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During National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I was reminded just how much our society encourages us to wear “Ed glasses.” Instead of appreciating our bodies as a place to live—a vehicle for life—we are taught to nip, tuck, and control. Further, we often don’t even realize that our eyes literally play tricks on us. Selective attention can can skew our perception and cause us to miss things. As an example, test your awareness by watching this short video.

To begin to better understand how you might be wearing Ed glasses, below, I included an excerpt from my latest book, Almost Anorexic: Is My (or My Loved Ones) Relationship with Food a Problem?, which I co-wrote with Jennifer J. Thomas, Ph.D. Dr. Thomas is the Co-Director of the Eating Disorders Clinical and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

For a chance to win a signed book, see information at the bottom of this post!

Wearing Ed Glasses
Excerpt from Almost Anorexic by Jennifer J. Thomas, Ph.D. and Jenni Schaefer

Basing much of your self-esteem on shape and weight causes you to view the world through Ed glasses. Eye-tracking research suggests that when individuals with almost anorexia and other officially recognized eating disorders look at photos of themselves, they tend to spend more time looking at body parts that they think are “ugly” than parts they think are “beautiful.” Hyperfocusing on perceived flaws, they tend to formulate an overall judgment of themselves that is both harsh and critical, and they later recall and ruminate about these imperfections. Once they have developed this critical view of their bodies, it caAmbiguous Figuren be difficult to change.

To illustrate this concept, take a look at the ambiguous picture created for this book by artist Emily Wierenga in figure 8. (You can also download this figure at www.almostanorexic.com.) Do you see a thin or a large woman? The figure is designed to be either one. If at first you see the larger woman whose body is positioned sideways facing to the right, it may be difficult for you to change your perspective and to see the thin woman whose body is facing forward with her head tilted up toward the left. To help you distinguish between the two, note that the thin woman’s nose is raised higher, more smugly, and is actually the ear of the larger woman, who appears melancholy with her arms folded across her chest. The feather hat on the upper left belongs to the thin woman and also serves as a ponytail for the large woman. Wierenga, who herself recovered from anorexia nervosa and coauthored the body image book Mom in the Mirror, designed the thin woman’s regal robe to represent the large woman’s layers of flesh. She told us, “In a society that equates thin with beauty and beauty with love, we long to be thin, and so we hide. Beneath layers of guilt and shame, not seeing ourselves for the royalty that we are.”

Just like the thin/large woman, our own bodies can be ambiguous figures—one day looking slim and svelte, the next day covered in rolls of fat. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to let this image dictate whether we should feel pride (like the thin woman) or shame (like the large woman). You may have found that, once you started seeing the ambiguous picture one way (that is, as either thin or fat), it was difficult for you to change perspectives. Just as you can get locked in to viewing the ambiguous figure one way, individuals with almost anorexia get locked in to viewing themselves as “fat.” Their perception can be difficult to change, mainly because they begin to engage in behaviors that serve to maintain their negative self-view. As in a game of hide-and-seek, those with almost anorexia often alternate between avoidance, which is a desperate attempt to hide perceived flaws, and body checking, which is near-constant vigilance for any weight and shape changes.

Are You Hiding Your Body?
A negative relationship with your body can be like living in a prison whose rules dictate what you can and cannot do. Don’t let anyone take your photo until you lose weight. Don’t go to that party, because you look horrible in dress clothes. Those with almost anorexia and other officially recognized eating disorders are significantly more likely than healthy individuals to engage in avoidance behaviors, such as refusing to be weighed, averting their eyes as they walk past reflective surfaces, and wearing baggy clothes to disguise their shape. Avoidance behaviors can be subtle, such as making yourself sit or stand in a certain way that you think will make you appear thinner—whether in photos or in real life. These behaviors can be incredibly impairing too. Dr. Thomas has worked with patients who dress in the dark, rarely shower, or won’t even get out of bed on “fat” days.

test-announcement
Comment below describing one way that you appreciate your body as a vehicle for life!

To find out more about avoidance and body checking as well as to learn specific tips about how to overcome these behaviors, read Almost Anorexic. Free excerpts available here. Dr. Thomas and I believe that full recovery is possible. You can learn to accept and even love your body!

Book Giveaway: With this post, we are giving away a signed copy of Almost Anorexic. To enter to win, just comment below describing one way that you appreciate your body as a vehicle for life. (e.g., My body takes me on bike rides. My body lets me hang out with friends.) One winner will be chosen randomly among all of the commenters.

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  • Liz Stark

    One way that I appreciate my body, as a vehicle for life, is the fact that it gives me the ability to do so much. Most notably, I can travel, participate in activities that I enjoy, and give hugs to my loved ones.

    • Hi Liz – YOU are the winner of the signed book! Thanks again for sharing. Can you please send your snail mail address to jenni@jennischaefer.com?

      • Liz Stark

        Thank you SO much! I will send the email now 🙂

  • I appreciate my body for carrying me through recovery. ♡

  • roadtorecovered

    I love my body because it is a vehicle that allows me to show up and be an active participant in my life.

  • Amber Fletcher

    I love my body because it allows me to inspire others to do their best.

  • Rebekah Lyons

    I appreciate my body because it allows me to teach young children to read and write. My body allows me to demonstrate ballet and to introduce young kids to the art of dance. Lastly, I appreciate my body so that I can feel the warm sand at the beach, the wind, and the sunshine. It allows me to give and to receive hugs and to cry and smile. My body allows me to think, to pray, and to reflect<3

  • Kim Moore

    My body lets me play with my dog and teach kids. 🙂

  • Stephitza

    I am grateful for my body because it lets me run and bike outside in nature, two activities that make me feel alive and free. I appreciate my body because it allows me to witness the infinite beauty of the natural world.

  • Brynna Slater

    My body lets me travel around the world and see explore amazing places

  • Thanks to everyone for these amazing comments! Very inspirational. I will post the book winner tomorrow! Stay tuned…

  • Daniel McConville

    My body reminds me that i am strong and i will stay strong as i beat ED.

  • Jessica Nofire

    My body lets me be active in my niece’s life and be a positive role model for her.

  • Chad W. Helton

    My body lets me take care of my mother.

  • Kally hacker

    I love my body because it will carry me to my 20th birthday in two weeks, when a couple months ago I didn’t think I would make it.

  • Nikkers

    i feel good after I run.. somedays
    thanks for the chance

  • Mandy Lee Holler

    My body loves to go for long walks

  • Charlene

    My body allows me to take care of my daughters

  • Sparkle

    My body enables me to hold my favorite fountain pen and write!

  • dbrake

    My body enables me to do what I was created to do.

  • jocelyn kleiboer

    My body gave me 3 beautiful children !