No more diets and deprivation. Eat the foods you love and have a great body image.
Rethink your body
To get the freedom to live the life you want
by Harriet Frew on March 6th, 2018

​No one wakes up one day, and rationally considers the thought that restriction, bingeing or weight preoccupation could be a way of coping with the stresses of life. Rather, it is often a gradual drift into the illness, beginning with healthy eating or a well-intended dietary overhaul. But, beneath the fragile veneer of the eating disorder, with its seemingly endless habits and eating rituals, someone is feeling exceptionally hopeless and low. Dieting and the possibility of thinness have often originally offered some sense of promise and hope. Of course, this is short-lived as the illness spirals out of control, bringing with it a multitude of problems.

by Harriet Frew on February 5th, 2018

​If you are feeling a bit despondent and negative about your body as we progress through this cold snap, I am sure you are not alone. It is the time of year to be bundled up in layers whilst simultaneously searching for comfort food to survive through the winter days. February is the month when we have likely given up on the New Year’s resolutions of self-improvement and losing those Christmas pounds and have succumbed to sitting on the sofa, wanting to hibernate until the sunshine finally breaks through in a few long weeks. If you relate to this and you would like to feel better about your body image today, then read on.

1. Thoughts about your body
We have 60,000 plus thoughts per day and many of these are repetitive. Just imagine the powerful ripple effect of a sabotaging critical thought that is whirring through your brain every hour. Start to notice, what your body image mantra actually sounds like. ‘You’re so fat; you’re ugly; you have no self-control; you’ll never lose weight; you’re tummy is flabby’. I have heard all these thoughts before from clients and from friends in daily conversation. So be aware of your thinking and start to question it. What might be a more supportive way to speak to yourself?

2. But what if I don’t believe the supportive helpful thoughts
Counsellors often work with people who profess to feeling fat and hateful of their bodies on a daily basis. These comprise people of all shapes, weights and sizes. The ‘fat feeling’ can be a powerful conviction from the thinnest girl in the room. But what does this mean though? If you feel that something is true; even if you feel it with extreme certainty, it does not and cannot mean it is always the truth. So start to distance yourself and question your thoughts. Maybe, just maybe you are being a little bit (or possibly very) hard on yourself.

3. Body checking
When you look in the mirror, how do you observe your body? Do you immediately zoom in on your perceived imperfections? Or do you view your body as a whole and notice the parts you can be more accepting of? How you observe your body is very significant and will affect your mood and thinking. Sometimes you may check your tummy size or leg width numerous times a day, to almost confirm your absolute worst fears. Often you might even feel that you can immediately see a change in your least favourite body part after you have eaten. Is this really possible? Really? Be aware of how you are viewing your body and then thinking about it. Notice the body parts you can be more accepting of and pay them compliments.

4. Selfies and social media
Another research study was reported in the media yesterday, showing the link between an increase in the prevalence of Anorexia Nervosa and the exposure that people have to ‘selfies’. The Internet is crawling with pictures of thin or super-fit bodies. The body has become a construct to be perfected and admired. Photoshop and airbrushing are the norm. No wonder that looking at this stuff regularly affects self-esteem massively and erodes confidence. Reduce your viewing time of these types of images and you will feel better.

5. Comparisons with others
Do you walk into a room and immediately compare yourself with other people? If you are doing this, you are in a no-win situation. Even if you are a 6ft supermodel, there is always possibly going to be someone younger, prettier and thinner coming along. Comparisons are fruitless. They stop you being the best version of yourself. They keep you locked in a cage of inadequacy that is hard to break out of. Notice if you are doing this regularly; make efforts to curb it.

6. Look at real bodies
If you walk down your local high-street tomorrow and have a genuine stare at the bodies around you, I promise you, very few, if at all, will have your definition of a perfect body. Sometimes we are so bombarded by the media that we forget what real bodies actually look like. Take a thorough look; I bet you that you might notice your body is actually okay.

