Monday, 26 January 2015

The Wake Up Call

A wakeup call. Officially defined as “something that makes a person realise they need to take action to change a situation that they are in”. What sort of situation I hear you ask? The situation of self-loathing and insecurity that so many women find themselves trapped in.

Did you know that women experience an average of 13 negative thoughts about their body each day, while 97% of women admit to having at least one “I hate my body” moment every single day? This disturbing statistic was definitely a light-bulb moment for me, but actually my real wakeup call came two months ago in the changing room of one of my favourite clothing stores.

Desperately trying to squeeze myself into a size 12 dress that not only made my bum look like a new planet, but was also so tight on my chest I actually couldn't breathe. I looked in the mirror and I could feel the disappointment and self-criticism sweep over me. This however was not a new experience for me. Having been on and off ridiculous diets since my teen years I was equally used to the feeling of victory when a size 10 zipped up as I was to not fitting into my “normal” size 12 clothes and facing the dreaded prospect of actually having to buy a bigger size. Looking at my reflection I took a deep breath, trying to prepare myself for the vicious tirade that I was about to give myself.

However, something completely different happened. Right there in that moment I realised that I had a choice. I had the choice to take action to change my situation and I chose to finally accept my body as it is. I stopped my inner mean girl in her tracks and asked her where all this self-loathing had come from? Where in my life had my brain decided the ridiculous notion that a size 12 was good and a size 14 was somehow bad?

This naturally leads to the big question: Why? Why do women berate and criticise both themselves and other women so harshly? The answer to that question is endless, but I believe unrealistic role models in the media, today’s celebrity culture and society’s pressure on women to forever strive for perfection all have a huge part to play in it. Inextricably linked with this pressure to look a certain way is of course the D-word; diets. Chances are that as a woman, you've probably been on at least one diet in your lifetime or will certainly know someone who has been on a diet, as recent research has shown that the average British woman spends 31 years of her life on a diet. There is now overwhelming evidence that diets do not work for 99% of people. In fact, the only results people seem to get from dieting are a feeling of failure, poor body image and disordered eating.

Personally, my poor body image was never serious enough to develop into an eating disorder but was certainly serious enough to risk both my health and happiness doing these ridiculous diets and punishing myself when I “fell off the wagon”. For many women the combination of fad diets and consequent harsh, judgmental view of themselves can and does lead to eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. More and more young girls and women are developing serious mental and physical health problems because of society’s demands of perfection.

Continually striving for perfection comes at a cost however and my own personal realisation that at the ripe old age of 21 I had actually spent most of my life disliking my body had a profound effect on me. Once the initial feelings of sadness and regret had subsided I could finally see my body for what it truly is. The body is an incredible machine; fine-tuned over millions of years of Evolution, the body has some amazing abilities. It functions all on its own, it heals itself, it has the potential to carry another life inside it and it allows you to do everything you need to do in your daily life, whether that’s feed your child or kiss someone you love. It may not be what society would call “perfect” but your body is yours and it is amazing. As women, we pinch and prod our bodies, trying desperately to mould them to the shape we believe they should be, often ignoring the fact that so many of us are blessed with a beautiful healthy body that doesn't need to be changed.

So when will you stop overlooking what you have as opposed to what you do not have, accept yourself and believe that you are loved for you; for being a mother, a sister, a daughter, a great friend? When will you choose to receive your wakeup call and start living the life you want to live?

I say now. Wake up and smell the coffee ladies.

Note: I first published this article on the a website called womenmakewaves on 23/09/2014. It's a really fantastic website for women, written by women so check it out.
Here is the link to my article:

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Does Intuitive Eating Work?

Is Intuitive Eating the answer to every woman's weight loss prayers?

So you're in diet hell, feeling crazy around food and looking for the solution to finally end your food obsession and lose weight. Then you discover "the" solution: Intuitive Eating, also known as Mindful Eating.

I'm not entirely sure if everyone is aware of what exactly Intuitive Eating is. So here is a brief definition from the very trusty source that is Wikipedia and I have also included some of the most common rules this way of eating encompasses.

So what is it?
"Intuitive eating is a nutrition philosophy based on the premise that becoming more attuned to the body's natural hunger signals is a more effective way to attain a healthy weight, rather than keeping track of the amounts of energy and fats in foods. It's a process that is intended to create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, making it a popular treatment for disordered eating and eating disorders. Intuitive eating, just like many other dieting philosophies, goes by many names, including non-dieting or the non-diet approach, normal eating, wisdom eating, conscious eating and more".

