Designed to help those struggling with disordered relationships with food explore triggers and understand how automatic patterns of anxious, or negative, thinking can maintain disordered relationships with food, especially across periods of high stress.
Designed to help those struggling with disordered relationships with foodexplore triggers and understand how automatic patterns of anxious, or negative, thinking can maintain disordered relationships with food, especially across periods of high stress.
Combining experience with theory this book is packed full of useful advice, practical exercises and my “top tips” to help empower you to challenge your eating disorder, build self-awareness and understanding into your recovery.
I am passionate about empowering people through their recovery and believe community based interventions are crucial for supporting the Mental Health burden faced by the NHS. Together we can provide an environment that fosters proactive approach to recovery and empowers those who are suffering.
Are you suffering from disordered eating? Maybe you have past experience with emotional under or over eating? Or a diagnosed clinical disorder such as Anorexia or Bulimia nervosa? Maybe you’re supporting a loved one through their recovery? Anxious about the Christmas season approaching?
It is no surprise that Christmas and New Years bring a load of seasonal struggles to those suffering with an eating disorder.
With the heightened focus on foody events, drinks out, meeting relatives you’ve not seen in years, and then the mass of confusing chaos that is “diet Jan”. Recovery can be more of a battle field compared to other months of the year.
I am here to tell you that Christmas is such a fantastic time of year and those festive fears have no right to dictate your enjoyment of the season.
They can be overcome, planned around and communicated in ways that enable you to “Cope At Christmas” without taking steps back in your recovery.
Josceline is a Graduate Psychologist, media representative for Beat, the U
K’s leading eating disorder charity, public speaker, eating disorders recovery mentor and mental health campaigner.
After her own recovery from battling anorexia nervosa she was inspired to start her website, with the sole aim to raise awareness about mental health and help empower people to take the front seat in their recoveries.
Josceline was published by the British Psychological Society in their student journal, Psych-Talk, on the neuropathology of eating disorders and has twice been a guest speaker on the BBC’s popular news show Victoria Derbyshire discussing barriers to accessing mental health treatments. She has also had articles published on the Daily Mail, Real People Magazine and The Surrey Advertiser.
Currently Josceline is involved in public speaking and workshops, in schools and at Surrey University, as well as working with individuals on a one-to-one basis as a recovery mentor.
Exercise and regular movement does an abundance of good for your mental and physical health. It can help decrease anxiety and depression, build confidence and aid the development of positive body image. But when addressing the role exercise has in the recovery from an eating disorders it’s a tricky one.
Exercise is unlikely to benefit health when it’s fuelled by fear and stress rather than fun. For eating disorder sufferers this is largely the case. Exercise can become a maintaining factor in the illness, a way to punish your body for food you’ve eaten, or “earn” the right to eat.
Unfortunately this has now become a “socially acceptable” form of self-harm, promoted on social media and fuelled by many other “fat-phobic’’ messages in society.
So, Should You Exercise in Recovery?
There is not real ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer per say. Recovery is hugely individual, what triggers one person may not influence another.
There are times when exercise is dangerous on the body, like at very low body weights and when you have not eaten enough. Risk of injury, fainting, even fatalities are all common to those over-exercising with eating disorders. When I was ill I exercised to fulfil my eating disorders demands.
I didn’t enjoy what I did, it was ritualistic, obsessive, and I often found myself in the gym purely based on the demands of my eating disorder; lethargic and under-nourished.
So when I was in recovery, I stopped exercising altogether, for about a year, and then gradually added it in (with some slip ups) as I got physically and mentally stronger I wont sugar coat it, it caused a mass amounts of anxiety and fear to begin with. But I was determined that I would build balance into my lifestyle and enjoyment into my movement.
Taking time off was not going to be forever, just for now, just to challenge the feeling of spontaneously combusting if I didn’t ritualistically work out.
It is through trial and error that we learn to balance our bodies needs in recovery.
We have to test out and challenge our anxious thoughts, and see just what happens when we do what the eating disorder tells us not do to do.
Exercising should NEVER come from a place fuelled by fear, obligation or anxiety.
Rather it should be for fun, from a place of self-compassion and desire to see what your body is capable of.
This can take a while to achieve if you’ve been stuck in this cycle of destructive exercise for a while. Rest assured you can break free, and I whole heartedly believe with the right support you will.
Read my TOP 5 TIPS FOR BALANCING EXERCISE IN RECOVERY
Often we find it hard to stop.
We are great at offering self-care and wellbeing advice to others but risk burnout and stress, ourselves.
Sounds silly but for many of us just ‘chilling out’ can be really hard.
It’s something I hate doing, and so I realised it is a challenge I needed to face.
In this post I share my top tips for how to switch off without feeling bad about it!
Go slip on those snuggly PJs, grab a cuppa biscuit, and enjoy todays post.
The alarm goes 6:30am and from then on I am constantly doing, and constantly thinking. My mind is a buzz of productivity and creativity, and my body a buzz of activity; bustling around, numerous jobs, activities, studies and commutes.
At the end of my day I love nothing more than to feel I have achieved. You know what it’s like to have that deep satisfaction of ticking all the boxes on the ‘to do’ list; so great. Only then am I allowed to snuggle up on the couch to watch an episode of Bake Off or Blue Planet. However, more often than not ten minutes in and I end up once again with my laptop out, work head on, feeling “guilty” for taking time off.
Sounds silly, but for many of us just ‘chilling out’ can be really hard.
It’s something I hate doing so I realised it as a challenge I needed to face, and I know I’m not the only one!
What happens after a while? Burnout. The stress headaches begin. The anxiety creeps in. Sleeping becomes disrupted. Guilt and Perfectionism? …lets not even open that can of worms. I feel rubbish, achey, and begin picking up every illness under the sun.
Basically, my body is telling me “whoa slow down and chill”, but my mind is telling me “you ought to be doing something productive”.
Can You Empathise?
Often we find it hard to stop. Many of us are often great at offering self-care advice to others, then ignore the signs of burnout and stress in our own lives. Recently I decided enough was enough. I needed to listen to my body, to take care of myself and relax.
The idea from going from always “doing” to learning how to just “be” made me kinda nervous, I felt bad, and at first I found it hard. But as the weekend unravelled, the effects on both my body and mind were unsurprisingly awesome.
