Posted by: VoiceinRecovery | May 4, 2010

Body Image Under Attack

Written by: Kendra Sebelius

It feels as if my body image is under attack. I know many out there are probably nodding, thinking how hard it can be, especially with the media, pressure to look and be a certain way, magazine left and right telling us conflicting messages of being fit but being on diets. It’s enough to make your head spin. But I have a confession – it isn’t the media putting my body image under attack, it is ME, my thoughts, my actions, and my choices that are responsible. And the worst part is that I am absolutely aware of what I am doing, and continue to CHOOSE to throw my body and its being under attack. The best part is, I can actually explain the whys, the causes, the triggers that lead to all of this.  I have a really consistent pattern when it comes to body image attacks.

The Trigger:

There is usually something that “happens” in my life, I put happen in quotations, because I do believe that life is more about how we choose to respond to situations, than actual situations. My trigger could be something I feel, like anger. Anger, the monster no one wants to talk about, let alone admit, is a huge trigger for me. I can feel the physiological effects and my amygdala goes from 0 to 60 in about 4 seconds. Sometimes there is a reason for this anger, such as a fight with someone I am close with, and sometimes the anger can come out of no where, be completely irrational, and that I believe is the most frustrating anger of all. I often get triggered by fights because after a fight, there is this sense of being “out of control” so immediately I want to seek some control in some aspect of my life. I also notice I am triggered by being tired, working too much, not taking breaks at work, not calling in sick when I am in fact sick.

The Emotional Rollercoaster:

I am relatively emotional. I have no problems feeling all my feelings, and while this is a great way to process and move through struggles, it can also be challenging for my body image. I tend to go up and down all day. Often it is hard to explain on Twitter than I can want to cry one moment, and laugh the next, but in the end I am ok.  I think one of my greatest strengths is my ability to feel, name what I am feeling, let go in the feeling, and allow it to change or grow into something else. I feel great liberty and freedom in my feelings, because I know no matter what, it will change. My body image gets confused by this, especially after triggers, because I could go from feeling great in my skin, to feeling the NON feeling of “fat attack”. It can be really confusing and I feel for my body image during this extreme emotional rollercoaster.

The Attacking Thoughts:

I compartmentalize my body – so when feeling like crap about something I did, something I said, or a situation I cannot control, I go straight to viewing my body in “parts”. It is really uncomfortable to realize I am taking body parts, and PICKING on them, telling them how they should be and not liking them as they are. I no longer see my body as a unit that works to provide me movement and ability, but I see it as a huge list of problem areas. This has to be the hardest thought pattern to get out of when I am under attack by my thoughts. It is almost as if I can FEEL the wrongness of my parts. It is extremely mean, cruel, and sad. I go to a place where I think I need to fix me, versus accept me. The should monster also comes out to play – telling me I should do this, do that, yadadada.

The Attacking Actions:

Oh this is the area I would rather not discuss and be accountable. It is hard to be honest about our actions that are out of line with where we are in recovery, and our goals to respect our recovery journey. I was tempted to write this as an entire separate blog entry, because I think actions and non actions can be so complicated. I notice in times of stress, conflict, emotional turmoil, I have a lot of ‘cravings’ regarding food. I get thoughts of restriction, thoughts of eating certain foods, and everything in between. I feel odd willpower thoughts if I ignore hunger, which freaked me out today. I usually can battle the actions more than the thoughts when I am struggling. I think eating is a journey, and I can be totally comfortable with all my eating for months, and then have one moment where I get a twinge of a desire to restrict and it makes me very aware. In my own recovery I have made it a point to recognize and be mindful of these thoughts regarding actions around food. 

So this is my pattern, my cycle, a trigger occurs, thoughts and feelings begin, and actions and choices are next – which can trigger an entire new cycle, all depending on my CHOICES in the first go around. When I feel my body image is under personal attack I need a gameplan. So I decided to write this blog to be accountable to myself and to others, and to write a list of what I intend to do the next time an attack occurs (oh and apply it to current attack in place right now).


