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 January 7th, 2018

We are all looking for the holy grail of weight loss. As obesity rates in the UK soar and we become increasingly affected as a nation with the health problems associated with being over-weight, we definitely need answers fast. Scientific explanations that can justify our tendency to hold onto fat whilst our skinny friends seem to chomp away continuously on cupcakes without gaining a pound are understandably welcomed. It is a complex issue though and as science brings valuable evidence to support how individuals do respond differently to varying diet and exercise plans; does it complete the whole picture? 

Diets just don't work long-term
Diets per se though do not work. We know that if you follow the success of people on a range of diets over 18 months, only 3% will have kept the weight off long-term. Yes in the short-term, there are results; victories; the party dress is worn. The new body is ‘selfied’ in Facebook history, as a reminder of how it really was possible. However, they are not a sustainable solution and that is why people are always searching for the next one. This one will really be ‘the one’; the ‘life-changer’; the epiphany moment!  And of course, dieting in some ways is easier than suggesting that psychology might play a role. The thought of looking at the problem on a deeper level can bring up agonising sighs – not wanting to delve into the muddy waters of childhood or unleashing a potential beast that has quite happily been hidden away thank you very much. Or possibly it might mean admitting that day to day, we are not coping as well or being quite as happy as we might like to be. It can bring on feelings of unease and anxiety contemplating peering into the well of our psyche.

As a therapist trained in viewing eating problems from a psychological perspective and also having had a disordered relationship with food in the past myself, I believe strongly that the psychological side of an over-eating needs addressing as part of the whole treatment solution. Yes, science and wholesome nutrition play a valuable role.  But I wonder if weight problems can be solved without helping people with their habits, emotions, thinking and deep-rooted feelings of worth. As much as science informs and helps us in many ways, the psychological cannot be ignored.


1. The gains you get from over-eating
 This is often over-looked but is absolutely fundamental to address. In the main, when people over-eat they are doing it to solve problems. Okay, no-one sets out consciously to fill up on cakes and biscuits to squash down their unease or distress about life, but it happens. Over-eating temporarily provides a wonderful escape and distraction from the everyday problems and stresses of life. It can be a way of rebelling against the world when you are feeling put upon. And the results are almost instantaneous. Anxiety calmed; anger buried; sadness covered all within a few delicious mouthfuls.  Very quickly, after eating, someone might feel remorse, guilt and regret, but ‘in the moment’ it is a very different thing.

2.  Your mindset around food
If you have been a ‘yo yo dieter’ for a number of years you may well be attuned to the ‘I’ve blown it effect’. You might view your eating habits in very black and white terms. Either you are being ‘very good’ and following the plan; the rules; the regime. Or you are rebelling; falling off the wagon and sticking your two fingers up to the world as you eat everything in sight that was banned from said plan. This dieting mindset is powerful and may well have become entrenched in your thinking through years of weight gain and loss. Eating without rules; listening to your body and self-regulation around eating – these quite understandably might be quite alien concepts. You may well need help with some Cognitive Therapy to challenge this thinking and help you get back to a place where you can have a more rational relationship with food.

3. Being kind and developing the inner compassionate voice
 It is highly likely that if you are over-eating, dieting, bingeing and going round in this vicious cycle that you have an inner critical voice that is berating, punishing and labelling (fat, failure, lazy etc). This inner critic has probably been gathering momentum from when you were a little girl or boy – maybe initially not related to food at all, but due to early authority figures in your life. You might have well internalised these voices so that today your inner voice is not coming from a compassionate, encouraging, kind and supportive position. You might not even be aware of this as you are so used to your inner nagging dialogue. Imagine the impact of 60,000 thoughts + a day and many repetitive! People often mistakenly believe that a good old self-berating session is going to be the cure to getting the weight off and sorting yourself out once and for all. Actually, in truth it is de-moralising, punishing and de-motivating. It keeps you stuck. You feel helpless and powerless to change. This is where speaking to someone in therapy can really help. This helps to develop awareness so you can start to parent yourself in a different way.

4. Self-esteem and feeling worthy
How do you feel deep down in your core? Good enough? Loved? Worthy? Often you will find it very challenging to lose the weight if you feel undeserving or inadequate beneath your outer persona. When you don’t feel good from the inside, you might well self-sabotage your ‘good’ eating patterns. Actually maintaining them and living by the new way might feel very uncomfortable and you may feel undeserving of this more self-nourishing and caring way of being. Being larger may also fit with your underlying feelings of insecurity. It also may give you a valid excuse for feeling bad. If this is taken away, where does it leave you? It’s a dilemma.

