Fat, Self-Image

Body Image Resources in the Twin Cities?

Hey, Shapelings, it’s another call for help. I have a friend who’s really struggling with body image — potentially with BDD. She’s not fat, but she believes she is, to the point where it’s really holding her back. First, do any of you know of therapists who specialize in body image and/or support groups in the Twin Cities? Second, any words of wisdom for someone in this position?

22 thoughts on “Body Image Resources in the Twin Cities?”

  1. What helped me was actually plain fat acceptance. Many people would consider me thin, but whether it was because of my surroundings or in my own head, I didn’t see it that way (and still don’t sometimes).

    The good thing is that it doesn’t really matter how fat you are in reality, you can still learn to accept your (real or imagined) fatness. When I’m struggling with body image, I find it very hard to convince myself that I’m not fat. There is always some way to rationalize the idea that you are fat, almost no matter how thin you are. It’s much easier and more effective to convince myself that I may be fat, but being fat isn’t the end of the world.

  2. Many people would consider me of “normal” size and fit but I have struggled with body-acceptance for years and years. I have been seeing a counselor for a few months now that has helped a LOT and I have been working through my body issues. One thing I have found very helpful is thinking something nice about every single person I see. That person has great hair, that person has nice shoes, that person has an awesome style omg! and always trying to think about what my body is good at DOING – not what it looks like, but how strong my muscles are and how flexible my middle is and how many kms I can cycle in an hour or how many wheelbarrows of dirt I can move around the garden etc. Doing versus looking.

    So, for other people, I think a good thought about that person’s appearance and for myself, I think about what my body is good at doing. I know it seems strange (and a bit backwards) but it has helped me so much. I hate myself less now which is good. Very good.

    Also, if this advice helps, even models have body issues and hate themselves for not being skinny enough or not having larger breast or whatever. Being thin will not make you hate yourself less – you’ll just be thin and hate yourself. Learn to love yourself as you are and you will, eventually, see the beauty in your body that other people see every day.

  3. I’ll pile on a bit with what Caralyn said: learning to enjoy doing things in my body was (and still often is) a lot easier than learning to look at myself as beautiful. If your friend isn’t physically active, I strongly recommend picking one low-intensity, regular physical activity to go do. It doesn’t have to be at a gym; it’s probably better to do something that’s not. Manual labor volunteer work! Dance class! Canvassing for a political candidate on foot! Walking dogs or taking kids to the park! Especially if it’s something she’s a little excited and scared by. Bringing a friend helps ease the worry and forces you into a commitment.

  4. I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder. I’m undergoing treatment for it at the moment, specifically Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I’m 121lbs, trying to get healthy and recovering from bulimia but slipped into laxative abuse.

    I find CBT to be helpful, moreso that straight therapy I’ve gotten in the past. What is most helpful is that your beliefs and your behaviours are openly challenged. It is so lonely having BDD because after a while, people stop challenging you- you just exist, by yourself, with your mind chattering about how repulsive you are, either avoiding the mirror or being completely overwhelmed by its pull, fall into panic and a spiral. People stop telling you that you’re beautiful after a while because they know it’s useless. It doesn’t help. I just thought I was vain, but I’m not. It’s the opposite of vanity. I felt completely trivial and self loathing when I started this because it repulsed me that I was so self obsessed. But it fucks up your life good and proper. My social life has become almost non-existent because I panic so much about my looks.

    I’m halfway through my CBT sessions and what is happening is that she is deconstructing, one by one, my behaviours and beliefs. There is theory a: I’m right, I am that hideous. And theory B, she’s right, I am not hideous, I just think I am. Slowly, over sessions, she is trying to prove her theory. I have a mood and behaviour chart I fill in every day to see what triggers what. And I am starting to believe her.

    It will not happen overnight and it is hard, it is traumatic and it is exhausting. But you will get there.

    Anyway, I’ve written a lot about my experiences, here’s a few posts about BDD and my experiences with CBT. Hopefully someone will find them helpful.


  5. I grew up in the ‘twin cities’ of Kitchener-Waterloo Ontario, but I have a pretty strong feeling that’s not what you’re looking for.

  6. I have a great therapy resource, but she is a friend so I’ve asked her to call to see if I can give the information on this blog. I’ll post again as soon as I hear back from her.

  7. My therapist, as I’ve mentioned… *cough*… once or maybe ninety-seven times before, is AWESOME and not at all condescending, actually, which in my experience is rare. He’s part of something called the Heroic Agency Network, and having poked around the website (www.talkingcure.com) I really like what they have to say and how they seem to be all about actually respecting clients and not acting like the either the therapist OR the model is the Big Omniscient Fancypants Magical Whatever.

    So, anyway, I did a search, and there’s one member of that network listed in Minneapolis:

    Julie Tilsen
    Minneapolis, MN 55409
    612-377-2877 phone
    612-377-7501 fax

    No idea of her specialty or if she’s nice or anything, just that she’s associated with this Heroic Agency Network, which seems promising.

