Posted in Blog Posts

My struggle with body image – Part 5

By Marlene Sexton LMFT

Date: January 30th, 2019

I left off last time telling you about my past decision to lose some weight. I restricted calories, avoided fat, skipped meals, deprived myself of tasty foods, and expected fast results. Never mind that the results were temporary AND unhealthy! Most, if not all, of my weight loss in those days was water and muscle.  

Refusing to go back to my old dieting ways, I now promise myself:

I will not count calories or points, 
I will not weigh myself several times a day, 
I will not deprive myself of certain foods, and 
I will not beat myself up for any “failures.”  

So, how am I going to drop some pounds?  

Well, I challenged any thoughts long ago that being overweight was a personality flaw. I dismiss any notion that heavy people are just undisciplined or “lazy”, and I know that any quick weight-loss program that promises long-term results is a lie. But, despite years of on and off dieting, I knew nothing at that time about obesity as a disease.

Fortunately, as a partner and behavioral therapist at Three Health, I have access to Medical Director Brandy Wiltermuth’s medical expertise. I already knew that my old way of dieting did not work to sustain weight loss, and most of what I thoughtI knew was old and faulty information at that!  

Brandy has the courage to take on the diet industry and tell the truth: The only way to lose weight and KEEP IT OFF is through individualized, medically-driven, holistic programs that treat the mind, the body, and the spirit. Everyone is different, and every patient requires an individualized program based on his or her personal medical conditions and profile. 

“Dieting” is not a one-size-fits-all program!  

Brandy’s experience in the science of weight loss is deep and insightful. She drew charts to help me understand how macronutrients work in mybody, making it easy for me to understand what works and what doesn’t work for mybody. There is a big difference between being told what I need to eat rather than what I can’t, and Brandy designed an easy-to-follow nutritional plan for me to follow. 

I was adamant that I love my social lifestyle and traveling, and she listened. In fact, I have no desire to curtail any activities; therefore, she has helped make it easy to go to restaurants and friends’ homes for dinner.

I was also adamant that my “dietary needs” not be obvious, and they aren’t. I have been following this plan (not to the letter and, yet, no guilt), and I have lost about eight (8) pounds in a month. 

While my “self-care” program worked for many years, time does not stand still. Just as my thinking had changed over the years, so had my body. Again, excess weight is not a personality flaw!  

As a partner at Three Health, and by following Brandy’s guidelines, I truly understand that everyone’s life situation is totally unique, which is why it is important to understand each patient’s lifestyle and situation. What I learned first-hand is that each person’s bio-metrics, medical test results, and medical condition play a huge part in healthy, sustainable weight loss.  

I don’t ever want to go back to the days where I put myself last or feel my needs are not important. As I have said before, I vowed I would never treat myself the way I did in my teens and twenties. I changed my self-talk, which changed my self-esteem, and now I practice self-care in all areas by including this new way of eating. 

I am taking care of myself by getting the right medical and professional advice for myweight issue because this nutritional program is unlike any “diet” I have ever been on. My health is one of my most valuable assets (as your health is to you), and I feel I am protecting it by losing weight in a healthy way, both physically and emotionally. You can do it too. 

Until next time, take care of yourself and yourbody’s needs,

Marlene Sexton LMFT

Posted in Blog Posts

My struggle with body image – Part 4

By Marlene Sexton LMFT

Date: January 23rd, 2019

In Part 3, I left off by mentioning a dilemma I have. I promise I will get to it, but first let me give you a bit more of my story.  

When my husband and I were blessed with two daughters, it hit me how important it was to model the behaviors I wanted our daughters to learn. This meant I would not make disparaging remarks about my body, and I would also no longer comment on other people’s bodies. I knew I could not change a society that tolerates weight bias, but I could have teachable moments with our girls to help them avoid the pitfalls of negative body image.

I also had to keep learning about and practicing a healthy relationship with food, which, as you know, is quite a challenge given the food culture we live in. There was a time when I saw food as my worst enemy; I know others who see it as their best friend, always there for them when they “need it.” Although I no longer see food as my enemy, I also can’t reconcile with some our cultural views about food. 

For example, all of us use food to describe things in our everyday conversations: “That test was a piece of cake,” or “She’s a smart cookie.” Food is even referred to as love(think Papa Murphy’s “Love at 425 degrees”). We often see food depicted as “medicine” by ads that encourage eating sweets after a stressful day, or magazines and TV shows that focus on food as entertainment. In fact, product placement on TV shows and subliminal advertising are intended to make us snack while watching our favorite programs and reinforcing our belief through character roles that we should be thin. 

We may be encouraged by our friends and family to lose weight, but then any effort is sabotaged when the host insists we eat the dessert they made “especially for us.” While I recognize that many families are going hungry, it is because of a lack of food, not choices. If you want to see a four-year-old have a meltdown (and who does?), look what happens when he or she is asked to pick out one candy bar or a box of cereal from the abundant choices in front of them! I read that we make about 250 food choices a day, but with social media, online ads, and programs like the Food Network™, we can’t count how many food “messages” we get daily. Again, living in our culture is a challenge when it comes to eating healthy.

Although I gave up “dieting” when my kids were little, I had yo-yoed for years because that’s how diets work, right? You might lose 10 pounds, keep it off for a while, gain back 12 pounds, and then diet again. That cycle can continue until you have lost literally hundreds of pounds and have spent years and years depriving yourself, beating yourself up for “blowing it,” and thinking about your weight all day! Before I made changes, I weighed myself two or three times a day to determine my“worth.” I know how dieting and weight can easily become your “life” and believe me, it is not a good life!

