This Body Talk activity can be done either individually or in a group setting. The objective of this body acceptance activity is to provide education about the role of body image distortion in eating disorders. The goal of this activity is to increase insight into distorted thoughts and projection of negative feelings onto body parts, to challenge people to renegotiate negative body image focus, and to develop tools to support body acceptance. This activity focuses on taking inventory of body image history from childhood to present day.
Markers, crayons or colored pencils (three)
Body outline diagram (two)
White board and markers (group setting)
Write down words or phrases that you associate with “body image” on the back side of your body outline diagram (individual) or on the white board (group). Think about or discuss these ideas together. Choose three colors of markers, crayons or colored pencils and a body outline diagram. Using a color code, identify, color and mark parts of your body where you assign judgement. Use “feel good about,” “feel neutral about,” and “feel bad about.”
Color code example:
Blue = feel good about
Yellow = feel neutral
Red = feel bad about
Next, take the second diagram and depict how you ideally want to feel about your body. You may want to date the diagrams so that over time, you can notice how your body image feelings change. Write down five realistic steps that you can take towards having a healthier body image and begin the steps.
Use this distress scale to help you stay more aware of how you are doing. The scale is 0 to 10, where 0 is that you feel at peace and are completely calm, and 10 is distress that is so unbearable that you cannot function. Refer to the scale, as-needed. If you find yourself rated at 4, where negative thoughts begin to impact you, consider talking to a mental health professional because it is better to get help sooner than later. Don’t allow yourself to be in a distressful state for too long. When you feel change is needed, take action and contact someone.
Seek help from a mental health professional at any time, you do not need to be in distress to get help. A professional counselor can provide services for things such as managing stress and anxiety, examining thoughts and behaviors, support you in life transitions, and teach you how to strengthen your mind.
0: Peace and complete calm
1: No real distress, but a slight feeling of unpleasantness
2: A little bit sad or “off”
3: Worried or upset
4: Upset to the point that negative thoughts begin to impact you
5: Upset and uncomfortable
6: Discomfort to the point that you feel a change is needed
7: Discomfort dominates your thoughts and you struggle not to show it
8: Panic takes hold
9: Feeling desperate, helpless, and unable to handle it
10: Unbearably upset to the point that you cannot function and may be on the verge of a breakdown
The hunger scale chart is one way to become more in-tune with your gut feelings and also, to have a better idea on whether or not you’re hungry and how much food to eat. Taking notes of how you feel will eventually lead to increasing your awareness and improving intuitive eating habits. The scale is 1-10. One, being that you’re feeling starving, weak, or dizzy and ten, is that you feel sick because you are so full.
When to Use
While deciding whether you should eat or not. Are you reaching for food because you’re hungry or because you’re feeling a particular emotion?
After eating a snack or a meal. Check-in with yourself to see where you are. Did you eat enough or did you eat too much?
Use this tool about twice per week, on a consistent basis, for about three to five months. This amount of time presents the opportunity to increase awareness and to settle into healthier habits.
How to Use
Pair this scale with practicing eating mindfully or intuitively.
Be non-judgmental of what number you are on the scale.
Feeling five or six after eating is appropriate. Seven is alright, every now and then, like during a holiday meal. The top goal is to feel comfortable.
Jot down in a journal or notebook your hunger scale number and a few other details, like what you ate, thoughts, and feelings.
Practice consistently, becoming more in-tune can take time. Practice being non-judgmental and patient with how long it might take you. It might take multiple changes and attempts, that’s alright.
Put the scale where you will see it and remember to use it. In a journal where you track habits, on the fridge, or on the dining room table. If you want to leave it on the dining room table, some people place it in a folder or a clear page sleeve.
Share what you’re working on with your dietician or mental health counselor.
Questions to Consider
An important point to mention is to notice thoughts and feelings while eating. A lot of times, we eat and are distracted by our phones, the television, or a conversation. Is this you? Are you feeling depressed or anxious while eating? Are you being judgmental or the food or yourself while you eat?
Another thing to notice is whether you are disassociated or non-present. Are you enjoying the food? Why or why not? Are you being mindful of the meal? Did you fly through the meal, eating fast? Did you eat at an abnormally slow pace? How big were your bites?
