Tag Archive | Self-Worth

Book Release!

My book, Behind the Mask: Our Secret Battle, is in production and will be ready for purchase late November or early December 2012. Women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s who have suffered with lifelong low self-esteem, disordered eating, and body image issues, who have defined themselves by their weight, and experienced the relentless psychological “tug of war” that accompanies these issues, will relish this book as a means to help them deeply understand and appreciate their eating behaviors as a coping mechanism that no longer “serves” them, and as a hands-on skill-building tool.

Behind the Mask first details specific issues that many women struggle with during various stages of life that play an integral role in their disordered relationship with food, through the voices of two adult women with lifelong eating issues and the connections they have made along the way. It then provides my professional detailed three-phase approach to acquire the skills necessary to eat in a more peaceful way, find one’s voice, and practice self-acceptance and self-care. It is a book of connection, hope and tools for recovery.


Stay tuned for more specific information on how to purchase the book!


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Adult Women: You are Not Alone!

When I first started treating people with eating disorders, the average aged client was between 17 and the mid-twenties. Now, I am seeing eating disordered clients as young as 5 years old and as old as in their 70s.

The focus of today’s post will be the “over 35” population. I will spotlight the issues that women face.


In my experience, adult women who struggle with eating disorders have struggled with some form of food issues, disordered eating, or eating disorder for a long time. Many times women can trace their struggle back to early childhood. Often they have either lived under the radar, never thought they had a “real problem”, or didn’t want to work on their issues. Then there comes a time in a woman’s life when there is a “perfect storm” of conditions and stressors that manifest into full blown eating disorder symptoms and cause her to seek treatment.

Let’s start with the obvious stressor that we all face; a society obsessed with youth, dieting, and thinness. Although an eating disorder is not about food, dieting, and weight per se, food, dieting, and weight are an integral part of the problem as well as the recovery process. As a woman ages, there are natural and inevitable changes that she experiences. Also, as a result of bearing children, the body experiences changes. In a world obsessed with having the “perfect” body, if an adult woman compulsively attempts to achieve the “perfect” body and uses young airbrushed teenagers as her frame of reference, she will always feel inadequate. Women also play “the comparison game”. It goes like this:

She’s smaller than I am. She’s on XXX diet. She looks happy. She must really have her act together. I bet she has no problems. I’m sure she can go into any store she wants and buy anything she wants and looks fabulous in it. I’ll never look like her. I need to lose weight. I can’t even shop for anything because nothing looks good on me.  I am disgusting. I am so unhappy. Tomorrow, I will not eat any XXX food. Tomorrow I will start being “good”. Yes…tomorrow I will start on the road to happiness. So, today I will eat whatever I want.

The natural changes a woman faces in her body, the comparisons and competitiveness, and the constant barrage of diet and weight loss talk contribute to an ingrained mindset of negativity and lack of self worth. Logically, we all hopefully know that our weight and clothing size do not create our self worth, but our society drills that very concept into our consciousness. It’s hard to escape. So, over the course of a lifetime, many women spend countless hours manipulating their food choices and intake in search of the elusive “perfect” body. Her eating and thinking become increasingly disordered.

Our ability to assess and validate our needs and to communicate them effectively is another stressor that adult women face each day. When a woman has a family for example, it is common for her to put the needs of the family in front of her own. If she has never been “good” at taking care of her emotional needs, she may fall further behind in this area once she has children. Putting herself first is not at all easy, and sometimes by default, she completely neglects her own needs and cannot communicate them effectively. The eating disorder becomes an adaptive form of “self care”. She can take care of everyone else at “take care” of herself simultaneously, without asking anyone for anything. Think of it as “maladaptive multitasking”. This can sometimes take on the form of bingeing at the end of the day or when the kids are at school, eating the kids’ leftovers, restricting, compulsively overexercising etc.

Changing roles within the family as well as outside the family and experiencing loss, can add to the “perfect storm” of stressors. Going from being a single woman to a married one, having the responsibility of a young family or struggling to have children, having an empty nest, watching aging parents deteriorate, experiencing death of a loved one or divorce, living an adult single life, are all extremely life altering events and necessitate big adjustments. They can potentially evoke tremendous anxiety and depression. An eating disorder can become a maladaptive “distraction” from these life altering situations as well as a self-soother, a way to reduce anxiety.

The lack of development of a healthy identity and passion for something (other than her body) is a huge trigger for the development of an eating disorder as an adult woman. Many adult women I see have very little idea of what they truly like and who they truly are. I often ask my clients: “Outside of your family (or your job), what do you like to do? What makes you happy? What are you passionate about?” Very rarely do they have the answer to this. They have often spent so much of their energy devoted to others that they haven’t thought about what they like separate from the interests and needs of their family or work. Therefore, to fill the void, the eating disorder develops as an alternate identity, a distraction from seeking passion, or a way to feel unique.

