Full Life Reflections

Striving for happiness, peace, and fulfillment in a chaotic world

It’s now been a month since I moved and started my new educational program. Things have settled down enough for me that I will probably be able to post more often. One thing I didn’t mention in my last post is that I now live just a few minutes away from my favorite mall! Since …

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I don’t really like the word “addiction” because it carries with it a sense of being completely out of control or even victim to a particular type of behavior. I think this attitude is a big part of why I never stuck with the 12-step programs I attended for both my eating disorders and codependent behavior. I couldn’t get past the first step, which is “I admit that I am powerless over my addiction and my life has become unmanageable.” While I was more than willing to cop to having an unmanageable life, confessing to powerlessness was just something I could never do. I guess I’m just too much of a control freak!

It is not my intent to either criticize or advocate the 12-step philosophy. I know that AA and associated programs have helped a lot of people over the years and very likely could have helped me as well had I steadfastly adhered to the steps. My best advice is always to do what works, and what works can vary for any of us as time goes by. My current choice is to follow Louise Hay’s advice and philosophy outlined in “You Can Heal Your Life.” Louise addresses the concept of addictions in detail in both her book and the corresponding companion book.

This post outlines Louise Hay’s philosophies on addictions, as well as some of the advice she gives for releasing addictive behavior. I also share some secrets regarding one of my compulsive behaviors and the insights I gained from completing the Chapter 6 exercises on addictions in the “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book.”

Are you obsessed with the sizes of your clothing? Do you refuse to buy an item if it is a larger size than you normally wear? A recent article on the Weight Watchers website (posted by a fellow member of the “Let’s Fashion Talk” forum) describes this phenomenon. Many women have a specific size in mind when shopping for clothing, and they are extremely hesitant to buy anything larger than that “magic” size.

Some highlights of the article include:

* There is no standard sizing convention among women’s clothing manufacturers. Often, the more high-end the designer, the smaller the size. Even within a single brand, there are disparities.
* “Vanity sizing,” in which measurements run larger than standard, is used by the majority of manufacturers today. One exception is the dress-pattern market, in which the measurements for the McCall’s size 8 correspond to the current 0 or 00 on the Banana Republic website!
* Vanity sizing is driven entirely by marketing psychology. Women like to fit into a smaller size and single digits sound better than double digits.
* The average American woman is 5’4.5” and wears a size 12 top and a size 14 bottom.
* The dream size for most women on the Weight Watchers plan hovers between an 8 and a 10.

I recently found a journal entry I made following an interesting shopping experience I had back in 2004. I titled my journal entry “Perspective.” I am sharing what I wrote six years ago because I feel it is timeless and highly relevant to the “body image rehab” process. I have modified the original text slightly for the sake of clarity. I also removed references to specific sizes, as that information may be “triggering” to some people and is not really pertinent to the overall message.

I was in a department store buying clothes the other day. While waiting in line to pay, I overheard a conversation a lot of new clothes and told the saleswoman it was because she had recently lost quite a bit of weight. I noticed that the clothes she was buying were all several sizes larger than my current size; a size which I feel is unacceptable. I also noted that this woman was approximately six inches shorter than me. While I would have been horrified to be purchasing those larger sizes at my height, this woman was absolutely thrilled to be wearing that same size.

It struck me at that moment that it is all about perspective. I hate wearing my current size now because I used to wear two sizes smaller (or even four or five sizes smaller during my anorexic years). In contrast, the woman in front of me loved the fact that she was buying her current size because she used to wear a much larger size. What disgusts me thrills her. Interesting how perspective affects how we feel about our size – and ourselves.

I’m fat! My thighs are huge! I’m ugly! I’m old!

How often do you say these types of things about yourself, either aloud or inside your head? How much time and energy do you spend disparaging yourself and your appearance? Do you think this kind of negative self-talk helps you to change?

For many years, I was my own worst critic. I would criticize myself for a multitude of “sins,” but my most frequent criticisms related to my appearance. I set unbelievably high standards for how I looked, and I would berate myself for not living up to these benchmarks. Whenever I would look at myself in the mirror, all I would see were my flaws; my virtues were invisible to the harsh judge inside my head.

I used to believe that my self-criticism served a useful purpose. I thought that my brutal thoughts and words motivated me to change, and that the judgments pushed me toward productive action. While it’s true that seeing that I didn’t live up to my own standards propelled me to exercise more often and restrict my food intake, there was also a downside to my self-criticism that I didn’t see until recently.