Top Tips To Swicthing Off
Split your “to-do” list into “ought to do” and “want to do”: This was actually a tip from my old man, who told me to re-structure my to-do list into things I “want” to do and “ought” to do.The want to do list is what you find important, what you feel you’re missing out on that you want to do more off, these things will motivate you, bring a smile to your face and give you peace of mind.
Be honest with yourself and you’ll be surprised when you listen to your body and hear what its telling you it wants to do…it may not want to go to the gym today ya’ know.
Don’t be afraid to take time off! Not books. No emails. No researching. These will get done but are placed int he ought to do column for when feeling more refreshed. You’ll find coming back more relaxed and rested you’ll have more motivation and energy, so productivity in the long term is greater!!
Go Exploring: Autumn is my favourite season, but I felt I was missing out on all the fantastic smells, colours and walks that I love at this time of year! I spent a weekend exploring some of my favourite countryside getaways. This cleared my mind and eased the tension headaches. My body appreciated the gentle movement, and I was able to spend time with close friends and feel, for once, a little more relaxed.
Don’t be so hard on yourself! If you begin to feel guilty about taking time off for you challenge those thoughts and remind yourself that you are hard-working and deserve some down time. Often this is because we are perfectionists and believe we need to constantly be bettering ourselves and making advances in work, relationships, studies..
Try talking to yourself like you were your best mate. Hopefully you’d never tell them to continuously push themselves into overworking without recuperation, so why put these harsh expectations on yourself?
Get earlier nights: Sleep is SO important. Your body heals faster when you sleep, and cortisol levels (the stress hormone) decrease allowing your body to deeply relax.
If you find it hard to sleep then try going into bed a bit earlier, have a relaxing bedtime routine with limited use of blue light from TV and electronics. Things I love are a good book, scented candles and having a hot water bottle so I can get seriously snuggly. If you can’t sleep after 40mins I’d have a break from bed; get up, make a herbal tea, stretch, and then go back and try again.
Wine is Always a Good Idea… Whilst I will not advocate downing bottle upon bottle of wine, and vast quantities of chocolate, a nice glass of red I find soothes the soul, and relaxes my mind…and what’s wine without the cheeseboard or chocolate ‘ey?
There’s even been recent research (published by Nature) suggesting that a glass (or two…) of red wine may lower perceived stress and increase longevity.
[How great is research like that?! I’ll happily be a volunteer.Winning] Whatever your choice of tipple, be it a hot choccie, or gentle camomile and honey, make space for that little something calming and comforting.
Don’t Take Life So Seriously:
The most important self-care tip! We live in a culture of work-a-holics. But seriously chill, there is time! You don’t have to have everything sorted out, or be productive every second of every day. Do stuff just because it’s fun, silly, stupid or new! Spend time making memories with friends, do the things you love, with the people you love in the places you love. You’ll find doing things that make you smile and laugh more take your focus off the stressors and give a healthy perspective on life.
Myself and Frank the Pink Flamingo
Just hanging around
I hope this post has helped you think about the things you feel you really “want” versus “ought” to do, and how to incorporate some real rest and relaxation time into your busy-body weeks!
If you have any other tips and tricks post them in the comments below!
Remember: Rest and relaxation is integral to our mental health and wellbeing. So In the long term will make us more productive and happier.
Be sure to check out my other blogs and click follow for weekly posts!
It’s now November [what the ..?! How’d that happen…] and in my family that’s a cue for premature Christmas songs and getting busy in the kitchen making lots of Christmas goodies!
Christmas has always been my favourite time of year, and let’s face it what’s Christmas without the amazing array of food.
The warm comforting smells sum up Winter, and spark nostalgic memories; Christmas evenings filled with games, music and laughter.
This hasn’t always been the case for me though.
The years spent battling anorexia turned Christmas joys into Christmas fears.
Christmases spent anxious in tears.
Christmases on meal plans, worried and concerned about every spoonful to come, every meal out, and dreading every party.
For those suffering with an eating disorder Christmas can be a serious time for struggles and set backs.
Coming into my fifth year of recovery it is lovely to be able to once again embrace the season’s festivities. Over the years I have learnt to hold a more realistic and educated perspective by continuously, and immediately, challenging faulty thoughts, behaviours and communicating anxieties.
This is my wish for all of you this season.
So, without further ado, let’s kick start the festive period with a seasonal “sod off” to your eating disorder.
Here are my Top Tips for Surviving Christmas Time
(ft. mistletoe, and glass upon glassful of wine…)
1. Don’t restrict/skip meals.
Compensating and restricting your eating in the weeks leading up to Christmas parties, meals out is more likely to increase anxiety as it puts your body under huge amounts of stress.
Restrictive eating has been found to be associated with overeating later on in the day, that may spark binges for those susceptible.
Keep to a routine, and if you’re nervous about an upcoming event or meal out simply find out what will be on offer beforehand and pick a couple of options you think you’ll be able to manage, that way you can feel more chilled in advance and focus on the social side of season!
2. Movement should be optional and not obligatory.
You do not have to “work for” or “work off” your food. You deserve to eat food and enjoy yourself just like everyone else, regardless of what you have or have not done.
This is where diet-culture often wins us over, because in the next few weeks we will be inundated with advert after advert for workout DVDs, all this rubbish about detoxes, cleanses, and loads more dieting messages reminding us to hit the gym hard before we have any festive foods.
Remind yourself that these are marketing gimmicks; existing to make sales, and caring about their profits and not your health.
Instead of believing you have to run yourself into the ground, be gentle, do things you enjoy; go on wintery walks, do gentle stretching like yoga.
Move because you want to move, and in the ways you love to move.
3. Be Aware of Faulty Thinking Traps:
Christmas can be a playground for eating disorders, freely swinging guilt and shame around so that you end up perpetually swung into the control of your eating disorder. Thoughts and feelings can feel extreme, self-punishing, all encompassing.
But remind yourself they are lies. What you eat is not to be internalised as a reflection of who you are as a person; you are not bad, nor are you guilty, or greedy, or shameful for nourishing your body.
Write down these faulty thoughts on note cards along with some counteractive comebacks, have them handy so you can remind yourself that actually everything is ok.
