I have a client right now who has worked so hard and made so much progress it is mind-blowing. I am not talking about the amount of weight she has lost from her body, but the emotional weight she has removed from her mind.
Last week, I had given her the assignment of looking at her unclothed body in a full-length mirror and writing down any thoughts that came up for her. It was the end of our session when I gave her this assignment so I did not realize the level of panic it seemed to create within her.
At our next session, she told me she did not do the assignment because she was terrified that if she looked at her body that way she would be filled with self-loathing and would not want to stop eating. I tried to explain to her that self-loathing doesn't just happen. It actually takes a lot of effort on our part to think all those negative thoughts, believe them, and then fight against the feelings those thoughts create until we can't stand it anymore and eat.
She understood this at an intellectual level (she is brilliantly smart) but on an emotional level the feeling was still terror. So we imagined doing the exercise together and then she went to the mirror and started to describe her thighs to me on the phone:
My thighs are huge.
My thighs are cottage cheese.
I hate them.
They touch each other.
They have tons of cellulite.
They are fugly.
There are veins on one side.
They are purplish.
My knees are big.
I have piano legs.
I can't see my ankles.
My feet are swollen.
This was very difficult for her to do. When she said, "I hate them" she burst into tears and I could hear the pain in her voice. But I stayed with her and kept asking her, "What else?"
When she was done. I told her that I would accept all her observations as facts that could be assumed true. (None of them could, but for the sake of this exercise I separated observation from emotional statements of judgment.) The only one that I pulled out as an emotional judgment was, "I hate them."
I asked her if this statement were true.
She immediately said no. She corrected herself and said, "I just hate the way they look."
Now, this may not seem HUGE to you-but it was. It was an amazing differentiation.
I repeated both thoughts to her and had her describe how she felt when she thought each thought.
Thought 1: I hate my thighs. Feelings: hopeless, despair, anger, pit of sadness
Thought 2: I hate the way my thighs look. Feeling: hope
Seems like a negative thought when you read it out-loud, but for her it brought her hope. It was a better feeling thought that was much more true for her.
And then she amazingly started to speak more about her thighs:
When I am present in my body, I love the way my thighs feel. I have great quads. They are strong and solid.
It is amazing. I don't hate my thighs. Who knew?
As a coach, these subtle shifts in consciousness fill me with a sense of wonder, excitement and joy. I cannot tell you how amazing it is to watch someone realize that their thoughts are not who they are. That the way their body looks is not who they are. That love has nothing to do with appearance.
I know from experience that she will never be able to look at her thighs and hate them or herself for the way they look. Once you have seen the truth-you can't un-ring that bell.
If that isn't a miracle-I don't know what is.