Ok. So you’ve stopped dieting. But you’re still a size 16. How can this possibly be a good thing? Get back on that diet and get yourself down to a size 10, fatty……..
I’m slightly ashamed to admit that in my not so positive moments (which thankfully occur far less frequently these days), this is what I imagine a lot of people think when I tell them that I am a diet-ditching health coach!
So in a bid to silence my (inner?) critics, I thought it was worth putting pen to paper in a bid to explain my current relationship with food.
Eating for nutrition (not weight loss).
Let’s get straight to the nub of it. When it comes to food, my end goal has been transformed. I now realise that it is far more important to eat in a way that nourishes my body, than it is to eat in a way that merely shrinks it. Oh and it’s also really, REALLY important to me that that nourishment happens to come in a really delicious form!
We all know that in order to improve our diet, the best (and most simple) thing we can do is to eat more fresh fruit and veg and to drink more water. I’m obviously not discounting or excluding other food groups here, but in my honest opinion, if you concentrate on adding in extra veg and water, you’re off to a winning start and the rest is all down to how adventurous and creative you are. So there’s no longer any calorie counting or carb dodging involved with my daily meals. In order to satisfy me now, the food I eat just needs to bring me nourishment and joy.
Crowding out not cutting out
When I was dieting, all of my energy and focus used to be trained on restriction and deprivation. Only eating things on the green list; sticking to my daily allowance of X; saving my allowance to enable a weekend “blow out”. How bloody depressing!
Rather than focussing on the things that I’m cutting out, I now search for ways of adding more in, which feels so damn liberating! Just how many different veggies can I cram into my delicious curry? What protein can I add to my breakfast to make sure I stay full until lunch? I know that it’s sometimes an over used word these days, but abundance is definitely where it’s at!!
The strange concept of treating yourself
For most of my life, “treating myself” meant filling up (some might call it bingeing) on as much high fat, high salt, high sugar food as I could cram in to my mouth in one sitting. This ludicrous practice was a kick back to the restriction that I would place on myself while following the latest strict diet and thank God I’m now able to see just how ridiculous and damaging this was.
These days I look to treat my body with food that I know is going to taste amazing and make me feel great both physically and mentally, rather than leaving me feeling sick, bloated and guilt-ridden. A massive salad with spiced roasted chickpeas and a gorgeous homemade dressing? Sounds great. Sourdough toast topped with avocado, tomatoes and chilli? Yes please! An exotic fruit salad with a helping of greek yogurt? Ship it in!! I know full well that if I eat foods like this, not only will I thoroughly enjoy myself while I’m eating them, I’ll also feel satisfied and fantastic once the meal is over. No more food hangovers or beating myself up for days on end over my perceived lack of willpower.
And I’m not saying that I never eat high fat, high salt, high sugar food any more. I do! I still eat takeaways and chocolate bars, I just no longer see them as a treat. And believe me, that mental shift makes a world of difference and means that I don’t crave them half as often; which brings me on to the next point……..
Allowing yourself freedom to “cheat”
I have such vivid memories of me and my best friend spending the best part of a week planning the no-holds-barred food fest that we were going to indulge in following our Slimming World weigh in. I actually used to fantasise about it!! Which takeaway would it be? What selection of chocolate bars would I scoff before and after said takeaway? We called it our cheat meal, even though what I managed to consume in that one sitting would have contained waaaaay more food than would usually be considered just one meal. I would eat until I felt sick. Not because I was hungry, but because I knew that if I wasted this one window of opportunity then I’d have to wait a whole week before I was able to taste such freedom again!
But guess what? If you aren’t following a diet then you have no rules to stick to and therefore no reason to cheat. If you want to eat the chocolate bar, then eat the chocolate bar. Any time you want. But I’ll bet that you’ll find that if you know you’re “allowed” it, you won’t crave it half as much. It’s just like children – as soon as you tell them they can’t have something, they’ll argue that it’s the one thing they want most in the whole wide world – right?! Well adults work in the same way. Tell us not to think about a pink elephant and we’ll immediately start thinking about that pink elephant and nothing else. It’s the same with food! Remove the restrictions and the cravings will ease off……… Crazy huh?!
Listening to hunger cues (not eating for the sake of it)
Ok, so I know that this phrase is bandied about willy nilly but now I really do try hard “listen to my body” when it comes to the food that I put in it!