5. Dealing with relapse
It is inevitable as part of changing your eating patterns that lapses will occur.  Lapses need to be accepted as part of the treatment plan and strategies to deal with lapses should be incorporated. Often when people lapse, they lose momentum with making changes, as quickly moral is lost and it is easy to slip back into past ways of coping. If the psychological side has been addressed fully, people often have become more self-aware and they have got to know their triggers for over-eating well. Therefore, when a lapse occurs, it is viewed as learning experience and you can bring curiosity and compassion to the interpretation of the lapse; so learning from it and trying out new ways of coping. If the self-awareness is absent, you might be more likely to fall back and return to old ways of coping.

Choose an approach this New Year that focuses on mindset and the psychology of eating,  rather than returning to another diet. It could help you resolve food issues for the long-term.

by Harriet Frew on December 29th, 2017

You are at a party and you had been feeling relatively happy with your lot; positively chirpy in your spirits as you mingle with old friends, sipping cocktails and nibbling on tasty snacks. You feel relaxed and content, looking forward to a sociable evening ahead of you.

Then, you spot ‘her’ across the room. This is someone that you don’t know but she obviously knows your hosts. She looks beautiful and incredibly slim, confident and smiling in a fitted dress that enhances her body shape admirably. She has high sculpted cheek bones; willowy legs and a tiny waist. She also looks friendly, likeable and with a magnetic personality. People are around her laughing and seem engaged with what she has to say. Without your consent, your feelings of goodwill and contentment unexpectedly sink like a stone to the seabed. You are suddenly aware of feeling fat, frumpy and insignificant. Part of you can recognise that your comparisons might be very illogical or unhelpful, but you can’t stop them.  

You start to criticise the way you look, as a wave of self-loathing descends. Your trousers start to feel tight and uncomfortable. You regret throwing on your favourite shapeless top that although is very comforting to wear; doesn’t really exude style or finesse. How can you possibly compete with someone that looks so gorgeous? You feel ashamed of yourself for having these thoughts; whilst also feeling irrationally angry at this stranger for looking so good.

Five ways to cope when your self-esteem crumbles around good looking people:

1. Recognise that you are putting this person on a pedestal.
Yes, they may be fortunate to be blessed with incredible beauty or a pretty face. They may also have many positive attributes. However, like everyone, they are not perfect. They will have their own weaknesses and struggles. This is just another human being who actually has flaws too, just as you do. It is unfair for you to compare yourself. You may well have qualities that this person does not have. As you can, try and keep perspective.

2. Do not assume that just because someone is genetically blessed that this will be accompanied by rock solid self-esteem.
Beautiful people can unintentionally provoke envy and jealousy from others. People sometimes assume that aloofness; arrogance or self-involvement might be associated with beauty. In turn, this can result in someone feeling quite isolated or disliked for the way they look. They can also feel objectified and only valued for attractiveness. This can leave someone wondering if people really like them for themselves. Think about the person beneath their outer presentation.

3. Understand where your comparisons are rooted.
Sometimes, as a child or adolescent you might have felt inferior with regards to your looks in relation to a sibling or close friend. Maybe you were bullied in relation to your physical appearance? This may have left you feeling inadequate or second-rate. You may have felt unattractive or unlikeable, and this may understandably have had a long lasting impact on your self-esteem. Consider the past and recognise how these experiences may be affecting you in the present and causing you to react more strongly.

4. Often, our first impressions of people do not translate into how we feel about them for the long-term.
To begin with, physical features may be very noticeable. Once you get to know someone though, it is likely that you will be much more focused on character; personality and your connection with them, rather than how they look. If you think about your closest friends today, I am sure their attractiveness has far less importance than their other qualities.

5. Just because someone else is beautiful or has a fit body, it does not take away the qualities that you have personally.
If you feel that this does, think again about where this may come from? Have you been compared to someone in the past and this has left you feeling inferior? What is this really about? Also, think about what it really means to be attractive. Confidence; posture; style; communication and energy for life all contribute significantly in how we perceive another to be. Physical appearance is just a piece of the whole picture.

