Listening to What the Body Wants with Christel van Gelder

by Anne-Sophie Reinhardt on March 21, 2015

On the last day of the series, Christel van Gelder shares how being diagnosed with Hasmimoto’s disease messed up her weight and body image and how she learned to listen to her body’s needs and honor it again.

Body Image Interviews

Growing up, how did you feel about your body?

I never had a problem with my body when I was younger, that came rather late for me. I think in the 70’s we were not that interested as kids, we were allowed to be kids.

I did hear my mom going on about how she needed to diet, and how she couldn’t eat this or that. In truth, she was never fat and now at 76 is quite thin. So, I grew up hearing about it, but not applying it to my own body.

This weird idea of me being fat came later, around 18-19. And I can tell you I wasn’t fat at all at the time.

When did your body image struggles start?

They started around 18-19 and perhaps even later. I gained a bit of weight when using the pill, but noting drastic. I am 1.74 tall and at the time I weighed around 60 kilos. With the pill I gained two or three kilos, which was nothing, but the number made me scream in my mind. I guess that’s when it really started. The feeling fat. This feeling became intensified when I met my then husband, and especially his mother and sister.

They were constantly going on about how they could not eat, about how they had to lose weight. And I felt judged by them, because I didn’t diet at all, ate whatever I wanted. Was not fat at all, but still in my mind I felt less than them, and not accepted. Not good enough.

So I started comparing my body with my sister-in-law’s. Who had a totally different build. I had curves, while she was “straighter”. And as she went on about how fat she was—which she totally wasn’t—I interpreted that as : “You are fat, you are not good enough.” Of course that was all in my head!

What bothered you most about your body?

My thighs and hips. I have a narrow waste and upper body, but my legs can make me look heavier than I am.

After I had my first son I did not lose weight, on the contrary I started to gain. But with second pregnancy I dropped all the pounds in the first three months. After I had my second son, I was diagnosed with Hasmimoto’s disease, a thyroid disorder. I had a multi-nodular goiter and became hypothyroid: fatigued and gained weight easily.

I continued with the image of being fat in my mind, but when I see pics now, it isn’t the case. Hashi’s can make you hypo, but also has periods where you become hyperthyroid. Then I would all of a sudden for no reason at all lose a lot of weight.

I struggled with a lot of stress in my marriage and my husband was a narcissist, so whatever I felt was discarded as being a poser or drama queen. I never felt good in my body, until I decided I had to leave him. I shed weight like there was no tomorrow and ended up underweight.

Not by dieting, but I think it was a constant adrenaline rush I had ( fight-flight). For the first time however, weighing 56 kilo’s , I didn’t have the fat image anymore. I felt good, I felt thin. I liked my body. When I see pictures of that period now, I do like my body, but my face has that stressed, haunted look and I actually look old and worn.

After my divorce I remarried and my body gave up on my after all the stress I had been going through for years. I had my thyroid removed and then I became really sick. My body filled up like a balloon. It was more water retention than anything else, but it made me feel dreadful to look at. Also I did not feel well, could hardly move, was constantly out of breath.

I did not want to go out the door anymore. I felt deeply ashamed and felt the need to tell people it was my thyroid and not me binge eating McDonalds from morning till evening. At a certain point, I weighed 90 kilos. I cried bitter tears for days. I did not recognize my body anymore. This was not my shape, not my tissue.

Then I found a protocol that helped me, a way of treating and using medication to substitute the thyroid hormones, and at the same time supported the adrenals, which had take a real battering with all the stress. That was in 2012. From then on I got better . The weight and the bloating started to go down.

Now I feel well overall. I have loads of energy, and my weight is nearly at it’s perfect balance. I found some other underlying hormonal issues that had to be dealt with, such as estrogen dominance, blood sugar imbalances. When one hormone goes out of balance the rest follow suit.

I also know that if I am not obsessing with my body, it feels better and “rewards” me with feeling less heavy, losing more weight. Being kind to my body and myself has that effect. Disconnecting from the need of being a certain weight, a certain shape also has had a great impact for the better.

My issue is not as much with how my body looks overall, as it is with weight, real or imagined.

