Body image is someone’s perception of the way their body looks. While there are many factors that can contribute to the development of an eating disorder, body image dissatisfaction can play a significant role. For many people with eating disorders, there is often a fear of becoming “fat,” which can create a compulsive cycle of trying to control one’s body shape or size through eating behaviors.
Significant emotional distress resulting from negative body image is a common symptom of an eating disorder. Eating disorder symptoms tend to become more severe with heightened anxiety. The COVID-19 health crisis is proving to be a time of extreme stress for individuals, families, and society as a whole.
For this reason, Center for Discovery is offering virtual outpatient programming in order to continue offering evidence-based treatment during this time. In our virtual outpatient programs, it is our goal to help someone begin to shift their perspective so that they can have a positive body image that feels peaceful and healthy for them. Body image needs to be addressed in eating disorder treatment for optimal opportunity for recovery.
How Center for Discovery’s Virtual Outpatient Program Addresses Body Image Dissatisfaction
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is an evidenced-based therapeutic modality that helps individuals increase their ability to manage distress. For many people with eating disorders, the discontent they feel with their body shape or size creates significant emotional discomfort. In our virtual programs, DBT is offered four times per week for optimal opportunity to learn and apply these skills.
Creating coping skills is an important aspect of healing body image dissatisfaction. As mentioned earlier, negative body image can feed into a dangerous cycle of disordered behaviors. As an eating disorder therapist, I have noticed that many people need to be able to tolerate feeling body conscious before they can develop authentic feelings of acceptance and compassion for their bodies. Developing body tolerance also serves the purpose of interrupting cycles of disordered eating by increasing an individual’s ability to replace harmful behaviors with healthier ones.
Each Center for Discovery virtual outpatient program has multiple groups per day. These groups focus on helping individuals build a healthier perception of their bodies. There are five core parts of our body acceptance groups:
Education about the role of body image in eating disorders
Developing awareness into disordered thoughts related to body image
How difficult emotions often trigger body image obsession
Support with shifting focus off of negative body image
Developing tools for body acceptance and compassion
These core ideas work together to help Center for Discovery clients move towards creating a positive body image.
Center for Discovery offers individual therapy for all clients enrolled in our virtual outpatient programs. Individual therapy is important for those struggling with negative body image. This is because sometimes the beliefs someone has about their body are based on previous experiences that impacted them in a deep way. Support from a therapist can be essential in sorting through these beliefs and restructuring them. Cognitive restructuring is based on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, which is an evidenced-based treatment approach. The goal with shifting negative body image beliefs would be to create reality-based beliefs that are aligned with positive body image and overall improved self-esteem.
Samantha Bothwell is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, and explorer. After earning her Master’s of Art in psychology, Samantha focused her clinical lens to survivors of sexual violence and individuals with eating disorders. Samantha is passionate about guiding people to return to their truest Self and reuniting their minds and bodies so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.