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 October 19th, 2017

​“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • You value honesty and speaking the truth.
  • You value relationships with your family and friends.
  • You value learning about new and stimulating subjects. You value achieving and getting recognition for your efforts.
  • You value your career and work/life, pouring your heart and soul into contributing to what matters to you.  
  • You value your health. You don’t want to take your strong and flexible body for granted.
  • You value your children and spending time with them. You value your pets.
  • You value laughing and having fun.
  • You value beauty and appreciating wonderful things.
  • You value happiness and seeking out every last bit of joy that life has to bring.

So why aren’t you living by your values, you wonder?

You know you compromise these things that you hold so dear nearly every single day. You feel sad to think about it, as it was never a conscious decision to do this.

Gradually, your eating habits and the size of your body seem to have become the most important values in your life and all encompassing. You recognise this and rationally, it just doesn’t make sense. But it also feels so hard to let go of.

These are some of the ways you might compromise your dearest values: 
  • secret eating
  • starving
  • bingeing
  • purging
  • cancelling social engagements
  • avoiding meals with friends
  • spending your money on binge food
  • getting into debt
  • exercising for hours on end
  • ignoring the phone calls or text messages
  • holding back the truth
  • not being open with people you love
  • turning down opportunities to study or learn
  • staying in a safe job which doesn’t really fulfil your potential
  • feeling miserable and depressed because of your body size or what you have eaten
  • pushing others away
  • giving up on what really matters to you.
You have probably found that trying to find happiness through the pursuit of body perfection or controlled eating has not brought you the fulfilment you ultimately desire.

However, you might feel as though you are completely lost in the jungle of life and that you have no map or reference point to help guide you back along a meaningful path. Maybe you feel that you have wandered so far off the path that you can’t see how to possibly get back to it. Maybe you feel undeserving of pursuing the goals that were once meaningful to you. You gave up hope long ago.

This is when therapy can offer you a safe and supportive place. It can help you to understand how you became lost in the first place and to think about how you can move your life back towards more value based living again.

by Harriet Frew on October 13th, 2017

​Where do you cross the line from taking a healthy interest in food and wanting to take care of your body, to it becoming a dangerous obsession which has a detrimental impact on your self-worth?

There is not a clearly defined answer to this. Every individual’s experience will be slightly different.

Here is a diary (*) that illustrates how food and poor body image can dominate a day to negative affect.

Diary

6.45am

I wake up. The first thought that flickers through my mind is about my weight. I go straight to the bathroom. Whilst completely empty, and before a morsel of food passes my lips, I gingerly step onto the weighing scales and note the number. I sigh in exasperation. I get on again, this time more carefully whilst holding onto the wall. Once more, the number is several pounds heavier than I want to be. I feel demoralised and angry.

‘How can it be this way, when I am trying to eat so well?’

Immediately, a black, heavy cloud of self-loathing descends. I feel irritable and intolerant of those around me. My body feels fat and unattractive. I feel upset and disgusted with my lack of willpower. I fully chastise myself for this repeated ‘failure’.

7.00am

I take ages to get ready. Nothing seems to fit properly and clings in the wrong places. I look recurrently in the mirror and my worst fears are confirmed. Stomach sticking out- check; thighs looking flabby – check; arms not toned - check. I feel vulnerable and exposed at the thought of leaving the house.

7.30am

I turn on my fitness app and log my weight whilst considering breakfast options.
‘Never mind that I feel hungry now, my body has let me down again – I am back to counting calories’.

Although, I am hungry, I feel a sense of achievement in feeling empty and longing for food. Right now, I know that I can resist. I temporarily feel a sense of calm and control in making this decision.

‘I am determined to win this battle with my body.’

As I leave the house, I grasp a quick opportunity to look in the mirror at my reflection. All I can see is my tummy sticking out and I pull my coat tightly around me to try and hide away. I feel low, miserable and deeply self-conscious. I feel worried that others will be looking at me and judging me.

8.00am

I am on the tube. I notice skinny women. I feel fat in comparison. I am ashamed of my body and feel sad inside. I look down at the floor shamefully.

12.00pm

At lunchtime, I scan the menu for low calorie options. It is cold. I feel hungry, and my stomach is grumbling.  However, I am pleased to have chosen the virtuous option. I keep thinking of the scales and my fat tummy.

The day passes uneventfully. I spend my lunch-hour browsing fitness and recipe websites. I feel inspired and justified by these in striving to change my body shape.

