Body image is a huge issue to women and girls, especially in the world in which we live. We are constantly bombarded with images of thin models, everywhere we look. Is it any wonder that we struggle? Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, LMHC agreed to do an interview with me. Cherrie is a licensed mental health counselor practicing in Woodinville, WA.
Cherrie, thank you for taking time out of you busy schedule to do this interview for The Fashionable Bambino. I thought we could first start off with you giving us a little background about yourself and how you became a counselor. Your upcoming book, Fannies: Reflections on Cookie Dough, Life, and Your Derriere, is about body image isn’t it?
1. My background: Since I was a little girl, people often shared their problems with me. After college I became a teacher, and at different times my students would approach me for help with their problems. I would try to refer them to the school counselor, but usually they said they would feel more comfortable talking with me. Eventually I decided to quit teaching and go into counseling. However, I work only with adults. I really love what I do because it is so rewarding. Sometimes people ask if I get tired of hearing peoplesâ€™ problems, but actually my work brings me great joy because I see my clients get so much better. To me, that is very exciting and a great honor.
2. Why did you want to write a book about body image? I noticed while counseling all types of different women that body image issues almost always surfaced. Since we live in a culture in which we see over 250,000 ads by the age of 17, this was not surprising. Most of the ads shout, â€œTo be thin is to be beautiful, and beauty is almost everything.â€ We get caught up in the poisonous cycle of comparing our bodies with those of air-brushed, photo-shopped models who often have eating disorders. Since I am a woman, obviously I have also struggled with body image issues. I decided to write parts of my story into the book as well, often using a great deal of humor.
While in a writing class, I wrote a humorous piece about a woman who had her lips plumped with collagen, and how her lips almost got stuck together because of all the sticky, gooey lip gloss, Vaseline, and lipstick. People liked the piece, and from there I decided to add my thoughts on the psychology behind the lip enlargement. Before long, the concept of a collage of humor, story, narration, research, and faith formed the first draft of â€œFannies: Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit.â€
A few months ago I signed with a well-respected agent and we are currently seeking a publisher. I was trained in the same school of thought as the authors of Captivating and Wild at Heart, so hopefully the material will resonate deeply among readers. Unfortunately, the publishers who are considering the book do not like the word, â€œFanniesâ€ in the title. So the book has now been renamed to its subtitle: â€œReclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit.â€
3. How do you think your book will help people with their body image and why do you think so many struggle with this? My book is an antidote for the tsunami of poisonous messages we are flooded with every day. The stories, research, humor, and faith about other peoplesâ€™ struggles will provide a healing voyage as women begin to grasp the concept that they are individual masterpieces of Godâ€™s handiwork. Readersâ€™ thoughts will shift from, â€œHow big does my fanny look in these jeans?â€ to celebrating their individual talents, personalities, and passions. My hope is that readers will realize deep in their souls that the interplay of their stories, passions, and personalities â€“ their hearts, in other words â€“ are monumentally more important than their looks.
4. Who is your book’s target audience or do you have an age group in mind? Women from ages 18 to 55 or so will probably make up the greatest number of readers. However, I can picture teens and women over 55 resonating with the book also. Since men struggle a great deal with body image, I imagine some of the readers will be male. More and more frequently, men are being inundated with the same, â€œyou donâ€™t measure up,â€ messages about their bodies. One of the last chapters of my book will be devoted to male body image, so I am sure some of the readers will be men.
5. Do you think that the real world has a proper view of body image? In America and other first-world countries, we are brainwashed by a sea of sick media in regards to body image. Most of the images cut deeply into womenâ€™s souls, making them feel that they are not good enough. This is very unhealthy. Many celebrities and models who are idolized have such low body fat percentages that they are unable to have their periods. That is tragic because this unhealthy body type is worshiped. Thankfully, however, we are starting to see this change a bit. Some of the modeling gurus are turning the tide and asking their models to gain some weight. Of course we certainly have a long way to go, but this is a start. A few â€œplus-sizedâ€ models have begun to grace the covers of magazines as well. I use the term â€œplus-sized,â€ however, in quotes because the modeling industry views size 12 and 14 as plus-sized. But in fact, more American women wear size 14 than any other size. Even so, we are starting to see a shadow of shifting to models that are not so gaunt and unhealthy.