Women who had suffered various psychological and physical traumas or neglect when they were young, but didn’t have the opportunity to address them with a trusted safe professional, or who additionally suffer from trauma as an adult, may develop an eating disorder to suppress, numb out or cope with the myriad of feelings she may experience and choices she may face.

There are numerous other triggers that, in combination with fragile self esteem, anxiety and/or depression, genetic predisposition, personality type, society’s obsession with appearance and youth etc, provide a toxic recipe for an eating disorder.

The good news is that treatment is available for all those who suffer and adult women who are willing to do the necessary work can make a full and complete recovery. If you are an adult woman and are suffering, or can offer words of hope and encouragement for other women, please comment below. I want all women who suffer to know that they are not alone and that they can get better!


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What Does Recovery Look Like?

The second in the series of three questions I am asked the most is:

“What does recovery look like?”

Answer: Wow! I have changed my answer to this question over the years. In my opinion, recovery is a highly personal “picture”. Recovery to one person will look differently than to another. I’d love your answers, in addition to my own!

In my opinion, recovery doesn’t mean being a perfect eater. Recovery doesn’t mean having a preconceived body size. Recovery doesn’t mean eating to be a certain weight or size.

Recovery means consistently not using food behaviors to cope and communicate your needs and desires, because you have developed more effective healthy ways to cope and express yourself.

Recovery means never dieting.  That’s right! You can never diet again. This is such a challenging area for many people. So very often, clients say to me “Normal people diet. Normal people manipulate their bodies. Normal people overexercise. Normal people use diet pills. How come they can do these things and I can’t?”

“Normal” people don’t have a mental illness where any or all of these behaviors are symptoms of the illness, and when engaging in these behaviors are expressing symptoms of the illness and thus making it worse.

It is not “normal” to do any of those things. Just because something is common, doesn’t mean it is “normal” and it definitely doesn’t make it good or right or healthy or something to aspire to. In my opinion, recovery means not restricting, bingeing and purging, using other substances (diet pills etc), compulsive exercise behaviors, or any type of harmful behavior (even “mildly”).

Once you have an eating disorder, you are VULNERABLE to all things that “normal” people engage in related to food/exercise. That isn’t your fault. It is simply a side effect of having an eating disorder.

Even when you are in a healthy place in your recovery, certain behaviors will still put you at risk. Dieting, for example, is the number one behavior that triggers eating disordered thoughts and can be a catalyst sending you right back into your illness. So you can never diet again…ever. Recovery means redefining “normal”.

How does exercise fit into recovery? Again, remember that you are vulnerable. Exercise (even if it has never been a part of your illness) can be tricky. Everyone knows that movement is good for people. When you have a history of an eating disorder, you have to be attentive to the purpose behind the desire to exercise. If you are healthy and you exercise, you have to be cautious that the purpose doesn’t switch from being healthy to “feeding” your illness. Be honest with yourself and set healthy goals for your exercise. Make sure it doesn’t take on a level of importance where it becomes a “job” or a “behavior”.

Recovery means having a peaceful relationship with food. Food is an essential part of life, but when you are in recovery, food doesn’t occupy all your thoughts. In recovery, you think about food in a neutral or positive way. You don’t have strict black and white rules regarding food, unless medically necessary.

Recovery doesn’t mean having a perfectly happy existence. But, your worst day well will still be better than your best day sick because you won’t be sick and your life will be REAL. Life has ups and downs. Life is difficult at times and joyous at times. Your eating disorder just makes life more difficult on every level, in every way. So, without it, your life ultimately will be less difficult. You will also feel all your feelings – the positive ones and the negative ones. Your feelings are essential, and feeling themwon’t kill you!

Think of all the things you cannot do because of your illness. You will have the opportunity to do any of these things, if you choose, when you are in recovery.  It is freedom.

Recovery means practicing different forms of regular, consistent self-care. Everyone has different ideas of how they can practice this. For some, self care involves having hobbies like reading, blogging, knitting, or doing crossword puzzles. Others like to have creative outlets like singing, painting, playing a musical instrument, or other art forms. Some like listening to inspirational music every day. Whatever you consider self-care, you need to do it regularly.

Recovery is whatever you want it to be. It’s your life. Define it. You only get one life, make it the best one it can be! It’s worth going for!!!


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Are You a Casualty of Dieting? Tips for “Normal” Eating

No matter how many years or decades you have overeaten or how many diets have failed you, you still can learn how to become a “normal” eater—eating when you are hungry, choosing satisfying foods, remaining aware while eating and enjoying food, and stopping when you are full or satisfied.


Note: You did not fail on these diets. These diets failed you.


To succeed at weight management, you will need to:

  • Focus like a laser on eating “normally”
  • Stay persistent like a dog digging for a bone
  • Not expect overnight success
  • Switch your attention from the scale to your appetite
  • Learn effective life skills to manage stress and internal distress


Disregulated eaters can learn how to eat “normally.” Here are some tips to speed you on your way.


