Dr. Kilmer here. Maria would get so mad at me. In Body Acceptance Group she was outraged at the “absurd and ridiculous” concepts I would spout. But she kept returning. In time she began to courageously challenge herself. She wished to not pass her shame on to her children. Three years later, she sent me the following letter, asking me to share it with others currently battling.
I am writing this testimony to thank you for helping me but also in hopes that it can help someone else who is suffering. I first came to ACE because I had an eating disorder that had taken over my life completely. I lived in constant agony wanting to change my situation when it came to food, but found myself completely powerless. I did have a key element for recovery, an incredible desire to be well.
I had tried everything to “beat” this ailment, but found myself defeated. I took my inheritance and INVESTED in my recovery. I wasn’t the least bit apprehensive about it, for I knew that that money wouldn’t be worth anything if I kept living in pain the way that I was living. I was ready.
My initial evaluation at the clinic revealed to your staff that not only was I in need of help regarding my symptoms, but also my negative perception of my body. I was overweight and convinced that I needed to live in shame about it. I didn’t realize until I was in your body acceptance group for over six months that I actually had a choice. That I could change the way I felt about my body. That’s a tearjerker for me, because what an amazing feeling to find that out. That I didn’t have to live hating myself and my body anymore, that I actually had an option. Thank you!
I came in angry, thinking I knew it all, thinking that no one had anything new to teach me (especially not about my own feelings about my body)…and taught by a bald guy to top it off, what did he know?! I showed up, I followed instructions, I was willing to drive 45 minutes from south Decatur every Monday, I hardly ever missed a session, only when I absolutely couldn’t make it. It’s a strange phenomenon, what was happening inside me; I guess that is the definition of being open. Bragging at the end of a share was very difficult at first. I strictly bragged about things I actually liked about myself. Rick set parameters, he didn’t want us to repeat so much or do “easy” brags, and because I was committed to follow instructions, I started bragging about different parts of my body that I didn’t really care for. The taboos slowly began to crumble.
Every single “dare” that Rick would give us, I completed. I recall one day he told a story about a woman who challenged herself to let her husband touch that one part of her body that she hated the most. That night I went home and let my husband touch my belly, and my butt just like the woman in the story. Another taboo was broken, and I was able to let my husband enjoy my body more. In that moment I realized that it was all in my head, he didn’t care one bit, he was happy to have more to share it seemed.
Rick spoke a lot about beauty canons in different eras and cultures. That changed my mind a lot about the subject. It allowed me to see how subjective those canons really are. I started questioning media — perhaps I had done some questioning here and there, but started to really understand the subliminal power the media has over our perception (and how ridiculous and unrealistic what it represents really is). He told a very powerful story once about a white girl who had two black roommates; the black roommates invited her to go to a nightclub and said to her “but none of that neurotic white girl crap, tonight we’re gonna be hot”…or something to that effect. This story sustained the theory that we have a choice. We can choose what “trance” we are in. We can choose what belief about our bodies or other women’s bodies we hold as our own.
I became an observer, I started watching people walking in malls, standing in a corner waiting to catch a bus, just being people. I realized how free most of them were, full of imperfections, rolls, cellulite, different body types, and none of them seemed to care. My job was to investigate and to recover.
I wasted so much precious time, not dancing at concerts because I was ashamed thinking people would stare at me, not swimming at beaches and pools, choosing to sit alone at a table, not enjoying intimacy to its fullest potential, not hugging people with enthusiasm, and basically living sad and not proud of who I was.
Today I don’t have a perfect body, but I have a pretty good attitude about it. Three years after being in the body acceptance group, and many, many “shutting up” of that part of your mind that plays the old tapes of the worthless-me song… I mastered it. The thoughts disappeared, after putting one foot in front of another for so long, learning to identify the body shame voice, being open to all of those challenges Rick presented us. I can say very happily that I am free. I wear shorts, bathing suits, show cleavage, tights, tank tops, I barely ever think about how I look. I don’t even have a full length mirror or a scale in my home anymore. I focus on work, on what I need to be doing to better my career, I think about my 3 kids and how to better help them to fulfill their goals. Honestly, I have no idea how I had so much time to hate my body. I find now that it is such a pointless practice but it is real.
I don’t know exactly how it started in me, but I do know that is possible to switch your trance completely to one where you are hot, self-confident, and feel absolutely gorgeous, or another very peaceful place, when you feel completely indifferent and it doesn't matter at all, both feel pretty good.
Thank you Rick for this wonderful class and, of course, to my individual therapist who helped me process all of it. I hope so much that all of you can have the freedom that I have been granted, you all deserve it for sure. We ALL deserve it."