I’d like to gush for just a second about how much I love teachers! It’s true! I don’t know how you do what you do…I’m over here at home with my kids just a few days a week for summer and I’m all like “How long can I lock myself in the bathroom before one of my kids is going to hunt me down?” The answer is usually three minutes, tops. So I just imagine that all day, every day, times 25. So, educators…you rock!
I wanted to talk about something I see come up with clients this time of year.
It’s back to school time in Tyler. Texas and I notice this brings up a lot of uncomfortable feelings for students and educators. Often these thoughts and feelings become centered on our food and our bodies. I can guarantee you that even though all of these thoughts and feelings seem like they are about food and weight, they really aren’t about food and weight.
What?? How can that be?
If all this discomfort is not about food and your body what are these feelings about?
Here is a quick exercise you can do to figure out what all these food and body feelings are really about:
First, look for red flag feelings like “I feel fat” ” I feel gross” “I feel disgusting.” Also, search for shame talk which often includes a lot of “shoulds” “coulds” and “whys?” These are usually pretty big indicators that something is going on. Get curious about these feelings.
My middle child is obsessed with science and whenever she is having a tough feeling I tell her, lets be like scientists about this!
Let’s be like a scientist about your body and food feelings. Often, we judge ourselves for “bad” feelings because we buy this lie that only the good feelings are acceptable (take a pause if you believe this…now go watch Inside Out…feel all the feels and then come back with less shame and guilt and more curiosity!).
Second, ask yourself this: Has there been a recent time that you were enjoying life and not thinking about your body? or even the reverse a time where you weren’t thinking about your body and then suddenly BOOM body shame overwhelms you? (Most clients say “Yes, while I am on vacation/participating in a favorite hobby/ with a loved one”) Write some of these times down. Do it. Right now.
This tells us that these thoughts and feelings are not about your body…(aha this is evidence to support our hypothesis…I’m running with the science theme here) because you had the same body you did a few weeks ago while you were playing with your kids, on vacation, or participating in that hobby.
The next step is to ask yourself what these feelings are truly about.
Here are some common thoughts and feelings that come up this time of year:
Will I fit in?
Will I make friends?
What if my friends are constantly talking about diets and their bodies?
What if people make a comment about my body?
What if I don’t know what I am doing?
Will my students/peers like me?
How will I follow my meal plan with my hectic back to school schedule?
These are normal feelings and thoughts.
Sometimes they will turn into thoughts about your body and food because this is the filter that an eating disorder will use to process most things and the world also tells you that you should be thinking about food and weight loss constantly (Diet culture sucks and I strongly urge you to check out Sara Upson’s course for defending yourself against diet culture course for defending yourself against diet culture)!
It makes sense that you would take these very normal uncomfortable feelings and make them a problem about food and weight, but we have to remember even if you lost weight the feelings will still be there. I know this for a fact! I have sat with so many people who have experienced trauma and grief and used dieting to manage those feelings. Weeks, months, years, and even decades later they still have all the same tough thoughts/feelings and then some.
The last step is to look for what you truly need. If you are feeling stress, you might need rest. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you might need to talk to someone. If you are feeling unworthy, maybe it is time to find value in a different non-hustling way.
This is a tough time of year folks, remember to be gentle with yourself, reach out to your treatment team, and practice good self-care. Difficult thoughts and feelings are bound to show up but they don’t have to control our behavior and dieting behavior certainly won’t change back to school stress! Hang in there and take care of your whole self!