Using self-talk

Learn “normal” eating skills: Look in the mirror daily and tell yourself you can learn the skills of “normal” eating.


Think of foods as nutritional and non-nutritional: Instead of thinking of foods as “good” or “bad,” consider them as nutritional or non-nutritional, or nutritional or “fun”. “Good” and “bad” are moral terms that are best avoided in the food arena.


Give yourself praise: Do not put yourself down for the mistakes you make with food. Instead, lavishly praise yourself for your successes, even the tiniest ones.


Try a different approach: If experience tells you that diets do not keep your weight off, do not try to convince yourself that you should diet. Instead, give yourself points for trying a different approach.


Become your own cheerleader: Never say anything to yourself that you would not say to a young child you love, including calling yourself stupid, hopeless, bad, a failure, or worthless. Become your own cheerleader by generating positive thoughts about yourself and your progress.


Avoid all-or-nothing thinking: Do not use words like “never” and “always.” Remind yourself that most of life is not black and white, but gray. Think incrementally.


Do not dwell on untrue comments: Detoxify negative things people say about or to you that are untrue, rather than repeating them to yourself. Remember that what people say belongs to them, not to you, even if your name is attached to their words.


Connect to your emotions: Ask yourself often how you are feeling, so you can connect more easily to your emotions, but explore only with curiosity, not condemnation.

Stop judging yourself harshly: Develop self-compassion. Treat yourself lovingly. Practice speaking to yourself with extreme esteem.


Keep a positive attitude: Do not keep telling yourself that learning to become a “normal” eater is hard, because saying so only programs you to find the work more difficult. Instead, substitute words like challenging or doable.


Recognizing hunger

Rate your hunger: Check in with yourself often to see how hungry you are by using descriptions such as “not hungry,” “moderate,” “very,” and “famished” or a 1-10 scale.


Evaluate if you are hungry: Every time you think about food, ask yourself if you really are hungry enough to eat or if you actually need something else.


Consider having smaller meals: Experiment with eating smaller meals more frequently.


Think about hunger as a signal: It means that you need fuel, not that you have to go out and seek the most fantastic eating experience of your life.


Know what hunger means: Practice believing that hunger is for fuel and pleasure, not for meeting emotional needs.


Choosing satisfying foods

Choose for yourself: Do not get hung up on what other people are eating. Instead, ask yourself what you would like to eat.


Forget about good and bad: Remind yourself that foods fall on a nutritional continuum (high value/low value), not on a moral continuum (good/bad).


Make a satisfying choice: Never eat without first stopping to consider what you want. Spend time making your decision by tuning into your appetite.


Stay clear of guilt or shame: Refrain from allowing guilt or shame to contaminate your eating decisions. Avoid secret eating.


Choose foods that you like: Do not eat foods that you do not find satisfying or enjoyable. Eating them will make you think that you are on a diet.


Eating with awareness and enjoyment

Look before you eat: Before you eat, look at your food, its portion size, and presentation. Breathe deeply. Look again before taking a mouthful.


Chew every mouthful thoroughly: Chewing a lot helps to thoroughly release the flavor of foods.


Let food sit on your tongue: This allows your taste buds to absorb the flavor and transmit messages about your appetite to your brain.


Talk or eat: When you are talking, stop eating. When you are eating, stop talking.


Stay connected: Pay attention to your body’s appetite signals while you are eating.


Forget about guilt and shame: Push away guilt and shame while you are eating. Focus only on sensory pleasure.


Pause while you are eating: Think about how you are feeling about your food in terms of quality and quantity.


Know when to stop eating: Stop eating when flavor intensity declines, as it is bound to do. Do not try to polish off all of the food in front of you. Instead, aim for the moment when flavor peaks and you feel an internal “ah” of satisfaction—then stop.


Evaluate how full you are: Keep asking yourself while you are eating, “Am I still hungry?” and “Am I satisfied?”


Stopping when you are full or satisfied

Know the definitions: Think of “full” as having enough food (fuel) in your stomach and “satisfied” as reaching the high point of pleasure.


Quantify fullness and satisfaction: Use words, such as “nearly full,” “too full,” or “just right,” or a 1-10 scale to rate fullness and satisfaction.


Tell your body: When you feel full or satisfied, focus on that sensation, and broadcast it to your whole body.


Disconnect from food: When you are done eating, put down your utensils, push away your plate, and get up, if possible. At least mentally move on. Do whatever you need to do to disconnect yourself from the food.


Decide when enough is enough: Make sure you do not focus on food that is left in front of you. Recognize that you do not have to finish it or clean your plate.


Changing your beliefs


From: To:

“I need to diet to lose weight.”

“Diets do not work long term.”

“This is too hard.”

“I can learn to do this over time.”

“This will take too long.”

