Several decades ago, I participated in a therapy group for eating disorders. The esteemed psychologist running the group, Ann Kearney-Cooke, asked us to do an experiment I’ll never forget.
First, she asked us each to try to take up as much space in the room with our bodies as we possible could…and then to take note of how that felt. Next, she asked us to do the exact opposite; take up as little space in the room as possible.
At the time, I found trying to make my body as open and big as possible very scary…and quite enlightening. I hated it! I felt conspicuous, full of shame, terribly vulnerable, like I did not deserve to take up that much space in the world. As remember that exercise, the experience left me questioning whether I felt I deserved to take up any space at all.
In part two of the exercise, when I switched to trying to feel small, as small as I could, I looked for a corner and when I couldn’t find a corner, I found a wall I could lean against. I sucked in my guy, hunched my shoulders, crossed my arms over my chest, tightly, aware that that impacted how well I could breathe. I crossed my legs and pulled in my backside and thighs, as much as I possibly could. I immediately felt safer like this. This posture felt more familiar to me. Suddenly, I was aware that that was how I had been living my life…trying to be as small and inconspicuous a possible; a tough thing to do when you live in a large body.
Yet, when I thought about it, I knew many people both bigger than I and much smaller than I, who were bigger than life. These people were leaders, knew how to command a room and respect everywhere they went. It was their body language, not how much space they occupied in the room, that made the difference.
That therapy group experience came to mind last week when one of my coaching clients sent me a link to this TED Talk, by Harvard Business School social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s research on body language. Cuddy reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — simply by changing body positions. I thought this might be of great interest to anyone who still believes it their body shape or their weight that’s holding them back from being everything they’re capable of being; doing everything they’re meant to do in this world.
Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are
Ellen Shuman is a pioneer in the field of binge eating disorder treatment; a Coach who specializes in helping people overcome binge eating, binge eating disorder, emotional eating, compulsive eating, and food addiction. She is the founder of A Weigh Out Life Coaching & Members’ Circle, Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present). She is a Past President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (2011/2012), and Co-Founder of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, firstname.lastname@example.org, 513-321-4242.