If you are reading this and are really struggling with your confidence and self-esteem in regards to how you look, then you may wish to think about getting some further support.

by Harriet Frew on December 11th, 2017

Tr​aining as a counsellor, I remember vividly the different teachers I had along my training journey. I viewed these teachers as perfect pillars of emotional intelligence with infinite wisdom. I assumed that they didn’t struggle and had found the answers. They were now immune to the ride of life with its ups and downs. How I longed for the day when I would find this too and possess the tools to effortlessly cope and manage my life with ease.

Alas, I finished my training, and realised, that I had progressed the first few steps along my personal development journey. Becoming a counsellor hadn’t made me immune to experiencing life’s difficulties and I didn’t always cope effectively with problems. Like every human being, I continued to struggle at times.

And if at this point, I thought I had mastered self-perfection in the emotional sense, I would probably have been verging on narcissism with an unrealistically inflated view of my talents. A counsellor in this position, might be vulnerable to inflicting more harm than good.

You may be wondering, if counsellors are flawed too, how can they help you?

1. Therapy is time for you
A counsellor has been trained to listen to your unique story, helping you explore your inner world and make sense of it. They have learned the skills to be present with you, their client in the moment, putting aside their own concerns and worries.
They offer a space that is confidential, non-judgemental and accepting. So as you develop trust in your counsellor, you can bring the parts of yourself into the therapy room that might be difficult to talk about in day-to-day life.  

2. Counsellors have developed self-awareness
Most counsellors undergo personal counselling as part of their training which enables them to develop proficient self-awareness. Your counsellor will usually be acutely aware of the baggage they bring and will have worked on this rigorously, enabling them to keep personal issues separate from their relationship with you. This enables the counsellor to be fully present and empathic to your concerns.

3. Accountability
All counsellors have supervision to regularly talk about client work and to gain a second opinion or feedback to improve or better their services. This enables a constant monitoring of quality and also safe-guarding of clients.

4. Ongoing development
Most counsellors see their development as a lifelong journey and have a sense of duty and commitment to further work on the self. They will continue to improve their knowledge and understanding of client work through training courses, reading books and learning with peers.

5. Personal experience
Some counsellors have personally experienced difficulties in the past and have then used this as a motivator to work in counselling. They bring this understanding and compassion to their practice, whilst also acknowledging that everyone’s personal experience might be different.

6. Self-care
Counsellors are trained to recognise when they need to take a break from therapy to focus on life outside. Sometimes this happens, with a bereavement or trauma or life change. A counsellor will aim to look after themselves emotionally and physically, so bringing energy and presence to be with you, their client.

7. Embracing the flaws
If you can remind yourself regularly that your counsellor is really not perfect, you can gain reassurance and confidence from this. Maybe ‘getting completely sorted’ isn’t the realistic endpoint anyway.

Rather it is about understanding yourself better and getting to know ‘you’; discovering the parts of yourself that you may have hidden and making peace with these; naming and managing your emotions more effectively and becoming kinder and more compassionate towards yourself and others.

Your imperfect counsellor can support you in learning better ways of coping which can help significantly in reducing depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other conditions. 

by Harriet Frew on December 1st, 2017

​1. Give up on the notion of trying to please everyone this Christmas. It is an unachievable and totally impossible task.

2. The myth of the perfect Christmas exists only on the telly or in your dreams. Let go of the fantasy and focus on enjoying the holiday with all its imperfections and likely chaos.

3. Which of your own values do you wish to express at Christmas? Love, kindness, creativity? Understand the ones personally important to you and focus time and energy on them.

4. Drinking alcohol can be highly pleasurable at this festive time. Be mindful of how it affects your mood and inhibitions though.

5. You don’t have to do it all yourself this Christmas. Give yourself permission to share the work and ask for help.

6. Many people feel lonely, and at Christmas these feelings are exacerbated when the focus is all about togetherness and sharing. Reach out to friends, neighbours, family or maybe volunteer, so you have a plan for the day.

7. Now is not the time to crash diet. Instead, buy yourself a new frock or pair of shoes. Hold your head up, stand tall and smile.

8. If you feel overwhelmed with the noise, chatter and steady stream of socialising, take time out and remember to breathe.

9. Try not to ban or label foods ‘forbidden’ this Christmas as this will leave you feeling deprived. You will then be more likely to binge or over-eat later as the backlash against restraint. Decide the foods you want to enjoy. Sit down, eat slowly, savour and taste every scrumptious mouthful.

10. It is not worth getting into debt at Christmas. Take the financial burden off yourself by avoiding the lure of the material train.

