Ingrid Helander, LFMT, helps chronic worriers resolve their self-criticism & doubts so they can live a life without chronic anxiety, worry & stress. As an author, speaker, therapist, and coach, she helps people embrace all of their being in order to live their fullest life possible. I see so many clients who experience worry about what others think about their bodies, their weight, their food choices, and more. It’s so common! If you’ve been feeling a need to let go of worry — join Ingrid and I for today’s powerful interview!
Counseling & Coaching
As a trained marriage and family therapist, Ingrid has worked with people of all ages. Recently, she’s been expanding her online coaching business, like so many others! That’s also involved moving away from the therapeutic model and more fully into the coaching field. She’s working at creating a culture and group around unlocking your own way of being with yourself. This includes the ability to release worry as well, which is so important for our wellbeing.
Ingrid notes that eating and food is very central to who we are, and she finds that it comes up in her work quite often as well. We receive so many messages that tell us we shouldn’t be who we really are, and those apply to what and how we eat as well.
Growing up, Ingrid was highly attuned to the idea that you certainly didn’t want to be fat. She watched her own mother diet, including with a program that insisted you must eat liver weekly. Her own thoughts about food and body image were all tangled up in social messaging about what was “right” and “healthy”. She did a lot of restricting as a result, and also connects her food experiences with anxiety and worry.
Baking to Cope
There was a period in time where Ingrid found baking was a way of coping with stress and anxiety. She would find new recipes, and at her peak may have been baking a cake a day….but she would never allow herself to eat any of them. She loved food, and yet was terrified of it at the same time.
When she went off to college, Ingrid started her undergrad work in nutrition (listen in to hear what she changed her major to her senior year)! Rather than gain the Freshman 15, she ended up losing 15 pounds. Primarily, she was living off the salad bar and cottage cheese. The obsession gradually shifted; although she can’t exactly put her on finger on it, she thinks her mental health training, yoga teacher training, and menopause experience all played a roll.
As she’s gotten older, Ingrid has come to see it as a shame that we don’t communicate more to our young people about how good and right their bodies are. Our bodies know. They know how to breathe and sleep and nourish us, and they are capable of so much. We ought to be embracing them and celebrating them – there is so much to love!
Trusting Our Bodies
One bit idea that made a difference in Ingrid’s life was this:
I want to trust this body.
She realized that she was living her life in a way that caused her to fight against and distrust her own body, and she no longer wanted that to be the norm. Part of that was recognizing thought patterns like: “If I let go of that control for even a moment….I’ll lose control!” and “I can’t trust my body, and I can’t trust myself around food.”
In her work, she’s found that the body heals itself so much better when we trust it. When we love our bodies, feed our bodies, and listen to what our bodies are telling us, we’re in a real relationship with them.
As a teenager, she realized that her body probably felt it couldn’t trust her at all. She didn’t listen to it; she didn’t feed it when it asked for food, and she disregarded it’s needs. Why should her body have trusted her?
Now, she leans in to trust and let’s go of worry, restriction, and guilt that tempt her to disregard her own needs and desires.
What will people think if our bodies aren’t perfect?
If we gain weight?
If we quit dieting?
These types of questions create constant worry in so many women’s lives. Ingrid notes that we all have personalities, and different parts of our personalities tend to run the show, carry burdens, or get the highlights.
If you’re seeking out a lot of other people’s opinions (about your body, eating, etc), it’s likely self-protective. Receiving approval and validation may be a way of “proving” you are loved, worthy, or accepted. And not receiving that approval can be a painful message that leads us to believe we are NOT those things.
The chronic worry we carry, then, isn’t necessarily about someone approving what we’re eating; it might hold a much deeper meaning about whether we can be loved or wanted. Part of Ingrid’s work is to help women move to that deeper level. How? Well, she does that partly by helping people more fully enter their bodies.
This allows them to begin peeling off the protective layers and learning more about their true selves. Although protection can be a good thing, if we’re primarily carrying around heavy protective layers all the time they can become a burden.
So much of our eating and dieting journeys are connected to these deeper desires to feel accepted, worthy, and loved. Rather than forcing yourself to diet the rest of your life, you can take a different approach to healing and trusting your body.
Taking On Wounds
Ingrid shared a terrible story about another girl’s comments in the shower after gym. Although it happened years ago, she remembers it vividly. And at the time, she also remembers that a part of her thought the other girl was ridiculous…and a part of her thought she was right.
There is so much pressure to look “right”, and to be perceived as having a “good” body. It overwhelms us! It also creates the message that “I have to buy in to the story I’m being told, or I’m in trouble.” When we see others being shamed, ridiculed, judged, or rejected for not fitting a certain mold, the message is reinforced even more deeply. Even when we want to push back and choose to love and accept ourselves, it can be hard! After all, we want to be loved.
Ingrid notes that the pressure is great to look like some external version of “beautiful”. All too often, the people who are the most cruel about reinforcing those standards are the people who are most wounded and locked up in those areas. As people learn more about themselves and begin to heal, they are often able to begin releasing these painful mindsets and judgments, which have impacted not only themselves, but others as well.
(Ingrid shares some amazing thoughts on how the sympathetic nervous system and our flight/fright/freeze instincts can kick in when we receive cues about our bodies!)
With, Not In
Ingrid recommends finding ways to be with strong sensations. This is not the same as being “in” the sensation!
By finding ways to return to and observe our body and sensations, we can engage with them safely. You might try visualizing, journaling, and even drawing as part of being with sensation.
How did it feel? What did you body do? Where did you feel tension or pain? What internal voices were speaking up? What were they saying?
Allow yourself to be with sensations, and see what you learn about yourself! There is really so much happening, and going into the deeper sensations is such a powerful way of beginning to gain clarity in your own life.
Most of us weren’t raised to pay attention to what is going on inside of us, and as a result we can be very lost by the time we’re adults. We don’t know how to trust ourselves, and we’re completely detached from our full selves. We don’t have to stay that way! There is an invitation for each of us to choose to engage our bodies and our selves today. We can learn to trust ourselves, no matter where we are now.
The Body is Not an Apology, by Sonya Renee Taylor