I recently gave a challenge to one of my clients to try for one week to leave a little bit of food on her plate at each meal. It didn’t have to be a lot of food, she didn’t have to leave over half her meal, just a bit of food, like one last forkfull, just symbolically to not clean her plate. When I gave her the assignment, she said that she was extremely nervous and anxious even thinking about it. However, when I checked in with her after a week she said, “It’s going really well, it helps me not to be obsessive about whats on my plate & in also to stop eating past my full point…” so I’d say it was a successful exercise for her in dealing with her compulsive eating issues. Is there anyone who would like to try this challenge for a week? Leave over a bit of food on your plate for each meal. Then you can come on here or onto the facebook forum and say what it’s been like for you. Did it make you anxious? Upset? Empowered? If you are interested in joining in, please do! This is an exercise in mindfulness, because most of us mindlessly clean our plates. They have lots of feelings about not, they don’t want to be wasteful, or their compulsive eating habits take over. What if you had to be mindful at every meal to leave some over? It might really start to change the compulsion around your behaviors.
I read this article on NPR.org the other day that discusses how we change behaviors. The author of the article, Tania Lombrozo, a cognitive researcher at UC Berkeley poses the question, “Why don’t we do what we know we should be doing?” She discusses in terms of parenting why it is so difficult to integrate knowledge. But I was thinking of it in terms of recovery from binge eating, for instance many people ask the question “I know that I have certain tools that I can use when I’m about to binge, but why can’t I use them? I just go ahead and binge and then I get angry at myself…”
She writes, “…Kazdin and Rotella advocate what they call “reinforced practice” and “positive opposites.” In brief, you can encourage desired behaviors by repeatedly eliciting them (or their successive approximations) and reinforcing them as soon as they happen, and you can eliminate undesirable behaviors by reinforcing the positive behaviors you want to replace them with. (See, I wasn’t kidding about rats and levers.) Punishment in some forms has its time and its place, but it’s rarely effective, and it’s rarely the best choice…”
So what does that mean when we talk about how to stop binge eating?
I’ve heard many people say things like, “I feel like I’ve got it down and I’m doing well for a bit, then I lose it all and I’m right back where I started from.”
But you’re not. You are not right back where you started from. Celebrate your recovery, even moments of it. And don’t give the backslides much attention. Give yourself accolades and love and support. Honestly you will be happier and you will find recovery more exciting and fun.
Think of it like this, you are potty training your toddler. Every time she uses the potty, you jump up and down and hug her and kiss her and tell her that she is awesome. When she has an accident, you hug her and kiss her and tell her it’s okay and that she’ll just try again, you know she can do it, it just takes some practice.
You are potty training your toddler and she goes on the potty. You say “good, that’s what you should be doing.” No accolades, no celebration, nothing. Then she has an accident and you tell her she’s a loser and now the fact that she made on the potty yesterday means nothing. She’s back to square one. No potty for her, diapers forever.
We don’t do scenario number two obviously, we support our children and help them to succeed. You were once that little toddler and you still have parts of you inside that feel 2 years old and need love, support, and encouragement.
So be kind to yourself when you backslide and celebrate yourself when you have one good day or one good meal or one good hour. Don’t think about forever, just consider the moment.
Instead of: “I have to do this every day for the rest of my life,”
Try: “today was a great day, I am great.”
Instead of: “I fucked up today, I’m nothing but a fuck up…”
Try: “I love myself and I had a hard day, tomorrow will be better. Tonight I need a little compassion, maybe curling up in a hot tub with a juicy novel, calm myself down a bit.”
Okay, I’m really sick of hearing people talk about how if so and so knew what she was doing to her health, she would just stop eating and start exercising, or why can’t so and so stop eating, or so and so is setting such a bad example for her children. Let’s set the record straight. Here are the top ten stupid-ass things that I’ve heard people say (otherwise known as myths).
MYTH #1. Obese women should be educated on how to eat right.
Not true, In fact, because popular society is constantly reinforcing that being a women of size is undesirable, many women of size have a Phd knowledge of food, calories and exercise. When you are an obese woman, you are reminded of it constantly. Your doctors tell you that any ailment will be solved with exercise and proper diet, sometimes people yell shitty things at you in the street, friends try to be “helpful” by giving you pointers. Trust me, a woman who has been dealing with obesity knows more than her doctor does about nutrition so having information and knowledge about calories, carbs, fat, etc. isn’t what she needs more of.
