Counselling support for eating disorders and body image.
Rethink your body
To get the freedom to live the life you want
by Harriet Frew on June 20th, 2018

PRESSURE TO BE PERFECT​

The burden of perfection is intense in society today. Social media floods us daily with filtered, airbrushed, carefully chosen pictures, of people living happy lives, looking attractive and achieving wonderful things. And it never goes away! It is present, relentless and fully accessible 24/7. 

If this alone wasn’t enough, the constant pressure to achieve is omnipresent and even encouraged. We are all supremely busy, almost wearing this as a badge of honour – achieving, climbing the career ladder, parenting and excelling in our hobbies. Understandably, we have less time for face-to-face relationships and deeper connections. Switching off from the busyness can increasingly involve time spent alone, whilst scrolling through our feeds and distorting further our perceptions and expectations of what is real. There is more opportunity than ever before to compare, compare, compare and then to feel inadequate.

ROOTS OF PERFECTIONISM

Some of us will be more prone to the vulnerabilities of perfectionist striving, than others.  Early experiences from often well-intentioned demanding parents, critical teachers or other authority figures can engrain deeply the messages of self-worth being highly dependent on grades, achievement or looks. Acceptance or approval can begin to feel highly conditional on us meeting these expectations, with the strong fear that we are undeserving of love or acceptance unless we continue to strive, achieve and perfect. 

Long after the early authority figures have disappeared from our lives, or faded into the background of daily life; we enter the adult world, with the internal critique embedded firmly in our psyche. It feels normal and almost right to self-impose these often impossible standards. Thinking is also rigid being very black and white: ‘I am perfect or I’m failing’. Shades of grey feel incomprehensible or just a bit ‘meh’ - ‘Why bother if I can’t be perfect?’ It is this perspective that can often leave people feeling reluctant to change their perfectionist drive. It might not feel achievable to feel good about yourself, whilst simultaneously relinquishing perfection.


5 tips to dilute perfectionism and raise self-esteem .............................

by Harriet Frew on April 25th, 2018

​Clients often ask me, ‘How can I avoid bingeing when the urge to reach for food feels so incredibly strong?’ It can seem like a driving force that cannot be ignored and rationalised away. Like an itch that needs to be scratched. A desire or want that can only be satisfied fully through food alone. And it is all you can think about. Conversations with others blur gently into the background; work becomes a mindless irritation and your surroundings become irrelevant. Nothing - nothing at all, is as important as the pursuit of food.

I think that sometimes when you reach this point, you have already mentally made the decision to binge and it is infinitely harder to make the U-turn and withdraw. This is not the time when rational thought or reasoned logic generally wins the day.

More helpfully, it is useful to retrace your steps and recognise the triggers that might have contributed to this need to binge. Why? Because, I believe that binges do not come out of the blue. They might appear to do so, and you may feel very confused about your behaviour. However, if you look a little below the surface and start to consider possible triggers and situations that may have cumulatively led you to this point, you begin to gain some clarity.

Five common triggers for bingeing:

1. You are depriving yourself with your eating
You might be following a set of rules rather than listening to what your body wants to eat; for example ‘I shouldn’t eat at this time; no carbs allowed; X number of calories per day). Deprivation only works for so long before your body comes back fighting. Your poor body does not want to be hungry or feeling restricted or restrained. Just as our ancestors would have feasted after the famine, your instinct after depriving yourself will be to eat and eat and compensate for the previous lack.

Now even if you feel that in reality you are not depriving yourself (‘well actually, I’m eating all this cake and chocolate everyday’); unless you genuinely permitthese foods into your life, then you are always going to attach guilt, enticement, naughtiness, rebellion and secret eating to these foods. Instead, once you allow every single food back into your eating choices, then the paradox is that you will probably eat a lot less of these foods long-term.
Why would you need to binge on cakes if you allow yourself to sit down and enjoy that delicious slice of your favourite dessert - eating mindfully, and tasting and savouring every single bite?

2. You are slogging away at life too much
Maybe your expectations are incredibly high. You might be a perfectionist, you might feel quite guilty if you sit down and relax. Take a break and have a nice cup of tea. As human beings, for mental well-being, we need breaks, relaxation, pleasure and fun dispersed between the jobs and obligations. When you don’t allow these necessaries into your life, then you are going to feel tired, possibly bored and bit jaded with your work. You might be short of energy, feeling a bit down and then tempted to perk yourself up with food. Make sure you inject enough pleasure and relaxation into your life!

