Stop Fighting Against Yourself and Start Fighting For Yourself

By Kelli Swensen, Dietetics Student, Sargent College

Last night’s Lovin’ the Body You’re In panel centered around a guy named “Ed”. Okay, so Ed is not really a guy. You can’t find him listed in the phone book or friend him on Facebook, but you may have him in your head. Ed is the name speaker Cheryl Kerrigan gave to her eating disorder. Cheryl moved the audience with her story of struggling with negative body image thoughts starting at age 7 to her eating disorder that eventually manifested and continued to grow into her late 30’s. Later in the evening, when asked about the early stages of recovery, she said, “I felt like I was my eating disorder,” and how once she realized her eating disorder was a separate entity – Ed – she then had “something to fight,” she was able to really start recovering

This notion that you are not your eating disorder may seem obvious but it’s so key. You can’t recover from yourself. As long as you are fighting with yourself, you can’t win. However, by realizing that the voice inside your head that is telling you to be skinnier, to eat less, to be perfect, is something that you can fight, something that you can silence and get rid of, you will then be able to win back yourself.


So how do you go about winning yourself back? Sargent Choice Nutrition Center’s Stacey Zawacki, RD, stressed that you don’t have to be at any specific level of disordered eating or thoughts to “qualify” for help. This means that just because you don’t have anorexia or aren’t purging after eating, doesn’t mean you have a healthy body image. As a student in the audience stated, “The first time you feel your body isn’t what it should be, you need to get help.” Whether it’s talking to a friend or seeing a professional, it’s so important to address negative thoughts before they have the opportunity to grow into lethal disorders. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness; in fact, it’s exactly the opposite. It takes strength to admit you need help and to take care of your body. As Dr. Kate Acherman said, “Going to a psychologist is like a facial for your brain.” She mentioned how you wouldn’t think twice about getting a facial, so why should therapy be any different? Your mind is one of your most important assets, so keep it healthy!


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During her talk, Cheryl discussed some of her practical recovery tools that helped her put an end to Ed and regain love for her body. Two really stood out to me:

1. Stop body checking. Body checking is feeling your body to reassure that you haven’t gotten bigger. This usually leads to negative thoughts: “My arms feel too large” “There’s too much fat around my stomach.” Her tips on how to stop:

-Count to 50 then count backwards. The goal is to take your concentration off of your body and onto something else.

-Fidget with a stress ball or paper clip. Keep your hands busy so you aren’t able to assess your body

-Sit on your hands.

2. Cover your mirrors with layers of paper so all you can see is your face. As your self-love gets better, slowly remove the paper, layer by layer. Ideally, by the time you no longer have the mirror covered, your love for your body will be independent of your reflection.


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Looking around the room I noticed not only how attentive everyone was to the speakers, but also how many people came in pairs. To my left, was a woman with tears streaming down her face and her boyfriend beside her gently rubbing his thumb across her hand. In another part of the room, a pair of friends kept giving each other reassuring looks. These acts of comfort and reassurance reminded me of the power of caring. Remember to care for your friends, family members, even strangers. Show this care by speaking up if you think that person is struggling with disordered thoughts, by supporting someone you know who is in the recovery phase of an eating disorder, or simply by not saying negative things about your body or anyone else’s. Getting rid of “fat talk” is an easy way to show how much you care for the people around you.


Take home messages of the night? While I’m sure different people were impacted by different things, but for me the most important points included:

  • It’s never too early to seek help
  • Tell yourself out loud that you love your body. Even if you don’t initially mean it, saying positive things about your body out loud will help to eventually boost your body image
  • It takes only 2 minutes of negative talk to decrease your body image
  • Stop fat talk. It’s harmful not only to yourself, but also to everyone around you
  • You will recover. It may take longer than you’d like, but recovery can and will happen as long as you work at it.

Other panelists included Dr. Margaret Ross, Dr. Deborah Russo, Whitney Post, and moderator Michelle George, the SHS wellness coordinator. Whitney Post recently co-founded Eating for Life Alliance, which is focused around helping college students cope with negative body image and eating disorders.


gary posted on March 8, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Thank you for this article; it brought back memories.Body image is so powerful, and most of us are led to feel not so good. I remember being too skinny for a very long time (6’3″ and 135 pounds to start high school). Now I control my weight well within a 40 pound range (at 6’8″ it spreads out well). My late wife was skinny growing up, and then lost control. She tried really hard, but never found the right key. I know it was hard for her Leo personality to be heavy.

Purple Dreamer posted on December 23, 2012 at 5:18 pm

I bookmarked this article months ago, and it is one I refer to frequently. It’s a great reminder to me that recovery is possible, and I can learn to love my body. Thank you for this article, the wisdom may be simple, but it is inspiring to read over and over again.

Emma_1985 posted on May 7, 2014 at 7:45 am

This is great advice, it really all is a matter of attitude and being positive. I like the idea of the stress ball or paper clip; the idea of counting back from 50 makes me think of self-hypnosis which I learned a few years ago. I find that to be a great stress reliever. I found this article very enlightening 🙂

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