    Also, another website my therapist links to on his site is http://www.goodtherapy.org, and through their search feature I found:

    Connie Studer
    3137 Hennepin Avenue South #103,
    Minneapolis, Minnesota 55408

    She seems kinda cool, although she does EMDR which I personally found utterly absurd when a therapist (not my current one) tried it on me. Seriously, it was so hard not to laugh. But, wev, she still seems cool from the website.

  8. I grew up in the ‘twin cities’ of Kitchener-Waterloo Ontario, but I have a pretty strong feeling that’s not what you’re looking for.

    Ha, sorry for the U.S.-centrism. Minneapolis-St. Paul would be the twin cities in question.

    And although I’ve been to both Kitchener and Waterloo, I’ve never heard them referred to as the twin cities. (Though hell, maybe I heard people talking about them in Canada and figured they meant MSP.) Cool!

  9. On the subject of focusing on “what your body can do” it’s important to note that not everyone’s body – fat or thin – “can do” the same things and for some people the fact that their bodies can’t or won’t do what they want them to is a very part of their hatred for their own bodies. (now I shall go off on a self-indulgent tangent, sorry):

    For me, Fat Acceptance and believing that I can be fat and it’s okay has been *extremely* helpful in dealing with my self-hatred and obsessive dieting. This very blog was a big part of that, so thanks to everyone who contributes, including commenters. However, I still have problems with my body because I have a painful chronic illness. At times, I hate my body for not doing what I want it to, and while I used to enjoy going to the gym because it made me aware of what my body was capable of even while fat, that’s not always possible any more. That ties in, for me, with compulsive eating as self/body punishment, trying to squish my pain and frustration with food, which is making me gain weight extremely rapidly. Although part of me knows I can be as fat as anything and still be a worthwhile person (a somewhat new feeling for me!), I’m still fatter than I want to be and I’m not embodying HAES because…well, binge eating constantly and compulsively isn’t healthy in anyone’s book.

    Just a thought.

    To help out the subject of the original post, I don’t have any resources as I am in Australia and I’ve never sought medical/psychological help for my binge eating because I have always been too ashamed. But Fat Acceptance education and HAES seem to me to be a good place to start. Of course, for the first several months of reading up on FA, I was still trying to starve myself in between binges, because I was convinced that FA was great for everyone else, but different rules applied to me. But dealing with body image, which is so deeply ingrained in ourselves and our experiences in the social world, is always going to take time.

  10. I had a wonderful, curvy, kind, and effective therapist in Stillwater, MN (on the outskirts of St. Paul) named Janet Kelson. I don’t have her phone number anymore, but she should be findable, since the Stillwater area is not that big. She helped me with many self-esteem and body-image issues, although not specifically BDD.

    She also might look to the queer community (a surprisingly large one in Minneapolis, although it consists more of men than women). I am a straight woman who was helped by my lesbian friends, many (but of course not all) of whom had a more feminist and accepting way of looking at their bodies.

  11. I’ve been in therapy, but it actually didn’t help me with my body image. This because most therapists, including mine, and most people, still believe that Fat Is Unhealthy. We frequently talked about setting goals such as losing weight. It wasn’t until I came into contact with the idea of fat acceptance and all these wonderful blogs that it began to dawn on me, and I embraced it, knowing I’d found the key to loving myself the way I am.

    BDD is more serious than just having a poor body image. You need to change the way you think, and you need to actively try to change the way you think. You need to be open to another way of thinking.

    A really odd and seemingly nonsensical technique that really did it for me, was the so-called “Emotional Freedom Technique”: http://www.emofree.com/

    The theory behind the technique is totally vague and I don’t think that’s how it actually works (with energy meridians… what?) – I think its effects are better attributed to suggestion of the subconscious. Either way, its effect on me was almost instant and is lasting till this day. Somehow it was able to instantly shift my thought pattern from “I hate myself, I am a terrible stupid ugly person” to “hey, I’m pretty awesome actually and I’m fine the way I am”. I think this technique may be powerful to someone who is stuck in a thought pattern they can’t break through. Just don’t mind the weird mumbo-jumbo around it or the hyper promotional site.

    The last and only real advice I can give is: be open to change. It’s hard, but if you hate yourself and you truly want to break out of it, you can. Yet it will be a lot more difficult if you keep clinging to your thoughts, if you don’t want to believe that you could be wrong. Over the years I’ve tried to give advice to various friends, but many of them are simply unwilling to believe that what they think might not be right, and stick with their self-destructive thinking. Be open to change.

  12. Another option is getting some workbooks or finding a therapist who does Acceptance & Commitment Therapy. It’s considered the “third wave” beyond CBT.

    The basic premise is that rather than trying to get rid of your BDD (or anxiety, in my case, or OCD, etc.) you become mindful of it, make room for it in your life with compassion and then *act* in a way that leads you towards the life you value. The exercises are about separating your thoughts and feelings from your actions. So while you might be feeling really ugly, and thinking you are gross – you can still choose to act in ways that are life affirming such as going out with friends, going to work, etc. It’s not easy, and you don’t *feel* better necessarily, but your life gets better. I get annoyed with it sometimes because I want to *feel* better, but you can’t change how you feel, you can just change what you do. But I’ve found that in doing the things that are life affirming and lead me towards what I value, I do feel better.