I spent years repairing my self-esteem and body image by changing my relationship with food.  I became conscious of why I was eating and began to understand I needed healthy foods in order to feel well. But, I also stopped thinking I had committed a felony if I ate a piece of cheesecake!

I then started self-monitoring to determine if I was hungry or maybe just bored or stressed. I developed skills to manage difficult emotions, and I became assertive and no longer worried if people would still like me if I disappointed them. I no longer allowed strangers, acquaintances, friends, or family to comment on my weight or body. 

I can’t put into words how freeing this revelation was to me, but it did not happen overnight. I had to work at it. Remember, being overweight, (or unhappy, stressed, and so on) is hard, and changing is hard. I chose my “hard” and worked toward self-acceptance and self-worth; I wouldn’t go back to my old ways for anything!  

But, finally, here is my dilemma:

I have been a therapist for almost 25 years, and you can imagine it requires a lot of sitting. A few years ago menopause hit; my metabolism and body shape changed. And although I absolutely love my job, I commute over two hours each way, which interferes with my well-established self-care plan of meal planning, healthy eating, fun exercise, and focused meditation for stress. 

Like you, I want to maintain good health and prevent diseases that come from being overweight. Once I started to feel good about my body, I gave up weighing myself and learned to create good feelings by my thoughts and actions, not by the scale. I decided to determine my weight by my energy and how my clothes feel, which was going well until I got curious and started using InBody, a device that measures body fat, lean muscle, etc., a much more accurate tool for determining healthy weight. Long story short, I found out I need to lose weight and build some muscle! I don’t need to lose much weight, but the idea of depriving myself, counting calories, weigh-ins, good food/bad food, and so on terrifies me. I refuse to go back to those days! But, and this is big, my health is very important to me.  

How do I lose weight without falling back into the “dieting cycle”? Stay tuned. Next time, I will tell you how I am working on this issue.

In the meantime, take care of YOU!


Posted in Blog Posts

My struggle with body image – Part 3

By Marlene Sexton LMFT

Date: January 16th, 2019

My last blog left off with a promise to describe how I learned to value myself and change my life. But first, I must explain how the subconscious can help you achieve your goals or keep you from them. 

As a cognitive-behavioral therapist, I work on the theory that our thoughts create our emotions and then behavior follows. To simplify this theory, picture the brain wanting to keep all things congruent and “in line”—thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. For example, when you have a thought, the subconscious gives you the appropriatefeeling for the thought. It won’t argue with you, it just says, “Okay, here’s the appropriate feeling.” 

So, if I wake up in the morning and say to myself, “Today is going to suck! I have so much to do and not enough time to do it,” my subconscious says, “Okay, here is a feeling of dread.” It does notsay, “It’s cool, you really don’t have much to do and you can get it all done.” Dread would be the appropriate feeling for my original thought. 

But, the subconscious does not stop there! It now wants me to be “right,” and it narrows my focus and attention to that which confirms my belief, whatever it is. I might start seeing other things that need to be done that I don’t have time for, rather than the things I have already accomplished. Thanks to my subconscious, I only focus on what confirms my belief and then a behavior follows.  

We have to understand that behaviors are usually learned and are dependent on our personalities, our values, or how we were raised. In my case, I used to get overwhelmed and suffer “paralysis by analysis” and just give up, confirming my belief that I am incapable of success. Others might compensate by working harder and faster, and some might break things down into smaller chunks, prioritize, or ask others for help.   

So, if I tell myself that I am not worthy of good things, my subconscious says, “Ok, here’s some shame or self-disgust that goes with your thought.” The shame or self-disgust then leads me to behave in ways that are congruent with those thoughts and feelings. For example, I may accept poor behavior from others as well as myself, which makes for more negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

The good newsis it works the other way, too. I have learned that if I give myself positive subconscious feedback, all of a sudden I change the way I think, and my behaviors then affirm those messages and change the way I react to others’ behaviors, as well.

Once I started listening for, and challenging, negative thoughts, I was surprised how often I was berating myself. It was constant! I also found that most of my thoughts were based on “faulty information.” For example, my weight did not determine my character. I did not have to “buy into” what others said about my body. I had a voice, and over time (not over night) I learned to use it. I started to read about and practice setting boundaries and limits. Again, big changes in whom I attracted into my life. More importantly, I started feeling better about myself!  

One of the ironies is that I believed it was “wrong” to feel good about myself. I feared people would see me as conceited or self-absorbed. Many people, especially women, believe this and yet they want their children to feel good about themselves. How can it be wrongfor me to feel good about myself, yet make this a goal for my daughters? I decided it was o.k., even desirable, for me to feel good about myself. And guess what? The world is still spinning just fine!

Again, as I felt better about myself, I started attracting more functional, confident people into my life, and one of those people was my husband. After more than 40 years together, I can say with confidence, he would have never put up with a person who put herself down constantly or did not treat herself well. He said it would break his heart to hear me say negative things about myself. I can understand how he feels because it would break my heart to see my daughters stand in front of a mirror and say hateful things about themselves.  

After practicing self-care, self-awareness, boundary setting, assertiveness, and limits for many years, I am now faced with a dilemma! In the next blog I will talk about the TRUE need to lose weight. This desire is not based on what others want for me, but what I want for myself—the desire to maintain my good health. Stay tuned, there’s more to come!

Take care and be kind to yourself,