“If I do not change now, I will only end up back in this same place again, so I might as well get going on it.”

“Losing weight is the most important thing.”

“I will lose weight if I honor my appetite and learn to eat ‘normally.’”

“I am bad/worthless/ugly if I am overweight.”

“I accept my body as it is and still will try to improve it.”


Stopping emotional eating

Consider your feelings: If you have the urge to eat when you are not hungry, identify the emotion you are feeling.


Think of a different response: Remind yourself that feelings need an appropriate response—not food.


Know the emotions that trigger unwanted eating: Boredom, loneliness, anxiety, shame, guilt, disappointment, confusion, and helplessness can trigger unwanted eating. Look for more effective ways of dealing with these feelings.


Keep a feelings log: This will help you keep track of what is going on inside of yourself all day long.


Reduce stress: This will lessen frustration, helplessness, and the overwhelmed feeling you sometimes have that may drive you to eat.


Take care of yourself: Make sure you are taking care of yourself (with rest, sleep, hobbies, and fun) at least as well as you take care of others.


Learn from your behavior: If you find yourself eating when you are upset, do not take it out on yourself. Treat yourself with compassion and curiosity. Think about your behavior as a learning experience.


Find help: If you have a history of trauma or abuse, get help through therapy. A strong correlation exists between such a history and emotional eating and weight gain.


Take responsibility for yourself: Do not blame others for your emotional eating. Take accountability for your actions.


Build emotional muscle: Tell yourself that you can bear any emotion and practice doing so. You will find that the emotional muscle you build is amazingly strong and enduring.



References and recommended readings

Koenig KR. Nice Girls Finish Fat: Put Yourself First and Change Your Eating Forever. New York, NY: Fireside/Simon and Schuster; 2009.


Koenig KR. The Food and Feelings Workbook: A Full Course Meal on Emotional Health. Carlsbad, CA: Gürze Books; 2007.


Koenig KR. The Rules of “Normal” Eating: A Commonsense Approach for Dieters, Overeaters, Undereaters, Emotional Eaters, and Everyone in Between! Carlsbad, CA: Gürze Books; 2005.


Koenig KR. What Every Therapist Needs to Know About Treating Eating and Weight Issues. New York, NY: WW Norton and Co; 2008.



Contributed by Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, MEd



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You are Unique!

I came across a quote recently that I love.  It goes like this –

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, rather than a second-rate version of someone else. ~Judy Garland

The reason I like this quote so much is that I so often hear from my patients that they would love to look, act, be like someone else.  I believe this quote provides the answer to that.  You can never be more than a “second-rate” version of someone else.  Why not be a first-rate version of yourself?

Every one of you has a natural beauty and uniqueness that is exclusively yours.  No one can take that away from you…except, that is, yourself.  What I mean by that is that the power to either do away with, or embrace your unique individuality lies in your hands.  You do away with it when you focus your attention on what others have, wishing that it was yours somehow.  Unfortunately, when you do that you are losing out on the depth of who you really are.  Focusing on wishing that you can have what someone else has minimizes the beauty of your own existence in this world.  You are not simply a body or a mirror of others.  You are a beautiful, unique, amazing individual with the potential to do enormous, great things.  But you can only do that if you focus on your own talents, abilities, and inner qualities.

So how can you make sure not to lose your focus?

Spend some time every day thinking about what you would like your life to look like in the future.  Positive visualization is a powerful tool.  Imagine your life in a few months from now, a year from now, two years, five years, ten or twenty years from now.

Stay positive. Don’t place the focus on your body. Imagine having an enjoyable career, if that is something you want.  Imagine having a family, with children of your own.  Imagine having the ability to travel and see the world.  Imagine being free from the unrealistic unfair rules that govern your eating. You can accomplish this and so much more.  However, you must keep the focus on yourself, your uniqueness, and your inner strengths. You need to stay positive and have hope.

So go ahead! Become the best that you can be!  Don’t settle for second-rate.  Go for the gold!


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Life’s Lessons Never End

When do the lessons ever get learned???  That’s the first question I keep asking myself? Is there such a thing as getting comfortable with your feelings? That’s the second question. Why do I continue to feel the same stuff over and over and why can’t I just move past these issues? That’s the third question. For goodness sake, I’ve had enough practice at all this!!! I want to just feel the good stuff!  Wow! That sounds really unrealistic and misses the point of the lessons I MUST learn!

So, seeing as it is Sunday, of course I am learning a ton of lessons today. You see, I’m no different than all of you. I have ups and downs. I feel all sorts of painful emotions that I want to make go away. But I am determined to fight through it all because I don’t want to ever go back to my eating disorder to “save” me from it all. I always say that my worst day well is still better than my best day sick. Some days it is harder to hang onto that notion but it is still my mantra.