Instead of allowing the season to hold you back, use it as a chance to push you forward!
I have often dealt with people who say it’s easier to avoid certain situations, or eating certain foods, so as not to evoke negative and uncomfortable thoughts/feelings. But this doesn’t help you challenge your irrational food fears, and by remaining captive to your eating disorder you are preventing little steps forward in your recovery.
Make a little list of foods you tend to avoid or feel anxious about, and then work them into your meals and snacks. Have a trusted friend that can support you trying these foods out and help you handle anxiety around this.
You may wish to journal how you felt before, during, and after eating them. I promise you will survive to see that nothing bad happens.
The more you practice this task the more you break down barriers and increase the variety of foods into your diet.
5. Try Something New!
There is so much more to Christmas than food!
Get festive with crafts, movies, winter walks, visiting German Markets, seeing the lights, games. These and many more are all great distractions away from negative thinking and ruminating thoughts.
6. Make Self-Care A Priority
Give yourself space and time to calm your thoughts and feelings; breathing exercises or having something soothing (I used aromatherapy candles and music) can help if you are susceptible to panic attacks or extreme anxiety.
This will also help aid digestion, and may help reduce any pain, discomfort or bloating caused by tension and stress around food often confused as GI dysfunctions such as IBS or coeliac – no self diagnosis please.
6. Take One Day At A Time.
For many the social occasions are more than just the day itself and many have extended Christmas and New Years plans. This amount of socialising and foody events may feel very overwhelming when you think about it all at once, so don’t get ahead of yourself. It may be helpful to take time to sit and plan, with a clinician or any trusted other, ways to manage the upcoming season so that your health remains stable.
Knowing where you will be for events, looking at menus in advance, or having some pre-made snacks are all ways you can make sure you feel comfortable socialising this season.
Remember that the season is more than just food, so what else can you get up too with friend and family?!
7. Ditch The Diet and Body Talk:
I used to dread coming back from my treatment at Christmas just because it meant hearing the words “you’re looking so much better” repeatedly said to me.
Now, to many this may seem bizzare, because surely that’s a lovely compliment to hear?!
And true, it is….now!
But, when ill with an eating disorder, such comments are likely interpreted as “looking bigger/fatter”. This it then associated with many other hugely complex underlying beliefs and labels: being bad/unworthy/unloveable/not deserving treatment/care…feeling out of control.
A complex can of worms you just didn’t wanna open…
It’s worth telling friends, family members in advance not to comment on your appearance, and abstain from topics of conversation regarding body image and food talk.
None of this talk on “good or bad foods”, or “such and such will go straight to my hips…”…tell them toleave that diet-trash talk out of the picture for their sake as well as yours.
Personal reflection; it definitely helped me to challenge this warped interpretation by remembering they hadn’t seen me since I went into hospital, really they were just thrilled to see me back at home for Christmas, and actually what they were referring to was my bubblier, brighter side that was shining through now I was becoming “me” again.
When I was more motivated in recovery I would challenge these thoughts and ask myself why was I interpreting comments in this way, and why I felt the need to look “ill” – what was this function playing for me? what was I actually trying to vocalise through restrictive eating and self-starvation?
Deep stuff I know…but just points to ponder.
8. Communication is Key:
Believe it or not but people do care about you.
Talk to whoever’s cooking for you, and be honest about how you’re feeling to your friends and family, the more they understand how you’re coping with things the more they can support you at meals and in states of high anxiety.
Whether it’s going for a coffee with a mate, or having a hug from your parents, if you need it, ask for it.
You Got This!
Christmas is a hard time for those with eating disorders, so don’t be hard on yourself, and don’t expect every day to go perfectly. Take small steps to challenge your thinking and your eating.
It’s only one month. You will survive to see that nothing bad has happened!!!
You do not need to work for, or work off, what you eat.
Your eating disorder has no authority to restrict or rule your life.
Above all else, remember that you deserve to enjoy Christmas, just like everyone else.
Dear parents and carers… My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Remember to not neglect your own needs. For more info please check out the blog written by guest writer on my site, and one strong mummy, Janet Richards, sharing her top tips.
If you liked this post please don’t forget to leave a comment, follow the blog and my social media tags!
“Without ambition we would have no progress, no inventions, no innovation and no change“
Ambition is the focus of this post, because it sums up how I’ve got to where I am now; my degree, setting up this site, being published, running fundraising events, being involved in many local, and national campaigns.
Alarm bells go off whenever I meet someone who has no ambitions in life. You have this one amazing world to explore, this life that you can build and do so much with, and yet they have no dream, no challenge, no passion they want to chase.
Maybe you don’t know what it is you want to do yet, and you’re stuck with this conflict of knowing you’re not happy where you are now but you can’t pin point where you want to be?
The thing is, without ambition we have no growth. No change. We remain stuck believing we can amount to no more, maybe that we don’t deserve better, or held back by fear and apprehension that we will fail.
So we just don’t try at all.
Whatever your situation; if you’ve hit a plateau in your life, be it health, work or relationship related, this post aims to outline some key points to help you make changes and reflect on where it is you actually want to be when you look forward to your future.
What is Ambition?
“Ambition; the desire and determination to achieve a goal”
Ambition is the fuel we need for action.
It’s that’s craving you get to achieve something that feels a bit bigger, a bit riskier. The yearning for more.
The desire to achieve a bit more, to try something new, and something unknown.
Without ambition we lack direction.
Our ambitions change as we grow. They contain smaller stepping stones along the way to building the bigger picture. Therefore we can look at ambition as being this disjointed journey, a chain reaction of events, that aid you moving forward.
Personal Reflection: In 2012 I self-discharged from an adult inpatient ward in London. I was scared and fearful of change. I didn’t know where I was headed, and having already dropped out of one university degree I was doubting my ability to bounce back and amount to anything. I had all these dreams and goals (I even made a motivational scrap book of them, but that’s another post…).
I was stuck in a cycle of frustration, held back by fear, preventing me making any moves forward.
I have always wanted to achieve a lot. Live an extraordinary life. Meet people, travel places and build a bright future for myself.
Having a thirst for life and a vision in mind, was the ammunition that fuelled my recovery, because when all my anorexia wanted was for me to vanish, I was craving a wild existence.
