Transforming Beliefs about Weight, Body Image and your Relationship with Food

diet & exercise on being vegan podcast Apr 21, 2021

▶ Podcast Episode 186: Transforming Beliefs about Weight, Body Image and your Relationship with Food


Show notes:

Episode 164 and Episode 165 on the failsafe road, and finding your triggers.

Byron Katie’s The Work

Dr. Kristin Neff and Dr. Cristopher Germer (Mindful Self-Compassion) and some self-compassion exercises

The meditation app Insight Timer (where you can find lots of meditations using EFT or tapping)

The Completion Process book and technique by Teal Swan

Books on EMDR Emotional Healing at Warp Speed: The Power of EMDR by Dr. David Grand and The Instinct to Heal by Dr. David Servan Schreiber as well as emdr.com

Internal Family Systems Therapy including parts work and inner child work

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

 

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“I’ll be happy when I reach x amount of pounds”.

“I’m too lazy to incorporate exercise into my life”.

“Everything will be alright when my body looks like x”.

“My family will never accept or respect that I am vegan”.

“I will never find love at this weight or at my age”.

“If I stop restricting food and having so many food rules I will never stop eating and I will lose all control.”

“If I let myself have sweets I will never stop eating”.

“I’m terrible at practicing mindful eating”.

“If I don’t run for x amount of miles every day I have failed my body”.

“If my body changes through time I have failed myself”.

“Until my body changes and I lose weight I will never improve my issues with body image”.

“Until I accomplish -x amount of money, customers, followers, grades, x position in my company- I can’t rest or take time off.”

“Everyone around me is doing better than I am”.

“I will never find peace when it comes to my anxiety or mental health”.

“Unless I eat perfectly every day I won’t be healthy”.

“Unless I look like x I will never find a peaceful place with food and my body”.

In today’s post and episode we’ll be talking about internalized beliefs, those tricky, one sentence, deeply rooted messages we feel are law, and even when trying to consciously do better, can still be running the show behind the scenes, causing emotional discomfort, self imposed pressure and sometimes harm.

We’re closing off this season of the podcast with a journaling process we opened towards the beginning of this season when we discussed body image struggles and triggers in episodes 164 add 165 of The Brownble Podcast. In today’s episode we’re going to find the beliefs deeply hidden and rooted, that don’t benefit us any longer and cause any sort of emotional distress or interfere with having a peaceful relationship with food and our body. I’ll be sharing some of the best tools and resources I’ve found that can help us in this process. 

How to Transform Beliefs about Weight, Body Image;your Relationship with Food, Exercise and More | Brownble 

In my own journey with food, with going vegan, with finding peace in my relationship with food and leaving dieting and restriction behind, in finding a peaceful relationship to exercise, and more self compassion in all of these aspects, so much of the work happened with the little nuts and bolts. For me, the work had to happen with the individual weeds we discussed in those two episodes, going to the origins of things, and changing the belief systems that work on autopilot, as a kind of infinite subconscious tape that is always playing, even when we consciously try to make changes in our day to day lives.

As always, any information I share today is for information and educational purposes only. I’m not here to give you personalized medical or mental health advice, but simply to guide you to the resources, books, websites and therapists that can help guide the way. You can take what you learn from my personal experience and journey, and use some of my recommended resources to help you find the support you need.

Although we started this topic by talking about body image, the same process can be applied whether working on that, or your relationship with food, or when trying to incorporate more mindful practices like mindful eating or mindful exercise, when taking more steps in the vegan direction, when starting to practice intuitive eating, or when making any changes, in which the habitual tape has been that of self punishment or anguish, and you want to change this and infuse a lot more self compassion into the mix. In my experience it is often when these core beliefs haven’t been worked on, that we end up going back to the old ways of doing things, and especially staying stuck in a negative spiral when it comes to body image. .

If it’s been a while or you’re new, I recommend starting with those two episodes or posts in which we began this process, mostly done through journaling.