3. You are struggling to manage how you are feeling
Maybe you feel that you are sensitive and that things affect you deeply. Joyful news can be as overwhelming sometimes as dealing with life’s little knocks, setbacks and problems. You feel that your head is exploding and that your thoughts are racing a hundred miles an hour. You want some escape and relief from this turmoil. Food, just food, is all you can think about. Food can be an effective distraction and a way of dissociating from your feelings for a temporary period, allowing you relief and comfort. These feelings do not go away though; this is when you might need some support in understanding and processing them through.

4. You are giving vast amounts of negative attention to your dear body
You might be obsessively weighing yourself; body checking and looking in the mirror or labelling yourself unkindly, along with a good dose of comparisons with your friends or celebrities on Instagram. This can be a recipe for feeling dissatisfied and anxious. You are then likely to express your unease through food; either by bingeing or bringing in rules and clamping down rigidly on your eating. This may work for a little bit until you feel deprived again, and fall back into the binge cycle.
Think about how you treat your body through words, thoughts and actions and this may help you to be more encouraging without turning to food.

5. You are feeling negative, low and depressed
You think ‘why not just make myself feel even worse? What’s the point? Who cares? I’m not worth it.’ You may have been doing much better with your relationship with food, but now you feel like sabotaging it all. If this is a recurring problem for you, then you might need some support in unpicking this further and making sense of it. Possibly, these feelings are deep-rooted and were initially experienced in a setting completely unrelated to food. They may be more about how you feel inside, being connected to your feelings of self-worth.
If you find yourself bingeing on a regular basis and are feeling out of control around food - if it is starting to affect your relationships, your work and your social life - you may wish to think about seeking some support with this through therapy.

by Harriet Frew on April 16th, 2018

​The calendar is distinctly marked with the impending social event; family and friends are going to be there en mass, many of whom you haven’t seen for a while. There will definitely be photographs; Facebook and social media sharing; you are very sure of that. You can already predict the display of beautiful dresses on lean limbed, scantily clad bodies making the most of the brief days of British sunshine.

Just thinking about it, you feel a churning dread in the pit of your stomach. What can you possibly do to lose some pounds before the event to ensure you are looking and feeling your best? You might have even felt that you’d been doing a bit better with food and your body image recently, but suddenly, this blip on the horizon has sent you spiralling out of control. You can’t think about anything else now but cutting down on the carbs and monitoring those calories, in an attempt to transport your body to a smaller dress size, as fast as is possible.

5 ways to enjoy the summer ball, party or social event and feel good about your body:

1. Think back to the last few weddings, parties and social occasions that you have been to. What is it that you hold in your memory and remember distinctly from the day?
It might be someone’s vibrant and colourful hat; a particularly stylish dress; the argument that happened between Auntie Jean and Grandad after a few too many shots. It may be the lively, interesting conversations with friends you haven’t seen for ages and the funny anecdotes and stories shared over the evening. It might even all be a bit hazy due the lubricating effects of alcohol!

In reality, I very much doubt that you paid that much attention to the body size of others. It might have flickered across your consciousness, maybe if you were having a negative body day yourself; but other things might well have taken precedent.
So although you might be feeling very self-conscious about your body shape, remember that other people do not care about your body size anywhere nearly as much as you do. This might feel very tricky to take on board and truly believe; however, try to consider the possibility and reassure yourself when you are struggling.

2. Trying to crash diet in a few weeks is not a sustainable or an enjoyable experience.
Focus on emphasising the parts of yourself that you can change now and have influence on. Could you get a great manicure as a treat for the event? Could someone support you in doing your hair and make-up in a different way? Could you buy or borrow a dress that compliments and enhances your body shape? Maybe you could wear some fabulous shoes or carry a handbag that helps you feel personally confident. Think about what would work for you to help you feel more empowered and in charge of the situation.

3. What is driving you to lose weight for the party?
How is the weight-loss going to transform you? How do you perceive the thinner, slimmer, skinnier version of you? Is she more energetic; smiling; confident and sociable? How would it feel to give yourself permission to have some of these things today. You may still wish to lose weight in the future, but your self-worth and wellbeing can begin to improve right now. We know well, that unfortunately, weight loss is often not the magic pill of confidence that we hoped for. It is not worth putting life on hold whilst you wait to achieve this.