So…here goes with my story of the week. Recently, I got a call from an old friend who I lost touch with many many years ago. She learned of my whereabouts through a mutual professional colleague and she decided it would be nice to catch up. I was so surprised to hear from her after 25 years but was very excited to see her and catch up on our lives. We met for coffee this week and when I first saw her, she looked exactly as I had remembered her, as though time had stood still. She had a smile that lit up the room. She was lovely! We got our drinks and sat in a quiet corner to chat.

She asked me lots of questions about my life…was I married? Did I have children? Where did I live? How did I like my work? Etc. I was happy and excited to tell her all the details. She told me all about her life as well. This is where I started wilting like a weed. She was extremely humble, but revealed that she was extraordinarily happy in her marriage of 20 years. Her husband was “the best friend I could ever have”.  She said she has 4 beautiful children – 2 boys and 2 girls. (She showed me a photo. They were “picture perfect”.)  She’s the president of a very big company. She has her “main house” in a different state and her “summer/weekend house” at the Jersey shore. Meantime, I know exactly where her summer/weekend house is and it is twice as big, and ten times nicer than my only house. She started giving me details about how nice it is to get away with her family to the summer/weekend house where they swim and play tennis on their private tennis court. I felt myself really making an effort to be happy for her. After all, she worked very hard for her success and deserves to be happy. She asked me if I was happy and I said “yes, but I wish I had a little more free time”. I asked her if she was happy and she said “oh yes, I have a very good life!” Then, she asked me “what do you do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies? You must have some down time.” You would have thought she asked me a question about quantum physics. I just stared at her and thought to myself “I have no idea”. I said to her “I am so busy, I really don’t have a lot of down time to do much of anything else besides work-related things.” “Really?” she said. “I started running marathons a few years ago and I play tennis and golf. You should try them. They are a lot of fun and really good for your mind.” “Good for you!” I said. “I’m so happy for you.”

After two hours, we both had to leave and promised to catch up once or twice a year. She invited me to come to her weekend/summer house some time, to which I replied “I’d love to!” We hugged goodbye and went our separate ways. She got into her BMW. I got into my GMC.

What are my lessons???

First of all, my life is my life. My life is not her life. Sure, her life sounded perfect but there is truly no such thing as a perfect life. And, even if her life is perfect, it is hers. If I continue to focus on her life, I lose the focus on my own. If I continue to focus on hers, in no way will that misguided attention improve mine. It will only serve to make me feel inadequate. You see, for all the good in my life, there is still the little nagging part in the recesses of my mind that is always anxious to make me feel inadequate, like that young girl who never felt good enough.

Never ever compare yourself to others. If someone else appears to have everything you want, they probably don’t. My friend surely appeared to have everything she ever dreamed of, but I’m sure, in our two-hour meeting, she didn’t feel compelled or comfortable telling me the negative stuff she has gone through.

I’m not even intent on comparing  her job with mine because I love my job. I can’t imagine doing anything else. It is extremely rewarding and gives me immense pleasure. I too, have a good marriage and wonderful children. And my home is just fine for me. I don’t need a second home either. The comparison came in when it dawned on me that she had such extreme confidence and lightheartedness. She was completely comfortable in her skin and in her life. It just felt to me like she never struggles. She has never suffered from a mental illness. She has never felt inadequate. She likes herself and she doesn’t have to work for it. That was the rough part. I have worked for years at feeling all those things she felt naturally.

My second lesson is that no one should ever lose themselves to anything so much that they lose the passion for doing good things for themselves. I see this all the time in my practice. People become so focused on their eating disorders that they forget who they really are, they forget what their real strengths are and what other qualities they possess. They also don’t take the time to develop other skills, passions, relationships and talents. This was a wake up call for me. When I thought about the question “what do you do in your spare time?” all I could think of was the many things I used to do that I no longer do. I thought, “Why don’t I do those things anymore?” I have become so busy with work that I stopped having hobbies or self-care activities. That is the very thing I always encourage my clients to do and I stopped doing it! Yikes! I failed at my own advice!

My third lesson is that we are always learning lessons… until the day we die. Even though I think I’ve learned some of these lessons already, I am still learning them. I guess we are in for a lifetime of “the school of life”. In addition to accepting that these lessons are lifelong, I cannot ever expect to feel only the positive feelings. I tell my clients this all the time as well. We all need to feel a complete array of feelings and we have to be able to be comfortable being uncomfortable. That is an absolute necessity for life and for recovery.

So, I have made four goals that I encourage you all to make with me, if you aren’t already doing them:

  1. I will make time to do more of things I used to enjoy so much. I will try to get more balance in my life. I will not lose sight of the many aspects of who I am.
  2. I will feel all my feelings, no matter how bad or good they are. They are a part of me and they all deserve to be expressed.
  3. I will not compare myself or my life with others. I will focus only on mine. It’s the only one I have. (this lesson must be continually be popping up for a reason)
  4. I will accept that life’s lessons are lifelong. Some are easier to grasp. Others take longer to learn. I am never done.