This meant change needed to happen: facing my dreaded fear of changing and breaking the routine safe cycles I had found to cope.
Creating Your Goals
“Ambition is the desire to make the most of your potential, to achieve something special, which would make a profound difference to your life, and the life of others”
Whether your goal is to run a 10km for charity next year, write your first book, go for that job promotion, begin a new treatment programme, up-sticks and move to a new country, change is inevitable.
Our dreams and visions, however big or small, often seem out of reach, and we can lack knowledge of what we want and need in order to get us there.
Begin by looking at what you’ve got now. Make a list of what you’re happiest with; the people, places, routines, hobbies, are you a morning person? do you love reading? do you love learning? Things that sum up being you and give you that “buzz” of excitement; these are the things that will drive you forward.
Then make a list of what is unsettling you: Be specific with your lists so you pin-point the exact things that are causing you conflict, the barriers that are in your way, things that need to be changed in order for you to reach your goals.
Whatdo you need? Do you need to do a course, or gain a qualification, maybe you just need to sit down with someone who has experience in that area. Resources may be external or internal, so don’t neglect your wider social and personal networks.
Who do you need? Are there people who will support you with your goal, who have ideas or expertise?
Creating your goal: Bringing it all together Building your ambition is a creative process, through which you’ll begin to realise your potential to manage and achieve more.
Once you’ve taken the time to look at the here and now and suss out the parts you want to build on, the things that really spark that buzz of passion into you, and those which don’t, begin to get creative with visualisation (write it down, mind-map, draw it out, scrap book it…whatever!).
I have a massive white board I destroy with marker pens, just scribbling any old (odd?) idea and goal down, planning the ins-and-outs of it so that the board is filled and I feel slightly overwhelmed, but stupidly excited about the end result.
Spend time visualising what you look like in a year or two’s time; where you want to be; what you want to be doing.
Be specific (or SMART) with it.
Where are you living?
What are you doing in your spare time?
What are your Hobbies/Interests?
Who’s included your friendship circles?
What work are you involved with? Voluntary/Personal/Paid/Self-employed?
Write out, or visualise, a day in the life of you then and compare it to now.
Your goals should make you feel slightly uncomfortable. But you will have smaller, easier stepping stones along the way to get to the end picture, but be risky, because it’s through pushing the boundaries that we begin to see our potential unfold.This builds our self-esteem, it ignites new passions and creativity and before you know it a chain reaction is set off. Remember it is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
Top 4 Tips To Sum Up
Once you embark on the mission, you realise that it’s not this steady journey, it becomes a 007 mission, filled with plot twists. Remember, it will require hard work and perseverance in the face of set backs.
1. Be Focused. Have a focused goal for what you want. Consider the steps you need to get to the end point. Know what you want it to look like – I used to use my big whiteboard and mind map loads of ideas and visions for projects, events, art projects, fundraising events etc…
2.Be ready to compromise.
Embrace change. If you’re working in a team you may have a focused idea but you need to accept that not everyone will have the same passion for the ideas and steps you see to get there. So be open minded.
3. Make it achievable. This may sound daft, and you’re probably thinking – Joss, this is common sense, why on earth would I have a goal I cannot achieve. Well…have you seen some of the XFactor auditions?!
Sometimes you need to find a compromise between fantasy and reality.
Make your goal realistically achievable by breaking it into smaller steps you need to take to make the goal a reality. e.g Going on the X Factor auditions but in two years time after doing singing lessons and getting feedback from open-mic nights.
An additional helping hand:
Put a time scale on it.
Pin-point the resources you need.
Who are the people around you that will support you towards your goals? Make sure you surround yourself with positive energy, and that you’re not bogged down with negativity and doubts? ..you may need to let some people go…
4. Make your ambitions BIG and personal to you:
When I say ‘life changing’ I bet you think I mean big, dramatic, heroic …well deciding to not to watch so much T.V but instead start writing that autobiographical book you’ve always wanted to do can be life changing – it involves a change to your lifestyle as it is now, and the personal aspect will give you that drive to continue with it as it grows. …who knows, maybe one day my dream of doing a half triathlon will happen...
A personal reflection to offer some insight; I never thought I could do aTough Mudder– I was ambitious and put myself out there for a new experience with one of my best mates by my side. The whole fundraising and training process changed me in ways I had never imagined. I learnt more about how to properly fuel my body, training became for strength and performance instead of compensating for calories. I was able to speak out about mental health for the charity I was fundraising for, and this sparked smaller goals along the way: larger fundraising targets, using the local press to raise awareness, speaking at events, and start this site…a bunch of stuff I just would have never attempted before. A chain reaction of achievements that ignited self belief.
Remember:We all build up our own walls, making excuses for why we can’t do something or change situations.
Three years ago my goals were vague, small and simplistic; held back by a lack of self belief and self confidence. Today my goals are bigger and bolder because I have learnt that the value in taking risks and making changes that rebuild my identity and leave me fulfilled daily.
I hope this post has given you some useful tools to help you realise that no goal is impossible, ambition is crucial to growth, and how to now be curious as to what you are capable at achieving.
Bulking, Cutting, Clean Eating, Cheat Days…
This post is dishes up the dirt on Diet Culture and the destructive subtexts hidden in the language used around food and exercise, that makes disordered eating seem socially acceptable, encourages yo-yo dieting and ultimately leads to an unhealthy relationship with food and body image.
No labels or diets should ever make you feel inferior or bad about being in your own skin, nor should any diet mean you are not allowed to enjoy the foods and drinks you love.
No labels or associations should ever make you feel inferior or bad about being in your own skin, nor should any diet mean you are not allowed to enjoy the foods and drinks you love…if diet culture hasn’t lead you to forget what these truly are
Whilst this post may seem like a bit of a rant, it comes from a place of genuine worry and concern about the obsessive diet-culture, and aesthetically driven, society we are creating, not just for ourselves, but for the younger generations growing up.