4. What else might be lurking under the desire to change your shape?
How are you feeling about being sociable? Do you worry that others will like you or find you interesting? Do you feel intimidated or anxious at times? Is the focus on weight a bit of a ‘red herring’, preventing you from facing your own doubts and insecurities. It might be worth considering if this is something you relate to.

5. Approach the event with self-assurance, even if you don’t feel this inwardly.
Stand tall, smile and be open to others. Strike up new conversations; imagine that people will wish to talk to you and will find you interesting. If you are fortunate enough to have good health, celebrate the body that you have today; with its movement, strength and energy.
Think about what might personally work for you in feeling better about your body image with the summer socialising.

If you are really struggling with this and feeling overwhelmed and anxious, it might be worth exploring some of these issues further in a safe and supportive counselling setting.

by Harriet Frew on March 23rd, 2018

​Spring is finally here! The promise of longer evenings; the fresh smell of the first cut grass; little buds of pretty, pink cherry blossom and cheerful yellow daffodils. It all sounds so clichéd, but the wonderful thing about living in Britain, is the forgetting of the surprise spring brings! But are you feeling spring-like inside, brimming with well-being and hope for the coming summer months?

After winter, hiding under layers of clothes and safely tucked up under your duvet with a warm cup of cocoa and sitting by the fire, there can be some safety and solace in the winter period. Suddenly, the thought of exposing limbs; spending more time outside; starting to exercise, thinking about holidays and social events; you might be feeling a little daunted. So how can you embrace the warmer seasons with a healthy dose of self-esteem and well-being?
Seven ways to boost your self-esteem this spring

1. Focus inwards
Rather than focusing on your external world eg. that your sister is striving for body perfection on the 5:2 diet; that bikini clad model bodies are scattered through every spring edition of glossy magazines; that the shops are full of ‘essential holiday stuff’ to buy (and you know that these things don’t really make you feel sustainably better), put on your blinkers to the world and direct your energy inwards. What is important to you for the coming months? Friendships, activities, learning, culture – expand your mind to the possibilities ahead.

2. Your body
If you feel that you need to lose a bit of weight and tone up, instead of going on a crazy diet and exercise routine, (to then rebound from with serious overeating due to feelings of deprivation some weeks later), focus on some mini and sustainable goals for change - eg. I am going to walk to work three days a week; I am going to take some tasty and nutritious food in my lunchbox every day.

3. Be realistic about change
And be your best self. Basing your self-worth on getting down to size X for your cousin’s wedding or trying to be ‘bikini ready’ for the summer vacation is possibly going to set you up feeling disappointed. If you have never been a boyish size 8, then maybe you need to rethink your goals. Instead of going on ‘the regime’ take a trusted friend or use a personal shopping service to help you to enhance your best body bits and to choose colours that really suit you.

4. No-one is perfect
Remember that everyone else has insecurities, imperfections and frailties, even if it doesn’t look like it. Super-Mum at the school gates, or Ms Perfect in the office, or Mr Talented in your study group all too have their own little troubles and self-doubting. Such is life. When you put someone on a pedestal, you immediately put yourself down in the dumps. Make a conscious choice not to do this. Judging your inner self by someone’s outer self is counter-productive.

5. Beware of beautiful lifestyle websites (and glossy magazines) portraying the ideals
This is the airbrushed, beautifully presented fantasy. You can still enjoy the voyeurism of soaking up ideas and inspiration, but do it with a conscious mind – this is the best and pretty version of someone’s life.

6. Make a decision to boost your self-worth based on other things apart from your body
Notice your qualities, eg. kind to a friend; thoughtful to my partner; working hard and motivated on the project; attractive smile. Write these down in a journal. Get in the habit of appreciation of yourself and the world. It beats listening to your inner critic.

7. Self-care with abandon
Buy yourself your favourite flowers; a new fragrant perfume; go for a lovely walk; spend time with a trusted friend; laugh at film you have wanted to see; read that new novel. A life peppered with mini pleasures and injections of joy and well-being is usually a happier one.

Enjoy this spring-time. If you are struggling to boost your self-esteem alone and are feeling low and stuck, it might be worth talking to a therapist to get some additional support.

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.





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Counselling support for eating disorders and body image.