What I CAN DO and what I DO when I am Under Attack:

  • I wear comfortable clothing, clothing that makes me feel pretty, sexy, comfy, safe.
  • I throw out ANY and ALL clothing that is too tight and makes me say negative hateful comments to my body
  • I wear makeup – silly? Perhaps….but I FEEL better when I wear funky makeup, mermaid colors especially. I also paint my nails or toes black because that makes me FEEL like me.
  • I color my hair, some little change and I feel great
  • I do NOT read nor buy fashion, fitness, or so called wellness magazines. I just don’t feel like I want to read nor look at any bodies to which I could be potentially comparing myself to
  • I visit Operation Beautiful’s Website to remind me I am beautiful even if I don’t feel like it
  • I share on Twitter that my negative tape is running amok, I will not listen, it lies, and will throw (smash) it against the wall. This one is easier to type than it is to literally do or believe, but I TRY and DO it still because I believe its important to separate ME from the body image attacks
  • I read all the wonderful definitions people have given to me about what beauty is to them. This feeds and nourishes my soul and body image. It is important to take power away from the physical and give it back to the soul
  • Write a list of the thoughts and counter them with an attack of my own to FIGHT FOR MY BODY IMAGE.
  • Reach out and vent to a friend
  • Go for a walk, get outside, focus on 5 things I see, 4 things I hear, 3 things I touch, 2 things I smell, 1 thing I feel. Just connect again with all my senses.
  • DO more, THINK less: I feel Doing something helps me get out of “should” land. Doing something, no matter how small, makes me feel calm, and centered. Even if it is to wash the dishes, or cook a nice dinner, it calms my mind a bit to focus on something outside of myself.
  • Do something artistic: jewelry, paint, collage, etc.
  • Listen to music
  • Feed myself with GM (green monsters) every morning because they have changed how I feel, given me more energy than coffee ever has. I am a total GM addict and proud of it.
  • Carry bars with me when I am out and about, so I never get too hungry, and have no excuse to restrict (I should add to that – Carry and EAT said bar! Carrying it is not enough)
  • I do a quick reflection and realize what Recovery and Sobriety have given me – a LIFE. My body is just one part of my life, but it deserves as much respect as my soul, who I am, and what I think I am worth. My body got me through some VERY harsh actions in the past, and I refuse to allow my thoughts or actions continue to wear my body down. The time is to build my body, its image, and its being UP.
  • Listen to my bodies needs. This includes getting to sleep on time, feeding it when hungry, resting it when its tired, doing more physical activity to keep it strong
  • “Sit in the Fire” – I was given this advice by @CalmTheDragon and it has stuck with me. When I get angry, emotional, it is CRUCIAL to sit in the feeling, and NOT respond. Within minutes the feeling will change, I will gain perspective, and be able to calmly view the situation without the same consequences anger, reactions, and mean words can have. I want to now apply the “Sit in the Fire” to my body image! If I sit with the feelings, and recognize the triggers, have awareness of my actions and thoughts, I can better choose a way to fight FOR my body image. Choose to do any one of the things in this list.
  • Be grateful for all my GOOD body image days. I have more good days than bad attacking days!!! I am grateful for a pair of jeans, a simple tank top, a new bag, a new jacket, new boots, that make me feel comfortable in my own skin. I will often send pics to Twitter of my outfit, because I feel it is important to recognize and give kudos to those days where I FEEL great. I find a sexy outfit, one I feel sexy in, can change my entire body image day. If I wear something I know I feel CONFIDENT in, I am way more likely to have a good body image day than not.

In the end, I think my body image is worth a fight! I think my thoughts and actions have not been so kind to myself in times when I need to most love, care, support, patience. When I am sad, confused, lonely, I need extra care, not an extra attack! It seems like a simple idea, to not be mean to your body, but it is hard, especially if we have had these tapes for years, and patterns of self attack for just as long. So I am going to challenge myself to take my own advice, be kind when I want to be mean, be patient when I want everything to work out, breathe when I want to scream, sit when I want to run.

How about you – have you ever felt like your body image was under attack from your own thoughts, actions, behaviors? What helps you fight back? What do you do to feed your body image?



  1. This is such a great post – in fact, I think it is my favourite of all your posts thus far. It contains so many helpful and positive ideas that other people can learn from and use themselves if they are not having a great body image day which is brilliant.

  2. Really great post with lots of good ideas. Totally identify with a lot of what you talk about here. I’m finding that moments of particular weakness for body image attacks are often when I have more than a day of sickness. I’m going to try some of your suggestions…

  3. Kendra! This post is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. I loved it. Loved it. Can’t wait until Sunday to include it in this weeks body loving blogosphere. Really great points. Well done.

