online conference transcript on body image
Dr. Deborah Burgard, our guest speaker, specializes in women's issues, particularly eating, weight, and sexuality concerns.
David is the HealthyPlace.com moderator.
The people in blue are audience members.
Everyone says you should have it, the question is -- how do you get it? Our guest, Dr. Debora Burgard will be discussing body image in relation to eating, weight, and sexuality concerns.
David: Good Evening. I'm David Roberts, the moderator for tonight's conference. I want to welcome everyone to HealthyPlace.com. Our topic tonight is "Positive Body Image". Our guest is psychologist and author, Dr. Debora Burgard.
Dr. Burgard is a psychologist, author, and webmaster. Her practice focuses primarily on women's issues revolving around eating, weight, and sexuality. Her site, www.bodypositive.com, contains a wealth of information on the subject, and her book "Great Shape" is promoted as the first fitness guide for large women.
Good Evening, Dr. Burgard and welcome to HealthyPlace.com. We appreciate you being here tonight. So we have a clear understanding, what is the definition of "body image"?
Dr. Burgard: Thanks for having me! Body image can be how you literally see your body or how you feel about it in a more general sense.
David: I know that many people have difficulty liking their bodies. Why is that?
Dr. Burgard: In our culture, we are trained to have an adversarial relationship with our bodies. Especially for women, we see the fat on our bodies as our bodies betraying us.
David: And how does that affect our outlook on things?
Dr. Burgard: It makes us try to "control" our bodies. Instead of seeing them as our allies or as something to nurture, we spend/waste lots of time being at war.
David: And it affects all aspects of our lives. One of the letters I received prior to your appearance tonight was from a large woman who said: "how can I feel sexy or good about having sex when I look at myself in the mirror and see the fat?" I'm wondering how you might answer that.
Dr. Burgard: We need to understand that just because we are trained to look at ourselves from the outside, we don't have to find that the most salient thing. Being sexual, you need to have the volume turned up on your own internal experience, how it feels to touch and be touched. When your attention is on "how I look from this angle," it means that the situation does not feel really safe to you and, in fact, it might not be - in the sense that your partner may or may not be looking at you that way. But lots of the time, women think their partners are as critical as they themselves are, and that is not true.
David: But, for many, our weight and our body image are tied together. How do you stop from letting your weight define who you are?
Dr. Burgard: Great question, since the whole culture is built around this!
Even our diagnostic categories - anorexia (anorexia information), bulimia (bulimia information), binge-eating disorder - are like small, medium, and large. I wish they were tied instead to behavior because in real life, fat women can be starving and thin women can be stuffing.
I can't tell when someone comes to see me what her relationship with food is, and I try to train other therapists to think that way too. In fact, there are a few situations - like a job interview or a singles bar - where people are going to look at your weight and make some association to it. But in many, if not most situations, we each have the opportunity to "show up" as ourselves regardless of weight. I try to teach these skills to people.
David: We have a lot of questions, Dr. Burgard. Here we go:
Lori Varecka: What is the best way to have my children have a good body image? I have one overweight daughter @ 11, a "just right" daughter @ 9 and a son who will be tall and thin (probably) and he is almost 7.
Dr. Burgard: Lori, all your children are "just right" if they are fulfilling their genetic fates. We are all like breeds of dogs - not everyone will be a greyhound! Give each of your children the experience that their feelings matter and you will go far in "innoculating" them against the "pollution" out there.
This was such a good question, Lori, thanks for asking. We need much more research on how to help kids feel good.
David: How does someone develop a poor body image? Is it internally composed, externally, or a combination of both?
Dr. Burgard: Well, it is a fairly recent phenomenon in western culture, so I think we have to grant that the external world matters. However, one of my research interests is what protects individuals who seem to resist the cultural pressures. If kids believe that their voice matters, and that they can be powerful not just by having a certain appearance but also by being smart or competent or caring, they feel more confident. Sometimes people blame their bodies for the violence that happens to them, too.