Coping with life’s ups and downs is your responsibility. Your eating disorder can mask life, but will never ever be able to help you live your life to its fullest.

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Stop Keeping Score!

I don’t know exactly why I learn most of my life’s lessons on Sundays but it happens and I am grateful for my lessons…always.

Today (Sunday), I learned an important lesson that I’d like to pass along to you. STOP KEEPING SCORE!

It was a very typical Sunday morning and I was feeling pretty much the same as I do on every Sunday morning, a bit sad that the weekend is almost over and a little overwhelmed by the week ahead. Then my husband said “I’m going to clean up the garage today because it’s a beautiful day and I don’t want to be inside.” So, the first thing that went through my mind is “why do you consider being in the garage as being outside?” But the answer to that is that he keeps the door open. The second thing that went through my mind is “I know the cleaning of the garage is going to cause him to find things that he will get mad at me for keeping instead of throwing out.” You see, my husband is a bit of a “neat freak” and I am not. So, I know that whenever he starts cleaning anything, I will start to feel bad that I’m not as neat. He will also point out things that bother him…in a “friendly” sort of way.

So, I continued doing my morning jobs around the house when I heard the door from the garage to the house open up. In he walked with a large pot. It was presumably full by the way he was carrying it. He said “what’s this?” with an unpleasant look on his face. Well, I know exactly what it was. A couple months ago, I had made a huge pot of soup and after a few days of eating it, instead of portioning it out into individual containers, I completely forgot it was in the garage refrigerator, and so it sat. I’m sure you can only imagine what it looked like after a couple months. He handed it to me with a look on his face that can only be described as “I can’t believe you would leave this in the fridge for two months!” I simply took the pot from him and lightheartedly said “that’s what you get when you live with me!” I walked into the house and proceeded to dispose of the indescribable contents of the pot, scrubbed the pot clean and continued with my jobs around the house.

For the next two hours, there were more assorted things brought into the house for me to have to decide what to do with, like a hefty bag of clothes, a couple bins of food that my kids brought home from college, some other assorted containers, cups, and work-related items. Each time the door opened, I braced myself for some sort of sarcastic remark about how the garage is such a mess, how the garage is not a garbage dump, etc. Then, there were jobs I needed to help him with in the garage, like moving heavy things, rearranging and lifting things. I HATE moving and lifting things. I am a self-professed “weakling” and I have no spatial awareness. Inevitably whenever I help him with these types of jobs, he laughs at my lack of “skill”. Finally, and ever so quietly, I retreated upstairs to my study to write, thus avoiding the multiple comments and awful jobs. Here I sit to write about the “lesson” I have learned as a result.

I will NOT keep score! I will not keep score with MYSELF. You see, my husband doesn’t hold any of this against me. He knows he is a “neat freak”. He knows I am the “creative” one and I am not nearly as neat as he is. He knows that there are many skills that I am not only bad at, but really don’t care to improve upon. He laughs at the differences between us. He has strengths and weaknesses and I do too. He is bothered by certain things I do, but he still loves me.

The problem is that I have the tendency to hold these things against myself. But it doesn’t stop at the “neatness issue” or the “spatial awareness deficit”. I begin to start to keep score with myself. Only, it’s never fair. After a morning like this, I begin to think of all the other things I am not good at. I begin to make a mental list of the infinite traits and skills I DON’T have. Let me assure you, when I start making this list, it never ends. I have the ability to create things on my list that would be impossible for me to be good at. As I mentioned, it’s not fair.

Believe me, when anyone starts making list of their deficits, it is a slippery slope. There is nothing good that can come out of it. Well, maybe if you have a very strong sense of self and you can use a list to improve on a couple of the things you aren’t good at then I can see something good coming from it. But, if you are anything like me, a list will never be fair, and it will be fuel for the negative self-critical side of your mind to make you feel really bad about yourself.

I honestly don’t care if I stink at moving or lifting things. I care that I’m not a neat freak, but not enough to focus an enormous amount of energy on it. I am not good at geography or history. I’m not skilled in financial matters. I hate economics. I hate going to the car wash. I hate doing paperwork. I stink at many things.

BUT, I am good at a few things. The list may be small but it is all I have. PLUS, I am a good person. When I weigh that against all the stuff on the other list, being a good person is the one thing that is good enough for me. The stuff I stink at doesn’t make me a bad person, it makes me a person. I wouldn’t trade my few “good” things for ALL the things on the other list.

The lesson learned is that as a person, you cannot possibly be good at everything. Don’t make a list of good vs bad. There’s a good possibility that your list will be uneven like mine is. Then, as a result, you might use the list of “bad” things against yourself. This is where you could get into serious trouble. The self-critical side of your mind will use this “bad” list to make you feel bad about yourself and then how do you try to “feel better”??? Using your eating disordered behaviors, of course. You must must must focus on the “good” in yourself. “Goodness” isn’t about skills; it is about humanness and character. Goodness is about love, kindness, fairness, good intentions, sincerity.