6. How often would you say you counsel someone in the area of body image? Body image issues are much more about our hearts and our stories than calories and sizes. In other words, when we first begin to have major issues with our bodies, it is because of ache in our hearts. For example, a teen is more likely to enter into bulimia when she is rejected by her boyfriend. Since that is the case, and everyone who comes into counseling does so because they are grief-struck or struggling, I have to say that I counsel people for body image issues frequently. Body image issues are in many respects by-products of broken hearts. Since my job is to help mend broken hearts, body image issues rise to the surface about 90% of the time. Until they work through and process the events that led them to body image struggles, their chances of getting better are minimal. â€œWhat happened in your life just before you started struggling with _________________________ (compulsive overeating, bingeing, purging, and/or over-exercising) is the million-dollar question. If that piece of her (or his) story is not processed, worked through, and evaluated, the person will probably not improve for the long-haul.
7. Does the struggle with body image have an age limit? If we are seeing more and more young people struggling with their body image, what is causing the rise in this number? As soon as a child begins to have self-awareness about her (or his) body, she can begin to compare her body to others. This used to happen in the 9-10 age bracket, but is now occurring at the ages of 5 or younger. Our culture saturates our children with media, and this hyper-awareness and criticism of oneâ€™s body is the fruit of growing up in a media-saturated world. Research shows that high school girls fear getting fat much more than they fear terrorism. We have sadly brainwashed American children to compare themselves with unhealthy body types. Social networking sites are now being used by tweens and teens (as well as younger children), and lots of pictures get taken and posted online. This creates a mentality of even more hyper-focus on, â€œWhat do I look like? Am I fat?â€ The consequences are eating disorders and feeling inadequate about their bodies, which of course causes deep depression and sometimes a problem leaving the house due to feeling ugly. Believe it or not, this issue of body dysmorphic disorder is a growing problem that is eating at the lives of many young women.
8. What is the scope of your counseling practice? I help people who are struggling with relationships, anxiety, depression, marriage issues, OCD, and body image. I also work with a great number of women whose husbands are addicted to pornography.
9. In what ways do you measure your success as a counselor? Each client gets a treatment plan based on his or her needs, which states counseling goals and objectives. But more importantly, my goal is for each person to work through her story and to be much more at peace. We all wear masks to some extent so that people will like us, and my goal is for my clients to take off their mask and to be real, authentic, and at peace. My greatest desire is for each person to become the person he or she was meant to be.
10. Do you have any closing remarks you’d like to share? How can our readers learn more about you or contact you? Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to reflect on the monumental problem of body image in our society, its causes, and how we can work through our stories and learn to love ourselves for our hearts instead of our bodies. Please visit my blog to get a taste of my book, â€œReclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit.â€ The address is www.CherrieMac.wordpress.com . Also check out my counseling web site at www.NotJustSymptoms.com. I would love to hear your thoughts.
Thank you again, Cherrie, for your time and providing us with a glimpse of the life of a counselor, as well as some great information on your new book about body image.
Born with a passion for helping people, Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC, studied under Dr. Dan Allender, renowned psychologist and best-selling author. She is a licensed mental health counselor with a private practice in Woodinville, Washington. Her experiences living in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and Maui, Hawaii, provide Cherrie with a broad perspective of the human heart and its true desires.
Cherrie greatly enjoys counseling, speaking, and writing. She is a passionate writer and speaker, and is available for speaking engagements at conferences, church retreats, and seminars. In the past year, Cherrie spoke on two prominent radio stations in the Seattle area on the subjects of body image and pornography addiction. As stated in the interview above, she is currently writing a book called Reclaiming the Plunder of the Body Image Bandit, which is an antidote for the cultural tsunami of messages shouting to women, â€œAppearance is everything!â€ It is a collage of humor, story, narration and research. Her book carries women from the dark tunnel of self-contempt and into the arms of a loving God who proclaims, â€œMan looks at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.â€ Feel free to contact her with any questions or if you may be interested in seeing Cherrieâ€™s professional book proposal (if you are a publisher â€“ sorry, no self publishing firms please).
When she is not counseling, Cherrie can be found sea kayaking in the glorious Pacific Northwest waters, smiling at the seals and salmon. In the off-season, she enjoys making beautiful jewelry. Cherrie lives in the Seattle vicinity with her husband and soul mate, George, and an extremely spoiled golden retriever, Custer. She has two delightful grown stepchildren.