In episode 164 we identified our failsafe road, the place we usually go to, to avoid the deeper feelings or needs that aren’t being met, and the importance of stopping a difficult moment in its tracks by asking yourself if you might just be in your failsafe road and there’s something else that needs your attention. In part 2, episode 165, we talked about finding your triggers. Those usual moments when things get tougher and you tend to go down your failsafe road.

In those posts and episodes I asked you to make a list of your common triggers and gave you many examples when it came to body image. As a quick example these can be the arrival of summer, special days in the calendar like your birthday or an anniversary, visiting family, a difficult evaluation season at work, etc. (many more examples are in that post). Once you identified some of your common triggers I asked you to ask the question “When was the first time I felt this way?” and to write longhand about the experience (please note that for dealing with beliefs in particularly trauma-ridden circumstances it is best to do this with your therapist). As we write about some of these events, maybe a comment someone made one summer, feelings of inadequacy during our school years, comments our family made about our weight or how much we ate, or the comments they made to others and conclusions we drew from them, many beliefs will start appearing on the page.


An example:

Let’s say that on a particular day, you are having a struggle when it comes to your body image, you feel anxious or like your mind quickly goes and stays there, causing discomfort. It can be a huge relief to remind ourselves that body image is our failsafe road (if we have determined that it is for us). That even though we feel this powerful thought now, it might just be our failsafe road talking, and it is just a thought, not necessarily fact or the full picture.

We ask ourselves, what triggered this painful moment? Was it getting dressed in the morning? A comment someone made at work? What was the initial situation today that spiked this thought that is now causing us pain?

We then ask ourselves, when was the first time I felt like this or was in a similar situation? Or, as an alternative, when was the most difficult or challenging time I felt this way or was in a similar situation. We write it out longhand in a journal or piece of paper.

Out of this piece of writing we’ll be accomplishing two amazing things. One, we’ll be creating distance (similar to what we do in mindfulness) between our current reality and our thoughts, realizing that so often they are echoes of something long past, and that we can work through them instead of automatically accepting negative thoughts as a painful truth or fact. Two, we’ll be writing about a situation, and slowly see our most inner belief systems rise to the surface. We then underline any beliefs we see.

Our failsafe road might be body image struggles. Our trigger might be a comment someone made at work about our body. A belief that might come up, could be something like “everyone is watching and making judgements about how I look”, or, “if I can’t look like x (insert any expectation we’ve put on ourselves, usually unattainable by most) I will never have my parents love or approval”.

After doing this process many times, I can still, whenever I write longhand in my journal, find beliefs about all sorts of things. Just by being aware of them there is relief and separation from them, but there can be even more, there can be actual healing and resolution for us with some of the many tools out there. The idea is that we begin to challenge these beliefs that no longer serve us.

The belief that if you give kindness you usually get kindness back is a great belief. The belief that unless you have a specific body type you won’t find acceptance or love, isn’t helpful, nor does it motivate, nor does it serve us. After years of dieting and a very disordered place with food and exercise I can tell you that self criticism and self-imposed shame is bad fuel, it can let you push for a couple of blocks but then the engine shuts down and leaves you worse off than when you started. Self-compassion and healing though, that can be lifelong fuel, you can give it to yourself, at any time, any day, without any cost attached.


What to do with our list of underlined beliefs?


Wonderful frameworks, books, and practices

How to Transform Beliefs about Weight, Body Image;your Relationship with Food, Exercise and More | Brownble

Byron Katie’s “The Work”

You’ll find countless resources in her website, along with her books and other resources. In her process, you’ll be challenging all those beliefs by asking a set of four questions, mainly:

Is it true?

Can you absolutely know that it is true?

How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought?

Who would you be without that thought?

After you have the answers to these questions, you do what she calls the turnaround, in which you find the opposite of the initial belief. You can find great examples for the questions and turnarounds as well as worksheets here.

Her audiobooks are especially helpful, as in many you’ll hear her going through the process with a workshop participant and see the process in action. Search for Byron Katie on YouTube, get her books (there are so many on different aspects of life, relationships, grief, work, etc.), or browse her website for countless free resources.