Only recently I was having a chat with a friend about the baking I had done on one of my days off. His response made my blood boil; “You on the winter bulk then?” 😡 To which I replied.. “No. I’m just on this thing called life”
Diet-culture terminology seems to be never ending, and ever growing, and it is SO WRONG. It is certainlynot helped of course by the increased access to images, articles and youtube videos (if I see another “what I eat in a day” post I swear I’ll loose my mind….!!) and more. All of this fuels the myths, rules and associations regarding the “right” types and quantities of food we should (or rather, should not..) eat, not to mention the excessive exercise we should be doing…constantly.
The labels and associations we attach to what we think we believe to be “good” or “bad” foods is destructive to our physical and mental states, and together influences the disordered relationship with food and body image by reinforcing some very damaging messages in its sub-text.
Clean-eating Cue the undeserved feelings of guilt because you’ve eaten another slice of birthday cake, or a pizza that wasn’t made out of cauliflower…
Foods that aren’t seen as “clean” are then “bad” or “off limits” this has lead to an increase in orthorexia: The obsession with eating “pure foods”…whatever that means?! Problem being, there is no agreeable definition on what determines a food being “clean”, most foods you buy are to some extent processed and manufactured somewhere, somehow, so does that mean these are all “unclean” or “bad” for you? Those words in themselves should never be used in association with your food, they cause so much judgement and guilt when you then project them onto a reflection of yourself and your body
“Cheat Days” ...where to begin. There is so much wrong with this. Not only does it reinforce the binge-restrict, yo-yo dieting, that has time and time again been proven to end in more weight gain in the long term, but in reality these “cheat” days you probably eat normally, but because diet culture has become so normalised we have created a day dedicated to normalising our diet. Or, alternatively for many, a day you choose to eat all the foods you’ve limited from your diet to remain sane and curb cravings, so you binge/overeat, and then justify it with the weekly restriction and over exercising. Does this sound healthy to you…?
Winter Bulk/Summer Cut …A winter bulk, or sometimes referred to as”off season”, when you allow yourself to eat more foods that have been off limit during the summer period, because you care less about looking lean. These foods are categorised then as foods that will make you gain weight, and are off limits or “bad” for cutting, when you restrict the diet and over exercise to get lean for summer.Again, constant yo-yo dieting, and justifying what you eat and when you eat based on aesthetic goals. Bulking foods are seen as high calorie and to be avoided otherwise, and so associated with weight gain, however many of these include foods that are also very nutritious, such as nut butters, avocados, rye breads.Many may programme these foods around workouts as pre/post workout meals, which I do understand if you are an athlete, training for an event or following a particular programme that may have a performance, or medically advised weight loss/gain, outcome. But for the majority who are not performance based athletes, this can be damaging and stressful, creating the association with exercise equating to being able to eat certain foods or not.If you want porridge in the morning but don’t want to work out that is fine! If you want to eat a meal with less protein in it after you workout, or have a pizza in the evening (not made with cauliflower..) this does not have to be a post-workout meal, you can just eat for the sake of enjoying food, socialising, and keep fit for the same reasons too! No rights or wrongs, no good or bad.
Elimination diets, and classing everything high protein and low carb as “healthier” … no medical justification to cut out gluten and/or dairy are the common ones that spring to mind. Are you sure you understand the function of gluten in food? Protein does not magically make it a healthier option, and carbs don’t make you fat. Consistently eating in a calorie surplus, carbs or no carbs, will lead to excess weight being stored. Like most things, it’s individual preference, but if you are eliminating foods based on false education and rumour then maybe you should begin asking questions and properly educating yourself by reading research and literature that is not just one-sided, or scare mongering, but factual and relevant. Listen to your body and begin to get real about why you feel the need to restrictor eliminate food groups. It is worth pointing out that saying “oh but I bloat after eating x,y,z…” bloating is normal. Everyone bloats and gets gassy from time to time, another normal (ok, pretty disgusting) human function, it may not be coeliac disease or IBS so always go to the Dr instead of self-diagnosing.
These are just a few, there are many other labels, rules and restriction-based diets you’ve probably come across (cleanes/detoxes…all that crap) that create beliefs about what is right and wrong to eat.
Let’s get one thing straight, there is no right or wrong, no good or bad, no guilt, shame, or weakness, for feeding your body the food it wants and needs; this includes cake and pizza as well as kale and quinoa.
Following strict rules and restrictions as a way to control food intake, weight or shape is becoming the social norm. Not only this, but for those with a clinically diagnosed eating disorder it makes it a socially justifiable way to hide their disorder behind these labels.
You do not have to work for the food you eat; your body deserves food regardless of the exercise you have or have not done.
Pseudo-Dieting: The Diet-Mentality Trap
Overtime the more you adhere to these rules the more reinforced and habitual they become, to the point that even when you think you’re not following these beliefs they are still their dictating your choices; this is known as pseudo-dieting.
What is “Pseudo-Dieting”? Written about in Elyse Reich book “Intuitive Eating” , pseudo-dieting refers to the diet beliefs that we still hold on too, and that dictate your food choices, even when you don’t actively realise you’re dieting. It’s when what you say doesn’t add up to what you do. So you may believe you are not actively engrained in diet culture, but you actually are still allowing it to control you.
So this could be stuff like:
You only eat carbs on days you gym/are active
Still using calorie apps to count macros … can’t eat when hungry because an app that estimated your daily needs tells you so?!
Compensating for food eaten (e.g restricting, over exercising, laxatives)
Restricting food groups
Eating only “safe” foods
Following certain beliefs such as “carbs make you fat after 6pm” …news flash, your body doesn’t have some magic switch. It doesn’t know. It only knows that it’s hungry and needs nourishing.
Problems with this are:
❌ You to forget how to respond to normal physiological hunger, and cravings become a challenge you need to resist. This prevents you listening to your body, what it needs, and what it wants. Not honouring your hunger increases your chances of overeatinglater on in the evening, or at the weekends when your restriction and denial of food you want catches up with you; known as the “what the hell effect” – yes, those weekend binges are actually a well researched psychological phenomena, a normal physiological reaction to any diet that is restrictive or avoidant of certain foods or food groups.
❌ This then creates the experience of guilt when certain foods are eaten outside of these boundaries and beliefs. Stress and anxiety around food, or from eating certain foods, can cause bloating. Many people suddenly suffering from IBS and other gut related problems may just be a result of your body readjusting to your inconsistent feeding and stress about food messing with your usual digestion.
