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March 6, 2019

Body Views: Exploring How Various Views of the Body Contribute to and Heal Body Hatred – PART III

Lady Dancing because she has a good Body View of herself

We continue this series with part 3 of 4 in exploring historical ideals of the body, getting closer to our modern cultural view of the body and its purpose.

Evolution & Materialism

With this era came Charles Darwin’s work which gave rise to the belief that human beings are a result of evolutionary adaptations which function to help our species survive.

In other words, human beings have evolved out of adaptation rather than were created which changes the different view of the body.

This made our culture more polarized. Many questioned, if the body is not created by God for good, then what is it? Materialism and Evolution have had to deal with that question. What is the value of the body in the context of this new world-view that, upon death, a person ceases to exist?

People began to consider, what if all we have is here-and-now and I don’t have a soul. Richard Dawkins would say “we don’t have souls; it is just the combination of neurons in our brain. There is no spirituality, and when we die, we die, and that is the end of it.”

This has implications for how we treat our bodies in life. As such, we begin to consider that whether our clients struggling with eating disorders are Christian or Atheist matters in their treatment because they have different views on what the body means to them.

Another evolutionary belief that was impactful was Charles Darwin’s concept of survival of the fittest. Darwin didn’t mean “fit” in the way we look at it now, but, that idea was hugely influential.

Consumer-Perfectionism

As our culture begins to become more diverse with more beliefs and influences, the concept of the body gets fuzzier to follow. After World War II, there was incredible economic growth so that people no longer had to worry about their daily needs or from where their food is coming.

With this, people could think what kind of food they wanted or not just “is there a roof over my head?” but “what kind of roof do I want over my head?” With this, we started focusing on material comfort.

For example, the handheld mirror was created in the early 1900s. So, by the 1950s, everyone had mirrors in their homes, which created more opportunity to be self-critical. People paid more attention to how they looked instead of how they felt, and more focus on leisure activities or recreational activities.

By the 1980s, we have this explosion of a whole new industry of fitness. Media personalities began telling us how to tone our tummies and get fit, what we need to do to be fit.

This then brings us to today. We see so many images of ourselves and the implications of how we look.

This era is very focused on what we consume, and then, how do I present a perfect life to myself and to others. This is one of the overarching and most powerful themes in the development of eating disorders.

It is no surprise, then, that a huge rise of eating disorder diagnoses occurred in the 1980s and that we have seen it continue to rise since then.

Middle Eastern & Eastern Faiths

As far as faith, more people in our culture have begun to seek out and be influenced by Middle Eastern or Eastern faiths because they don’t feel they connect with traditional Christian or Jewish views.

McCallum Banner

We also have a more diverse population than ever. So, there are more people from these cultures in America than ever before.

I just want to explore some of these quickly and will begin with Buddhism. Buddhism touts that the body and the mind or spirit are not two entirely separate entities. The body is not a vessel that is guided or inhabited by the mind or spirit. Rather, the body and the mind combine and interact in a complex way to constitute an individual.

What is interesting is that you can see some similarities to the early Hebrew belief that it is not separate but a whole, complex, person. In the Buddhist religion, there is a debate about the body, as some see it as an obstacle and align more with that Gnostic view that it gets in the way of spiritual growth.

Others believe that the body is a path that can be used to gain more insight and to grow spiritually.

When looking at Islam, there are some similarities to the Hebrew beliefs in that the body is seen as good and a gift from God. Our ownership of the body is sort of described like a stewardship. The Islamic view is that God has given us a body to take care of.

This is an incredibly high view of the dignity of the human body and we see that as it plays out, for example, even in death. In this culture, there are a lot of guidelines and rules about how to treat a body after death.

Arabian woman taking Eating Disorder TestAlso, in the Hindu culture, there is a very strong view of the body as it relates to reincarnation. This all matters because clients will be bringing these ideas into treatment with them.

So, it is important to ask what they think about the body, and how it relates to their faith, spirituality, or culture. This is also hugely important when we consider how family dynamics are impacted by this.

Consider a teenager whose parents may hold to traditional Islamic ideals of the body, but the teen is growing up in Western culture and taking on those ideals.

Don’t forget to finish this series by reading Part 4, which takes all of the historical contexts of the series and puts it into the practice of supporting individuals struggling with eating disorders in learning their body view and using that for recovery.

Please See

Body Views: Exploring How Various Views of the Body Contribute to and Heal Body Hatred – Part I
Body Views: Exploring How Various Views of the Body Contribute to and Heal Body Hatred – Part II


Source:

Virtual Presentation by Travis Stewart, LPC, NCC, MATS is the Director of Marketing & Business Development at McCallum Place Eating Disorder Centers in the December 8, 2018, Eating Disorder Hope Virtual Conference III: Blasting Through Bias: A Deep Dive into Underserved Populations and Global Issues 2018

Please visit the Virtual Conference page for other presentations.


About the Author:

Travis Stewart Headshot PhotoTravis Stewart, LPC, NCC, MATS is the Director of Marketing & Business Development at McCallum Place Eating Disorder Centers. He has worked in the field of eating disorders since 2003 in both clinical and marketing roles at every level of care. He brings a unique blend of clinical expertise and communication skills to his role with McCallum Place. He is passionate about connecting people to resources and experiences that are transformative and healing.

Travis graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1991 with a degree in advertising and immediately began working with the international ministry of The Navigators, mentoring students. After 8 years, his desire to better understand how people change and heal led to obtaining a Master of Arts in Counseling (2001) and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies (2003) from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri where he now lives with his family. Learn More About Travis Stewart, LPC, NCC, MATS


About the Transcript Editor: 

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.

Margot Rittenhouse, MS, NCC, PLPC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on March 6, 2019.
Reviewed & Approved on March 6, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

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