I never use scales again, and will never do so. I just know when I feel “light” or heavy. When I need to tinker with my medication supplements, vitamins.

I use my clothes as a way to measure. I also know that sometimes the bloating is just water retention and that will go away after a few days, using Himalayan Sea salt I water in the mornings. I know very well when my body is “off” and when I am great. I know which things help me and which not.

So, in a way my thyroidectomy turned out to be a great tool for listening to what my body wants and when.


What was the moment you knew you had to change something about your body image?

It was when I was very sick after my thyroidectomy. I knew I had to get healthy or at least better, before anything would change in my body again. So I knew it would take time, patience and experimenting, learning from my part.

I also felt that my obsession with it and with getting better was actually blocking me getting better. So I decided to loosen up and release all the attachment and tension. That’s when things shifted for real, and my slow but steady weight loss started.

In retrospect I realize now that I never was fat until after my thyroidectomy.

It was bad, as I did not recognize my own body. It’s shape, its touch. It felt totally alien to me.

So each time I got better and shed some more weight, I really loved it, appreciated it and felt so much better. I started to love my body because it was getting better, even though it was still not where it needed to be. But I did no longer scold it and savored each loss of weight however small it was.

And I no longer obsess. After weight loss, I usually plateau for a few month, and then all of a sudden I start shedding some more. I accept that now.

What helped you most during your healing journey?

I have to say, what helped me was trust that I would find out what worked for me and what not. Trust and patience. Don’t underestimate patience!!

What lessons did you learn along the way? How do you feel about your body now?

As I said, letting go of the obsession around what people would think of me, fixating on all the things that were wrong and shifting focus to the little steps and achievements I did have, had an enormous impact.

I also have no patience anymore for people who talk constantly about weight and dieting or gym.  I don’t work out, other than irregular yoga).

What’s one tip you can give readers to finally feel at home in their body?

Be kind! Don’t obsess. Approve of yourself. If you look to be approved of by others you’ll never get there. {Click to Tweet}

Christel is a Martha Beck Certified Life Coach, Mom of 2 sons, 6 dogs and 2 cats. Elephant Aficionada. She believes in Timings and Taking Tiny Steps. She learned that it’s never too late to start to over. And that life is full of Glitter if you let it! 

Check out her website Take a Chance. Make a Choice. Create a Change.

Send her an email at, follow her on twitter @3chlifecoaching, Facebook at and Pinterest at



Peeling Away the Layers of Perfectionism with Lori Race

by Anne-Sophie Reinhardt on March 20, 2015

It’s day 5 of the series already! Lori Race writes about childhood wounds, numbing her feelings with food, over-exercising, constant comparison and how she found her way back to health and joy.


Growing up, how did you feel about your body?

I didn’t begin to judge or feel shame or unhappiness with my body until I was about 18 years old. I was a fairly typical kid of the 70’s, eating whatever I wanted (frozen fish sticks, anyone?), playing outside all the time and not giving a thought to what my body looked like.

I am very grateful for all of those younger years where my body was not the focus of my own displeasure or tormenting. In fact it gave me a touchstone later in life in regard to what true body freedom felt like.

When did your body image struggles start?

My compulsive eating began as a teenager; a coping mechanism that I am able to see now was put in place to help numb the uncomfortable emotions and anxiety within me. The binge eating started catching up with me in terms of weight gain when I was about 16 or so but even as the weight from the overeating began to appear, I would say that I still felt comfortable and confident in my body much of the time.

The real struggles with body image did not show up for me until I began working out at about 18 years of age. My introduction to fitness at this time proved to be a double edged sword for me; part of me knew that movement felt good and I enjoyed all the great brain chemicals being released and the feeling of strength and overall health but another part of me heavily attached to the body shaping aspect of working out.

It was at this point that I began exercising compulsively, at times 4-5 hrs a day, as well as aggressively restricting calories and alternately binge eating. Through this process I also began to heavily criticize and dislike my body.

The perfectionist within me seemed to take over from there and I was no longer able to see myself as most others saw me at that time; a young, beautiful, healthy woman. Instead my vision seemed only able to focus on the “flaws”.