MYTH #2. Obese women should just get to the gym and exercise.
Totally lame. First off, there is such a thing as being fit and fat. In fact the Health at Every Size movement tells us that it’s okay to stop focusing on weight loss and let yourself be healthy first and foremost. Many women of size are fit and do exercise often. Why don’t you see many fat people at the gym or out jogging? Gee I don’t know, maybe some people don’t like being stared at, or condescended to, “hey buddy good job, you’re doing great… you go girl…” Not helpful.
MYTH #3. Obese women are “easy”
This is disgusting. I take a lot of issue with any woman no matter what her size being called easy or slutty or anything like that. I can’t even go into why this misperception makes me so angry. A women of size won’t just take any scraps she can get just because of her size. Why does that stupid idea persist? I don’t know, but I want to go on record saying that a woman of size has as much discretion and intelligence as a skinny woman. Most women want to find a kind, loving partner to be with. And if a woman happens to have a one night stand with a d-bag (who hasn’t?) the woman of size happens to stand out more. There are no statistics available that obese women have more promiscuous sex than smaller women.
MYTH #4. Obese women are setting terrible examples for their children
Being self-hating, self-berating, and self-critical is setting a poor example for their children. She doesn’t have to be obese to do that. Making an effort to love yourself and love your children and let your children see you love yourself is a great example. When you love yourself you will take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean being skinny, it means eating lots of healthy food often and less healthy food in moderation and getting out into the fresh air and being kind to yourself both physically and psychologically.
MYTH #5. Obese women are very unhealthy
Not true, in fact women who are considered overweight (according to the BMI) with a BMI between 25-30 have the same relative risk of death as women who are in what’s considered a “normal” BMI. You can’t judge how healthy someone is by looking at them or weighing them. Blood tests, energy levels and quality of life is a better indicator or health.
MYTH #6. Obese women all binge eat
Not true. The research says that 20% of obese folks suffer with Binge eating disorder, which means 80% of obese folks are not binge eating.
MYTH #7. Obese women have no willpower
I’d venture to say that the opposite it true. As I said in myth #1, many women of size have been on multiple diets and willed themselves down over and over and over again. But as we know, restrictive diets don’t work in the long term.
MYTH #8. Obese women have a low self esteem
Lots of women have low self esteems, not because they are fat, but because we are constantly bombarded by a media that tells us we are not good enough. Being thin doesn’t make a woman immune to low self-esteem and being larger doesn’t make a woman more likely to have it. Self-esteem is an inside job. It’s a practice of letting go of beliefs about yourself that the outside world has given you that tells you it’s not okay to be you. You don’t need to let go of weight to let go of beliefs.
MYTH #9. No one will marry an obese woman
That’s just fucking stupid.
MYTH #10. Obese women should go on diets
No one should go on a diet ever. 95% of people who go on diets will gain the weight back. In fact, many people who start out at a lower weight go on diets which then creates eating disorders and weight gain.
PHOTO IMAGE CREDIT TO: I NEED FAT ACCEPTANCE
I received an email from a woman who is currently reading my book and she asked me the question, “do you think it’s possible to reach recovery on my own?”
It’s a really good question and one that I thought should be discussed in more depth on the blog. I know what the reader means by that, she means is it possible to stop binge eating without dealing with a therapist or a twelve step group, can I just read a book and recover. The simple answer is yes of course. In fact, when you read the rational recovery material, they discuss how every day, active alcoholics put down their drinks and make a choice never to drink again and they don’t. Many people who smoke cigarettes quit cold turkey and never pick up the habit again. So yes, it’s certainly possible. In fact, one would argue that everyone recovers on their own- by their own will and with their own strength.