 

Mindful Self Compassion

Reading a book on self compassion can be hugely helpful in this process, especially from one of the top two experts in the field Dr. Kristin Neff and Dr. Cristopher Germer both have written fantastic books on their own as well as a workbook together. You’ll also find a list of practices and exercises here. These can be especially helpful after journaling or encountering some of those triggers or deep rooted beliefs.

 

EFT: Emotional Freedom Technique

This is a therapeutic method also known as tapping, which I did on occasion with my therapist back in the day. It is fantastic when going through a particularly anxious moment, when you want to deactivate old beliefs or work through current thoughts that might be causing pain. You can have someone do it and guide you through it, or do it with the help of a video and then on your own once you get the hang of it. Think of them as meditations, but where you’ll be doing little taps on specific parts of your body with your fingers as you repeat certain phrases related to your belief, transforming into more self-compassionate ones. It feels very strange at first but so many reputable psychologists and therapists use it, especially those that work with early trauma.

Find examples of it on Youtube, in the meditation app Insight Timer and great books and audiobooks on the topic and how to utilize this technique in the best way. One person who I feel has very special tapping meditations on Youtube is Arianna Opper of the American Academy of Mind Body Healing. I’m including one on worthiness below:

 

 

Continue with Journaling

Just like we started the process of finding those beliefs, we can continue our writing practice by finding all the ways in which our belief might not be true, examples in others or in other times in our lives in which things have been different and have proven our belief wrong.

For example: If you have a belief that you are and always have been a very lazy person and it’s impossible for you to incorporate some form of exercise, I’m sure you’ll find times in your life in which this hasn’t been true. You might discover that you do enjoy your walks to the store, or that perhaps there is something you enjoy that you never thought could count as movement, something like dance, or playing outside with your dog. Write down all the ways someone who is kind and loving might address that belief. You’ll begin to see that there are so many other truths to the “truth” you originally had as a set belief. Continue this process with all your underlined beliefs. 

How to Transform Beliefs about Weight, Body Image;your Relationship with Food, Exercise and More | Brownble

The Completion Process

I love the completion process book and technique by Teal Swan. She is a spiritual teacher and although a different kind of source of inspiration (and slightly controversial), I found her process to be so incredibly similar to the process of inner child work and parts work, typical in internal family systems therapy (IFS), and that I worked on in my own therapy process. I still use it to this day.

Teal explains it in her book in a very easy to approach way. It is a process you’ll be using for certain triggers, to find the origins of these, and give your child self at that time the healing they needed and deserved, in the form of a visualisation or meditation. It’s a wonderful process of closure when working with any beliefs or triggers when it comes to food, body image, or anything else that causes us difficulties in our current life.

How to Transform Beliefs about Weight, Body Image;your Relationship with Food, Exercise and More | Brownble

Traditional therapy styles that I’ve found particularly helpful when dealing with beliefs, triggers and especially past trauma (no matter how big or small)

EMDR Therapy: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Two fantastic books on this topic are Emotional Healing at Warp Speed: The Power of EMDR by Dr. David Grand and The Instinct to Heal by Dr. David Servan Schreiber, and of course finding a therapist that is trained in EMDR therapy to go through the process with you, you can find more information at emdr.com

Internal Family Systems Therapy including parts work and inner child work (can also be merged with EMDR work).

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

You now have so many tools to explore, journaling exercises you can do, practices that you can try, that can help you change many of those distorted or unhelpful beliefs into a kinder option. Just going through the process and being mindful that momentary thoughts or judgements aren’t giving you the full truth, and that we are much more nuanced and can find so much more peace with presence, kindness and self compassion, can be the start of so much relief and healing. I hope you find these resources as useful as I have, in finding more peace when it comes to food, body and your day to day experience within these.

 

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While we prepare the new season of the podcast for you, please enjoy the more than 180 podcast episodes in past seasons in our podcast, follow us on Instagram @brownble where I post additional content almost every day, our YouTube channel, our weekly videos in our online program and an ever-growing library of over 400 cooking and support videos, our other courses and we’ll be back in no time with so much more!


As always, thank you for reading and listening. We couldn’t do this work without you!

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