January 20, 2021
Mental Filtering
February 13, 2021

Magnification or Minimisation

Another week and another cognitive distortion to look at from our list in Key Four: Feel Your Feelings, Challenge Your Thoughts from the 8 Keys to Recovery From an Eating Disorder Workbook. 

Magnification or Minimisation - when thinking with the cognitive distortion known as magnification and minimization, one of two things happens: the importance of insignificant events—like a mistake—is exaggerated, or the importance of something significant—such as a personal achievement—is lessened.

8. Magnification or Minimisation 

I'm proud of myself for getting into a routine!!!

Taking out the magnifying glass on body image...

In my eating disorder, I was a serial magnifier!  If I had even a hint of my clothes feeling tighter or just feeling ‘big’ in my body, my thoughts would take the following trajectory:

  • I feel like I’ve gained weight
  • I have gained weight
  • It’s never going to stop
  • I am out of control
  • I need to control my food/exercise

It took many months before I could recognize this pattern in myself.  The hardest part was that in the moment, it felt 100% real and true that I had gained weight and there was nothing that could convince me otherwise.

My therapist helped me recognize ‘patterned thinking’ words or sentences – that repeatedly would pop up in my thoughts.  Anytime the idea that weight gain ‘would never stop’ started to circulate in my brain, panic would invariably set in.  To calm the panic down we came up with a checklist that I had to go through before I would allow myself to panic.  Rather than magnifying my focus and attention on my body, I would turn the magnifying glass on my life.  I have copied the checklist I used to use below, from one of my old diaries:

My Re-grounding Checklist for when I’m feeling big

  • Am I tired?
  • Am I getting my period soon?
  • Are my bowels irregular?
  • Have I been messing with my meal plan?
  • Have I been body checking?
  • Have I been triggered recently (a comment/movie etc.) that made me think about my body more than usual?
  • Have I been using other ED behaviours? (exercising, purging, restricting etc.)
  • Have I been restricting my time in nature?
  • Have I overcommitted myself with work/tasks/life?
  • Is there anything causing worry or anxiety?
  • Have I been isolating/spending too much time in my head?
  • Are my thoughts looping?

If the answer was yes to any of the above, I had to take steps to bring it back into a better balance and then wait a week.  Without fail, the feeling would have shifted by then.  To be clear, that doesn’t mean the feeling was gone – it had just shifted.  The mere fact that the feeling could shift at all was evidence, my therapist pointed out, that it was body image driven rather than ‘fact driven’. 

A blue chair will always be a blue chair, that doesn’t change.  Body image... the literal image I hold of myself shifts and changes on a daily basis, depending on many interplaying factors.

Developing awareness of those factors and recognizing why our self-perception, mood, and energy levels shift go wonders towards helping us stay grounded and responsive rather than reactive.

I encourage you to write your own body image checklist – what do you need to be mindful of that impacts your body image?

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