But you don’t have to. And that’s what you should know. Just because you can recover alone, doesn’t mean that you have to recover alone. Eating disorders thrive in isolation. You do your eating disorder all alone, so when you recover, it’s nice to get out of the shadows of the disorder and have someone their to hold your hand, support you and be there if you need extra support. My friend and colleague Nicole Laby (producer of Erasing Ed, which you should totally see if you can) always says, “eating disorders don’t form in a vacuum and so you shouldn’t have to recover in a vacuum.” What she means by that is that there are a million varying factors that come together to make an eating disorder. There is family, there is society, there are your friends at school, there are traumatic events, there are food manufacturers creating and marketing unhealthy substances that we seem to feel addicted to and use like drugs, all these things come together as a perfect little recipe for a dysfunctional relationship with food. Awesome. So because of this, it is often very comforting to have people around you who are on your side instead of on the eating disorder’s side. These are folks who understand what you are going through and who have been there themselves and want to help you and need support too.
I wrote Reclaiming Yourself to be like a pocket therapist for people who didn’t have the means for psychotherapy. However, in the book, I do suggest finding your own support network, be it a best friend or an online network, or a group. It doesn’t need to be a 12 step group, it can be a group of people you form yourself to just give each other love and support around not bingeing. When you recover all by yourself, you miss out on the accolades and the love that you get from other people who are supporting you. When you recover with support, if you should fall down, you always have someone there with an outreached arm to hold your hand and perhaps pull you up rather than you being left to climb up and out on your own. That being said, there is more than one way to recover. You have to find your recovery style and choose what works for you. I recommend trying several different things, 12 step groups, rational recovery groups (SMART recovery), online support groups, blogs, tumblrs, meditation and mindfulness groups, whatever. There are a billion ways to find help. Or try it alone and see how it goes. You don’t have to make a decision and then stick to it, experiment and figure out what works for you.
What worked best in your recovery?
When you order either the kindle of paperback version of Reclaiming Yourself From Binge Eating and email your receipt to binge eating therapy at g mail dot com– I will send you over a free “Stop Binge Eating” hypnosis download.
(Or any other hypnosis download of your choice)
Can we make a pact? I just did something that made me so mad, and I don’t want to do it again, so I wonder, will you make a pact with me not to support a media that exploits other human beings as a means to achieve their own ends?
This is what I did. I clicked on a link that said something like “14 Famous Celebs with Terrible Teeth.” I’m not going to link to it. And for some reason I started clicking through it and it made me angrier and angrier and angrier. Why? Why would someone just make fun of someone else (someone more famous and more accomplished than they are) just to get clicks and to get traffic? Why? I guess because people click on those kinds of things.
But can we stop?
Because I’m sick of people making money by making fun of other people. And I’m sick of people (celebs and non celebs alike) feeling insecure and ugly and not good enough because it’s somehow socially acceptable and even encouraged to trash on people’s appearances.
So can you join me and vow not to click on links that are purposely defaming people based on what they are wearing, how fat (or skinny) they’ve become, how much they’ve aged, what kind of bad plastic surgery they’ve gotten or whatever else they are gossiping about?
It’s up to us to change the way we are valued by choosing carefully what we pay attention to. And clicking on something is powerful. Choosing not to is more powerful. When we choose not to click, we keep ourselves safe by not engaging in toxic looksist gossip. We might not be able to put an end to this type of cyber bullying but we may be able to feel better by not engaging in it. We disengage from a paradigm that is critical of ourself and of others.
If we want to really support our own positive body image, we have to stop supporting a media that devalues people based on their outward appearance. So can we make a pact? Can you “sign” this by putting a note in the comments vowing not to support a media that devalues women and men based on their appearances, and pass this along encouraging others to vow to not click on those mean links.
Photo Credit to endlessorigami.com
Originally Published at Yourtango
I have been noticing a lot recently that many of my readers (my teenage girl readers) have been linking some of my posts to their tumblrs. If you’ve linked to me, I’ve probably read your tumblr. And every time I go through another tumblr of someone dealing with depression, an eating disorder or self-harming behaviors, my heart breaks. Not because I feel pity for you, but because I’m having an empathy attack. Like you, I was once a teenage girl. And it sort of sucked. And a lot of the time, it super sucked. Being a teenage girl is its own kind of hell. Teenage depression is so… lonely.
It’s been close to twenty years since I was a teenage girl and I understand that it was a relatively brief time in my life. But sometimes I find myself fantasizing about finding a time machine and going back to my teenage girl self to give her some advice.
