“Present” is a guest post from Intuitive Eating specialist, Tiffany Schwieterman. If you’ve struggled with yo-yo dieting or obsessive thoughts about weight that have robbed you of a full, free life, you’ll love this article from Tiffany. You can learn more about Tiffany and her work on her website: www.tiffanyschwieterman.com
My daughter was born on Christmas Eve, 2010. I wanted to be a Mom more than ANYTHING.
I longed to be able to hold and snuggle my infant/toddler as much as possible. When I was a baby, I would have been content in my Mom’s arms 24-7. When she dropped me off with my baby-sitter, she had to bring an extra shirt. She would leave the shirt that she had been wearing, and my baby-sitter would put it on. I was okay…as long as I could at least smell my Mom.
My daughter however, wanted “down” as soon as had the skills to make that request physically and/or verbally. She was happy to be dropped off at daycare. She fed herself as soon as she was able. She hasn’t allowed me to pick out her outfit or dress her since she turned two. She didn’t want me to walk her down the hall to her preschool classroom, she wanted to go by herself. You get the picture – an independent soul.
As parents, there are so many things that we would do, if we could, to create an ideal world for our children. For me, that would include creating a world where diet culture doesn’t interfere with her life.
I hope that diet culture never…
- Steals the joy that she experiences from moving and challenging her body.
- Makes her doubt the healthy relationship that she has with food and her body.
- Occupies her time and energy that could be better spent on her academics, career aspirations, hobbies, friendships, relationships, or enjoying motherhood (If that’s what she wants).
My daughter is the greatest Christmas present I could ever receive. I have realized over the past 17 months of my Intuitive Eating journey, that one of the greatest presents I can give back to her, is for me to be PRESENT.
For almost the first seven years of her life, I had obsessive thoughts about food and my body – EVERY DAY. I packed her up, and took her to a Weight Watchers (WW) meeting when she was THREE DAYS old. A meeting that I had planned to attend and anxiously waited for, months before she was born. I remember being at a WW meeting after I had a lost a significant amount of weight. I was being congratulated (for my obsessive life-sucking thoughts and behaviors). I was asked how I was so successful. I replied “I never deviate from the plan. I know how I’m going to spend my daily and bonus points for the entire week ahead.” Even the WW leader had the wherewithal to feel and look concerned. He asked “What about the unexpected treats in the office break room, or a surprise date night?” I replied:
“I don’t allow myself to participate in anything unplanned – it’s not worth it.”
Um…what? It’s not worth it? Avoiding spontaneity and surprises at all costs? How sad. This mentality continued no matter what diet I was on during the years that followed. If I was following the plan, I was a superior being. If I deviated in any way, I was disgusting. Needless to say, I was not PRESENT. I wasn’t present or connected in/with my own body. I certainly wasn’t fully participating in life.
I was very happily married, I was proud of my jobs, and I loved being a Mom. Simultaneously, diet culture was robbing me of so much time, energy, and opportunities for fun and connection.
I can now easily enjoy spontaneous sushi dates with my daughter. I can do this without feeling stressed about going “off plan,” or considering it a “cheat meal.” I can easily eat the special Christmas cookie that she made me, without trying to estimate how many calories I’m consuming. I can go on a walk with her and our dog, without being frustrated if we aren’t going fast or long enough to be “worth it.”
I couldn’t dream of a better Christmas present than my daughter. Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size has given me the gift of being able to be PRESENT for her, the rest of our family, my friends, passions, clients and…me.
-This is a guest blog post written by a wonderful Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Tiffany Schwieterman, located in Vancouver, WA.
The feeling of shame has a reputation of being the vampire of emotions–the feeling that will suck the life right out of you. Because it comes with it a very physical discomfort, heat, and pain, it’s probably on your list of emotions to be avoided at all costs.
In this blog, I’m going to ask (and attempt to answer) the hard questions: Why do we experience shame? What utility does it have for us? What’s a person to do when they’re feeling trapped in a shame spiral?