1. Only eat when you are hungry.
2. Eat consciously and enjoy every mouthful.
3. Eat what your body desires not what you think you "should" eat.
4. Stop eating once you are satisfied.

My humble opinion
So I'll cut to the chase and just put it out there straight away, I'm not a huge fan of Intuitive Eating for a number of reasons, which I'll now go on to explain.

The way people approach Intuitive Eating is a huge part of why so many people have little success with it. When people stop dieting and begin to try and eat intuitively, whether or not they know they're doing it, they actually approach Intuitive Eating like another diet. By following this set of rules; only eating when you're hungry, eating slow, stopping when full etc. you're basically just practising another form of food restriction. To me, there is a huge difference between what I like to call the "Intuitive Eating Diet" and giving up dieting for good - in order to end food obsession and change your bad body image.

Now I do know that Intuitive Eating is how we are "meant" to eat. I have to acknowledge that it is an incredible wisdom within us that allows us to eat a sufficient amount of food in order to match our energy output. However, the fact this is how we "should" eat isn't a valid enough argument for me; one of the selling lines for the 5:2 or Intermittent Fasting diets were that cave men (and women!) ate food when they had access to it and would then "fast" until they could hunt and consequently eat again. This caveman example is also used for diets like the Paleo Diet which states we should only eat food our ancestors would have eaten - whole foods like meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts etc. In case you guys haven't noticed, this is the 21st Century; we don't live in caves any more and you're no Wilma Flintstone!

Okay, Flintstone jokes aside, this is something I'm really passionate about. People who have disordered eating and a bad "relationship" with food and their body are often advised to read up on and practise Intuitive Eating. It is held up as "THE ANSWER", the final  and ultimate solution to a problem you've probably dealt with for a large chunk of your life. Whether you've been anorexic, bulimic, a binge eater, a serial dieter, an overeater, an undereater or a hybrid of all of the above - you're probably sat here reading this because you use food for something other that fuel for your body and want to know how to revert back to the "original" attitude you had towards food as a child.

But here's the thing, are you ready for the truth? This reversal back to an entirely normal "relationship" with food is NEVER, EVER GOING TO HAPPEN, like Taylor Swift style never ever. Once you have used food for something other than what it is, you've created a "relationship" with food where there shouldn't be one. There is no such thing as a good or bad relationship with food, a relationship with food is still a relationship. "Normal eaters" or naturally intuitive eaters don't have a relationship with food. Food to them is just food, they enjoy it and it's tasty to them but they don't use food for any emotional reasons.

So what does all this have to do with why I'm not a huge fan of Mindful Eating?
One of the main reasons is because I believe this way of eating, the so-called "solution" to disordered eating, is just like throwing yourself in the deep end with regards to healing your relationship with food and more importantly, with yourself. I would estimate that Intuitive Eating probably works for about 5%-10% of people, in that it's probably a bit more successful than your typical diet due to there being no food groups restricted as such.
However, what do you think you get when you tell a person that is crazy around food not to eat until they're hungry? That they mustn't eat past a certain number on the "hunger and fullness scale"? That they should eat foods their "body" wants not what their "mind" craves? Then add to the mix that it's damn impractical for most normal people with busy lives to eat at snails pace.
The answer: A person that becomes even crazier about food.

So, does it work?
It depends what you mean by the word "work"; if you mean will I lose weight?
Well yes  of course you will, ONLY if you follow the "rules" to the tea because as I said, food restriction is food restriction. If you followed the Atkins diet exactly then you would also lose weight. However I guess if you're here reading this, it's because diets haven't gone so well for you in the past (do they go well for anyone?!).
However, if by the word "work" you mean; will I finally love my body, feel normal around food and stop obsessing? Some say Intuitive Eating is the answer but I'm not so sure myself.

So now you're probably asking:
If Intuitive Eating isn't the answer, what the hell is?
How much should I eat, when should I eat, how can I eat normally and live a normal life not chained to food obsession and bad feelings about my body?

All will be "answered" in my next post on Intuitive Eating so stay tuned!

P.S. I apologise for the excessive use of quotation marks in this article.