If I could, here’s what I’d say:
You are fourteen years old right now and you’re in love. You are so in love that you ache all over. Your stomach is so tight that you can’t eat, you can’t sleep, and all you want to do is cry. You love him so much you want to vomit. You love him so much that you can’t think of anything else. You love him so much that the only thing that matters in the world is being with him, moving to Manchester and listening to the Smiths and drinking Earl Grey tea for the rest of your life. You love him so much that you want to slit your wrists in anguish. But he’s not worth it. In fact, if you want to know the truth, he kind of grows up to be a loser. Listen to me, you know what you should really be thinking about right now? Biology. And I’m talking about 7th period biology. You’ve really been blowing it off. Do you know that you only have one regret as an adult and it’s that you didn’t go to medical school? Okay, so pay attention and think about mitochondria instead of Adam. Side note, you totally get over him and you find someone awesome to marry when you become an adult, so all this worrying and crying is fruitless, be done with it and stop spending all this time and mind energy thinking about a boy. You are smarter and better than that.
You are fifteen years old right now and you hate your mother. She won’t let you do anything. All the other kids get to ride on the subway and go to parties at night and do all sorts of things that you can’t. You are pissed. But just let it go. It’s not worth the arguing and the angst. Your Mom is far from perfect but she loves you more than anyone else in the world does. And she’s not going to be around forever. In fact, I’m sorry to break the news to you, but you’re going to lose her sooner than you think. So be nice to her. She’s a single mom, and she’s stressed out and she’s tired and she’s just trying to keep her head above water and make sure that you are safe and well cared for. I know that she doesn’t let you do the things you want to do, believe it or not it’s because she loves you so much, too much some might say, and she wants to keep you safe. She might be going about it the wrong way but she loves you more than the people you want to hang out with. Be kind to her, this time with her is short and precious. She needs your love and she needs your support. I’d give anything to cuddle in bed with her on a Friday night and eat pizza. You should do that while you have her. And by the way- stop smoking. No, seriously, stop smoking- do you know how much money you spend on cigarettes? I’ve figured it out, between 1989 and 2004 you spent $17,804. Know how much you’d have right if you’d invested that? Lots. You’d have lots.
You are sixteen years old. And you’ve caught that love bug again. I don’t even remember this one’s name or who it was, but seriously, stop thinking about boys and focus on school or sports or some kind of hobby like jewelry making instead. Really. You can’t expect someone else to make your life better or to make you happy- especially not a boy. You have to learn to do this for yourself. Find something you love doing and do it often.. It will make you feel so good about yourself. Try lots of different things! Take saxophone lessons, join a band, start building furniture, start running track, play volleyball, take gymnastics, weave on a loom… who cares, just learn many different things and have lots of fun hobbies and do things that you are about you. It’s not that love or being in love is bad- in fact it’s the most amazing thing ever. But don’t wait around for someone who doesn’t seem to feel the same way about you as you feel for him. It’s just going to make you feel worse. And the waiting, the wishing, the hoping the pining after someone… it’s so much wasted time. Once you learn to make yourself happy and to love yourself, you will stop looking outside yourself for someone else to complete you.
You are seventeen years old. You think you’re fat. You start a diet pretty much everyday. You eat nothing but black coffee for breakfast and sprouts and popcorn for lunch but you’re starving by the time you get home and you binge on chips and ice cream. Then you hate yourself. You think that if you could just be skinny that your life would be better. You live on processed foods and Diet Coke. Stop dieting now and never, ever go on another diet again. You are fine and you always were. You are perfect, whole and complete just the way you are. You don’t need to change the way you look on the outside to make someone love you. Just be kind to yourself both emotionally and physically. Eat real foods, eat whole foods, eat nurturing, healthy, life sustaining, excellent fresh foods. And eats cookies sometimes too! And don’t feel guilty about it. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied and you’ll always be okay.
Don’t worry about what other people think about you. In fact, the truth is, most people are not thinking about you at all. They are too busy worrying about what other people are thinking about them. The only person whose thoughts you really know for sure are your own, and those are the thoughts that affect you the most, so you might as well make them good thoughts.
