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 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, 

Marlene 

Posted in Blog Posts

My struggle with body image – Part 2

by Marlene Sexton LMFT

Date: January 11th, 2019

In my previous blog, I discussed the dynamics that lead to my “very diminished,” aka non-existent self-esteem and body image. Writing that blog was difficult because it meant going back to a time 45 years ago that was confusing and painful for me. You see, I have come a long way since then, and I worked hard to put it all behind me and make it just part of my story. However difficult it was, I am also proud of myself for creating a life I wantto lead, and I am here to tell you it can be done. 

Long ago, I saw a meme on Facebook that simply said, “Being overweight is hard, and losing weight is hard. Choose your hard.” I wish I had seen that decades earlier! I would have applied it to many of life’s difficulties, including those that were not weight related. 

Here is more of my story:

I was in my early twenties. I believed I was not good enough, and I should be grateful if anybody paid any attention to me. It did not matter to me how they conducted themselves, what their values or beliefs might be, or even what goals they had. If they liked me, I liked them and despite any red flags, I would fit them into my life. Looking back, I can see I had a high tolerance for poor behavior.  

What I know now but didn’t know then was “like attracts like.” To put it in more dynamic terms, we attract people who confirm our beliefs. In other words, if I don’t feel good about myself, I will attract people who (a) don’t feel good about themselves, thus giving us something in common or (b) they also don’t feel good about me; again, something in common! 

My self-loathing not only manifested in the company I kept, it prevented me from taking care of myself. Oh, I showered and dressed well (at least by 70s standards) but, frankly, that was so I would not offend others. I allowed “friends” to stand me up on commitments they had made, and it was “no problem” if they called for a favor (e.g., rides, bail, shoulder to cry on) at two o’clock in the morning. I skipped meals to help others, I ate junk food to appease, I put my own plans on hold to cover for co-workers so they could do something fun, and so on. There seemed to be no end to my “generosity” and need to please!  It felt good to be needed, but it came with a steep price. For starters, I was exhausted. Exhausted from taking care of others, but also exhausted from feeling so bad about myself.  

Honestly, I am not sure if I had a weight problem then or not. The number on the scale said I was “within the range” of a healthy weight and despite pictures that show otherwise, I was certain I was overweight and unattractive. (We now know BMI is not accurate in determining a healthy weight). But, back to being exhausted. 

I saw others feeling good about themselves and practicing self-care, but I didn’t know how they got there. Despite my early interest in psychology, I felt as if self-worth was out of reach. I believed profoundlythat we are products of our environment and we don’t have much control over our lives—things just happen. I thought others were “lucky” to have life go their way; I also held absolute beliefs, using words such as always, never, everybody, and nobody, to describe my life. I didn’t know I had options until one day I decided I could “try” to make improvements.  

I started reading articles on self-esteem, and I came to understand that what we say to ourselves matters. I made it a goal to stop criticizing myself. I listened to my self-talk and challenged my negative descriptions. This did not happen overnight, but with practice I could catch myself in a negative spin and challenge or stop my thoughts. My goal was to quit saying things to myself that I would not say to a friend. Then I decided that I would stop negating compliments and simply say, “Thank you.” 

Soon, I began augmenting compliments. If someone said they liked my blouse, I would get out of my comfort zone, risk being thought of as conceited, and say, “Thank you. I saw it and really liked the color.” I realized the world would not stop spinning if I were kind to myself. My confidence grew and, soon, my friendships changed. I started attracting more confident, functional people into my life, and I realized I could “keep up.”  I saw myself as more valuable and worthy of good things. And good things came.  

In the next blog, I will share with you how the subconscious works and how to tap into your strengths so good things come your way, too.

Stay tuned.

Peace and good health!

Marlene

Posted in Blog Posts, Featured

My struggle with body image

By Marlene Sexton, LMFT

Date: January 2nd 2019

Welcome to my blog. I am a psychotherapist and partner at Three Health Medical Weight Loss Solutions, and I want to share with our current and future patients more about my own trials with weight and body image. My hope is that you will understand you are not alone, whatever your challenges might be. I am proof that positive change can happen, and I believe we have it within ourselves to create the life we want to lead. Here is my story:

As a young kid, I was considered skinny by my classmates and learned early that my body was a big part of what defined me; at least that’s what I believed. While growing up in the 60s, I had a friend who was the only “fat” girl in my class. I knew other kids teased and bullied her; however, it wasn’t something she and I ever talked about. Her shame was obvious and unspoken, and I realized that being overweight wasn’t okay.

When we’re young, one of the biggest influences in our lives is our same sex parent. He or she is the template for how we see ourselves, and his or her role in the family is how we tend to view our own role. 

For example, my mother and her friends often dieted, and although my mother was never overweight, I knew she worried about it. She and her friends compared themselves to other women, sometimes favorably, but sometimes not so favorably. I believed being overweight was “bad” and one needed to be “disciplined” to avoid gaining too much weight.

I was a year younger than most of my friends because I started school early.  I lagged behind them, not only emotionally, but physically as well. They were buying training bras while I still wore my brother’s t-shirts. Well-meaning mothers would say, “Your time will come,” and others encouraged me to do exercises that might help me develop more curves. No doubt my body began to define my character, and it wasn’t do a very good job at that!

Eventually, I developed curves, but things only got worse. Now it seemed those same critics worried I was going to gain too much weight. My mother’s friends often asked how much I weighed and friends and family said things like, “Be careful not to gain too much.” My aunt even promised to buy me a new wardrobe if I lost some weight, and a family I babysat for gave me a calorie counter book as a gift. 

Everyone seemed to be focused on mybody. My mother pointed out my peers who “looked good” in her eyes, but neither she nor anyone else spoke about my being healthy, kind, smart, funny, responsible, or passionate—all traits I thought I possessed. 

I began to associate being overweight with being in trouble, on par with smoking cigarettes or shoplifting. Whenever I saw an overweight person, I wondered how their family tolerated them; I knew my parents would be mad at me if I gained weight. Needless to say, this didn’t solve any of my own problems with weight.

Food and eating (or not eating) became problems for me. I never thought I had developed a full-blown eating disorder, but I thought I wasn’t far from it. Now that I am a therapist, I realize I really did have a disorder—I didn’t eat in front of others, I ate in private so I wouldn’t hear comments about what I was eating or how much. 

I oftentimes starved myself all day or tried different fad diets such as grapefruit and egg, cabbage soup, lemon and water, no carb, lettuce, and low fat. Does any of this sound familiar? I even joined a weight loss group and took an over-the-counter appetite suppressant. It seemed my earlier critics thought I was finally taking care of myself, while in reality I only weighed 125 pounds! (That’s a future blog).

This foolishness went on for years. Over time my inner voice became more critical, and I spent hours contemplating my failures and flaws. When I looked in the mirror, I found only hateful things to say about my own body and judged my character by how my clothes felt. My days were considered good or bad by what the scale read, and whether I thought I was a good or bad person was based on what I ate. 

If I couldn’t find anything good to say about myself, why should anyone else? When someone said, “That color looks good on you,” I responded with, “I think it makes me look seasick.” And “Your hair is so shiny” was met with, “Oh, it’s probably just greasy.” By the time I was 20, my self-esteem had hit rock bottom, which showed through self-sabotage, dysfunctional relationships, and minimal self-care. Things had gone from bad to worse, but I knew I had to do something to change the way I thought about food and about myself—critics be damned.

In my next blog, I will discuss how I learned to value myself and changed the course of my life. Stay tuned!

Wishing you good health and a positive self-image! 

– Marlene