I was in a constant state of comparison, measuring my body against the bodies of other women; “Is my butt smaller than hers?”, “Are my arms as toned as that woman?”, “Oh wow, look at her! If I just do an extra hour at the gym every day, maybe I can get that lean”.

There was not one moment of the day that my mind wasn’t thinking about food, exercise and my body. To say I was miserable is a huge understatement yet I just didn’t know how to get myself off the body obsession ride that I had found myself on. Luckily for me, as I became more ready to heal and see the truth of who I was as a human being, the tools and information began to show up.

What bothered you most about your body?

Since puberty hit, I have always had what most people would refer to as a classically curvy figure: boobs, a small waist, larger hips and a larger butt. My lord, how I despised my hips and butt over the years. My butt was the absolute bane of my existence all through my twenties.

Rather than being able to see my body as a whole entity that included all the simply stunning bits as well as my soul and spirit, I remained hyper-focused for years on that damn booty!

It seems almost comical to me now just how hard I tried to alter the size and shape of my lower body and how much energy I spent berating and despising it in my mind. It was like enemy #1! And really, all that time it was just a body part, just a set of buttocks and hips, muscles and adipose that allowed me to walk and run and sit down and stand up.

It didn’t require an altered set of pants or cause me any pain that I didn’t make up in my mind. It was only the STORY about my butt that caused the pain and suffering. The belief that if somehow it was just a bit smaller with no cellulite, it would mean nirvana for me; love, acceptance, value as a human being.

There is no question that this “troublesome” body part of mine has, in reality, changed very little in size over the last 20 years, in fact it’s likely a little larger currently as I have waded into middle age and yet I wouldn’t trade it for the butt of a super-model (since let’s be honest, a super-model butt on the body of a 40-something woman would look kind of silly…).

My point is that I see the beauty now in the way my body comes together as a whole. My butt and it’s shape and size fit my body perfectly because it’s me!

What was the moment you knew you had to change something about your body image?

For me, there was no one defining moment. My desire to heal my relationship with food, exercise and my body came in ebbs and flows over a period of many years starting in my early 20’s when I sought out my first therapy appointment.

At different stages of my life, as I became more ready, I continued to peel away the layers of childhood wounding, perfectionism and deep discomfort with myself and aha’s in the form of books, teachers and mentors appeared along the way to support my process. Eventually one day I realized, “Oh wow, I’ve completely healed this area of my life”.

I’m very pleased to say that I have not participated in any form of dieting or food restricting for the past 5 years. I now move my body purely for the pleasure of moving and for how strong and healthy it allows me to feel.

I am so at peace having been able to let go of my obsession with looking a certain way or being a certain size. It feels wonderful and I know it all unfolded at just the right pace and in just the way it needed to for me.

What helped you most during your healing journey?

Finding mentors in women that truly loved themselves and their bodies. Women who ate whatever they fancied and refused to participate in talk of dieting, working out and their displeasure with their bodies constantly; these are the women that paved the way for me and allowed me to understand that there was another way.

Women like Geneen Roth and Mama Gena and hundreds of beautiful blogging women that teach and represent body love and true, authentic pleasure and self-care.

I believe the obsession to alter our bodies is actually just a way to distract from the pain that we fear we may find within. {Click to Tweet}

My journey to healing was about unearthing, allowing and eventually feeling that pain. Once I was able to do that, the need to control, restrict, overeat and over-exercise simply fell away and it opened up the space for me to finally see myself the way others saw me; as a radiant, sensual, perfectly imperfect human being.

What lessons did you learn along the way?

I learned that my beauty as a human being and as a woman has nothing to do with the size or shape of my body. {Click to Tweet}

I learned that it is completely possible to stop obsessing about exercise, food and you body. (and that it feels REALLY fucking good!)

I learned that true pleasure is a key part of eating and movement and life that we do not allow ourselves nearly enough of.

I learned that healing of this nature takes time but it is so completely worth it.

How do you feel about your body now?

Now that I have healed my obsessive exercise and disordered eating and separated my worth as a human being from the size and shape my body, I am finally able to appreciate my body for all the amazing gifts it offers.

I am now able to both hear and revere the subtle messages my body gives me in regard to what it needs from me in order to be healthy, happy and strong.