Depression, anxiety, and panic attacks are signs that you should ask for help
It is important to be able to recognize the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks in ourselves. When we experience these symptoms frequently, for longer than a few weeks, it is time to ask for help. Take action. We tend to go for far too long, trying to remain strong, that we become weak. The depression, anxiety, and panic attacks can begin to harm multiple areas of our lives. Social, relationships, school, work, etc. A counselor can teach you ways to cope and renew your strength.
To all of the busy women, here are some strategies that can help you be productive and calm.
Does this sound familiar to you? Personally, as a busy person (have a young daughter, maintaining relationships, keeping the house tidy, running my own mental health private practice, blogging (for two websites), and preparing for ultramarathons), I struggle with being calm while I go about my day.
Here’s how it usually goes.
I’m usually productive in some way because there is always something that needs done. I tend to feel like things need to be done in an overly particular way. Tasks get done, it’s just not always how well (quality) or in the order that I’d like it to be, so I need to be flexible.
When there’s anxiety present.
Anxiety couples this feeling that something needs to be a certain way or lack of having an amount of control. Anxiety is also provoked when I feel overwhelmed by the amount of things that I need to do. It’s difficult being calm. I want things to be completed in a timely manner and done right. Sometimes, I aim for perfection, but I know that that’s unrealistic. I put a lot of pressure on myself.
How do I remain calm while I’m in a state of being busy and usually anxious?
• I practice time management • Prioritize tasks • Ask others for help • Tell someone “no” when they ask if I can do something when I truly don’t have the time • Mindfulness • Slow myself down, so I can think clearly • Stay grounded • Self-care. Sometimes taking a full day for it! • Exercise or run • I focus on my strengths and goals (and the reasons behind them) • I think positive (in general) • I reframe my distorted thinking • I write down affirmations
There are probably some other tricks that I use that aren’t coming to mind. Whatever I do, I choose to act in a more helpful and healthy manner. I choose to react in a way that is more calm.
How do I know which strategy will help?
I don’t 100% of the time know which strategy will help, but I do know that I can try two or three and see if they work. Overtime, it is easier to know which strategies will work and for what. If a strategy doesn’t help, no big deal, pick another. There are instances where anxiety is stronger and it takes a handful of strategies to help. Also, no big deal.
The strategies from this list are additional “to do’s”, but they makes life better and adds peace. This work becomes more effortless the more that I practice it. You can do this, too.
These 12 tips are specific to living through a pandemic (COVID-19) where there are multiple tragic events and crisis occurring at once on a worldwide scale.
A brief overview of the destruction that COVID-19 has caused
• People are ill and dying from a virus.
• People are socially isolated from family and friends.
• People are restricted in where they can go and what they can do.
• People have lost jobs and are financially unstable.
– Connected to all of this is the person’s identity because people identify themselves through going out and participating.
• Political issues, finger pointing and name calling are a big part of this pandemic.
• People wear face masks to reduce spread of the virus, but the mask also hides smiles.
• Anxiety, depression and suicide is on the rise.
• People are silently hurting.
The benefits of these tips are (but not limited to)
• Increased happiness
• Connection to others
• Raising awareness
• Fostering positivity
• Finding value and meaning in life
• Learning coping strategies
• Finding help
Keep in mind that this article isn’t telling you to ignore, dismiss, or minimize what’s going on around us. It is important to sit with the difficult emotions and thoughts, to process, and personally grow from what’s occurring in our lives. We can’t run, there needs to be a resolution to do something about it, but there needs to be a balance and healthy approach.
Let’s cover the tips on getting through
1) Limit your time on social media and watching the news. Be informed and have proper understanding about what’s going on around the world, but don’t allow the information to overwhelm and carry you away. The information on social media and the news shouldn’t occupy a good portion of your day.
2) Mute or unfollow people on social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram if they are posting unhelpful information on the pandemic or are posting frequently on the pandemic. Always check the resource of what they post to make sure it is true and accurate. There is a lot of information being shared that is inaccurate or highly one-sided. Be your own researcher, fact-checker, and it is beneficial to try to see from both sides of an issue. Widening perspective allows us to have a more open mind and gives us a little more breathing room.
3) Use social media and technology to your advantage. Since we have to limit being around others or can’t be around people at all, use social media to connect and to lift up others. Post something kind or funny. Post a beautiful picture. Have an engaging conversation, but leave out the pandemic and political issues surrounding it. You can lift someone’s spirit and your own!
We use video platforms on almost a daily basis now, continue to use it to connect. Talk to a good friend who you haven’t seen in a while. Use video platforms to check-in with a person’s mental health, you don’t know who is suffering in silence.