Don’t try too hard to impress anyone or many anyone else proud of you, not your teachers, not your parents, not your friends. Figure out what your values are and make yourself proud.
Don’t gossip about your friends. In fact, don’t gossip about anyone at all. Everyone has it rough in this life. Seriously, life is hard for everyone, so give people around you a little break. If you have something mean to say about your friends, then you probably shouldn’t be friends with them. It’s totally okay to let go of people in your world who are toxic. In fact, it’s imperative. There’s no reason to spend time with mean people. Friends who talk about you and who make you sad and who hurt your feelings are not friends. Being around them is poorly spent time. There are plenty of nice people you can spend your time with. In fact, most people are nice, but in high school, people wear invisible coats of armor to protect themselves because everyone is so vulnerable at that age, so be nice to everyone.
Life is short and kindness is a path to happiness. Be as kind as possibly can to everyone you meet. Everyone including teachers, doctors, parents, friends’ parents, siblings… everyone! If you go out of your way to be kind to people, people will be kind back to you. Kindness returns to you a million-fold.
I wish I’d been able to go back to my teenage self and tell that girl these things. But- she probably wouldn’t have listened.
It’s not super easy to recognize when you are eating compulsively. Sometimes we get so entrenched in our habits and our lives that we just forget about taking time to really nurture ourselves. Food and eating becomes habitual, mindless, and unhealthy. Of course it’s normal that you are not going to be eating mindfully all the time, sometimes life dictates that we have to eat in the car, or we have to get takeout or use the microwave. However, if you find that in your life you are mostly doing compulsive or mindless eating, it might be time to look closer at that and try to make a change toward mindful eating.
1. When you are eating compulsively you: Scarf your food down quickly and without thought and without noticing what you just ate.
When you are practicing mindful eating you: Eat slowly noticing the tastes and textures of your food and take note of the way it feels in your body. You also notice what your body feels like and how much you actually need.
2. When you are eating compulsively you: Eat while you are driving.
When you are practicing mindful eating you: Do your best to create time and a break for yourself to sit and eat your food.
3. When you are eating compulsively you: Eat in front of the TV, eat in front of your open laptop, or eat while staring and thumbing through your iPhone.
When you are practicing mindful eating you: Are paying attention to your food, your thoughts, your feelings, and taking time to savor the moments of peacefulness and quietude that you have to yourself or on pleasant conversation with another human being.
4.When you are eating compulsively you: Heat up your food in the microwave.
When you are practicing mindful eating you: Take time to cook or heat up your food in the oven or on the stove.
5. When you are eating compulsively you: Grab take-out or fast food most of the time
When you are practicing mindful eating you: Take time to shop for and cook with fresh or seasonal ingredients.
6. When you are eating compulsively you: Automatically get food whether you actually want it or not out of habit
When you are practicing mindful eating you: Assess whether or not you are hungry and whether you actually want the food that you are going for rather than eating it out of habit (like grabbing popcorn at the movies).
7. When you are eating compulsively you: Eat until you are uncomfortably full
When you are practicing mindful eating you: Pay attention to your body and stop eating when you are comfortable, satisfied, and before you are full.
8. When you are eating compulsively you: Often eat food that is devoid of nutrition
When you are practicing mindful eating you: Eat food that is nurturing to your body and contributing to your overall health
9. When you are eating compulsively you: Often didn’t even notice that you ate something and then find that you’ve devoured the whole thing and you’re sitting with an empty plate, you wonder, “did I just eat that? I barely noticed.”
When you are practicing mindful eating you: Focus on the intention of eating and notice how much you are eating, how quickly you are eating and figure out if you’d like to slow down or not, you think about whether or not you are enjoying the meal.
10. When you are eating compulsively you: Munch on snacks that are set out in bowls in front of you just because they are in front of you, such as pretzels, M&Ms, peanuts, hard candies, whatever…
When you are practicing mindful eating you: Think about whether or not you’d like to be eating what’s in those bowls, whether or not you are hungry for these things or if you want to eat these things or not. If you don’t want to eat those foods and you are finding that you are feeling too impulsive when they are in front of you, you either move to bowl or move away from the bowl.