Our bodies have amazing wisdom, far more than our minds, and there is so much success and joy to be had by tapping into that wisdom and allowing our bodies to lead us.

I love that I am able to look in the mirror now, be it naked or fully clothed and see myself as a beautiful, feminine, and undeniably whole human rather than a sum of parts that need sculpting, toning and shaping. My curves please me to no end and the confidence I’ve gained through the acceptance and appreciation I’ve showered on my body in the past 5 years shows in every aspect of my life.

I feel deeply appreciative and completely in love with my body.

What’s one tip you can give readers to finally feel at home in their body?

I would say that patience and self-compassion along my journey were the keys for me to be able to finally fully heal and feel at home in my body. I didn’t find the answers in a “30-day challenge” or a “health cleanse” and it was definitely not a linear path to peace.

Full acceptance of where I was at emotionally and physically at any given point along the path along with a commitment to have the utmost compassion for myself through each phase has allowed me to create an existence in which I never stray from the deep connection I have created with my body.

Lori Race is a Registered Acupuncturist, Wellness Clinic Owner and Master Certified Life Coach who loves to have conversations about self-love and self-compassion. In her work with patients and clients she uses a combination of coaching tools, Chinese Medicine and storytelling to help facilitate the realization of full radiance and authenticity in the human form. Lori is currently writing a book about the ability of meaningful movement (aka exercise with connection) to expand and reform our society’s current consciousness around fitness and our bodies.

Check out Lori’s websites  and and her brilliant collaborative body image project called The Choose Love Project.


Exploring the Positve Reasons of Food Struggles with Annette Sloan

March 19, 2015

On day 4 of our Body Image Interview Series, Annette Sloan shares how she was able to create deep healing by letting go of shame and secrecy around her struggles with her body and food. “No matter where you are, if you’re paying attention, you’ll find a richness there.” Dana Jackson Growing up, how did you […]

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Using The Body As A Metaphor For “Me” with Cathy Yonek

March 18, 2015

It’s day 3 of the tour and I’m thrilled to share Cathy​’s post about feeling disconnected and uncomfortable from her body and finding her way back to herself. Growing up, how did you feel about your body? I felt disconnected. I was very much a kid who lived in my mind and my imagination. When […]

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Lessons in Being “Not-Normal” with Amy Pryce

March 17, 2015

It’s Day 2 of the Body Image Interview Series and today, Amy Pryce shares her story of living and coming to terms with a birthmark that makes her different than anybody else. Body image has been an issue for me since I was literally less than two years old. That’s when I had my first […]

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Make Your Body Your Home with Kaila Prins

March 16, 2015

I am super excited to launch the first ever (but certainly not the last) Body Image Interview Series here on Make Peace with Food, Your Body & Yourself. In the next 6 days, you’ll hear from 6 incredible women who share their stories of hope, loss, healing, setbacks, detachment and so much more. Each woman has her very […]

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Weight Loss: How About Not Having A Goal?

March 11, 2015

One of the biggest mistake you can make when you want to lose weight is having an exact weight loss goal. Why not let your body take you were it wants to go? Because it’s scary, right? But if you think about it, it’s the only sane thing you can ever do. Let’s say you […]

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When “Love Your Body” Is More Harmful Than Helpful

March 4, 2015

You can see the “love your body exactly the way it is” messages all over the Internet these days. And that is fantastic. Heck, I’m part of the movement. Yet more and more, I recognize how harmful and shaming this message of body-love can be if it’s not shared cautiously. Here’s the thing: The more we talk about getting to a place […]

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If you want to change your body….

February 26, 2015

Are you working on breaking your obsession with calories but you’re constantly telling yourself how fat you are? Are you hoping to find joy in food again but you’re looking at it as your biggest enemy? Are you yearning for more energy but you’re punishing yourself with an excess of exercise? Are you dreaming of finally feeling sexy in your skin but you’re […]

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Anger. Hate. Disappointment. Frustration. Any of this sound familiar?

February 16, 2015

Let’s talk about anger. Anger has a big impact on body image, self-love and your eating habits. Anger can make or break a binge. It can make or break the way you feel in your clothes. It can make or break a resolution to finally eat whatever the heck you want. Anger – as much as […]

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