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Trauma & Body Image

Body Image and Trauma

Trauma can affect self-esteem, agency, our beliefs about where we fit into the world and so much more. The development of an impaired body image is common when we experience trauma associated with violated body boundaries.

This can happen for a multitude of reasons:

  • Our personal space boundaries were violated. We may subconsciously seek to occupy “less space”.

  • Feelings of powerlessness and helplessness are common & can persist long after the trauma has occurred. This can lead to hyperawareness of our body, our looks & the ways in which we show up in the world.

  • Food can become a way to cope.

  • Many women report trying to change their appearance in an effort to avoid future traumatic experiences.

  • Many victims identify feelings of guilt & shame after traumatizing events. This can lead to self-punishment and forms of self-deprecation.

  • We may over-exercise as a way to relieve stress.

Regardless of the reason body-image issues can show up in our health as

  • Poor Self-Esteem

  • Social Isolation

  • Unhealthy dieting

  • Binge-restrict cycles

  • Unhealthy weight loss

  • Malnutrition

These can lead to:

  • Life threatening disease

  • Malnutrition

  • Eating Disorders

  • Heart Issues

  • Loss of muscle

  • Mental Health issues

  • Dehydration

Empowered RX helps women who have experienced negative life altering moments with poor body image by implementing nutrition and weightlifting strategies that seek to build resiliency, strength and body acceptance.

Research from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Eating Disorders has formally recognized the positive impact of weightlifting in the ED recovery process. Weightlifting allows the individual to focus on feeling strong and empowered rather than feeling helpless or like they are failing to meet certain standards.

Women who begin weightlifting report finally seeing their body as something powerful and beautiful as opposed to the powerless hold eating disorders often have. As the body gets stronger, so does the mind and agency!

With weightlifting, goals become based on technique, form, mind-body awareness and loads lifted making this a process oriented sport as opposed to the goal oriented sports that we often see associated with concurrent mental health struggles.

Exercise has been used as a form of punishment by many people who strive to burn off the calories they've eaten. With weightlifting, fueling is just as important as the act of lifting itself. In order to get stronger, weightlifters often become more concerned about fueling for performance than they do about fueling for a certain physique. The focus is shifted from one of, "how do I need to exercise to get weight off?" to, "How can I work towards putting weight on the bar?".

The mind-body awareness, proprioceptive and neuromuscular feedback we get with each lift brings us back into our body. Many trauma survivors and those with eating disorders report feeling disconnected from this experience, stating that their bodies don't feel like a safe place to be. Weightlifting slowly strengthens this sense of safety and connection and allows us to step outside our head for a while and live with our body.

Associated anxiety can often be lessened with a good weightlifting session as well even furthering the sensation of being present and connected with body and breath. Research has demonstrated increased parasympathetic nervous system activation with habitual weightlifting sessions. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for rest, recovery and relaxation. Anxiety keeps us in a heightened state of arousal that often lessens our window of tolerance and ability to cope. Simply put, weightlifting increases our window of tolerance and allows us to live in a more peaceful space.

The fueling for performance and healing aspect of our nutrition mentorship allows women to see the symbiotic relationship between strength and fuel. Food becomes medicine. We start to value our body for its amazing capabilities.

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