Please don’t keep score. Don’t make a list. Try to imagine and focus on ONLY your positive self-affirming personality traits. I am going to immediately begin to focus on mine!!!

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I AM ME – self esteem affirmations

Saying positive affirmations each day can help to shift your thinking from negative to positive and can provide you with hope. Perhaps you could write down a few affirmations that you can read to yourself every day and watch them manifest into positive life changes! Below are some wonderful positive affirmations written by Virginia Satir, an author and therapist (1916 – 1988) who was especially known for her approach to family therapy.

In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me. Everything that comes out of me is authentically me. Because I alone chose it. I own everything about me…my body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice, all my actions.

Whether they be to others or to myself, I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears. I own all my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes.

Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me. By so doing I can love me and be friendly with me in all my parts. I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me, and other aspects that I do not know. But as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles and for ways to find out more about me.

However I look and sound, whatever I say and do, and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is authentically me – If later, some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought and felt turn out to be unfitting, I can discard that which is unfitting, keep the rest, and invent something new for that which I discarded.

I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do. I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive, to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me.

I own me, and therefore I can engineer me – I am me and I am ok. © Virginia Satir, 1975

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Begin Within & Donna Gallagher in the Asbury Park Press

Woman seeks healthy food thoughts

When I was a little girl, while the other girls were playing with dolls and taking ballet classes, I was asking my mother to go grocery shopping so I could walk through the aisles looking at all the beautiful fruits and vegetables, the fresh baked breads and cookies, assorted cheeses, cereals, beverages and snacks….READ THE REST!

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What Can Body Acceptance Get You? Plenty!

The following  is an article by Karin Kratina, PhD, RD, an expert in the treatment of eating disorders:

If being told to lose weight actually helped people to lose weight, there would be no fat people.

If being told they “will die if they do not lose weight” by a medical doctor (as was told to one of my clients only 40 pounds above “ideal”) or that they “are unsightly” (as Ann Landers has done) helped people get thin, everyone would be thin.

Few people would elect to be fat in a culture that so flagrantly hates fat people. This hatred of body fat ensures we evaluate other bodies. But it also keeps us, on some level, worried about our own— always checking the mirror to make sure no on else will think we are fat. Even thin people!

Fat hatred keeps people keeps people hyper-aware of food, focused on food, and sometimes even afraid of food—exactly the opposite of what we want.

Fat hatred keeps people counting calories or carbs, skipping dessert and/or trying to burn off calories. But it does not necessarily motivate them to adopt healthier lifestyles—lifestyles that could help them reach and maintain their natural, healthy weight.

Body hatred creates fear, anxiety, and chronic body dissatisfaction. It keeps people monitoring their bodies and continually trying to change them,. If monitoring the body like this made us thin, most of us would be thin! This focus does little to make a person feel good about themselves. It also does little to motivate them to take care of themselves.

To better understand this, consider how you take care of something you really love. Maybe a child, or pet, or favorite object—say a car. You probably nurture them, watch over them in a caring way. If it is a car, I bet it runs really well. If it is a pet, she probably eats well and gets plenty of exercise (the result of your love), she is probably very healthy.

So why do people believe they have to hate themselves to get thin? To get healthy? 

Since body hatred doesn’t work, why not try the opposite? Try liking yourself. Well, okay, then what about accepting yourself?

Admittedly, accepting yourself if you are a woman is a radical concept in this culture. Sadly.

 But people who accept their bodies (or even like them!) take better care of themselves. They do not wait until they are at XXX weight to take care of themselves (as most people who want to lose weight do).

Liking the self means taking better care of the self, which means more health enhancing behaviors—probably one of the best paths to reaching and maintaining a healthy, natural weight.

So, be radical! Decide to accept your body and yourself ! And then treat yourself as if you did!

About the Author:

Karin Kratina, PhD, RD helps women and men escape diet prison and learn to manage their weight naturally. She co-authored “It’s the Calories, Not the Carbs” and “Moving Away From Diets.” Get the complimentary e-zine, Stay Attuned,™ for inspirational eating, body image and weight tips. Send an email to subscribe@nourishingconnections.com and put “Subscribe” in the subject line.  Visit at www.nourishingconnections.com.

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How to Raise Your Self-Worth

Do you find yourself worthy?

Self-worth is your ability to appreciate, accept, and value yourself independent of success, failure, or the opinions of others. It means having an overall favorable opinion of yourself, believing in your right to feel good, and therefore choosing your thoughts, actions, and expressions based on the belief that you matter.

If you plan to achieve your goals, whether they are goals of ending your unhealthy relationship with food, or overcoming stress, sadness, or depression, you will also need to build a valid sense of self-worth. While self-worth is not about your achievements, it is about spending energy and effort in pursuits that are meaningful to you and your happier life. When you feel worthy, you feel motivated to make behavior choices that support your overall goals of success and joy.

