Thursday, March 3, 2011

body dysmorphia

Body Dysmorphic Disorder, according to the clinical definition is "a (psychological) somatoform disorder in which the affected person is excessively concerned about and preoccupied by a perceived defect in his or her physical features (body image)." The concern can be about one part of the body or several. This disorder is exceptionally high in those who suffer from eating disorders, but can also affect anyone in the general public. In the past, my warped sense of my own body was far worse than it is now. People will often say that an anorexic sees herself or himself as fat. For me, I had some sense that I was excessively thin, but I felt fat. I definitely didn't see myself exactly as I was, but I also didn't look in the mirror and see an obese person. It was more that I was intensely unsatisfied with my body, especially my stomach. Some people may think this kind of thinking is crazy, but I think there's something to the teachings of Louise Hay. She suggests that "the stomach holds nourishment and digests ideas. Problems indicate dread, fear of the new, and an inability to assimilate the new." I also read somewhere that not liking one's stomach can be related to having father issues. It's an interesting thought. I think of it more as it being difficult to not like or have issues with someone who is "supposed to" be supportive and loving, and transferring that emotion to the self or a specific part of the self. In other words, it's safer to direct negative emotions on the self.

It's interesting that I will occasionally still say I feel fat. I have learned though, that it generally means there's something going on other than my weight. It could mean anything from I'm worried to I'm feeling out of sorts. Somehow over the years, any uneasy feeling translated as me feeling fat. I believe it was a learned response from growing up a bit chubby. In my mind fat = lize= shame, guilt etc., etc. I was teased and told over and over that I was fat. This resulted in me being a bit of a loner. It also resulted in me being a little bit afraid of others. In the end, the result was that my emotional feelings got crossed with what was going on in my physical body. Since my childhood, I have worked hard to overcome these issues. I now have a job in which I must deal with the public. This forces me to face any fears I might have dealing with others.I also have to acknowledge but put aside any babbling negative nonsense that my brain might spin in my head in order to focus on my work.  

It was thanks to a few really good friends that I cut way back on saying, "I feel fat." I love that I have friends who are straight forward. I was told I said it too much when I first started to recover. What I noticed is that the less I said it, the less I felt it. There was a definite correlation to what was coming out of my mouth, and how I was feeling. At first I still felt fat, but over time, the feeling dissipated the more I focused on talking about other things. It was another time when the universe presented an open door. I could either take what my friends were saying into consideration, or I could continue down the same road. It's a little bit like running in a race. If you're up in front, and the lead pack makes a break away, you can either gather courage and strength and move with them or sit back and wait for another opportunity that may never come. This was another time where I jumped, and the result was beneficial. 

In the end, I have learned that my self image is often a reflection of how I feel. In the past, it was a warped thought that I was fat while starving myself, but it was how I felt. Over time, it became what I learned. I'm now unlearning that, and focused on finding what is underneath the feeling of this fatness in my head. Most of the time, I'm happy to report that I don't think about my weight, don't feel fat and can live more in the moment. There are times though where that feeling pops up, and I have to address it. Now I have the tools to do so. It's always a matter of taking the time to express it or define it rather than ignore it completely or let it spiral to an absurd level.


  1. Hi Lize - good work you are doing here.

    I heard that you recently re-entered competition (in the Beck interview). I am curious as to how / what you will do to engage in competition but manage it in a way that is healthy? I apologize for the ignorance of this question, but I am assuming that competition needs to be treated carefully for you because of how it contributed to your disorder (sorry if that is an incorrect word) in the past.

  2. Thank you, GZ.

    I love that you brought this up, because it's an important issue. I really learned to train more sensibly when I was working with a local coach, Bobby McGee. It's easier to be less obsessed when the competition I'm doing is more for fun, but I honestly felt that I could have more balance even at the elite level using a method of constantly checking in with myself. Diane Israel and I agree that it takes some work, but being self aware and training hard can go hand in hand in a healthy way. You're right that no matter what the level of competition, people like me need to tread carefully. I was fortunate to have a few really sensible coaches who felt that being healthy first is what makes a better runner.

    Thanks again for your comment.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.