First, to understand why we experience shame, we have to explore what triggers it.
Shame happens when you’ve broken an agreement that you’ve made with yourself. It is a faithful (and loud) reminder that you’ve strayed out of bounds and broken an internal “rule.” Sometimes shame goes ahead of you, before you’ve actually done the “wrong” deed, preventing you from taking an action that would be out of alignment with your values.
Our internal “rules” are a mixture of AUTHENTIC and INAUTHENTIC shame, a concept pioneered by Karla McLaren in her book, “The Language of Emotions.”
AUTHENTIC shame happens when you’ve broken the code of your character or integrity. These “rules” are the moral code that you would apply NOT ONLY to yourself but to other people as well. For example, a part of my moral code is to not gossip. Every single time I find myself participating in gossip with a friend, a feeling of shame creeps up, informing me with its icky feeling that I’m out of line. My “rule” about gossip is one I would teach my children and one I’d hope all people would embrace.
AUTHENTIC shame helps you live a value-drive life. It acts like a curb, nudging you back to alignment with your deepest sense of integrity.
On the other hand, INAUTHENTIC shame happens when you’ve broken internalized rules that apply ONLY to you. Here are several examples:
- A student to has to get all A’s and feels shame for that lone B+ on their transcript.
- A teen girl feels shameful disgust for the fat on her body because she’s taken in messages that fat is abnormal/wrong/shameful
- A woman has a miscarriage and feels shame, believing this wouldn’t have happened to her unless there was something bad/wrong with her.
- A man looks in the mirror at his receding hairline and feels a twinge of shame, as if he’s broken the rule that a man must have a full head of hair.
- A professional’s voice shakes while giving a presentation at work, feeling shame because they believe it’s bad/wrong to display any form of anxiety in public.
INAUTHENTIC shame is triggered by breaking the “rules” you have for yourself that you would NEVER intentionally pass on to other people.
With INAUTHENTIC shame, there is likely a part of you that recognizes the harmful nature of your “rules.” You might recognize that it contributes to your experience of depression, low self-esteem, poor body image, or toxic perfectionism. AND, you might still feel stuck, buying into those “rules” despite your recognition of the double standard at play.
HOW DOES INAUTHENTIC SHAME DEVELOP?
INAUTHENTIC shame springs forth from messages you’ve received from the outside (a critical comment from someone or maybe even messages from the media about what an ideal person is like). It’s as if you’ve taken someone else’s garbage home with you, accepted it as your own, and lived with its stench day after day.
THE REALITY IS: Whether your experience of shame is AUTHENTIC or INAUTHENTIC, 100% of the time it is informing you about internal rules that you are breaking.
4 STEPS FOR BREAKING OUT OF INAUTHENTIC SHAME
- Start by labeling the shame as INAUTHENTIC, as something that has been applied to you and caused you harm.
- Identify clearly what “rule” you are breaking. What are the specific details of the rule? For example: The rule that I’m not allowed to make mistakes OR The rule that I have to do X, Y, and Z by the time I’m 30 or else I’m a failure.
- Ask yourself: Where did this rule come from? What has allowed this rule to take root in you over time? Whose garbage is this?
- Try out Karla McLaren’s CONTRACT BURNING visualization skill for a powerful and effective way of releasing that old “rule.”
If you’d like help shifting out of INAUTHENTIC shame, a counselor may be able to help. The counselors with Star Meadow Counseling love helping clients explore and alter the “rules” that have kept them stuck.
Alexander, S. (2018). Mind Body Connections.
McLaren, K. (2010). Language of emotions. [United States]: Sounds True.
What is Intuitive Eating?
We are all born with the natural instincts to be well-balanced eaters. Throughout our lives, many of us battle against and eventually beat down those instinctive eating habits. (more…)
In Part 1 of this series, we discussed strategies for eliminating unhelpful self-criticism about your body. In this article, we will explore frequent weighing as a potential contributor to poor body image.
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