Reshaping Body Image: An Art Therapy Sculpting Process
We don't do diets.*
From November 2-4, 2017, I attended the National Binge Eating Disorder Association Conference in New York, at which I partook in a pre-conference learning session led by Amanda Bechtel (MS, ATR-BC, LCPC, LCPAT) and Laura Teoli (MS, ATR-BC, LPC).
These photographs honor our creation journey. I've included Betchel and Teoli's session description and objectives for context. For more about the Binge Eating Disorder Association, visit its webpage. I most appreciate its overview of binge eating disorders and the REAL statistics and research diet industries falsify. My favorite fact is that BED is NOT obesity, and the "cure" is NOT to lose weight. Heard that before? Exactly my point. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to have almost package-taped my face shut with these women.
What is BODY IMAGE?
Body image is a multifaceted construct and is intricately linked to our experiences within such constructs as gender, ethnicity, ability, and/or personal relationships. As clinicians, it is important for us to be aware of our own experiences and potential biases. As multiculturally-aware therapists, we have the opportunity to model positive body image for our clients and support them in deconstructing harmful narratives.
Why do we care?
Both in media and personal relationships we are confronted with overt and covert messaging about our bodies, their appearance, and functioning. Advertising promotes the idea that thinness and happiness are linked. Idealized bodies featured in the media can lead to increased body dissatisfaction in both men and women. Furthermore, weight stigma contributes to stereotypes such as overweight people being lazy or lacking self-control.
What did we do?
Participants in this workshop will construct life-sized body sculptures and will process their experiences using drama therapy techniques. The creation and production of these visually stunning sculptures gives all participants -especially those whose bodies do not conform to the societal ideal – opportunity to find beauty in and reframe negative body based experiences. Concepts and processes will be relevant to therapists across the expressive modalities as well as non-clinical participants. Finished sculptures will be installed at a conference location to engage the wider community in an open discussion related to body image, body ideals, and our own roles in perpetuating or altering the dominant social narrative. The displayed sculptures will spark dialogue amongst viewers and to challenge weight based stigma.
*I learned "We don't do diets" from Memphis Nutrition Group LLC : a nutrition & lifestyle counseling practice operated by registered & licensed dietitians/nutritionists in Memphis, TN.
Memphis Nutrition Group is my go-to team for honest dialogue around weight, dieting, and healthy self-care.
It grieves me that dieting messages take advantage of body image insecurities, including the perpetually ignored but outrageously stigmatizing conceptual masculinity.
I notice sadness because diets buy customers' discontentment, promise impossible, long-term results that use unsafe methods, utilize incredulous research, and then blame others for unsuccessful body change, knowing customers were set up to fail.
Our bodies cannot be manipulated into figures for which they cannot sustain, and our bodies do what is best for us individually to keep up alive and well. Diet culture is an abusive trade built on shame that lacks integrity.
MNG coaches clients around digestion, meal prep, weight concerns, disordered eating, eating disorders, individual relationships with food, general nutrition wellness, sports and athletics training nutrition, lactation in motherhood, food allergies and intolerances. They will even tour the grocery store with you to share best food shopping practices.
I began with the MNG team in 2015 after my eating disorder diagnosis, and they've supported me since. I'd say I'll be there forever, but they empower me to own my progress. It's a sign of true leadership when a coach is working herself out of a job.
Note: Neither the BEDA nor Memphis Nutrition Group endorses, compensates or extends any affiliation to my writings. I have permission but neither asked me to share my story. I narrate their investments to encourage others navigating similar processes. Each also honors its own confidentiality practices, meaning the degree of details each shares is explicitly limited.