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Colleen Perry

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Do You Hate Your Body?

Posted: 02/18/09 11:08 AM ET

Step #4 Look for Solutions...stop submitting, stop rebelling.

Do you hate your body? Do you try to diet thinking that if you just lost 10 pounds, your life would be miraculously improved? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired of your struggle with weight? Then practicing step #4 on a daily basis is your answer. Look for solutions...stop submitting, stop rebelling.

In my last blog about step #3, Look for answers...don't stop until you've found them, I invited you to ask yourself what needs of yours were being met by food, and I shared with you some of the places that I have looked to find my answers. Step #4 is similar in that looking for our answers sometimes leads us to our solutions in overcoming body dissatisfaction, body loathing, and the drive to thinness through dieting. But unless you are familiar with the concepts of compassionate communication, you must be wondering what the heck I mean by "stop submitting, stop rebelling." Simply put, whenever you submit (disregard, ignore, repress) your needs, you are doomed to rebel in some way. Rebellion takes on many forms. It may look like passive-aggressive comments or behavior, over eating or binging, under eating or restricting, over drinking, compulsive shopping or gambling, showing up chronically late, calling in sick to work, having an affair, the list goes on. Whenever you say "yes" and you really mean "no" you are submitting some need of yours.

Most diet programs focus on extinguishing the rebelling behavior, but that is totally backward. If you give yourself the time and energy to know what your needs are, and are then willing to ask for them to be met, you will no longer be in the submit/ rebel cycle. Since I gave you a clear example of the submit/ rebel cycle last blog by sharing Lisa's story, let me give you a couple of examples from my clients that have nothing to do with dieting. I have a client; we'll call her "Betty." She works as a nanny. She loves her job and the family she works for, but Betty also loves her Sunday's off. She looks forward to this one day a week where she has no commitments or responsibilities to anyone else. A few weeks ago her employer asked her to attend the birthday party of the little girl she nannies for, and guess what, it was on a Sunday. Betty, feeling that she "should" say yes, said "sure," and then came to her session with me that week and complained about it. First of all, whenever your self- talk includes a "should" or a "have to," you are probably submitting. Betty was submitting her needs for rest, choice, and peace and harmony. I gently tried to point out the set-up she created by saying "yes" when she meant "no." That was pretty much the end of it until today, the day after the party when Betty described feeling miserable and wanting very much to "call in sick" to work. This was her "rebellion." Again I pointed out her part in the submit/ rebel cycle.

Another client, let's call her "Veronica," clearly states that her partner does not meet her need for appreciation, acknowledgment, and emotional safety. And yet she wonders why sex has become so physically painful to her. (Now she avoids it). And then there's Carly. Carly is a client who is engaged to be married. As it often happens, family issues that aren't often discussed rear their ugly heads when it comes time to plan a wedding. Her fiancé's brother, in a jealous rage, threatened to kill him last year. Now, his family not only thinks he "should" be invited, but that he should be part of the wedding party. Carly and her fiancé do not agree with his family. I asked Carly what she thinks would happen if the brother where to come (submitting their needs). Without skipping a beat she admitted that her fiancé would most likely get drunk and that would ruin the night for both of them. I congratulated her on recognizing the rebellion (over-drinking) right away.

For the many of us that were raised to be kind, sensitive, compassionate, generous and people-pleasing, saying "no" means risking the discontent, anger, or judgment of others. Many of us learned to say "yes" to avoid the guilt or negative consequence of saying "no." Submitting our own needs was encouraged when our needs were at odds with our parents' needs. Alice Miller's The Drama of the Gifted Child explores this phenomenon using other terms, but makes the point that growing up in a family environment in which the child had no choice but to acquiesce to the emotional needs of the parents, results in the child ignoring his or her own needs, which results in the disappearance of the "real" self. The "false" self that emerges is interested foremost in pleasing others. This disconnect from the self is often what leads us to binge eating, chronic body dissatisfaction, and eating disorders.

"Okay, I get it now," you say, "but what do I do from here?" Knowing your needs is step #1. Looking at your resentments is another good step so that you can clear them out of your way. It's no accident that the fourth step in my recovery plan corresponds to the fourth step of most 12 step programs which is "Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." I don't recommend doing this part on your own. Find someone whom you can trust and ask for their support, preferably someone with 12 step experience. They are there to bear witness as you work through this step. They are not there to comment or to pass judgment. In order to clear away resentment I recommend making four columns.

1. I'm Resentful At
(people,institutions,principles)

2. The Cause
(why I'm angry)

3. What it affects
(self-esteem, pride,pocketbook, personal relations,sex)

4. My Part
(selfish, honest, self-seeking,frightened)

I like to replace "What it affects" with "What needs were not met". This reinforces your needs as being a part of the process. The 4th column, "My Part", is usually the most difficult as it asks you to take responsibility for the exact nature of your wrongs. For this reason, it's recommended that you do all the examples you can think of for column 1 before moving on to column 2, the cause. Complete that column before moving onto your unmet needs in column 3. When you have finished with your unmet needs (for each example you listed in column 2) then and only then are you ready to look at your part.

As I've said before, breaking free from chronic dieting, learning to love and accept yourself, isn't always easy. I make no promises that this step will be easy, but if you are willing to be honest with yourself and others, you will put an end to submitting your needs, there will be no reason for you to rebel, and the result is lasting self-acceptance and self-worth. For more information on step #4 or step #1, #2, or #3, please visit my website www.colleenperry.com. You are not alone!

1. Admit you have needs that haven't been met.
2. Seek help and support.
3. Look for answers...don't stop until you've found them.
4. Look for solutions...stop submitting, stop rebelling.
5. Practice gratitude daily.
6. Develop a balanced point of view.
7. Share your stories with others...you are not alone.
8. Clear away the wreckage of your past...mourn the lost opportunities.
9. Continuously revise your life story.
10. Practice honesty and compassion for self and others.
11. Meet your needs..communicate honestly and directly.
12. Knowing that you are not powerless, food will fall into its healthful place.