7. Is attractiveness just about thin?
When you are doing your high-street perusal, look about and notice who looks good? Who looks attractive and vibrant? Is it really all about body shape? What other things make someone look appealing and what can you learn from this? Make-up, clothes, posture, confidence – they all play a vital role.

8. Value your body for more than aesthetics
It is easy to spend much time evaluating and judging the outer body whilst the inner body might get less respect and attention. Remember to value your body for what it can do for you. Take care of your body from the inside out. Nourish it with wholesome healthy foods, moisturise, have luxurious baths, do some exercise, breathe and be kind to your body. One day you might well long for the body you have today. Appreciate it now.

9. What’s underneath?
Is your drive for weight loss or a better shape, an attempt to boost self-esteem? There is no doubt that being healthy and taking care of your body is going to enhance self-worth. However, when it is taken to an extreme and you only allow yourself to feel good when a specific weight or shape is achieved, then you are in dangerous waters. How are you feeling deep inside? Are you trying to plaster over this feeling of possible inadequacy by directing your energy into changing your body?

10. Keep perspective
Okay your tummy might not be as you would like it. However, for most people reading this, your body is likely to be healthy; full of movement and agility and strength. We all forget what a fantastic quality of life we have in this country compared to many other parts of the world. Spending time beating yourself up about your body is a waste of time and stops you fulfilling your true potential and making a real difference in the world. When you look back on your life (at hopefully ninety plus years old!); you are not going to worry about the size of your thigh gap. Other things will feature as far more important.

Have a go at taking on my top ten tips and here’s to feeling good about your body image for 2018!

by Harriet Frew on February 2nd, 2018

​One of the first rituals that you may feel compelled to do before starting your day, might be jumping on the weighing scales and noting the magic number. Not a morsel of food must have passed your lips; hair must be dry; jewellery off and clothing absent. The scales must be set to precisely zero. There may even be a practice of getting on with one foot first, whilst lowering your body gently down and simultaneously holding onto the wall. If the number coming up is not to your liking, you may well repeat the procedure again to double check or move the scales to a different room to make sure the bathroom lino is not disrupting the accuracy.

Doesn’t it sound quite a ludicrous habit, when actually reading it here? Alas, it is a common practice for many of us and is a determining factor of well-being, self-esteem and lifestyle habits.

You may think, ‘well I need to weigh myself, I am unhappy with my weight. This is a way to check in and get back on track’. It is understandable that most of us would strive to have a healthy weight for vitality; long-standing health and disease prevention. However, often the scales can become a barometer of self-worth and although you might use them with favourable intentions to improve your habits and relationship with food; paradoxically, the scales can often have quite the opposite effect. You might become extremely obsessed with the number and generally feel a high level of dissatisfaction with your body.

Five reasons to reduce an obsession with your weight

1. The Judge
When you weigh yourself, it is very likely that much judgement and value gets placed on the number. Whatever the number, it might be challenging to feel happy with the result. If it has increased you may be feeling quite cross, annoyed, confused, and determined to reverse this immediately by whatever means. If the number has gone down, you might feel pleased; but maybe also puzzled (what about last night’s cake?); and anxious – ‘can I maintain this now’? It is rare to step off the scales, feeling joyful, content and purposefully focused on your day ahead.

2. The ripple effect on your day
The number on the scales might hold considerable power in its affect on your well-being. It may likely impact on what you will wear today; how you feel about your body image; your level of happiness; how much you will eat and how sociable you will feel. This one number may have more influence on your level of contentment than you had ever considered. Sadly, knowing the number tends not to bring the happiness or motivation to feel any better about your body anyway. If you feel you have to be very restrictive with your eating, you may feel miserable and deprived. You are also more likely at risk from binge eating. If you are feeling uncomfortable with your body, you might withdraw socially and feel very self-conscious. You might wear baggy clothes to hide your figure.

3. Getting too tied in to one number is unhelpful
Our weight is not a fixed entity and most people will find natural fluctuations in their weight, even when eating patterns are pretty consistent. There is not always a direct and logical correlation between eating, exercising, drinking and the number on the scales. Therefore, weighing yourself too often is not going to give you a realistic picture of the pattern of your weight.

