Body image concerns and distortions can run deep. Children learn from parents as their parents did before them and it can cross gender divides. Many of my clients have vivid memories of off-handed comments made by loved ones along the lines of: “We don’t wear clothes like that,” “Look at how thin your friend is!” and “If only you lost a few pounds.” I think you get the picture.
The message is typically lose weight, you’ll look (and possibly even feel) better. This message is received by minds that are sponges. The real message is often an outward reflection of their own self-scrutiny; society’s constant reinforcement of the thin ideal; and their own distorted body image that could perhaps be traced back to cinching corsets. Eating disorders can be the product of generations of dieting: dieters, raising dieters, even if just by example. The message of weight control, learning the art of dieting, and the importance of maintaining what may be an unnatural body image, remains through the generations. A great deal of therapeutic work can be accomplished through identifying and exploring these body image patterns in hopes of healing this generation and breaking the intergenerational trends for the next generation.