How do you treat your body? Studies have suggested that a very large percentage of women and also men struggle with being friends with their body.

Perhaps it is easy to say that the body is to blame for not being… thin enough, young enough, tall or short enough or has imperfections. The way we treat and view our body, an essential part of our sense of self, often reflects our internal struggles with ourselves.

When Jodie Gale, who specialises in treating eating disorders, announced that she was doing a round up of 20 Powerful books to help you befriend your body, I wanted to contribute as a lot of body and eating-related difficulties stem from childhood experiences. The book I chose to review for the collaboration was “Running on empty: Overcome your Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) by Dr Jonice Webb. This book in some ways changed the way I approach my work. After years of studying the impact of lack of emotional attunement by parents or other caregivers on children and adult well-being and assisting clients in recognising and labeling their feelings, I was very aware of childhood emotional neglect. When I came across Dr Webb’s book, it gave me the language to use with clients that was easily digestible.

What has Childhood Emotional Neglect got to do with eating and body related difficulties?

The reason for choosing this book to be as part of a collection of wonderful self-help books for befriending the body was that I often see in my clinical work that Childhood Emotional Neglect contributes to eating and body related difficulties. If parents and other early caregivers are not in tune and teaching children about emotions and helping with self-regulation, a child learns alternative ways of self-soothing, for example, emotional eating or binge eating.

We all need ways to self-soothe when distressed and if one has not been taught how to access feelings, for example, by recognising and acknowledging feelings, and letting them just be or seeking support to talk about them, anxiety may build up. Then, for example, controlling food intake may become a way to attempt control over feelings that seem too overwhelming. I believe that understanding how Childhood Emotional Neglect makes one feel or not feel, and how it can contribute to body and eating-related difficulties is very important and the first step in starting the healing process.

Read my review and the full article on 20 Powerful books to help you befriend your body here.

How to start healing from Childhood Emotional Neglect and body image related difficulties?

The key recovery is to firstly understand that what your childhood did not offer was emotional attunement. “Running on empty” describes 12 parenting styles that may lead to CEN. You can read my earlier post on Childhood Emotional Neglect – How does it impact adult well-being here.

If you are wondering how to start accessing your feelings, I have written a 5 Steps to getting to know your feelings – workbook. It helps you to start:

  • Identifying what early messages have contributed to how you react to and experience feelings today
  • Recognising and understanding your feelings
  • Tracking your feelings and how emotions are experienced physically
  • Finding alternative ways of reacting to your feelings if you in the past bottled them up

Download your FREE copy here.

If you are looking for a therapist to take you to the next level with understanding your experiences and feelings, take a look at my services page here.

©2017 Dr Mari Kovanen, CPsychol. All rights reserved.