  4. I can relate, 100%, to the emotional rollercoaster cycle. It’s so easy and somehow convenient to allow yourself to be dragged down by the negative – I think usually the things that trigger me are things I really don’t want to deal with, so I use my negative feelings as an excuse not to deal with it – I’m sad, I’m angry, whatever, I just want to get over it, stop being sad, move on – but I rarely used to deal with the root of the problem. Which is why i agree, extremely, with the “sit in the fire” advice. Its SO easy to not actually feel your emotions – they affect you, but you don’t feel them, you don’t explore them, you don’t try to understand them, because there is such a social stigma against depression/negativity that you just want to MOVE ON already. Of course this desire to just move on creates more stress, dragging you deeper down … oh dear, do I know the cycle. I think the most important step towards breaking the cycle is saying to yourself, when things are good, “This isn’t going to happen again,” and then, when things go bad, you make a conscious effort not to allow yourself to go down. It’s a LOT harder to swim away from the downward pull, but in the end, you come out stronger.

  5. this was such a beautiful post, and so inspiring! what you wrote about the “attacking thoughts” sounds like it could have come straight from my mouth. i’ve already worked some your “what to do’s” in to my repertoire…but now I feel like i have a whole new arsenal. i especially love “sit in the fire”…it scares me to think about sitting with those feelings, but i know it will benefit me in the long run. i am truly grateful for having read this. thank you.

  6. What’s a GM/green monster?

    I loved this post! Very much how I feel at the moment.

  7. Thanks for the great ideas on ways to combat a… trying day or period.

    For me, I have an actual written list of things I like about myself and things that I think are positive about me – both physically and otherwise. I make sure to write this list during a “good” time so that I can connect with that time when I’m having a hard one. It’s easy to get caught in a spiral of negativity (or at least it is for me) and stopping the cycle of that is important.

  8. I am so in love with this post. It’s filled with so many positive and helpful ideas for men and women alike that are struggling with how they view themselves.

    I loved the ‘sit in the fire’ part because dealing with our emotions is key to being successful in recovery (of any sorts), and this negative thought process we throw on ourselves when we don’t want to deal with this fire, most certainly doesn’t help with the mentality aspect of recovery.

    I’m finding it difficult when I don’t keep myself occupied…it makes me really anxious. I compare myself to others that are being productive surrounding me, on a body-image level because that’s what I’ve known for so long. (Thus, incoming negative body image attacks). Sitting on the fire seems apropriate in this instance.

    Seriously, helpful and inspirational post. It’s a nice step-by-step guide to those wanting to move forward and to prevent ourselves from pulling ourselves back down. Two thumbs up! 🙂

  9. This post was so helpful and inspiring to me. I find myself getting down on myself about my body so often. My mind is my own worst enemy at times. Your suggestions were great and I’m definitely going to try and use them next time I find my body image under a personal mental attack.

  10. […] Man, oh man, am I sure glad this girl came into my life. You should probably check her out on twitter for all manner of body loving awesome. But also, read her post this week on Voice in Recovery about her body image, emotional rollercoaster, and really helpful and insightful solutions. […]

  11. Wow, Kendra, I absolutely love this post!! Thank you so much for being so honest, and for providing such practical and inspiring ideas. Seriously, this is such an uplifting and empowering post. I keep re-reading it. 🙂 I’m going to link to it tomorrow on Weightless.

    Oh, and my thoughts and behaviors blasted my body image, especially when I was younger and in college. I think what helped me was growing up, learning the importance of respecting myself and my body. Realizing that I’m good enough. I still struggle with self-doubt, wanting to look my best, and all those things, but I’m much kinder to myself. Writing Weightless four times a week and connecting with readers and experts have helped sooo much. Reading blogs like yours are tremendously helpful, too! 🙂

    Thanks again for an incredible post!!

  12. Really awesome post. Truely.

  13.’s done it once more. Superb writing!

  14. If only more people would read this!

  15. You’ve done it once again. Amazing writing.

  16. Haha I am honestly the only reply to your awesome read?

  17. […] post: “Body Image Under Attack” by the incredible Kendra Sebelius on her blog, Voice In […]

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