There is a growing movement of empowerment and awareness when it comes to discussing the fragile topic of body image. Most often, the topic of body image includes the topic of body weight. Recovery from eating disorders, addictions and other mental health issues is often a journey for the body as well as the mind. There might be weight loss or weight gain, depending on what the individual body needs to go through. For example, though cocaine is a stimulant and often creates weight loss, long term cocaine addicts tend to put on a lot of weight called “cocaine bloat”. Each body is unique and different. Supporting the physical journey of recovery as the supporter of someone on that journey can be a challenge in knowing the right thing to say.
Body image and especially comments about body image are deeply impactful on mental health. Your loved one is working hard to create healthy and supportive narratives in their mind which frame their relationship with themselves in the most positive way possible. It takes time and effort to recreate and redefine an entire vocabulary about self, body, image, weight, appearance, and more. One writer at Refinery29 puts it the most simply: there is no right way to use the triggering terms about body image. The author explains that saying something about body changes now indicates there was something negative about body-state in the past, which continues to reinforce the narrative of good vs bad, right vs wrong, and beautiful vs not beautiful regarding body and self. Instead of addressing the details, the author suggests, address the feelings.
Feelings about body image typically land in one of two areas: positive or negative. Most everyone can identify at least a small amount with both. There are days when you feel “good” about yourself and days when you feel “not good” about yourself, as manifested through the physical body. Focus on the positivity or negativity and relate empathetically to that feeling experience instead of on the physical experience. On a good day when someone is expressing pride or excitement about their body, they might use terms about feeling beautiful, skinnier, thinner, confident, or others. Offer a word of support in feeling good about feeling good and how positive it can be to feel positive, without noting anything physical. On a less positive day when someone is expressing lament toward their physical body, offer empathy and compassion to the struggle of physical changes and feeling down, without noting anything physical. This is important for your loved one’s recovery as they learn the lessons affiliated with the philosophy that fat is not a feeling. The emotional state is not dictated by the physical state. By slyly avoiding commentary on the physical state you help direct your loved one back to the emotional.
If you or someone you love is feeling controlled by body image, eating disorder, and other mental health issues, we believe there is healing available to you. Enlightened Solutions offers a path to holistic healing that is available to everyone regardless of the details. Our programs harmoniously balance clinical, holistic, alternative, and 12 step treatment, offering men and women a transformational partial care experience.
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