To start out with a mindful eating practice, just set one intention before a meal. That intention can be anything, such as “I’m going to let myself taste my food and experience it more fully,” or “I’m going to eat slowly,” or “I’m going to notice my hunger and satiety in this meal.” Maybe at your next meal you will set a different intention. Just try it once and see how it goes for you. Once you become mindful and conscious of your eating, things totally change. Food no longer has a hold over you because you have brought consciousness to what was once a compulsive or unconscious behavior.
You might additionally check out:
Dr. Susan Albers Blog (Psychologist specializing in treating eating disorders using mindfulness)
Completely untrue. In fact most of the people I see in my practice are considered a “normal weight.” Food is their drug and bingeing is something they do in private and something people will go at lengths to hide, including maintaining a normal weight. In fact, I’ve had clients who were downright skinny but who binged on food often and felt completely out of control with it.
2. All obese people are binge eaters
Actually, binge eating affects 8% of the obese population. Which means that 92% of obese people are NOT affected by binge eating. In fact, despite the media’s belief that all fat people are unhealthy, there are many, many people who are both fat and fit.
3. People who binge eat need more will power and self-control
People who binge eat usually have incredibly amounts of will power and self control. And though this is not true for every binge eater, for the most part, people who binge eat tend to be extremely high achieving and controlled in many aspects of their lives, including controlling their food. It’s this control that tends to sometimes backfire causing an all out rebellion against the person’s inner critic. What a person who binge eats actually needs is more self compassion and support, not more rules and self control. Learning to support oneself in a positive way, not in a pejorative way will empower the binge eater feel more comfortable around food and less likely to be overpowered by an all out binge.
4. People who binge eat purge by vomiting
Not everyone who binge eats purges by vomiting. Some people compensate by over exercising, some compensate by fasting, some compensate by dieting, some compensate by taking laxatives, and some don’t compensate at all.
5. Binge eating is a bad habit and not a true disorder
Binge eating is more complex than simply a bad habit, it’s actually an impulse control issue, although it is not technically classified as and impulse control disorder. However, using similar techniques as are used in certain other ICDs (like compulsive shopping) binge eating can be healed. I’ve seen wonders done with DBT and mindfulness training.
6. Men don’t binge eat
Actually, Binge Eating Disorder affects 2% of men. However, men don’t tend to get help as often as women. In fact, it’s stigmatized as a woman’s issues, so men tend to shy away from support and feel that they have to just stop or do it alone. In his blog about healing from binge eating, Alan Standish says, “Guys, Binge Eating Disorder affects us just as much as it does women. Don’t be embarrassed.”
7. Binge eating is incurable
It’s really not as grim as it’s made out to be. In healing from binge eating, you really heal your life in so many different ways. You become more organized in your thinking and more thoughtful and mindful. You can come to a place where you are able to let go of your feelings and fears about food. Food becomes nurturing instead of the enemy. I’ve seen it happen over and over again with my clients and that has certainly been my own experience.
8.Binge eating is caused by chronic emptiness
Just because you are binge eater, it doesn’t mean that you are broken. It doesn’t mean that you have a bottomless pit that you will never fill. However, having binge eating disorder can feel hopeless and you might feel as though you are totally out of control and a total mess. But you’re not. You need support, you need compassion and you need some help to get you passed it.
9. Drinking a glass of wine can help curb binge eating
Sometimes people will have a drink in order to calm down the urge to binge eat. But it often backfires. This is what I call “the solution becoming the problem.” If you drink to feel more in control, your problem might then become the drink. And more often than not, people wind up bingeing if they have drank too much- if not that night, then certainly the next morning to deal with a hangover and the shame that often accompanies it.
10. Quitting carbohydrates can help stop binge eating
No. It doesn’t. It really doesn’t. I’m very much a proponent of eating whole foods as much as possible and eschewing processed foods for the most part. So, eating lots of foods out of a box, probably not the best idea for overall health, however, unless you have sugar issues (as in hypoglycemia or diabetes)- it is not advisable to give up fruits and vegetables- even yams and potatoes. Your body runs more efficiently when you are eating a variety of whole foods. If you wind up on a very low carb diet, it’s likely that you might find yourself bingeing on carbs. It’s not because you have no lack of control, it’s because your cells are screaming for glucose and your body will push you into getting what it needs for survival!
