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 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.

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.

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