Alice was always self conscious about her body. She was constantly looking at other women and comparing herself. This was a very self defeating habit. Even if she thought she looked better, she never felt good about herself. Instead, she was just focusing her criticism on the other woman. This habit reinforced her critical perspective. The problem was she needed to love and accept herself. She needed to develop some compassion and understanding for the habits that created the excess weight she was carrying. Somewhere in her mind she thought the criticism would drive her to do better. After all, if she accepted herself as she was, wouldn't she remain overweight or worse gain even more? At her present weight Alice could not look at herself in the mirror and truthfully say she was acceptable. To make such a statement, ever to herself, would have been a lie. So how could Alice get to the point of loving herself? Alice enlisted the help of her therapist to see how to change her critical perspective. Her therapist was cognitive behavior oriented and gave Alice some daily homework. Her first assignment was to spend 5 minutes appreciating what her body could do. (Most of us focus on how our body looks and pay no attention to what our body does.) Alice started with appreciating her strength and her endurance. She loved to garden and enjoyed riding her bicycle. She could work a full 8 hour day and organize her children's meal and activities. Alice also appreciated the fact she had a sharp mind for numbers and was a very savvy shopper. Alice had given birth to three children. She also had very strong teeth and good vision. She had not had a cavity since childhood and did not need glasses. When Alice returned to therapy, she was still the same weight, however, her focus had changed and she felt a bit happier. Instead of her reinforcing her critical perspective, she was reinforcing one of appreciation. Her therapist advised her to continue with the appreciation exercise and to add another task. This time, Alice was given the assignment of setting a phone alarm every hour for 14 hours. When she heard her phone alarm she was to ask her body "What do you need to feel your best?" Alice did not like the assignment but agreed to comply at least one day before she returned for her next appointment. Her therapist agreed to the compromise if she did the assignment in the next day or two, rather than the day before her appointment. The next day, Alice decided to complete the assignment to get it over with. To her surprise, Alice made a very important realization. Her body needed her attention.
At 7:00a.m., her body most needed breakfast, specifically protein. At 8:00 a.m., she needed to stretch after the stressful drive to work. At 9:00a.m., she was thirsty. At 10:00a.m., she just needed a break from looking at her computer. As the day progressed, she felt taken care of and appreciated. She was more relaxed and seemed to be in a better mood. She also did not seem as achy or exhausted as she usually did at the end of the day. At 8:00 p.m., her body needed to spend some time with her children and she did something she rarely had the energy for - she read them a bed time story. As the week went on, Alice developed quite a rapport with herself. Her habits changed just by listening to her body. It was the listening to her body and the compassion to give her body what it needed that created a change. It was the practice of connection rather than criticism that made the way to a body she could honestly love and appreciate.