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If you suffer from an eating disorder now or have in the past, please email Joanna for a free telephone consultation.



Eating Disorder Recovery
Joanna Poppink, MFT
Eating Disorder Recovery Psychotherapist
serving Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon and Utah.
All appointments are virtual.


marilyn monroe 1488670 340*pix Marilyn Monroe

Sex, Understanding, Confusion, False Messages and Eating Disorders

If you have an eating disorder, you most likely know that human sexuality is flagrantly advertised and photographed, exploited and both demonized and idealized in our culture.  Yet  your actual experience is rarely reflected back to you in ways that help you feel understood or understand yourself. Worse, the bomardment of sexual behavior and sexual etiquette definitions may overwhelm you before you can develop your own appreciation for what's important to you.

Here's an example of the pressure on you to fit into a predetermined and callous sexually desireable straightjacket.

Dating Service Fires 5000 Members

BeautifulPeople.Com in Denmark is a dating service.  The goal of members, obviously, is to date beautiful people. To to date a beautiful person one must be a beautiful person, and that beauty is defined by the service administration.  BeautifulPeople.Com monitors how much you eat over the winter holidays and casts you out if you drop below their threshold of "beautiful."

In the first week of 2010, when members established as beautiful according to the site standards submitted their pictures, over 5000 got a nasty surprise.  The site's administrators kicked off more than 5,000 members for appearing too heavy in post-holiday photos.

Fleeting Beauty or Looking in All the Wrong Ways for Beauty?

I wonder, what does "dating service" mean?  People can't be signing up for long term relationships. Throughout our lives we change shape because of aging, illness, stopping or starting exercise, pregnancy and childbirth and yes, of course, weight loss and weight gain. 

Perhaps a myth is growing based on the false expectation that no one changes, develops, evolves or devolves over time.  If this is true then you could feel betrayed or lied to if your partner does change. You could feel betrayed and dismayed when (not if) your own body changes.

I have two close girlfriends, one who is three and one who is five.  Their skin is pure, blemish free, taut and rosy.  They are both fascinated, worried and point out to me with great serious concern their boo boos.  I almost need a magnifying glass to see the tiny pink dot from a slight brush with a sidewalk or twig.  They are momentarily dismayed but able to live their full lives unencumbered by shame. We talk about healing.  In a day their bodies are blemish free again. They were confident  all would be well and accept quite naturally that indeed, all is well.

Explore Your Standards: Where is Love?

Is it possible that a large number of adults hold on to the childhood belief that the healthy glow of healthy child and the almost miraculous speedy recovery time of a child is the normal standard for an adult body? Do they elaborate on this belief so that any disturbance in their appearance is a shameful, worrisome catastrophe which warrants their being outcast?

This false belief negates any possibility of compassion for yourself or other and makes bringing real love into your life impossible.

If you have an eating disorder you strive to achieve a body that is beautiful by whatever your standards are.  Those standards are usually unrealistic.  You strive for that beauty because you genuinely believe beauty will bring you happiness, wanted attention, love, family, wealth, career, success, safety, security or whatever it is that you want.

Your standards concerning your sexuality are similar. You look about you to see what sexual behavior is supposed to be and you try to adapt to it.  Your eating disorder cuts you off from your genuine and expansive sexuality just as it cuts you off from your other feelings. You know about performing, faking, manipulating, pretending.  You know about cuddling and being frightened when cuddling changes to sexual intensity  You know about fear at penetration. You know about boredom and feeling nothing.

You know about your need to please and your certainty that beauty will stimulate your partner.  You try to catch hold of your partner's desire because you feel little of your own.  Or you feel a great deal of passion and sexual intensity but have little awareness or care for your partner. In both issues of beauty and sexuality you areprey to society manipulation.

Soften Those Judgements and Get Real

The example set by organizations like Beauty.com play into your vulnerabilities. You can be just as harsh or even more harsh than the site's administration in terms of cutting yourself off from human connection because of your appearance.

You feel you must have a certain look, be a certain weight before you are attractive, desirable and lovable.  Yet love has nothing to do with this standard. 

Learning how to love and be loved is a vital part of eating disorder recovery.  This harsh and punishing standard  is completely without love or respect for the possibility of love.

Here's a suggestion I give my patients who are caught in their false beliefs about body size and love.

My practice is in urban West Los Angeles. I tell them the people I work with to go out on the sidewalk. Go to shops, malls and parks.  Look for the people holding hands who do not qualify as beautiful by your standards.  Look for the people who are far removed from your standard of even an okay body who are holding hands, pushing strollers with smiling babies, being part of a loving couple or a loving family.

Let these scenes from reality - not reality TV - but real reality be your guide.

*pix Marilyn Monroe from Pixabay.com 

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