Interview with Didi Zahariades, MA. Psychotherapist & Coach

Didi Zahariades, MA. Psychotherapist & Coach, is located in Portland Oregon but works nationwide. She has practiced psychotherapy for the last six years and in the field of coaching for seven years.

What are the most common topics/issues that come up about body image?  Are the issues different for men?

The most common is simply that people do not like what they see in the mirror.  The issues are different in detail for men but the problem of body image is the same.  Society is overall kinder to men but as individuals, men are just as mean to themselves as women.  I think the difference is that men hide the problem better.  You rarely hear a man say, ‘Do I look fat in this?’  But for women it is an acceptable dialogue.


Do you see differences in gay and straight clients or do they share the same problems with self image?

Unfortunately they share in the problem.  Being gay is about sexual preference, not self-image.


What is the age range of your clients who have negative self/body image?

Gosh it would be so great if age was a factor.  My clients are men and women age 14-63; body image is an issue for all ages.


Breaking your clients down into age groups, do you find that there is one group that has more of a problem with body image? 

I think that there are more people involved in the negative body image of teens.  For example, parents, teachers, or friends may have noticed, hence the teen is in my office.  The reality is that LITERALLY all ages have issues with body image.  The difference may be that as a person gets older they become more accepting and in doing so they often start to give up or their frustration is higher.


Why do you think people have such a hard time with the way they look?

Media tells us that the average woman is a size 0-2 and this is who we watch on TV and see in mags.  This completely messes with us because the average size woman is around Size 14-16.  Not even close to a size 0 and in fact most women haven’t seen that size EVER.  If you grew up and went directly from a size 14 kids to a size 8, then there must be something wrong with you.


In your opinion, how does the way someone sees their body affect how the feel about themselves?

It shifts reality.  When you leave your house thinking you saw a fat person in the mirror, then you walk around all day feeling like a fat person.  And in the U.S. being a fat person translates into being less-than.


Who’s harder on themselves when it comes to body image? Men or women? Why?

I’m sure I should say women, but I don’t believe it.  I believe that women have more outside pressure than men, but I’m not even sure if that is fair.  Men have a different kind of pressure in society; pressure to be a man typically means being unemotional.  If you are unemotional, then how can you ever complain about your body image?  Men are much more apt to say, I’m fat and have their guy friend say, ‘Yeah you’ve put on some pounds.’  Well, women would never say this to one another but it is just different.  Different doesn’t mean one is easier than the other.


So often when we hear “body image” we think of women and eating disorders. Regardless of gender, everyone has a body image whether it’s good or bad. Do you have any suggestions as to how to achieve a more positive self image?

Recognize You Negative Self Talk.  We all have a cd playing in our head all day long… do you know what yours is saying?  If all day you are hearing negative commentary from the inside-out then most likely it will be affecting your body image negatively.  It sounds so simple, but most of us don’t even recognize our negative self talk.  Slow down, listen, and hear what you are saying to you… then change it!

Also, stick to the facts in regards to media.  For example:  Jennifer Lopez is said to be a size 4.  Jennifer Lopez is so great because she represents for the curvy girls!  The fact is the first part and the fiction is the last part.

Is there anything else you would like to add? (For instance: Is there an extreme or unusual story you can share? Or do you have key advice?)

Try this:   Treat yourself like your own Best Friend and increase your kindness.  What would your BFF say to you?  Apply this advice on a daily basis and it will be life changing!  Seriously stop yourself prior to the mirror and say, ‘What would I tell my BFF?’  Now start talking.

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011


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