Are you feeling unsure about how to check-in? This link will lead you to check-in questions:
Do you have a favorite hobby or interest? Join and follow social media groups and pages to motivate and fuel your interests.
4) Virtual tours, adventures and visits. If you are looking for something new and interesting to do without leaving your house, take a virtual trip to a National Park, zoo, museum, etc. Think of somewhere that you’ve never been and would like to go. Read about it, look at pictures, watch videos, and take a virtual tour. This is fun activity to do with kids and it’s educational.
If you’re religious or spiritual, consider attending a virtual service or practice.
5) Teach someone about your hobby or trade. Write, blog, create social media content, and make a video to do so. Engage with people, answer their questions, and provide them with credible resources so they can learn more.
5) Increase your self-care. Do more of what you enjoy and try new things, even if you don’t feel like it. Take care of your body and mind. Try to keep to a normal schedule, this includes proper exercise, diet, and staying hydrated. If you’re overwhelmed with work, schedule in self-care. Slow down, read a book, take a bath, watch a movie, call someone you care about.
6) Make a vision board to stay focused on your long-term goals. Read how here:
8) Practice mindfulness, breathing and or meditation. Find someone who provides these services online if you need help getting started. Create a YouTube playlist of relaxing music and sounds that you can practice to. Don’t give up if these exercises don’t immediately benefit you in an impactful way, it takes time to learn them. It’s a process.
9) Use online presence to raise awareness or funds for a cause that you’re passionate about. Help people learn more, support people who need it the most, connect to others who care about the same thing as you. Feel good!
10) Use positive affirmations and practice them regularly. Read more and find examples here:
11) Have a safety plan and an emergency plan. For the safety plan:
• Write down what triggers maladaptive behaviors.
• Write coping strategies for each trigger that you can participate in right away.
• Write down three positive affirmations or favorite quotes.
• List three people whom you can trust to call and talk to and receive support from (Do ahead of time: make sure that they know they are on your safety plan list and tell them how they can best support you if you contact them.) (Ideas on how they can help: this can range from a phone call to recall favorite memories or to meet up for coffee.).
• If your situation turns into an emergency, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 or your local mental health crisis lifeline. Add these emergency phone numbers to your safety plan.
12) Speak with a professional counselor. They can teach you several coping strategies and powerful tools like cognitive reframing. They are someone who will be present with you, be non-judgmental, listen, and provide feedback. They will support you and give you space for you to process your strongest emotions and thoughts.
Check out these other benefits to seeing a counselor:
Having a better relationship to food is about mindset, which takes unraveling the current messages you have been operating under and re-wiring the brain with messages that serve you. This all starts out with discovering your current messages and limiting beliefs. After completing these questions, go back through your answers and look for behavioral and emotional patterns. What do you know now that you didn’t know before? How can you improve your relationship to food? How do you take action? Do you need to speak with a professional for support?
Download these questions below. Print them out and share.
What does “food” mean to you? What do you associate food and eating with?
What is your relationship to food like? Describe it like you would a relationship with an actual person.
How does food make me feel? How do I wish I felt about food?
Why do I eat? What 3 words describe my relationship to food right now? What 3 words do I wish did?
What do I want food to do for me?
Do you consider where food comes from or do you think of food as an end product?
Are you a distracted eater or do you just eat? If you are a distracted eater, what usually distracts you?
Do you record everything that you eat and drink? If so, what are your intentions behind it? Are your intentions healthy and appropriate?
What are the negative thought before, during, and after eating? Eating very little? Eating just enough? Overeating? Binging?
When, Where, and What is happening when you feel intense pulls toward food?
If I eat when I am physically not hungry, its because….
If my emotional eating is trying to tell me a message, what would that message be?
What stresses me out the most? What do I do to cope with stress?
Describe your first memory of dysregulated eating. How old were you? What were the circumstances of it? How did you feel?
What did your parents (or who ever raised you) used to say when talking about your body? What did they used to say when talking about their own body?
What did your parents (or who ever raised you) used to say when talking about how you should eat? What did they used to say when talking about how they should eat?
Who had the biggest impact on your food habits growing up? Why?
Name the positive and negative messages you received around healthy eating.
What habit(s) did you establish early on that you would like to transform?
Name somebody who you believe has a healthy relationship with food. What do you notice about them? How is your relationship with food different, and is it similar in any ways? What is between you and having a healthy relationship with food?
