Authors Andrea Wachter, LMFT and Marsea Marcus, LMFT joined us to discuss their book, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Breaking the “I Feel Fat” Spell. What follows are our questions in italics, and their responses.
In Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Breaking the “I Feel Fat” Spell, written for those 12 and under, you address our culture’s “demonization of fat” and thin privilege and celebrate “vive la difference!” How are your young readers responding to your message?
Most of the children we work with hungrily eat up the messages in Mirror, Mirror. It’s not natural for kids to hate their bodies so when they’re given tools that help them accept themselves, they usually take to these ideas quite readily. In general, the older people get, the harder it is to break the “I Feel Fat” Spell. So, intervening with kids in the early stages of body dissatisfaction tends to produce quicker results.
The story of “The Mirror Witch” is your clever, age-appropriate method of depicting the thought-driven style of an eating disorder and/or a precursor. A lesson and method of self-identification combined?
The Mirror Witch Story is an allegory designed to help kids identify, externalize and separate from the voice in their heads that criticizes their bodies. Instead of simply listening to that voice, kids learn that they can disagree with it or ignore it.
Your chapters, entitled “Spell Breakers” introduce a variety of skill sets: CBT, mindfulness, self-esteem enhancement, self-awareness, and more. Please help those reading this Book Interview appreciate the need for this repertoire.
Body Image problems are actually thinking problems, not body problems. No matter how many times you tell a child they are beautiful and to love themselves, unless they change their thinking, these positive messages are not likely to take hold. Learning how to challenge and change negative thinking requires a multi-faceted toolkit because different tools work better for different kids at different times. So, we offer a variety of skill sets in the hopes that each child will find a few that work especially well for them.
One Spell Breaker you suggest, #6, offers the choices of responding to one’s Unkind Mind with a strong, soft, silly, or silent voice. There’s a meaningful design of assertiveness and empowerment behind this. What were your thoughts in developing this Spell Breaker?
One size does not fit all! The Unkind Mind can be relentless, so it helps to have a menu of options when responding to it. Our thoughts in developing this Spell Breaker were to help kids see that there are many ways, other than steadfast agreement, to respond to their own critical voice.
It’s a challenge to have young people turn in toward their feeling states, yet, you provide various Spell Breakers to encourage this. Can you please offer some guidance on ways parents can help their children with this competency?
It’s natural that parents want their kids to feel happy, but it’s very important that parents teach their kids how to cope with and express the full range of human emotions. When parents tell their kids to stop feeling something, kids feel ashamed, hide their feelings, and often feel bad about themselves (which is a common precursor to body hatred). This means that feelings such as anger, fear and sadness need to be met with love and understanding. Parents who are patient and calm when their children are angry or upset give their children the message that painful feelings are acceptable. When parents lovingly and patiently encourage and soothe tears and fears, children naturally calm down. This is how they learn to comfort themselves in healthy ways.
Spell Breaker #18 discusses the need for practice and how, with practice, children can impact their thoughts to shift from repetitively damaging/unkind thinking to the freedom of mind to be a child. Have you found parents surprised to learn that young children’s minds can impose this type of negative thinking?
Yes. Parents are often astounded at the level of self-hatred and negative thinking their precious children are walking around with. Oftentimes, kids keep their self-hatred to themselves and suffer silently. Yet, it’s amazing how quickly the negative thinking subsides when kids learn to challenge their thinking.
Thank you for including your “Parental Potions: How to Reverse the Curse in Your Home.” Can you please share a few?
Gladly. We encourage parents to demonstrate a non-diet, moderate, enjoyable relationship with food and to practice listening to their body’s needs for both movement and rest. We discourage parents from talking about dieting and weight loss in front of their kids and to refrain from verbalizing anything negative about their own bodies or other peoples’ bodies in hearing-distance of their kids. We tell parents that expressing a positive, grateful attitude about their own bodies will increase the chances that their child will do the same.
About the authors:
Andrea Wachter, LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and grief. Andrea is the author of Getting Over Overeating for Teens and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. She is an inspirational counselor, author, and speaker who uses professional expertise, humor, and personal recovery to help others. For more information on her books, blogs, or other services, please visit www.andreawachter.com
Marsea Marcus, LMFT is a licensed therapist and author specializing in the healing of eating disorders, sexual abuse, trauma, and depression. She obtained her Master’s degree from John F. Kennedy University. She is a trained Process Therapist and is also certified in the use of EMDR, a trauma therapy. Marsea has worked in several inpatient treatment centers for eating disorders and addiction recovery. She also maintains a private practice in Northern California.
Both authors are co-founders of InnerSolutions Counseling Services and co-authors of The Don’t Diet, Live-It! Workbook and Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Breaking the “I Feel Fat” Spell. For more resources and information, check out www.innersolutions.net