Many people who suffer with disordered eating and body image also suffer with a fear of being out of control. The two go hand in hand. Dieting and attempting to control your body’s size and shape are all ways to pretend to be in control of something. However, what you may not realize is that you are trying to control things that you can’t control. Overeating, under eating and focusing on your body image are not control; they are the fear of being out of control.
Here is something you do have control over: yourself.
Having control over yourself involves risk taking, and I think that is what scares people. Sometimes it may feel easier to try to take control over what you actallly have no control over - others - because we know we can’t control it, than to take the risk of changing ourselves.
For example, you can’t force your best friend to stop dating a guy you don’t like. However, you can work on your feelings toward your friend’s choices; which are about you, not about your friend.
Below are some examples of things you have control over and some things you don’t.
Examples of areas you have control and that require risks to yield growth:
• Your attitude
• Your behavior
• Your actions
• Your boundaries
• What you say and who you say it to
• If, how, and to whom you express emotions
• Who your friends are
• Who you have sex with
• Where you live
• What you do for work
• What you do for self-care and fun
• Your values and belief systems
• What family members you stay connected to
• What self-talk you allow to continue
• Whether you do personal growth work or not
• What you eat or don’t eat
Examples of areas you have no control over and which you should relinquish attempts at controlling:
• What other people think of you
• What other people say about you
• Other people’s life decisions
• Other people’s thoughts/feelings
• Other people
• Your genetic body type
• Your weight
• Your physical appearance
• The past
• Life, just as it is
• Things that are inevitable
• Grief and loss
• Whether or not people want to be with you
• Whether or not other people are honest
• Intimacy, which requires risk and vulnerability
The next time you find yourself in a difficult situation, ask, “Do I have control over this?” “What do I have control over?” “What can I change?” Keep in mind all the energy you have expended attempting to control something you have no control over. Like hitting your head against a brick wall, it is exhausting and leads you nowhere.
Contemplate the listed examples above to help you decide the answer and to figure out what to take action on: something that will actually produce the change, growth, and healing that you seek.
When you choose to focus on things out of your control, you are sabotaging yourself, avoiding yourself, your feelings, and your emotional pain. Of course, addressing this is frightening. However, this is what leads you back to a poor relationship with food and your body and constant frustration when nothing ever changes.
Challenge yourself to recognize an area in which you are trying to control something on the “Can’t Control This” list and change your focus to an area you can control. It may mean acknowledging and expressing some emotions, drawing some boundaries such as saying “no,” or creating a little distance.
Seek help from a friend or family member. Choose someone who will support you in looking at yourself, not someone who will collude with your focus on things out of your control.
As you do this more, you will begin to grow, to change and to feel more empowered.
Anne is a mental health counselor who specializes in helping women end the diet cycle to turn every meal into an act of self love and acceptance. Anne has been helping women heal their relationship with food and their body for over 12 years. For more support with healing your relationship with food and your body, visit Anne's website Food Is Not the Enemy, to get Anne’s free report "5 Steps Toward a Diet Free Life."