6.30pm

I walk in the door. No-one else is here. I feel tired and hungry after a long day. I feel momentarily lost and alone. I go into the kitchen and open the fridge door. I close it again.
I go upstairs and my mood doesn’t shift. The kitchen is calling me. I am determined to resist. I will be ‘good’ and have a chicken salad.

I eat the salad and I am not at all satisfied. Afterwards, I decide that just one biscuit is allowed. I have done well by restricting my eating all day.

One biscuit is not enough though. I want desperately to eat more. I have three more biscuits before I can even think about stepping back. My anxiety hits the roof. How many calories already I wonder? I might as well keep going now though. I vow to myself that I will be good tomorrow. Before I know what has happened, I have eaten three bags of crisps, two chocolate bars, toast and yoghurt. I don’t even taste them.

I feel fat, disgusting and gross.

I go and stand on the scales after eating. I have gained 3 pounds from this morning. It is definitive proof of my failure and lack of willpower.

Tomorrow, I promise to start the diet again with iron rod discipline. Nothing will take me off course this time.

Tonight, I might as well eat a bit more and make the most of this last day of freedom.
My life cannot begin until I finally lose the weight. Until then, I feel that everything is on hold. Nothing else seems as important as getting my weight down and gaining the body I desire.


10 warning signs that you might have a problem with food and body image


1. You are obsessed with numbers in every possible way related to food and your body. Dress sizes, weighing scales, thigh measurements, weighing food, calories. Your ability to achieve the ‘right numbers’ strongly influences your self-worth daily. You know clearly in your mind whether you have succeeded or failed.

2. You find yourself restricting, dieting, missing out food groups or delaying eating for as long as possible in an attempt to change your body shape.

3. If you eat something you feel you shouldn’t have, you feel immense guilt and shame.

4. You eat in secret and it feels like a double life.

5. You cannot eat ‘one’ without seriously wanting to eat many more.

6. You don’t know what hunger is. You can’t trust your body to tell you when it needs food. It feels like an uncontrollable beast.

7. You compensate for overeating by restricting, over-exercising or purging.

8. You can’t eat out socially without severe anxiety.

9. You constantly compare your body size with others.

10. You feel that you are only acceptable if your body looks a certain way. It feels like chasing the end of the rainbow as the goal posts always seem to move, when you get closer.

(*Diary based on a variety of client experiences)

If you recognise yourself here, this could be a time to think about having counselling. Therapy can support you in developing a healthy relationship with food and to become more accepting of your body. It is really worth the step to start claiming back your life again.

by Harriet Frew on September 29th, 2017

​It is pretty much accepted that people on television are usually thinner, are more likely to have had ‘work’ done, and are better groomed and more aesthetically good looking than the average Joe or Joanna Blogs. Teeth are stunningly white and sparkling. Hair is beautifully styled and frizz free. Skin is smooth and taut as people don’t seem to age on the screen as they do in real life.

The media is often regularly blamed for the casualties of poor body image but how much does it really impact on how you feel about your body today?

As a therapist, I tend to think that poor body image is generally more deep-rooted than simple media exposure. Commonly someone feeling unhappy about their body might have experienced significant events that contributed to this in earlier life. They may have been bullied. They may have been unhappy with their size or some aspect of appearance from school days. They might have low self-esteem issues rooted in early life. They may have lived through loss or trauma or something else.

I have always seen the exposure to the thin or fit or skinny ideals as an added contributor to an already existing problem – so my view was that media exposure definitely doesn’t help, but rather than being a cause, is more an added fuel to an already burning fire.

Recent research published online in the British Journal of Psychology has made me rethink some of this. The study shows clearly that the amount of exposure to television has a direct link on someone’s perceived female body image ideal (i.e. thinner).

The study took place in Nicaragua, Central America. Scientists explored men and women’s body size preference in relation to how much television they watched. They questioned people from: 
  • an urban area – ample television access
  • a village with some television access
  • a village with little television access.

The research showed that those living in urban areas with the higher media access had a definite preference for thinner female bodies. This contrasted to people’s body preferences when living more rurally with less television access.

In our western culture, these media images have almost become the ‘norm’ and an accepted ideal that we don’t question anymore. It is no surprise that a Parliamentary report on body image in 2012 estimated that a whopping two thirds of adults suffer from negative body image. There are a lot of people experiencing body dissatisfaction – this undoubtedly affects women’s and men’s mental health and also the potential for contributing towards eating disorders.
There is a ‘positive body image movement’ edging forward through the media, trying to challenge stereotypes and to promote body acceptance, although it has some way to go yet. To improve your own body image, you cannot control the media overwhelm, but you can take a few steps to protect yourself and to create a healthier body image.

