We are delighted to hear from our friend and colleague, Angela Pham, as she shares some of her Body Trust™ Insights. Thank you for jumping in, Angela!
When I was struggling to accept my body size, it was such a secretive and lonely experience. I couldn’t imagine that anyone knew what I was experiencing in my body…Now I crave time to talk about my body acceptance journey with other women. I feel closer to my community than I ever have, and closer to my body as well. Vulnerability creates intimacy…
Angela received a double masters degree from Bastyr University in Clinical Health Psychology and Nutrition. Her clinical therapy training began at a child advocacy center in Olympia, Wa, Monarch Children’s Justice and Advocacy Center. She worked with children, teenagers, and adults who were survivors of sexual abuse. Angela was fortunate to witness firsthand the impact of trauma on our relationship to food and body image.
Angela has undergone extensive specialized training in both therapy and nutrition. She completed her dietetic internship at Bastyr University, St. Joe’s Medical Center, and Children’s Hospital Adolescent Medicine Department. Upon graduation, she began working at Opal Food and Body Wisdom, an eating disorder clinic in Seattle. She has gained knowledge in higher level care of eating disorders and worked within a team approach in a counter-cultural way, by using a non-diet approach.
Angela was fortunate enough to experience Lifespan Integratin in her own personal therapy, and found that it strengthened her connection to her body in a way that talk therapy had not. She went on to become a trained Lifespan Integration therapist, and continues to pursue consultation. Angela is a member of the Association for Size Diversity and Health, the Pudget Sound Chapter of the International Association for Eating Disorder Professionals, and the Association for Contextual and Behavioral Sciences. She strongly believes in lifelong learning and self care. She currently participates in professional consult groups and body image support groups with her colleagues on a monthly basis. Learn more about her practice at A Deeper Look Therapy.
What led you to Health at Every Size® and Intuitive Eating?
I was studying for my master’s degree in nutrition and clinical health psychology at Bastyr University and I was introduced to the HAES book by a colleague of mine. When I was deciding to pursue a degree in dietetics I thought I didn’t have the “right” body to practice nutrition. Of course there isn’t a “right” body to have as a dietitian, but these thoughts reflected my relationship with my body at that time: disconnected and ashamed. I somehow didn’t think that my future clients would connect with me, because of the way I looked. I still recall the weight that was lifted off my shoulders when I found out about the HAES movement. I was so fortunate to find dietitians who were practicing intuitive eating, while I was in graduate school. I asked lots of questions and was mentored by them. I feel so fortunate to have had those experiences early on. In graduate school, it was a lot of head knowledge and admiring other professionals who practiced HAES. It was not until I started my private practice and worked at Opal Food and Body Wisdom, that I was able to practice HAES in a clinical setting.
What has surprised you the most as you have learned to accept yourself?
I have been most surprised how much I value vulnerability with others. Now that I consider how my actions and beliefs impact my relationship with my body, I want to talk about it with other women! When I was struggling to accept my body size, it was such a secretive and lonely experience. I couldn’t imagine that anyone knew what I was experiencing in my body. Luckily I have had great mentors who I have been comfortable sharing my journey with. Now I crave time to talk about my body acceptance journey with other women. I feel closer to my community than I ever have, and closer to my body as well. This is one reason why I lead Health at Every Size groups! I want to support other women in opening up and sharing their journey in size acceptance. Vulnerability creates intimacy, and it really is something that you have to experience firsthand.
What are three aspects you feel are the most important to remember when moving toward radical self-acceptance?
My body will change for the rest of my life.
I keep in mind how important my values of confidence and empowerment are to me. I remember that these two qualities are what I am drawn to in other women I admire.
Women of all shapes struggle with body image. I used to truly believe that women who lived in smaller bodies than me didn’t struggle. It has been eye opening to understand that all women, regardless of size, can benefit from body acceptance and self-love.
What is your favorite part of your body? How do you celebrate it?
My legs, (yes including thighs), are my favorite part of my body. I remember always having strong legs, and I know that get them from my mother. I celebrate my love for my legs by using them to walk up huge hills or climbing mountains. I think that through healing my relationship with movement, and learning to be in my body when I move, I celebrate my legs. I also get lots of good massage so they feel loved too.
What is your favorite food and how do you like to enjoy it?
My favorite food is mint ice cream. It is so refreshing and delicious. Mint ice cream has held a lot of childhood memories for me as well. I worked hard to give myself permission around this food, and it is often what I crave for dinner! I find that having it around and giving myself access to it on a daily basis, have helped me enjoy it in a way that I never gave myself permission to before.
What inspires and renews your dedication to your process when you need it the most?
Talking to other women about my struggles with my body. I can’t believe how much being vulnerable has changed the way I see this process. I get so much out of sharing rather than acting like everything is okay.
I also remind myself that it is normal to still struggle with liking my body. The most important thing is to trust that I have the support network, compassion, and choice to love it again each day.
Radical self-acceptance means…
Loving what is despite what you have been taught by society what is beautiful.
What books, music or websites inspire you right now?
I am re-reading Eating by the Light of The Moon, by Anita Johnson, and loving the metaphors she uses throughout the book. There is a unique type of beauty that she sees a women’s struggle with eating disorders, and I need to immerse myself in that gentleness often.
Very inspired by the HAES Pinterest boards my clients are creating! The newest ASDAH marketing around HAES is so powerful too!
Favorite quote or poem?
Mary Oliver’s poem, “Wild Geese”:
You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting over and over announcing your place in the family of things.