When we diet, we inadvertently train ourselves to run rough-shod over the cues that our body gives us. Rather than recognising when we are hungry (or full) and acting on it, we force ourselves to wait until it’s the “right time” to eat. And likewise, instead of tuning in and really thinking carefully about which food our body is really craving next, we are trained to stick to the meal plan that we’ve oh-so-carefully mapped out, sometimes days in advance. How can I possibly know what dinner I’m going to want on Wednesday evening if I’m planning it at Saturday breakfast time? It’s bonkers and I want my meal planning to be as flexible as my appetite.
I know this may sound like a meal planning/shopping nightmare, but I find that the best way to manage it is to keep cupboards stocked up with the basics that I come back to time and time again. Then I just need to do a weekly shop for fresh produce and any key ingredients for new recipes (or old favourites) that I’ve got my eye on for some point during that week, but other than that, I try to go with the flow as much as possible.
The upshot is that food no longer controls me the way it used to when I was locked in dieting hell, and the sense of freedom I get from that is truly amazing. But here’s the caveat: none of these practices have just snapped into place at the click of my fingers. I’ve wholeheartedly thrown myself into this way of eating over the last few years, and reaching this point has involved a lot of studying, trial and error and introspection.
Added to which I know that the “journey” isn’t yet over and probably never will be. I don’t have it all perfectly sussed all of the time. I’m not sure anyone does. Life is all about the ebbs and flows and there are still occasions when I feel myself getting lost and reverting to old patterns of thinking and eating. But nowadays, instead of hitting the panic button and searching desperately for the latest quick fix, I take some time to figure out why I might be feeling that way and then focus my attention on fixing the problem, rather than just covering it up with the false promises that the diet industry are so keen to feed me!
If you’d like to find out more about any of the points I’ve covered above, why not contact me? Feel free to join my Facebook group (it’s a closed group so only others within the group can read what you write) or drop me an email so we can arrange a chat – I’d love to find out how I could help you.
For the last week or so, I’ve been feeling a bit rubbish. I’ve felt overwhelmed by the amount of “stuff” I have to do; I’ve not been listening to my body and as a result have been eating quick, easy and not particularly nutritious food, and as an extra added bonus, I’ve been letting that inner bitch get louder and nastier with each passing day.
I’m not entirely sure what’s brought me to this point. I think its been a culmination of a number of different things, but what I do know is that rather than wallowing and allowing myself to descend faster and harder into a downwards spiral, I need to pull up my big girl pants and start working on finding my little miss positive once again.
After mentioning feeling like this in my Facebook group this morning, a few other Happilicious ladies said that they have been struggling recently too, so I thought I’d use this week’s blog post to share some of the ways I’ve pulled myself out of a rut in the past.
1. Starting my day with a green smoothie
I know it sounds like such a cliché, but starting my day with a green smoothie makes a huge difference to my mornings. If I start the morning with with rushed, crappy breakfast, I can pretty much guarantee that the rest of the food for the day will continue in the same vein. When I crack open the Nutribullet, I feel far more positive just as a result of the knowledge that I’ve filled my body with some tip top nutrients before the day has even begun (my smoothies usually consist of spinach, frozen berries, banana, cacao powder, been pollen and almond milk). In my book, taking the time to make myself a smoothie also counts as an act of self love – I’m proving to myself that I’m worth the effort!
2. Booking a wax and whacking on the moisturiser
When you’re feeling like shit, faking it til you make it is definitely where its at! And for me, when my limbs are flaky, dry and hairy, even faking it it damn near impossible. So, in order to give myself an extra helping hand, I’ve booked myself into a salon to get a good old wax and then I’ll be using the beautiful moisturiser that I usually save for best (Jo Malone – a great 40th birthday pressie from my best mate) and I’ll be slathering myself in the stuff until I feel like a beautifully scented goddess!
Self care is so important and yet it’s often overlooked. We spend our days so wrapped up in taking care of everyone else, that we let ourselves slip to the bottom of the pile, and then we wonder why we end up feeling like a wrung out rag! I say it’s time we start a self care revolution!
3. Listening to podcasts that amuse and inspire me
I do quite a bit of walking every day and when I’m not with the kids, my ear buds are well and truly lodged in. Now while I LOVE music, it sometimes makes a really welcome change to listen to a podcast or two and over the last few months I’ve discovered some new favourites which keep me entertained and amused. My only problem when listening to podcasts is dealing with the bemused stares I get from people when I’m giggling out loud or nodding along in agreement!