I always explain to my clients that raising or gaining your self esteem isn’t about harnessing some unknown force or creating something that doesn’t exist or gaining something new– rather than gaining something new, it’s about letting go of something old– old messages that tell you that you’re not okay, that you have to be better than you are, that there is something wrong with you. Self esteem is about being kind to yourself, accepting and loving yourself even if you’re not perfect. It’s about going toward greatness and allowing yourself to evolve, but loving yourself in that process. It’s about holding yourself with integrity to the best of your ability, always being kind, thoughtful, compassionate and loving to the people around you and to yourself. So, when you hear the voices telling you that you’re not okay, telling those voices that there is no room for them or that you don’t have to engage with those thoughts as you strengthen those that serve you.
In 1994, Nathanial Branden wrote The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem which is considered the definitive work on Self-Esteem. Branden believes that to have self esteem, you need both self-efficacy and self- respect. Having self-efficacy is the knowledge that you have everything inside of you that you need to survive no matter what. Self-respect is being aligned with your values and knowing that because you are, you deserve to be loved, respected and cared for and to be happy no matter what.
When you have self-efficacy, you’re not afraid of being alone, you’re not afraid of being left because you know that you have everything that you need inside of you to survive. You have confidence in your own abilities to navigate life rather than fear of being in the world. When you have self respect, you know what your values are (for me they are always being kind and treating everyone around me with respect and compassion and consideration, not gossiping or spreading rumors, not judging or criticizing and living with integrity) and you do your best to live in alignment with those values. When you live a life aligned with your values, you feel better about yourself and being in the world.
Branden identifies six philosophies that he believes are integral to living with self esteem. They are: living consciously, being self accepting, taking responsibility for oneself, being assertive, living with purpose and holding strong personal integrity
Living Consciously is about being aware of your body, being aware of your choices, your environment, being mindful or your choices, your enviornment, your bodily sensations, your thoughts, your actions and your fears.
Those who have eating disorders don’t live consciously. They either binge or starve themselves, they don’t honor their appetites, they hate their bodies because they believe that there is something wrong with them. They completely reject themselves.
Check out guided visualizations on eating mindfully and loving your body and letting go of negative body image.
Being Self Accepting: When you accept yourself, you stop trying to be someone else, you embrace your strengths. Rather than comparing what you don’t have to what other people do have, you celebrate and strengthen what you do have. Check out these great tips on being self accepting.
Taking Responsibility for Yourself: This is about not blaming other people for choices you made. Understanding that you have power and that you are not stuck and that just because you made a bad choice, you are not stuck in it because you have the power to constantly be rethinking and recreating your life.
Being Self Assertive: When you are self assertive, you stand up for yourself. You always treat other people with respect and you do not allow other people to talk down to you or to treat you poorly. If you have a boss, for instance who is verbally abusing you or yelling at you, it’s okay to look at them and say, “it’s not okay to talk to me that way.” It’s about standing up for others who might not have the ability to voice their own needs.
Living with Purpose:
When you live with purpose, you take care of yourself, but your main purpose in life isn’t about getting thin or getting pretty or making money or trying to impress or look good to other people. It’s about having goals that feel purposeful, meaningful to you.
Having Strong Personal Integrity:
What is it to live with integrity? In my opinion, it’s to be as honest as you can without being hurtful. Being honest doesn’t mean telling someone that they look fat in their new dress or that they’re acting like a jerk. That’s not honest, that’s your subjective opinion. Being honest is more like telling someone that your feelings were hurt when they didn’t answer your phone calls or respond to your messages. Being honest is not stealing, not lying, not purposely saying things to hurt people, not spreading hurtful rumors, and not using other people to achieve your own means. It’s about being kind, being helpful, but also not sacrificing yourself or your own needs for the sake of others. Personal integrity is about knowing what your values are trying to live up to them. What are your values? When you identify your values and do your best to live up to them, you will always know that you are okay and you won’t have to worry about what other people think about you.
For more help on improving self esteem, check out some of Nathaniel Branden’s sentence completion exercises.
Try this guided meditation download to help you to let go of those old non-serving thoughts and bring in higher more function feelings about yourself.