❌ Feeling bad and guilty about foods leads to body dissatisfaction, self blame and yo-yo dieting. Emotional eating as a result of this, or using food to increase your self-worth is disordered. There is an increase in disordered eating such as orthorexia, exercise-bulimia, or binge-purge anorexia as a result of many trying to control their emotions using food.
❌ It creates a viscous cycle; avoid/restrict, intense cravings and then over-eating causing you to further go back to restriction and avoidance. This reinforces your initial belief that you can’t control yourself around these foods. In hindsight if you just learnt to nourish your body properly you’d find you don’t always want to eat chocolate and when you do you don’t eat the whole bar because your body knows it will have it again sometime, that it’s not off limits.
So What’s The Solution?
Avoidance and restriction are commonly ways to gain control, avoid negative feelings associated with eating certain foods (promoted by diet culture) negative beliefs about your body. The fear of weight gain? Feeling out of control? Fear of over-eating?
What really needs to be addressed is the real reason behind the diet beliefs and behaviour.
It’s not simple.
These messages are everywhere. We are bombarded by diet culture wherever we look, sucked in by every penny the £2billiondiet industry throws at us.
Becoming more aware of the labels and associations we use around diet and body image is a step in the right direction to disconnecting from diet culture, and re-learning how to nourish your body, be healthy and embrace the skin you’re in!
It takes you practicing self-awarenessand reflection:
Where these beliefs come from?
What functionare they holding (control? self-esteem)?
What associations/beliefs are you still holding onto?
What foods don’t you allow yourself, that if you’re honest with yourself, you avoid?
Are there foods that you instantly feel guilty for when you eat?
Do you compensate for eating certain foods? (exercise more, use laxatives, restrict the next day…)
Are there foods you can only eat if you’ve exercised or tracked your calories/macros?
Ultimately, controlling food and weight is not the key to happiness.
You should never feel restricted by your diet, or need to use labels to justify your preferences.
Food should not be given the power to control how you feel toward yourself and your body, which is what diet terminology creates through its labels and subsequent associations.
You can be healthy, fit and happy at every size, and eating anything you want.
If this post resonates with you in any way, or you are interested in reading more about how to break free from diet culture, rebuilding your relationship with food and your body I recommend following up some of these links below:
Pixie Turner aka Plant Based Pixie. Nutritionist and food blogger. Informative, and says it like it is posts. Laura Thomas PhD Registered nutritionist with a fantastic podcast Evelyn Tribole: Intuitive Eating Link to her book on Amazon, outlining the principles of intuitive eating: building healthy body image and making peace with food Louise Jones Nutrition student and writer, recommend her post on Intuitive Eating and Why Flexible Dieting is a Fad Megan Jayne Crabbe aka BodyPosiPanda all centred around body positivity and non-diet approach
Back in 2014 I took to the sky in aid of Beat; the UK’s leading charity for eating disorders.
Beat do fantastic work campaigning for better services and treatments, they offer a wide range of self-help and support groups for carers and sufferers, provide online forums and helplines, many of which served me well in my years of battling anorexia.
Beat also actively engage with a variety of research projects helping advance our understanding and treatment of eating disorders.
They help a wide range of eating disorders, not just anorexia. Their website has a lot of useful information about key signs and symptoms to look out for, how to help someone you know, help lines, support groups, and much more!
Their services have supported thousands of families and young people through many dark and difficult days. They are a testament to the optimistic outcomes, that with hard work and perseverance, recovery brings.
With the relevance this charity has had in my, and my families lives, it was no surprise that for my first charity challenge this was the one I gravitated towards.
Many hours were spent clicking on and off the “apply now for your charity skydive” link.
…”Will I raise enough to cover the skydive?” …
…”I’ve never fundraised before I have no idea what to do”…
…”Why would anyone want to support me doing this”…
These were just a few of the anxious thoughts racing through my mind.
It’s fair to say I made the right decision.
The application went through quickly and the fundraising pack arrived. [Eeeek]
I set up my first Just Giving Account. Posted endless social media posts annoying the hell out of friends and family, sent emails, wrote letters, took pictures…anything I could think of to rally up support.
For anyone who has fundraised before you will know the anxiety of the waiting game; will there be any donations?!
I had given myself a good 10 months to do this though, which was more than enough time. Although, I am someone who panics and wants to do everything immediately, so this was a massive learning curve for me to be patient and actually sit back and just wait. Luckily I had a year at University to distract me from getting too nervous, and also providing me with a fantastic opportunity to advertise the event to thousands of others.
As the months passed by the the donations began to come in. Endless comments and posts of love and support which energised me, filling me with confidence day by day.
I would get excited to see the Just Giving emails pop into my account, and read the comments of those who were supporting me. Many I had never met shared their stories of recovery and bravery, and others had found solace and hope in my reading my recovery journey.
I was finally achieving what I had set out to do.
The Big Day Arrived.
A sunny day eased the nerves. My parents joined me as we went to the airfield and then the registration and training began!
I think my mum was probably writing my will for me in the car.
I was one of the last to go up in the small, slightly shift, propeller plane. But the first to come down!
We went up a bit.
Then a bit more….
and then a bit more.
“Shit. This is high”
Surreal as it was to be dangling out of a plane the adrenaline killed the nerves…. I trusted the instructor and I was excited to finally fly.
Buzz Lightyear had nothing on me.
I was the first out of the plane because I was being filmed as well… no pressure. For this debut appearance I definitely went for the wind swept look. No time for that hair and makeup malarky.
“Legs underneath the plane, arms crossed, head back….3..2..1…”
[Queue High School Musical “We’re soaring….flying….”]
To this day, nothing has beaten the feeling of free-falling; whirling down through the clouds, the wind blasting in your face…literally ripping the hat from my head and the goggles from my eyes!! [disadvantages of being small]
Breaking out into the glorious wide open, gliding above the rolling hills
and fields below.
You can see for miles.
I remember as I twirled downwards, arm stretched out like an eagle, thinking to myself:
“This is truly what freedom feels like”
I was flying for those still falling.
Everything. Is. So. Small.
Life. Is. So. Precious.
