I hope you are well, and this season of work and life is going well and that you have the support and being seen you need.
I was going through my pile of yellow post-it notes the other day. On those notes I write down phrases people say and know that one day some of them a few might turn into a blog post, a worksheet or even a course; yes that happens, especially if I hear the same things at least 3 times I get on that!
One set of phrases we non-diet professionals take a big gulp with (invisible of course) is when someone says regarding weight gain,
- How did this happen?
- When did this weight gain happen?
- I am THAT size? (when they really see themselves in the mirror or are forced to buy new clothes, etc.)
Reason 1: Clients Aren’t Ready to “Go There”
When I hear these things, I know, despite my best efforts to educate around all the ways body’s change in recovery, introducing body respect and acceptance, much of that can seem like it bounces off. Not because our clients don’t want it to sink in but possibly because they consciously or unconsciously can’t “go there” with having full awareness of what is happening with their body size or what is happening inside.
This is likely because recovery is literally bringing up their worst nightmare: Losing the story that being smaller IS their identity and that they can’t exist/be here without it.
When you are witnessing this, the utmost delicacy to the topic is needed so that people don’t feel rejected but also important to help them be present when they are feeling bodily threated/rejected/abandoned is important.
Obviously we are bumping up against early attachment ruptures here, so, as an RD or coach, we are not doing memory integration, EMDR, etc., but we need to be aware that repetitive talking about the topic probably will do more harm than good and they are going to need specialized care. A SEP who does touch work can help them and you getting some training to know how to provide some regulation that will help from what we can do.
Reason 2: Addressing Past Trauma and Triggers
Many clients with complex trauma have a hard time not being hijacked with old bodily sensations because normal adult living has little triggers of the past everywhere. Heck, our presence might even trigger them even though they feel a benefit from seeing us.
As the title states, The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel Van der Kolk over and over again reminds us that experiences are sensations and the body contains them long term if we do not sufficient resources to navigate the nervous system energy that accompanies flight/fight/freeze or submit.
So if you have a client that routinely loses track of what you are working on, struggles to believe that they aren’t under or over-eating, assumes they are always over-eating, sometimes avoids basic self-care such as showering because of body hatred once they are more connected, you know your client might be more physically aware of something inside that feels “bad” or “overwhelming” but it may not have other words and get transferred onto the body size and even feel shocked that they are the size they are.
Once we are introducing body awareness through hunger and fullness work, the desire to move forward for food to not be an obsession will be at odds with the survival need to be “away” from the stage of the overwhelm, neglect or abuse: the body.
My suggestion when hunger and fullness work or even just fully getting energy needs increases weight and body hatred that is not relieved with body acceptance and decoding work, we know we are going to need to help support the present moment awareness of “here and now needs,” the body is not wrong, especially for having survived and “getting on with life now” and be willing to not see back and forth with food as a failure but as an indication that more regulation work to help them build their window of tolerance is needed to first tolerate, then accept their NOW body.
Reason 3: Disbelief
An all too common reaction at this stage is disbelief that their body SHOULD be this size. For so many, recovery is incredibly overwhelming. Everyone wants recovery if they can be smaller, especially if they have spent most of their life weight-suppressing and have not arrived at an adult weight into adulthood.
Paired with any hormone imbalances, periods of deprivation-drive eating or binging, chronic high activation alternating with dissociative moments or mostly low -tone dorsal vagal living and you will have a person that has likely increased their set-point. (see my friend Veronique Mead’s work on chronic dissociation and association with higher weight and diabetes.)
These facts are difficult for our clients to accept, kind of like insult to actual injury from our environments.
Next Steps with Your Client
What we can do: continue to over and over again be able to show that their intake isn’t too much if it isn’t, help them yield to be aware of symptoms of over and under-eating, and allow the rage and sadness of not feeling as invisible. Finally, helping their adult, here and now brain “see” that they have other resources than “then” body time had.
I could go on and on, but just like I say to clients, let’s stop here and let this digest.
We do deep, good work. It’s hard because we deeply want them to have freedom, even when many times freedom feels far away and faith in us is all they have that their bodies haven’t betrayed them.
As always, happy that you take a minute to be here with me, take in the wisdom I’ve learned from my clients and keep doing your work to help some of the most strong and sensitive people you will ever know.
To your success,
PS: I have 3 new supervision spots open for March if you are interested in going deeper with body image decoding and somatic work. Just email easy peasy to see if one, 4 or a 12-week series works best for your counseling and business skill goals. firstname.lastname@example.org