In my office waiting room, I have an oil painting of a small rowboat adrift on the sea. The boat is empty, about to go under and the sea is turbulent. It was painted by a former client, a young woman who I met when she had been struggling with bulimia for seven years. She gave me that painting right before she successfully ended treatment. She said the painting depicted what life was like for her before treatment – all alone in the boat, unable to guide it through rough waters, unable to get her bearings – and how good it felt to finally have someone in the boat with her for guidance, support, and empathy.

How many of us have felt all alone in our struggles with food, weight, and body image? How many of us have felt like we were drowning all by ourselves? According to the latest data, 80% of us American women are in conflict.

At the end of October, I stood in front of a roomful of wonderful women to facilitate a one-day event on BodySense principles. Women of all ages, of all shapes and sizes, and with all kinds of eating issues attended. As I thanked everyone for coming, I was in awe of the courage in the room - my courage for planning and leading the retreat and their courage for identifying themselves with food and eating issues. It was a day filled with lots of laughter and learning.

Here’s what we learned:
- We are not alone! So many of us have similar feelings about our relationship with food
and with our bodies.
- We often use food to comfort our emotional selves. And since we are very smart, we
are clearly aware that there are other calming and soothing alternatives but we eat when
we’re not hungry anyway.
- We ignore our bodies and their signals. We don’t get enough sleep and exercise to
sustain good health and we don’t pay attention to our hunger signals so we become
depleted (and grouchy – this one’s me – just ask my husband).
- We eat too fast! As Dr. Oz would say, we “grab, gulp, and go”. And we wonder why we eat too much and have acid reflux? (Picture your poor stomach trying to digest a whole piece of steak rather than a thoroughly chewed mouthful.)
- We categorize foods as good and bad. Lettuce is good. Cake is bad. And we
feel guilty when we eat “bad” foods.
- We’re all or nothing thinkers. If we don’t have time for 30 minutes of exercise, we skip it for the day – 10 minutes is not good enough. If we eat a cookie, we’ve blown the day. But we’ll be “good” tomorrow.
- We belonged to the “Clean Plate Club” as kids – and we still have our membership
cards as adults. Time to tear them up, don’t you think?
- We struggle to fit in when we feel different than what we see in the media – a different size or shape or lifestyle choice. How can we feel good about ourselves when we’re not a size 2? How have our lives shrunk because we feel we’re too fat?
- We are Wise Women! We give comfort and support to others by our physical presence and our words of wisdom and compassion.
- We are jugglers. The balancing act is challenging at best. It’s difficult to juggle the care of others with care of self. When we drop the ball, it’s usually the one with our name on it.
- And most importantly… we learned that we’re all in the same boat! Forty women, from their 20’s to 70’s, of varying sizes and shapes, with different eating issues, learned that although we are different, we are the same.

And what a boat it is – filled with bright, brave, and beautiful women!

Author's Bio: 

Ilene Leshinsky is a licensed, clinical social worker with 15 years of counseling experience. In her Plattsburgh-based private practice, she works with women who want more joy and fulfillment in their lives. Ilene’s BodySense program is open to women of all ages who are in conflict with weight, eating, and body image. She can be reached at 518-570-6164, or