It is more helpful to notice how your clothes are fitting and how you feel in your body. Even if your longer term goal is to be a bit lighter, today, you can still be kind to your body and take care of it. You can still wear clothes you feel attractive in. You can make an effort with your appearance and choose to engage with others.

4. Stops you valuing your body and seeing bigger picture
Remember that the number on the weighing scales is not your whole worth. Sometimes, you might base so much of your self-esteem on this one reading. It is a measure of many possible ones in determining some data about you. However, there are infinitely many more ways to value yourself. If you take this one reading so out of proportion, then no wonder, your self-worth will be likely compromised.

5. A preoccupation with weight can prevent you living your life
When the number on the scales becomes all authoritative, it prevents you leading your fullest life. Minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years have been lost to dieting, yo-yoing with weight; pursuing an unrealistic body ideal and at what cost? When these factors predominate in life, they take up precious time and energy, and rob us of our energy and motivation to channel this in other life areas.

Think about your own relationship with the weighing scales. Consider if it might be helpful to make some changes on your frequency of weighing or how you value yourself in relation to your weight. If you are really struggling with this and feel that you need more support, then you might wish to think about getting some help through counselling.

by Harriet Frew on January 29th, 2018

​You feel dismayed and confused by your behaviour. 'Why can’t I just eat one?' you wonder. You are sure that no one else seems to fall into an anxious frenzy of wishing to devour more biscuits, plus crisps, pizza and cake too, all simply triggered by allowing that first morsel to cross your lips. Why oh why do you feel so compelled to just keep eating?

Everything had been going so well. You were following your plan to the letter and it had felt manageable; different this time. But suddenly, you feel propelled back to square one and that your diligent efforts have been ruined. You berate yourself accordingly and feel hopeless and despondent. Why not just carry on eating and have a proper blow out? You can always start again tomorrow. Once the decision has been made, it feels like there is no going back. You want the food now; quickly and to get as far away from everyone as possible. As your colleague chats to you, you tune out; you can’t focus on anything else but thoughts around food.

If you recognise yourself here, you may feel trapped and hopeless about breaking free from ‘I’ve blown it thinking’.

 Here are five ways to help stop this:

1. Relax the rules 

For ‘I’ve blown it thinking’ to exist in the first place, you no doubt have some rules around your eating that you are trying to adhere to. Said rules might dictate calories to be eaten or food types to be allowed or not. You may feel that you have a imaginary fence around you that clearly marks ‘safe and controlled food territory’ compared to ‘non-safe, out of control, chaotic wilderness’ beyond the fence. Everything might feel blissfully fine and ordered when you stay on the safe side. However, when you cross the fence, even briefly, your order and control might dissipate rapidly, as you chastise yourself for having broken a much valued dietary rule. If you allow your fence to be less rigid in the first place and to permit some flexibility now and then, you are more likely to be able to manage rule breaking with a clearer perspective without getting overwhelmed.

2. Notice your thinking

It is slightly remarkable to think that you have over 60,000 thoughts per day and many of these are repetitive. Already, you may begin to contemplate the potential for your thinking patterns to affect your day. If you think ‘I’ve blown it, so I’m a greedy, good for nothing’ – think about how you are going to feel. There could potentially be some judgement attached to this thought, implying either success or failure of an action. You may possibly feel quite anxious, stressed and unhappy in response to this.

So think about how you talk to yourself. How can you be kinder; more rational and realistic about your eating behaviour?

3. Avoid getting too hungry and keep blood sugar stable 

If your blood sugar is low before you eat the culprit food that breaks your dietary rule, then you are more susceptible to getting a sugar and endorphin ‘hit’ accompanied with a unbridled desire to eat more; this can feel like an addiction. Keeping your blood sugars stable throughout the day is an effective way to help manage cravings and also to reduce the physiological ‘benefit’ of overeating. Eating at regular intervals and ensuring you have enough protein, good fats and slow release carbohydrates throughout the day, can really help you manage the desire to eat more.