What is the definition of self-worth? Low self-worth is best described as having a low opinion of yourself and feelings of being unworthy. It can result in some common thoughts, actions, and behaviors including:

  • Low motivation
  • Feeling stupid, fat, ugly, useless, or unwanted
  • A sense of not being good enough or on equal ground with others
  • Not feeling strong enough to handle things on your own
  • Feeling judged by others
  • Needing to be more articulate, prettier, smarter, richer, etc.
  • Finding it hard to forgive yourself for making mistakes
  • Dissatisfaction with life
  • Depression
  • Low energy levels
  • Feeling helpless to change things
  • Feeling either superior or inferior to others, never equal
  • Withdrawn from social contact
  • A sense of defeat and hopelessness

One of the problems of believing yourself to have low self-worth is that you will act according to the belief you hold. If you believe you are unworthy of love, you will act as though you are unworthy of love. If you believe you are an outcast, you will act as if you are an outcast. Your beliefs define your reality. In truth, you are so much more than what you believe about yourself. You are the breath of creation in human form, the combination of spirit and physicality. If you currently have low self-worth, there is hope! You can make a decision to change it.

Five Ways to Increase Your Self-Worth

Raising self-worth is a very personal and often complex process. There is no one magic formula to make you believe you are a worthy individual. It takes time, effort, and awareness to allow a sense of worth to deepen. Since strengthening your sense of worth takes motivation and action, you have to have to want and choose this as your goal before you can improve it. Dare to love yourself. It is your journey, and without your support, you are not going to get anywhere at all. However, if you are ready, below are a few suggestions that can and will actively build your self-worth.

1. Realize You Have Control Over Your Future

Encourage yourself to focus on the dreams and desires that are important to you. Begin by giving yourself permission to imagine and pretend that you are living your most perfect life. What ideas awaken passion, creativity, intuition, and gut feelings? What makes you laugh, feel good, and come to life? What do you stand for? Once you have an idea of what goal or direction is important to you, decide to spend time, energy, and action involved in those pursuits. When you become involved with the things that are important to you, your sense of worth increases.

2. Think Better Thoughts

Begin to notice your automatic thoughts. Are you inner voices supportive and loving, or critical and abusive? Consciously watch your thoughts as a detached observer. There is no need to fight your thoughts, pretend to ignore them, or even judge them. Instead, bring your thoughts out into the open. Acknowledge their existence, write them down, and speak them aloud. Sit back and say to yourself, “Isn’t that interesting that I am thinking these thoughts.” It’s okay to feel insecure or anxious, and you still love yourself. It is also okay to add the supportive and loving thoughts you really want to hear. Your thoughts are your responsibility and while you cannot erase negative thoughts, you certainly can learn to challenge them.

3. Express Your Self

Self-worth is your ability to feel free to be yourself. So it makes sense that if your self-worth is low, most likely you will invest your time role-playing, and pretending to be something, somebody, other than who your really are. You will find yourself behaving in ways others expect you to behave so that they will like you. Yet, inwardly you will feel self-critical, judgmental, and believe yourself to be different in some non-okay way. It is your right to be who you are, expressing your innermost truths, and not feeling like you must live up to someone else’s expectations. You have the right to say, “No” when you mean no, or, “I don’t care” when that is what you really feel inside. However, self-worth also includes your decision to communicate directly, state your preferences and opinions, and speak in a concise assertive voice.

4. To Err is Human

Self-worth is your ability to acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses while at the same time accepting yourself as worthy and worthwhile. If you want to raise your self-worth, allow yourself to gain a realistic perspective about mistakes, obstacles, setbacks, and failure. Failure is actually the only way to become successful. Although no one really wants to experience failure, you can remind yourself that failure is a natural aspect of every ultimately successful journey. Think of misfortunes as temporary and specific instead of permanent and general. In other words, your current effort may have been unsuccessful, but that doesn’t mean that your overall goal or dream is unattainable. Learn from your setback, revise your action plan, and begin again.

5. Be Responsible for Your Success

Raising your self-worth includes being responsible for your own happiness and success. To achieve this, learn how to be your own best friend and supporter. Constantly tell yourself what a good job you are doing. Actively seek out evidence of your success. Praise your efforts. Learn to be excited by your choices. Recognize your many triumphs – however small they may seem. Self-worth is the overflowing of love and acceptance from within you directed to you. Decide you will allow yourself to feel successful with each step you take, no matter what the outcome is. It is enough that you have taken the step. You are enough.

Self-worth is your right to live and be happy. Follow these steps and you will find that you have set into motion forces that allow you to deepen your sense of self-worth. Good luck and good self-worth!

Copyright 1997–2011 Annette Colby, PhD. All rights reserved in all media.

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