Up in the clouds, floating around, really puts things into perspective. I had finally accomplished my first big challenge, and achieved more than I began this endeavour believing I could, raising around £1000 for the charity who helped save my life.
…kind of ironic to jump out of a plane to say thanks. But needs must.
What’s important to note is that all my previous worries about whether I would be able to fundraise enough were abolished. By simple monthly plugs on social media and reaching out to local groups, friends, family members and University clubs, I raised a fantastic amount, and challenged myself a whole load in the process. I realised that I could do more than I thought I was capable of, and this sparked my interest in charity events and fundraising which you can read more of on this site.
So if you’re sitting on the fence wanting to do something similar yourself, please just go for it!
So, a HUGE thank you to everyone who supported this event
And thank you to all those who helped me fly when I was falling.
The money raised helps fund helplines and youthlines, run support groups, train staff, and fund campaigns.
It changes lives, creates solutions and provides the social support needed for recovery.
So, the question is now…who will you fall for, to help fly?
Since 2013 binge eating disorder (BED) has been classified as a distinct eating disorder, as stated in the fifth edition of the DSM classification and diagnostic manual for clinical disorders.
Although many who are obese have BED not all people with a binging disorder are obese. Furthermore, binging is not simply ‘overeating’, which is something every normal human being engages in every now and again– think about Christmas, parties, or the evenings you get back from a crappy day and turn to the tub of Ben and Jerries, only to realise half an hour later there’s none left; we’ve all been there!
That is nota binge. That my friends is life.
You are not out of control, not abnormal, bad, disgusting, or any of the other horrifically degrading labels people use.
Norma eating and the difference between overeating, bulimia and binge eating disorder?
Our eating behaviour is never just biologically determined. What, when and how we eat is shaped socially, by culture and dietary norms, by our health status, age and exercise habits which alters our internal physiology and metabolic needs. Stress and emotions also influence the experience of hunger and fullness. Negative emotions, such as stress and depression, have been found to both suppress and increase appetite. Positive emotions have been found to lead to over eating, as food is used, and associated with social occasions, celebrations and reward.
Whereas normal hunger can be postponed and prolonged, emotional hunger is intense and immediate, and usually the cravings will centre around all the foods you’ve either been restricting from your diet, or that have high carb and sugar content. There is a neurobiological reason for this, as foods high in carbs and fats release higher levels of serotonin and dopamine which are the “happy”, pleasure hormones in the brain, and enhance feelings of comfort. These are also responsible for motivation and reward learning, meaning that you will be more likely to repeat the behaviours again.
So whilst over or under eating in some situations is expected, and normal, prolonged periods of disordered eating (pervasive over months) which impact your quality of life, such as your ability to socialise, hold down relationships, work, and your physical and mental health, are hugely complex.
Binge eating disorder is not followed by purges.
Purging; compensatory behaviours used to relieve guilt from eating foods) are associated with bulimia and are also found in sub-types of anorexia. These behaviours may include using laxatives, over exercising or vomiting. If engaged in for prolonged periods of time are dangerously detrimental to ones health. Breaking these cycles can be difficult and cause intense amounts of anxiety.
Patients with BED have described entering a trance-like state when they binge eat. Describe being “out of control” with an inability to stop eating, even when they’re in severe discomfort from fullness and bloating. Eating episodes are rapid The person may hide away and eat out of shameand embarrassment. Different from bulimia, there is no purging behaviours used to compensate. However it is followed by distress and sadness around the binge episode.
If this is your situation at the moment then you must seek medical help from your GP and local mental health clinic.
What causes binge eating disorders?
Whilst some may turn to alcohol, drugs, sex or develop depression, as a response to difficult life events (past or present stress or trauma) many turn to food as a form of control, or escape. Triggers that have been found common to those with BED include:
Body image problems
Excessive yo-yo dieting and prolonged periods of restriction
People with BED may use food to negatively punish their body, others use food to comfort, trying to fill a void and escape from their negative emotions. This leads to a really unhealthy relationship with food and ones own body to develop, and over time can increase the risk of obesity.
What my experience has taught me…
I understand that both ends of the spectrum can be devastatingly hard to deal with, and be a lonely experience to go through. However, now if I’m feeling stressed or anxious, I check in with myself and make sure I prevent under or over-eating that is emotionally driven.
Whilst my experience was not with BED, in my early teens I emotional over-ate. Often buying two or three lunches a day, and eating them as a way to calm myself in social situations, and then on the way home from school would happily demolish cakes and sweets from the local shop before tucking into packet, upon packet of crisps before my dinner, which I would regularly have seconds of, and dessert.
Later in life I developed anorexia. As my journey unveiled itself the underling trauma surfaced, and this was where my use of food as punishment and comfort came from. Over the years it was dealt with, and now I have a very happy and healthy relationship with my food and body.
I would highly recommend therapy and clinical treatment with a local mental health service alongside any self-help or social support you choose to use.
My Top 6 Tips For Getting On-Top of Emotional Binge-Eating:
Watch what you buy: If you don’t have it in you are not going to binge on it!! Make a balanced shopping list that includes small treats, but not packets of foods you know you’re likely to centre your binges on. Try and avoid shopping when hungry, and make sure you eat well during the day, not restricting food groups, so you don’t get over hungry and binge in the evenings.
Distract your mind: Distracting your mind, and finding other equally relaxing and pleasurable activities outside of food is important. Going for a walk, ringing a friend or journalling/writingare good exercises to do. Art has also been found to be a great distractor and therapeutic outlet for handling difficult emotions. Anything to keep your mind and hands busy.
Know your triggers: Be it stress, break ups, loneliness, arguments…what are the repeated events that precede your binges. Write your triggers down;how the situation makes you feel, what behaviours happens, and an action plan to counter them. e.g argued with my boss, felt useless so binged, next time I will go for a walk to get some fresh air and think about the situation before talking with him the next day.