What are you craving in your life, what do you want more than anything, that you are using food to feel? Think of emotions.
Who do you see when you look in the mirror?
How will changing your dysregulated eating and improving your relationship to food affect your body, mind, and spirit in the future?
What parts feel the most challenging when thinking of a better relationship to food? Which parts feeling easy?
What patterns do you notice when it comes to nourishing yourself?
What inspires you to be healthy? How can you make more room for this in your life?
I feel the most like myself when…
I would love to do _____________, but I’m not sure I could. Why is that?
What do you believe you deserve in life? Thinking about that, what do you need to let go of to make it happen?
Imagine your life 3 years from now. If everything worked out the way that you hope for, what would that look like? Love? Family? Work? Wealth? Health?
To you, what does it mean to show up as your best self?
How could having a healthy relationship with food impact the rest of your life? Relationships? Health? Career?
Do you need additional support when working on having a healthy relationship to food? What kind of support do you need?
What is my body? How do I connect food and my body?
If I could wave a magic wand and have my dream body, what would it be?
When I look in the mirror, I feel…
What are my biggest daily challenges with food and body? If I didn’t have these problems, how would my life be different?
Dear body, I love you because…
List three positive intentions that you can use to motivate your journey towards intuitive eating and creating a healthy, sustainable relationship with food and your body. Example: “I will nourish my body every day and will speak kindly to myself to help support a healthy body and mind” Example: “I will speak kindly to my body and appreciate it for all it does for me every day.”
What are 3 things that you appreciate about your body?
Do you usually eat alone and or randomly? Do you eat with others at set times and places?
Write about your relationship to cooking. Do you like to cook or prefer someone else does it for you? Do you see it as a chore or as a fun pastime? Did you grow up in a household where one or both of your parents enjoyed cooking, or did you eat a lot of take-out and TV dinners? What are your favorite dishes to prepare?
How do you define the term “comfort food”? What is your favorite comfort food? Is it something your mom or dad or grandma used to make when you were little or an indulgence you only have a few times a year? Describe your ultimate comfort food in detail and reflect on why you associate it with contentment, coziness or well-being.
Is there anything about nutrition that you would like to learn more about?
Does your family have any special dietary rules?
How does your culture influence your eating habits?
How does the media / television commercials / social media / celebrities / models / etc. influence your eating habits?
What is your opinion on fad diets?
If you have tried a fad diet, which one? How did it affect you physically, mentally and emotionally?
Do you tend to eat the same foods over and over again? If so, why is that? Would you like to try new foods? How can you begin incorporating new food choices into your day? What would eating new foods do for you?
As a professional counselor, diagnosing is necessary and guides how we help people. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is the universal guide on mental illnesses, housing all of the criteria and statical relevance. The manual is updated every few years, as the mental health field changes and research backs any new findings.
Basic things to know and my thoughts:
▪︎ I am a fan of the DSM-5. If I have a question, I can usually find the answer there.
▪︎ Diagnosis allows professionals to figure out how to effectively treat someone and to stay up-to-date with treatment solutions. A diagnosis is a baseline, where we can learn and build information upon, or dig below the baseline to find a root cause to an issue. A counselor can customize the treatment plan, fitting the unique client.
▪︎ Diagnosis is necessary and can be beneficial to the client when the counselor properly explains it. I think that the client should have an understanding and gain insight to what is going on. – Of course, it starts with the client telling the counselor the perceived problem, and they go from there.
▪︎ Sometimes when a person receives a diagnosis, they feel a sense of relief because they have an answer or insight, and a direction towards treatment. On the other hand, does someone really want a diagnosis? No. Because people would rather not have the underlying issue to deal with in the first place. This makes total sense!
▪ The client should understand that this is a GUIDE, not a total reflection of WHO a person is. If the client has a concern over the diagnosis as it relates to their identity, then they should let their counselor know. Sometimes people allow their diagnosis to become a role in their life, a part of their identity. A diagnosis or illness is NOT the person, it is something that they are experiencing. A person is not their anxiety, though anxiety may be front and center, impacting multiple areas of life, but it is not who they are.
Those are my main thoughts, along with some information that I think that people should know about diagnosis. Whether you’re giving or receiving a diagnosis, it’s important to understand it and understand the treatment approach. Above all, the client should take care when it comes to thinking and speaking about a diagnosis because it is what they’re going through, not meant to become part of their identity.