11. Spend time with the people you love and enjoy being with.

12. Keep blood sugar stable by eating regularly. Avoid over-hunger and you will be less likely to over-eat at the buffet spread.

13. Adopt a positive mindset and bring this optimistic and hopeful energy to your interactions.

14. If you are spending time with young children (your own or otherwise) pause to embrace the fun and wonder of Christmas through their eyes in the midst of the festive chaos.

15. Lower your expectations. Not everyone will get on. The food might get burnt. People won’t always love their gifts. It doesn’t matter.

16. Remember to see the funny side. Humour goes a long way to improving sanity.

17. Recognise your own cherished traditions and celebrate these rather than carrying on with rituals you feel obligated to do.

18. Acceptance, tolerance, patience and understanding are all underrated. Practise and practise some more.

19. Take some time out for yourself. Go for a walk. Have some fresh air. Go and read your book for half an hour. You will feel refreshed for it.

20. Christmas day is only one day of the year. Keep this in perspective. There will be other opportunities to share time and create memories with your loved ones.

by Harriet Frew on November 24th, 2017

It is 10.15am on a rainy Friday. I am sitting and relaxing in a little cafe away from the hustle and bustle of the city streets.

I am eating a large slice of chocolate cake with creamy icing. It is delicious. It is tasty. I am relishing every mouthful. I am also very focused on the experience of eating.

It is likely full of sugar and fats and all the food groups frequently demonised. A nutritionist might well tell me that I need a hearty soup or a salad full of nutrients. I am not thinking about this though. I want cake. If I had the salad, I would still be thinking about the cake. I would be left feeling dissatisfied or as if missing something.

For me, cake is not a treat or an indulgent episode of eating linked to ‘bad’ or naughty food.
Cake is allowed. Cake is permitted into my eating. Cake is therefore pleasurable and guilt free.
Cake is not a replacement meal or something that has to be balanced with my daily eating. I had breakfast. I will still have lunch and snacks and dinner as usual.

You might think ‘if I did this, I would be put on lots of weight. I only have to look at cake and I balloon’.

And of course, if you or I ate many cakes and frequently it would affect weight.

But the paradox is that when cake is allowed, you will likely find that you eat it less. You will not be obsessing or thinking about it every day.

When you ban certain foods you will yearn for them more. You will dream, think and fixate over them.

When you demonise certain foods, you might feel guilty and ashamed when you do eat them. You might then go on and eat more cake or pizza or biscuits to feel better and block these feelings.

When you try to control your eating by eliminating food groups or counting calories or missing meals, you lose touch with your natural hunger and what your body needs. Your body tends to fight back and then you are vulnerable to over-eating or binge eating. I know this first hand. I have experienced it in the past.

When you listen to your body and respond to what it needs, you are less likely to eat too much or too little for your body’s requirements. You will likely find that your body craves healthy and nourishing foods for much of the time anyway.

I have found that my body doesn’t really want cake every day when it is permitted. Cake doesn’t hold any particular appeal anymore. It is just like roast dinner or Caesar salad or scrambled eggs on toast.

Six steps to support you in listening to your body

1. Start to notice your personal hunger signals. How do you feel your hunger? Do you actually know? I personally get irritable, tired and lacking in concentration often before I feel my tummy growl. You could keep a diary to try and tune in more to your body and listen to what it needs.

2. When you are hungry, think about what you are hungry for? Hot food? Cold food? Crunchy? Smooth? Crisp? Chewy? Sweet? Sour? Savoury? Bitter? Respond to your body’s hunger as is practical.

3. Sit down to eat. Eating at the cupboard door or on the run doesn’t allow you to register the eating experience so fully and then you might not feel satisfied.

4. Begin to slowly permit all foods into your repertoire of eating. This may feel overwhelming at first, so aim to do so only one food at a time. When you do this, plan it in and make the experience as calm and enjoyable as possible. Sit down, savour and taste the food.

5. If you have been depriving yourself of certain foods, initially you may want to eat more of them as the backlash against deprivation. Persist through this though phase and the foods will lose their magic allure.

6. Start to recognise when you want to eat for reasons unrelated to hunger. For boredom, anxiety, anger, sadness or loneliness. Ask yourself ‘what is it that I really need right now? Is it actually food?’

Be compassionate and kind with yourself as your embark on this journey of improving your relationship with food and your body. This might feel very difficult at first. You may have been out of tune with your body for a long time. If you get stuck in making changes, this might be a time to consider getting further support by seeing a counsellor.


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