Eat well during the day: Don’t skip meals, or eliminate foods from your diet. This leads to a higher chance of overeating and if you’re trying hard to not eat a food you generally love, common ones are bread or chocolate, then you are more likely going to crave a binge on these later in the day. So don’t skip meals, and include all food types so that your body is nutritionally satiated. Portion size is variable depending on your own needs for your height, weight and activity levels. Learn to intuitively eat; listening to your bodies hunger signals and the foods it actually wants. The more you take care of your body the more it will take care of you.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself!! Disordered eatingdoes not manifest over night, and neither will it disappear over night. Be gentle on yourself, know there will be good days, and bad days – write down in a journal what went well, what didn’t work, and learn to know yourself inside out. Setting achievable goals to combat your behaviours is more sustainable than expecting perfection within a week.
Having just watched Grace Victory’s “Dirty Secrets Behind Clean Eating” I felt compelled to write a post about this topic. The programme raised some important points about the dangers of who we trust within the health and fitness industry, and she did so in a lighthearted, informative way.
It’s an industry saturated with bloggers, Vloggers and Instagram snappers, all happy to promote their lifestyle plans promised to ‘transform’ your health, and bring you body confidence, even cure disease.
If you find yourself captivated by pretty pictures and persuasive captions, you’ll be disheartened to know many of these are not scientifically supported health claims, or being delivered by qualified nutritionist, dieticians or fitness professionals.
In fact, if you google nutritionist qualification you can come across many online courses for around £50 giving you that “title” and the persona of importance.
But our diets are important. Health is important. Food has the ability to manipulate mood, cure and cause diseases.
The NHS has a whole list of popular “fashionable” diets (sorry … “lifestyle choices”) people are embarking on. From Paleo, 5:2, Dukan, to the controversial Alkaline diet
The list is endless.
Each with their own arguments for why they are the best thing since sliced bread… along with their reasons for not eating sliced bread.
The concept of living a healthy, balanced lifestyle, has never been made more difficult for us to grasp. We have become the generation of dieters.
But before we splash our cash on something so serious as our health, are we reallyquestioning what advice we’re taking? and who it’s coming from?
Or are we throwing our pennies down a dirty drain to detrimental mental health?
Clean Eating and the Diet Industry Explored
The weight loss market alone is estimated to reach £220billion by 2017.
The pockets of those industries bursting whilst the only thing getting thinner is your wallet. Have you seen the price of chia seeds?!
The concept behind clean eating sounds logical and healthy:
“Rather than revolving around the idea of ingesting more or less of specific things (for instance, fewer calories or more protein), the idea is more about being mindful of the food’s pathway between its origin and your plate. At its simplest, clean eating is about eating whole foods, or “real” foods — those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible.”
Eating a diet which is rich and varied in whole foods; fruit, vegetables, grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, meat and fish. Is of course, good. These foods will undoubtedly be packed with more vitamins and nutrients than processed foods, however, processed foods have their place and if you believe you eat 100% unprocessed, well I’m afraid you probably don’t. Hidden processing is everywhere, so does that mean you are now “unclean”. And if so, why is that so bad? What is going to happen to you?
Labelling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘clean’ or ‘unclean’ actually is dangerous to us psychologically as well as physically. It is the reason why many are creating unhealthy obsessions with food and weight, and using diet to avoid feelings of guilt or fear around eating and weight gain.
This now has a clinically recognised eating disorder known as orthorexia.
The Power of Social Influence
Increase in social media usage positively correlates with eating and body dysmorphic disorders and low-self esteem.
“You are 3 times more likely to suffer a severe mental health problem if you are a frequent user of social media” – University of Pittsburg
We need a reality check
So, is your super green, low carb, high protein, no gluten, dairy free, sugar free, macro monitoring, carb crunching, vegan, diet, really, really, you being honest with yourself?
My front line experience has left me like a sniffer dog able to smell an eating disorder (ED) from a mile away.
As soon as I click onto Instagram my radar is constantly pinging from post-to-post in the sea of seemingly “confident” and “grounded” fitness inspirations, displaying textbook typical ED behaviours:
Avoiding foods because they labeled/associate them as bad, or cause guilty feelings after being eaten.
Controls and rules, surrounding a diet which they don’t have any medical purpose for applying.
Dependence on keeping weight or body fat % low
Counting macros, with no medical or occupational reason for needing to.
That’s not to say all social media accounts are negative, but we do have to be wise about the information we’re exposing ourselves too and what we’re believing to be reliable advice over what will feed a disordered relationship with your food and body.
Top-tips to filter your news feeds:
So, when you’re next faced with making the decision about what to spend your time and energy reading and believing, ask yourself these questions:
1. What’s there message?
Is it one of positivity and balance, or does it create faulty associations (good/bad foods) alongside other disordered and unhealthy habits.
2. Are they qualified?
What makes them worth listening to? Are they qualified to give this advice? Make sure the sources you are trusting are credible, and do not be afraid to be critical and do your own research. Note. Having a large social media following does not qualify you to give lifestyle advice.
3. Are they all talk no walk?
Ever heard of the saying “Do what I say, not what I do”
It’s easy writing a motivational quote alongside a well shot snap, but remember it is a business, and they may be more concerned about their growing pay cheques and sponsors than the implications they’re having on your health.
Approximately 1/3 of wellbeing bloggers seek help for disordered eating themselves, so bare in mind, you may be accepting advice from those still in need of help themselves.
Alongside this, Robert O’Young, who promoted the Alkaline diet as a cure for cancer, was arrested for his false claims and practicing medicine without a license to do so. But yet thousands of people buy into this. Be willing to research about who it is you’re following.
4. Are they realistic?
Being a student living off a whole-foods, organic, no preservatives…all that jazz, diet, is not realistic (or necessary). Neither is exercising every day when you work a 9-5 job or have a family to provide for. Do the accounts you’re aspiring to realistically fit the lifestyle you can achieve and afford, to meet your health and wellbeing goals.
5. Is it positively challenging you?
Is it challenging your approach to yourself, your body and helping you to grow?
Or are you left feeling inadequate, bombarded by rules and demotivated by comparisons?
If it’s the latter, this is not good for your mental health. Click Unfollow.
For me, and many of you other social media savvies, we need to be self-aware.
If you have a social media platform you post to regularly, ask yourself;
What is my message?
What image am I creating, is this a positive one or could it be damaging?
How does this reflect my goals and values?
Remember, ultimately our worth is not based on our bodies, and not labelled by our diets. So look out for the haters, and spend time following the accounts that inspire and challenge you to be your best, live your best and love to your best.