    I might not be explaining it well, but it is really eye opening, and has had a huge impact on my life.

    There are some links here: http://fingertrap.blogspot.com/
    and some audio & written things here: http://is.gd/1JT0
    and amazon has a bunch of good books on it (Just look up Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.)

  13. I second EFT. But as a person with BDD to the point where I would not even sit on chairs for fear of breaking them (even being underweight) another thing that helped me accept my true body size was, oddly, massage. It took a lot for me to get on the table…it wasn’t wide enough for me, it wasn’t strong enough to hold me…I was THAT deluded as to my body size. Once I was able to work through all that, massage has helped me gain a sense of my body, and become comfortable in it.

    Can I look at myself in the mirror? No, not yet, EFT is helping me work on that.

  14. I was never diagnosed, so I could be absolutely wrong, but I BELIEVE I had BDD. The thought processes were pretty much the same, and I had a very distorted view of myself.

    It might sound strange, but you wanna know what helped? Taking pictures of myself. Repeatedly. Like, almost every day. My initial reasoning behind it was for me to learn what looks good on me and what doesn’t (fatshion). I’d take the picture and wait a day or two to really study it. It helped me to be objective about what I really looked like. The more I took pictures, the more my mental view of myself changed. At one time, I honestly thought I looked like those stereotypical “headless fatty” photos you see everywhere. But the more I looked at these pictures, the more I saw myself as I REALLY am. And yeah, I’m fat – there’s no denying that. But what I REALLY am and what I THOUGHT I looked like are so different it’s not even funny.

    I would strongly recommend getting some sort of professional help for BDD, so I think you’ve got the right idea. But I would also say think about my approach as something to do ‘as well as’ and not ‘instead of’. I realize that just because it worked for me doesn’t mean it’ll work for anybody, but it’s something to think about at least. :-)

  15. I’m so sorry to hear your friend is suffering.

    FWIW, “true” BDD (i.e. the DSMV diagnosis) is in large part neurologically based. If your friend is really stuck, it could be that her internal distortions are physically based, and therefore not able to benefit (right now) from straight-up psycho-social approaches. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has shown promise with BDD, and there are some clinical trials going on right now (alas, not that I can find in the Twin Cities area, but
    http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT00211809 in case this is useful to someone else). SSRIs have also been shown to be helpful for some.

    I hope that your friend will seriously consider CBT if her joy in life and ability to function are coming to be affected. BDD (like, well actually, MOST diseases, regardless of the organ affected) is chronic, and is likely to worsen the longer it goes un- or under- treated.

    Best wishes,

  16. It might sound strange, but you wanna know what helped? Taking pictures of myself. Repeatedly.

    I wish that worked for me… I have pictures of when I was 18 and now at the exact same size and I see myself as huge in the now pictures.

    And I third EFT. I think it’s the act of forgiving yourself… unfortunately for me it’s only been temporary fixes however I’ve managed to get through horrible moments using it. Beware though: Some people get physically ill after doing EFT and you may feel dehydrated and exhausted.

    I don’t live in the Twin Cities sorry… but if anyone in the Cleveland, Ohio area needs a good therapist mine specializes in Body Image and Eating Disorders, she’s fairly fantastic and amazing.

    I suggest trying to find an eating disorder group in the area and tapping them for ideas on therapists…

  17. This might be a place to start: Chrysalis Center for Women (http://www.chrysaliswomen.org/programs.htm). They have numerous services that includes support groups. If they don’t have anything specific to help her at the center they have resources that can help her find what she needs.

    Does your friend have insurance? If so, then that’s an option for searching within her system to find a therapist who treats BDD. My therapist is within the HealthPartners system (and perhaps others) and her approach is Cognitive Behavior therapy which I found extremely helpful for my PTSD, anxiety, and body issues.

  18. I don’t have any specific therapist/support group suggestions, but I *love* the Midtown (Minneapolis) YWCA. It’s often crowded but the crowd is all shapes, all sizes, all colors, and just being there helps me reset my perceptions of normal away from the TV/magazine/Barbie “normal”.

  19. I should show this to my spouse. He actually WAS genuinely, life-threateningly fat — water retention, sky-high blood pressure, cellulitis — but through exercise and eating healthier food (NOT “dieting”) managed to shed the excess weight and get his BP down to the point where his doc took him off the BP meds two years ago.

    The “problem” is, of course, that he hasn’t achieved the rail-thin physique he had as a teenager. His mother, instead of congratulating him for getting his health back and being able to crank out thirty to forty miles at a clip on his bike (he rides to work at least once a week, even during the winter), is not-so-subtly tweaking him for having settled at between 235 and 245 pounds, which is the weight he achieved two years ago. (Oh, and this is on a 6′ frame — really, I think most of his remaining “fat” is actually loose skin that just hasn’t shrunk enough to fit his current size.)

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