Five suggestions for dealing with media ideals: 

1. Be mindful and aware of the impact of media. Notice, if you compare yourself to others. Do you place pressure on yourself to look like people on your screens? Start to question your judgements. Are they really fair?

2. If media is impacting you, reduce your screen time. Choose wisely the material you expose yourself to. You have some power and control over this. This is of course not just limited to television; Instagram, Facebook and other social media sites are also potential influences.

3. Remember, that people on your screens are not truly representative of the population as a whole. They are under intense pressure to look a certain way and to portray an ‘ideal’ – they might have stylists, make-up artists, personal chefs and a whole entourage who are supporting them to look a certain way. Take a look at people on your local high street to see real bodies and a fairer representation.

4. Appreciate your own body for all it can do for you today. Value the health, strength and movement that your body provides.

5. Try not to judge you self-worth so much by your body size or shape. Regularly, celebrate your personal qualities and character traits.  If you want to focus on your body, centre on your personal strengths and don’t waste time scrutinising your perceived imperfections.
If you are struggling with poor body image and are finding it hard to find any self-acceptance, this could be the time to get further support through counselling.

References:
 http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press/news/2016/02/femalebodyimageideals/


by Harriet Frew on August 31st, 2017

7 warning signs that your exercise is becoming destructive
 
We know that it is helpful to move more and make exercise part of our daily lives. There are numerous physical benefits to our cardio-vascular system; managing weight; strengthening bones and muscles and reducing the risk of developing diabetes.  The mental benefits are marked also, with improved body image; reduced anxiety; enhanced mood and self-esteem, plus meeting others and engaging socially.  So for most people in the western world, moving more and engaging our bodies in activity is profoundly helpful.
 
However, if you are struggling with your relationship with food, then exercise can start to be used in a destructive way – from pushing your body to exhausting limits when you already feel tired; to being used as a stick to beat yourself with when you are unable to be active, or becoming the sole factor you use in assessing your self-worth.
 
Here are 7 warning signs that  your exercise is not so healthy anymore: -
 
1. You can’t take time off from the gym without feeling guilty or anxious. You constantly worry about potential gaps in activity days ahead. 

2. You instantly FEEL fatter or bigger when you miss a gym session, even when logically you know this probably isn’t possible. The feelings are intense and hard to bear. 

3. Your sense of worth is directly related to the amount of activity you have done. If you are highly active, you feel good. If you haven’t achieved your activity quota, you feel bad. 

4. Your primary motivation for exercising is to burn calories. You train to eat, rather than the other way round. 

5. You compare yourself relentlessly to others at the gym, frequently feeling negative about your body image. 

6. No amount of exercise feels good enough. You have to do a certain number of reps, burn enough calories or lift specific numbers of weights to feel okay. 

7. You feel constantly exhausted from exercise, but feel unable to take a day off. You have lost the joy of movement; it now feels like an obligation. 
 
If you recognise yourself in the above, having awareness is the first point of change.  Be kind and compassionate with yourself, rather than being harsh and judgemental. Take a step back and be curious about ‘why’ exercise has become problematic for you. Maybe you are not feeling good enough about yourself in some way? You are trying to feel better by pushing your body to unhealthy extremes?
 
Think about working to approach exercise for the joy of physical movement and for appreciating what your body can do for you. If you feel very stuck in being able to change your attitude towards exercise, it could be a time to seek support with this through counselling. Counselling can help you understand why exercise has become an unhealthy coping strategy. You can also be supported to make changes and adopt a healthier approach to managing physical activity and improving self-esteem.
 
 
 

by Harriet Frew on July 28th, 2017

You feel alone. In the chattering hubbub of the party, everyone else seems relaxed and at ease. You wish you could feel this way. All you can think about is the buffet laid out before you: the plates crammed with gooey profiteroles; pink laced cup cakes, tasty cheeses and soft pastries. Nothing else in this moment seems that important. You take your second plate and hastily fill it with food. It feels as though an uncontrollable beast has been unleashed inside you taking over all regular self-control and normal sanity. You find yourself eating anything and everything there, even foods you don’t normally like. 

Quickly turning to shame and self-disgust

It is past midnight and you are home. Your stomach is full to bursting point. You are grumpy and irritable, chastising yourself inwardly for losing control yet again. Confusingly, you also are rummaging in the cupboards to eat more, and willing your partner off to bed. Why, you wonder? You feel ashamed and disgusted with yourself. You want to blot the memory of this evening from your mind and start fresh again tomorrow.





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