Thursday, June 01, 2006


In The Body Image Workbook: An 8-Step Program for Learning to Like Your Looks, Thomas Cash discusses 10 arguable "appearance assumptions" that lead to problems with body image:

1) Physically attractive people have it all.
2) The first thing that people will notice about me is what's wrong with my appearance.
3) One's outward physical appearance is a sign of the inner person.
4) If I could look just as I wish, my life would be much happier.
5) If people knew how I really look, they would like me less.
6) By controlling my appearance, I can control my social and emotional life.
7) My appearance is responsible for much of what has happened to me in my life.
8) I should always do whatever I can to look my best.
9) The media's messages makes it impossible for me to satisfied with my appearance.
10)The only way I could ever like my looks would be to change them.

How many of these statements do you endorse?

With the help of Dr. Cash, I'm available to argue them all, but for now, I'd like to focus on #s 9 and 10. I've been writing a lot lately about the media's messages and how they affect how we feel about ourselves. I think #9 is partially true, but the sticking point is the word "impossible." Difficult? Frustrating? Hard to master? YES! But, it's not impossible. Mastering #9 ultimately requires a shift from desire (to emulate Hollywood) to anger (about the unnatural portrayal of women's bodies in the media). It starts with awareness, questioning, and a healthy dose of outrage.

With regard to #10, I flash back to another therapist's question I heard years ago. If you're dissatisfied with your body, which would be easier--to lose weight or to work on your dissatisfaction? Well, clearly, if the first option were easy, you would have done it already. The second, too, may seem impossible (and likely, undesirable), from where you are. But, this is it. These are your two options.

One will last you in the long-run. One will help you pass on body-positive images to your children. One will move you from a place of self-hatred, anger, and depression, to a warmer, happier place. One will not.


PalmTreeChick said...

Interesting post, drstacey. :)Hmm, reminded me of what someone posted on my blog (to which there is a response). ha ha!

drstaceyny said...

See? You got me thinking!

PalmTreeChick said...

Yeah, I kind of thought that's what happened. Geez, I guess it's a good thing if I can get a psychologist thinking. Although, it might not be a good thing for me. ;)

drstaceyny said...

Of course it is--and it's great that you're thinking about these things, too. . . .

Haley-O said...

I love that question--"which would be easier--to lose weight or to work on your dissatisfaction?"

And, I guess one way to combat the media's messages is to take some sort of "media fast." Don't open the magazines with the "Who's Skinny and Who's Fat" type headlines, and turn off the TV for a week or so. Focus on things other than weigh....I was trying to encourage our friend Palmtreechick to write a post without the words "weight," "body," "exercise," etc., etc., in it. I'M STILL WAITING, PALMTREECHICK!!!

Shaunta said...

I've thought about that much easier to learn to accept my body, than to try to change it.

And then this little voice inside me says...sure, maybe 100 pounds ago. Maybe I could have learned to be satisfied with a 220, size 16 body. But who could be satisfied at 320 and a size 26?

So I start a round of...I'm not trying to be perfect, just normal. I'll be satisfied when I'm normal. I'll love myself more when I'm normal. When people don't do a double take at the fat girl. When my belly is smaller than my boobs. When I stop worrying about outgrowing Lane Bryant's biggest size.

I have this horrible feeling that I'm just too far gone for acceptance.

I'm working on that!

(Thanks for the great comment on my blog. I'm a writer, like you, and I'd love to talk to you about your book anytime.

drstaceyny said...

A media fast--what a great idea! I'd have so much free time on my hands, I'd probably be able to. . . I don't know. . . write a book!

Anxious to hear from PTC as well--I'm sure you have so much to say!

drstaceyny said...

Shaunta--thanks for the reply. A couple of questions/thoughts: What's normal? Plenty of people are of "normal" weight, and they're struggling just as much with acceptance. Also, I've never really seen the "I'll love myself when I'm normal" thing work out. If anything, and again, I'm not a big fan of the word "normal," it works the other way around. So, could you be accepting of who/how you are right now AND still hope to lose weight, if that's what you want? No one is "too far gone" for acceptance. In fact, without acceptance, you're not going to GO anywhere. Just some food for thought. . . Thanks for linking up. : )

PalmTreeChick said...

I love you guys!

Interestingly enough, I have a master's in Journalism and worked in television news for 2 years before heading over to radio, which pays NOTHING! Now I am doing something totally unrelated and unfulfilling, but whatever.

Yeah, It's like "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" I think the nitpicking the media does to the stars is some of what causes the eds in them. Granted, some people are just naturally sticks, but the media is brutal. They critisize you if your too thin or too fat. But we are constantly fed (ha ha) these images of "sickly" looking women. (I think they look good, but that's my messed up vision.) The media is basically stating that one needs to starve themselves to be successful and beautiful, especially in that biz.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Stacey~
I'm so pleased that a friend referred me to your website. I'm currently working on my Masters Degree in Clinical Counseling. My area of interest is in helping those who struggle with eating disorders. Your blog is now added to my favorites.

Thanks for your comments and for educating people on eating disorders.


allisonsky said...

Dear Dr. Stacey,

I was 105 before I had my babies, and I basically stay at 120 (5 feet tall). I was constantly saying to myself "when I get to 105 I will buy new clothes to make me feel good about myself." A wise friend of mine said "why don't you buy some pretty clothes for yourself NOW and if you ever get to 105 again then buy some new clothes, keep the 120 clothes in case your weight goes up." Anyway, I went to the GAP and Ann Taylor Loft, bought some reasonably priced stuff, and I feel SOOOOO good at 120... What a lift!!! Maybe, just buying yourself a few pretty things because you DO deserve it will actually boost your self esteem and force you to live in the now. Just a thought.....

drstaceyny said...

Dear AS--a very wise friend! That's actually right on track--you get some cute new clothes and don't have to feel that stifling, uncomfortable feeling of squeezing into those too small.

Thanks, J, for adding me to your list. Good luck with your program.

Liz said...

allisonsky -

I actually tried that finally after maintaining the same unwelcome weight for 4 months. I decided to get some nice clothes for a job interview at my favorite classy store, Ann Taylor loft. Unfortunately, their size 14 is more like a size 12 - and nothing fit me. I was in despair! Where do heavier women buy work clothes? I mean, if the average size is 10-14, then where is everyone else shopping? The only place I can find nice work clothes in a 14 short that fit me is Old Navy. I haven't gone shopping since, and I really do need more clothes that fit me and make me feel comfortable and pretty. But this experience threw me into relapse, and I ended up binging and purging again. I still don't quite know what to do about it.