“It’s like learning a new language” -my learning from a Body Image weekend workshop for clinicians
I bit the bullet and went on an all weekend BODY IMAGE workshop in London a few weeks ago.
I don’t know why I say, ‘bit the bullet’, it was a no brainer really because the two women leading the workshop are experts in their field with YEARS of clinical experience. Marci Evans is a leading eating disorders therapist in the US and Fiona Sutherland an eminent dietician called ‘the Mindful Dietician’ (can you tell I’m rather smitten?) These are women I follow on social media, so it was a great opportunity to meet them in the flesh…and to connect with other people working in mindfulness & intuitive eating and who have a non-diet approach to health and well-being.
Anyhow….it was a fabulous weekend workshop and surpassed all my expectations.
My head is STILL buzzing with ideas about how I can bring what I learned into my practice as a Mindful Eating and Body Image coach.
We learnt SO much and I’m going to share a bit of it with you now.
One of the stand outs for me was the phrase “It’s like learning a new language”. Because it really is.
Mindful Eating as a concept, involves learning a new set of skills, a different way of approaching our relationship with food and ultimately improving our relationship with ourselves.
How massive is that? What huge potential there is, empowering women to leave behind restriction and diet mentality and focus on nourishing themselves through nutrition, exercise and self-care. I know that there are lots of people doing this work in different roles, nutritionists, dieticians, wellbeing experts, hypnotherapists, therapists, counsellors, and health professionals.
But learning the new language is for all of us, not just the client. Because the way we talk to (and with) our clients has a massive effect on their experience of our care. I say this as a former Midwife too, because I know from experience the effect a positive relationship with a client can have, and the effect of a less than positive experience.
If we are serious about helping our clients feel valued, and encourage health behaviours without weight stigmatising them in the process we need to learn how to talk to people about body image and weight, without inadvertently causing offence or sending subliminal messages of disapproval.
As they said in the workshop “We don’t know what we don’t know”
so we may be coming from a place of wanting to inspire, or help but be doing the people we want to connect with a disservice in the process.
Take this example. I have read some really insightful body positivity posts this week from a health and wellness company that are non-diet (yay!) and want to help women get fit (also, yay!) I’m ALL for that!!
They are waving the Body Positivity flag, yet some posts are peppered with language like “obese” and “obesity”. These are medical terms that assume and assign illness and disease. When we label a person as ‘obese’ we make an assumption they are unwell based on their size. A more helpful phrase could be “larger bodied” or “in a larger body”, this is also less judgemental than the term “overweight’’ which assumes a moral tone, a perceived criticism. The subtext being ‘You are overweight, thus you need fixing…..’
Another phrase springs to mind, is “weight management.” I know a number of brilliant hypnotherapists that use that term, even ones that advocate a non-diet approach. But, weight management as a term isn’t non- diet. It is medicalising something that doesn’t need to be medicalised.
So what am I trying to say?
That this is about education for everyone. It’s not about blame, it’s not about how dare they? It’s about kindness and compassion and understanding that we live in a society that stigmatises people in larger bodies and that even the well intentioned among us can adopt this language without realising.
And it’s about learning for all of us, because I’m learning too. Learning how to navigate these difficult conversations with compassion and mutual respect. I want to help women out of diet culture and give those well intentioned therapists and fitness professionals around them, the skills to really connect with and help their clients x
Like this post? Follow me for details of my upcoming workshop on ‘How to talk to your clients about Body Image, weight and food’.
If you need some help with your relationship with food and your eating, I would be delighted to help.
I run Bristol based workshops and offer 121 coaching in the UK and beyond.
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