4. The urge to eat will rise and fall, like a wave

When you are feeling compelled to go on an eating frenzy, now is the time to take time out. If possible, stop, pause, relax and distract yourself for a while. The urge to binge is like a wave and it will rise and fall. You can learn to ride the wave and come down the other side of it. After the pause, if you recognise that you are genuinely hungry for food, allow yourself to eat something nourishing and filling. If you distinguish that you are craving food that isn't related to hunger, try and identify what it is that you need. Is it some fresh air; a walk; time out; relaxation; distraction; some calm? Remember that eating cannot solve these other problems sustainably for you.

5. Think about self-care and valuing your body

Eating a few biscuits might be pleasurable, enjoyable and tasty. But eating to the point where you feel physically uncomfortable can be very self-punishing and destructive. If you are able to, stand back and think about the bigger picture. How are you going to feel in an hour’s time if you turn to food? How can you treat your body well and look after it? Self-care and self-destructiveness are not usually mutually compatible. Opt for the self-care even when you don’t feel like doing it. Trust that treating yourself with love and respect will get you back on track and help filter in feelings of calm and contentment.

If ‘I’ve blown it eating’ is taking over your life and you desperately wish to find a way out of this struggle and develop a healthier relationship with food, then you might want to consider getting some support through counselling.

by Harriet Frew on January 8th, 2018

​You have a problem and feel completely stuck with it. You would like to sort it yourself without going to therapy.

You decide to find a self-help book to guide you on your way. Whether it is improving confidence, managing anxiety, finding the right partner, mindful eating or improving your mood - you have a wealth of choice available, as new titles are added to book shelves week by week.

Self-help books continue to be quite fashionable. Prescribed by the NHS now in some areas as an alternative to medication and also recommended often as a first course of action before someone accesses more intensive therapeutic support, they are clearly seen and valued as a useful tool in helping people tackle problems and bring about change in their lives.

How long lasting are the effects of self-help though? Maybe you have read self-help books yourself?

You might well feel familiar with the promise that the new book holds. You feel eager and anticipatory to read and absorb the golden nuggets of information which are going to be potentially life transforming. You read the book from cover to cover and hopefully, you do feel encouraged and motivated to address the problem.

Maybe a week later you are not so sure though. The book is now designated to a lesser priority place in your bedroom and sits under a pile of magazines, the corner peeping out at you hopefully. It is often difficult to harness and contain the possibility that the book seemed to promise last week. You may feel a bit deflated and wonder what to do next.

Five tips to gain value from self-help books

1. Self-help literature will vary significantly in its quality and in its potential for effectiveness. Before you spend your hard-earned cash, you might want to look at book reviews online or trust a friend’s personal recommendation when making your choice.

2. Be realistic about your expectations of the book. You might not find that you get the overnight transformation that is promised between the pages. Unfortunately, ‘the magic wand’ does not exist. For most of us, change is a process that takes time and investment. You are likely going to have to work at it. The book might not offer the absolute solution but rather be a companion in achieving this.

3. Some books are going to resonate with you more than others. On holiday in America in my early 20s, I stumbled across M Scott Peck’s ‘The Road Less Travelled’. At this time in my life, this book helped me significantly to make sense and understand several questions I had been struggling with. I then remember raving about the book to my sister and coming to appreciate that this book did not offer her the same powerful messages. Our tastes were simply different.

4. The few self-help books I have truly valued, I have re-visited again and again. The process of revisiting and re-reading allows helpful strategies to become memory and then internalised allowing them to gain strength and momentum within me.

5. Although having limitations, self-help literature can empower you to take responsibility and to effectively become your own therapist. I believe this is to be encouraged. This can help increase confidence, autonomy and independence in coping skills and problem solving; these being valuable skills on life’s journey.

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No more diets and deprivation. Enjoy food whilst looking good and feeling great about your body shape.