If you took a hard look at all the ways this problem with your body has cost you, how did you feel? Were you angry, sad, or ashamed? This problem has been painful. This problem has hurt you.
Or did it leave you feeling determined? This is why this problem has to change. I have to solve — to get rid of — this problem. Is this feeling familiar?
Be honest: Have these feelings — the anger, the sadness, the shame, the guilt, the fear, the determination about your body and your eating — hung around for a long time? How long has your body been part of your problem?
Why not take a look? In your journal, try making a timeline to organize your history in your body, and all of the important life events in your body history.
On a page turned to a landscape orientation, draw a line across the middle. Along the bottom fill in dates, ages, whatever way you want to organize time. You can take the timeline up to the present, or project it into the future. It’s up to you.
What can you put on your timeline? It might include your weight or shape history, your dieting history, health events that affected you, other events that affected your self-image. It should definitely include other important life experiences, positive and negative, that shaped who you are today. Try putting positive events above the line, and negative events below the line. Paste in photographs, write in comments, make drawings and doodles. Make it your own.
Here’s a little vintage Cyndi Lauper for you while you get out the glue sticks and scissors.
So, take a look: what do you notice? Take a look at the positive side of your timeline. Did body shape and weight take as big a role as you expected? I’ll bet a dollar that your major achievements weren’t “reached 100 pounds!” or “fit into my skinny jeans!” Instead, the events that are significant may reflect your values and passions apart from your body struggle.
How do weight and shape struggles appear on your timeline? Do they appear at all? (Are they mostly on the negative side of your timeline?) Are there diets, negative body comments by people you cared about, ongoing events in your struggle with yourself? What does this mean?
Did you note your weight anywhere? If you didn’t, notice that: Maybe deep down, the number on the scale doesn’t matter as much to you as the experiences and life events you truly value. If you did put in important “numbers on the scale” were they achievements (numbers you were proud of)? Or were they numbers that represented failures or tragedies to you?
Are there photographs of you pasted into the timeline? What are your memories of those times? Does the person in the picture look like the person you remember being?
Another interesting thing about weight numbers, if they appear in your timeline, is to observe their pattern over time. Despite your struggle with your body, if you are like most people, your weight has increased over time.
The opposite may be true for your satisfaction with your body over time, especially if you have been engaged in a body-related struggle. See if this is true: Is it the case that, despite lots of changes and lots of efforts to “fix” yourself, you are more unhappy with yourself now than at whatever age your body struggle began?
Seeing weight gain and increased body dissatisfaction over time is not unusual, but typical. Whether you charted in your weight numbers or not, consider: Is this true for you? Have you gained weight, lost weight, or stayed the same over time? What has happened to your body image over time? Has it gotten better, worse, or stayed about the same?
What does this mean?