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(Bad Body Fever refers to the rampant body-hating/dieting syndrome that affects so many women today.)

STEP 1: You must be fed up and furious about this debilitating syndrome that wastes women's lives. You must be ready to see that all your body-bashing and all your efforts to transform your shape have led nowhere. You have had the same bad body thoughts over and over again, thousands and thousands of times. What have these reproachful thoughts done for you besides made you miserable? You must be frustrated and angry enough finally to ask:

STEP 2: Who says that there is such a thing as a perfect thigh, leg, rear-end, etc.? …that stomachs should be flat? …that a thin body is the most beautiful? (and to be really daring …that a young body is the most attractive? And after you've challenged all these ridiculous rules which you had no voice in establishing, you must:

STEP 3: Apologize to yourself for all your harsh judgments and abusive treatment and prepare to move into your body with love, compassion, respect and enjoyment. What does that mean in action? Wiggling a little in front of the mirror. Cleaning your closet of all the clothes that no longer fit. Dressing yourself right now outrageously and gorgeously. And most important:

STEP 4: After you have stopped each and every bad body thought dead in its tracks, challenged it and put it aside, you can then learn from it. A bad body thought is never about your body. Fat talk or bad body talk is a way women have of speaking in code. Decode your bad body thoughts and discover the concerns and feelings which these thoughts mask.

For example: Let's say you can't stand your thighs and that you say about them, "They're so huge." Assuming that a bad body thought is never about your body, ask yourself whether there is something about you other than your thighs that you consider too large or huge. Do you consider yourself too needy? Are your desires "huge?" Perhaps you were told that your aspirations made you "too big for your britches" or maybe you have always felt that you are just "too much." Isn't it time to start challenging some of the rules you've internalized about how much space you're allowed to take up rather than deflecting this conflict onto your thighs?

Why is it important for women to learn to decode their bad body thoughts? Because when women start addressing their real feelings and thoughts, we're going to be a lot happier, a lot more powerful, and the world is going to be a very different place. What do you think will happen when women stop hating their bodies?

STEP 5: Of course, chronic dieting is one of the most obvious symptoms of Bad Body Fever and an important part of the cure involves swearing off diets forever. Replacing dieting with demand feeding—feeding yourself when, what, and how much food your body needs—cures compulsive eating, the almost inevitable consequence of chronic dieting. Over time, demand feeding leads to a sense of security and thus enables a woman to speak about her problems rather than eat about them.

This material is based on the book, When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies, by Jane R. Hirschmann and Carol H. Munter (Fawcett, 1995)

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