted body image and are dieting.
Yet when we gain weight, we feel ugly and unworthy. We deny ourselves activities that would bring us pleasure. We are ashamed to be seen in a bathing suit or to make abandoned love to our partners. Our self- image plummets. We feel as if we are being judged by others. Our negative self -talk reinforces that image within our brain.
We buy books and embark on a diets: Low calorie, low carbohydrate, low fat, paleo, the variations are endless. We hold on to the promise that we will somehow look like that perfect model on the cover if we can discipline ourselves enough to hold out against the enemy-food. We take up on rigorous exercise regimes. And if we can hold out long enough, we may lose weight.
We are congratulated by our peers on our so-called achievement, but internally little has changed. Our bodies will bounce back to our previous weight the minute we resume our normal lifestyles or have another life event that precipitates stress. Our self-image plummets further. We have failed once again, and so, the round of endless dieting and self- hate begins.
However, at some point we might realize that maintaining optimum body weight is not a mere matter of caloric intake and output. We are all individuals with unique needs and complex biological, energetic, and emotional components that a mechanistic model of the body does not adequately address.
In the 20th century, quantum physics has shown that the fabric of our reality is composed of a unified field of energy. Since then, Western medicine has advanced significantly to accept that the body /mind operate in a feedback loop. Our top athletes utilize focused imagery to achieve their training goals. Successful sales people have adapted the technique with proven results. However, we have learned from mental health professionals that we can suffer from blocks, both conscious and unconscious, that need to be addressed and cleared for our efforts to permanently succeed.
What if rather than focusing on external goals to attain slimness, we were to accept that change begins internally? What if we were to learn that lasting change and maintaining health, wellness, and vibrancy for a lifetime depends on first changing our thoughts and beliefs?
Dr. Karla Ivankovich is a licensed clinical professional counselor whose therapeutic practice is focused partly on treating obesity, eating disorders, and poor body image. She understands that the road to wholeness begins in the mind.
Dr. Ivankovich’s research postulated a correlation between obesity, self -esteem, and discrimination by the medical profession. She has concluded that obese patients are perceived as being lazy, less intelligent, and lacking in will power by care providers. Her case studies have demonstrated a negative loop in perceived discrimination by African American patients suffering from obesity, which reinforces feelings of low self- worth and prevents them from seeking proper and timely medical attention.
Dr. Ivankovich’s findings could be extrapolated to a wider audience-all women suffering from pressure to maintain a culturally mandated standard of bodily perfection, no matter how detrimental to their self-esteem, physical and mental well being.
We are all unique individuals inherently worthy of love and respect. Close your eyes and picture an end to your suffering. Imagine the freedom you will feel in your own skin when you love yourself enough to make choices that support your health and well being. Know that with the right guidance you will discover all the positive changes you can make when you begin your journey to self-acceptance.
Karla Ivankovich, PhD.