Just in case you fancy having a listen, I’m currently loving Cherry Healey’s Letters to my Fanny; The Whole and Healthy Live podcast with Laura Agar Wilson and Kezia Hall; Don’t Salt My Game by Laura Thomas PHD – admittedly the last two are about me getting my health coaching geek on, but I’m pretty sure that you’ll find them interesting too.
4 Stepping away from social media and getting my head in some books
I’m going to write a whole post entirely about this issue, but I thought it was worth touching on here any way…..When you’re feeling a bit crap, the last thing you need is to be dealing with the inevitable comparison that occurs when you spend an age pouring over other peoples’ perfectly curated social media feeds. So why not think about giving yourself a Facebook/Instagram break for a day or two? If you find your fingers twitching over your phone grab a paperback and remind yourself how lush it feels to read actual, real books again instead! (I’m currently LOVING “Big Girl” by Kelsey Miller).
5 Having a hibernation day at home
While I’m writing this list extoling the virtues of taking action to get yourself out a hole, I’m also a big believer in occasionally going with the flow and allowing yourself some guilt free time to indulge in a pity party for one! There are times when we really are just knackered and burnt out and what we really need to do is give ourselves permission to do nothing but hibernate under a blanket in front of Netflix for a while! If you are able to take a day/half a day/ and hour or two, where you can truly switch off and chill out, then plan it in.
Make sure that during your allotted time slot, you do nothing but look after numero uno and treat yourself with the same comfort and care you would a child who was having a sick day off school. Use the time to recharge your batteries, and once your allotted time slot is over, then start working towards putting a positive plan into action.
I know that some of you are probably bored of me banging on about this, and I included it in my 7 day challenge, but I really do feel passionate about how powerful a practice it is. Take 5 minutes, every day to remind yourself of all of the good stuff you’ve got going on. It is so easy to get bogged down in the internal lists of things that aren’t going well that the positives are easily overlooked, so make the effort to remind yourself of them.
Life is all about the ebbs and flows. I’m totally aware that this is a feeling I’ve experienced before and you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll feel it again. But appreciating that this is an inevitable part of life which will pass, and being able to use it as a stepping stone towards positivity, makes all the difference. I’m not suggesting that these same tips will work for you, but I hope that they will at least give you a little inspiration next time you’re feeling a bit meh!
If you have any other fail safe tactics that you go to when you’re wobbling, I’d love to hear them!
Shortly after my first baby was born (over 8 years ago now), I went to the GP for the scheduled 6 week check up. The doctor had a cursory glance at my son and didn’t show much concern about the large lump he had over his right eyebrow (which, incidentally had to be surgically removed a few months later) No Siree Bob! What the doctor could not wait to do was to make sure I realised I was fat, and “really should try to do something about it!”
Believe it or not I didn’t need him to tell me I was overweight. It was something I had actually managed to figure out all by myself! He also went on to ‘help’ me by explaining how easy the process for losing weight is: simply eat less and move more. Well bloody hell, if only someone had let me in on that little secret earlier eh?! He even used the phrase “you’re obviously quite a bright girl, it’s really not that hard”…………
Now, I know I’m not medical expert but at this point I feel compelled to add an FYI to any GPs who may be reading this – talking in this manner to an obviously overweight, first time mum who is only 6 weeks post partum (with all of those crazy hormones circulating at max speed), is not a particularly clever move!
While I had not had a whiff of post natal depression up to this point, this appointment quickly extinguished all of my new mum fuzzy warm glow and sent me into a nasty black hole. All of the anxieties which had plagued me throughout my younger years, came flooding back and were now magnified larger than ever as concerns about my health/appearance/suitability for motherhood began to spiral out of control and I’m sad to say, ended in some quite drastic and destructive behaviour from me.
Those GP visits
While I look back on this appointment with horror now, I’m sad to say that it wasn’t something that was completely new to me. I have lost count of the number of times I have visited a GP about a completely unrelated issue (ear ache, ingrowing toenail…..) only to have the appointment concluded in some “helpful” advice about my need to lose weight. Unfortunately, my experiences are not that uncommon and I know of many other ladies who have faced similar issues with their GPs.
Now I’m not denying that there are increased health risks associated with being overweight. We are all well versed on the correlation between obesity and a myriad of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. However, we are also now increasingly aware of the fact that the dietary advice often suggested as the default by our healthcare providers is pretty outdated and more than a little questionable (low fat/high carb?) So what is the alternative?
Health At Every Size
Well, I would argue that we should all focus on eating for health rather weight loss. You would have thought that they were two and the same right? WRONG!!! All too often, weight loss plans are focussed solely on the intention of dropping pounds and the assumption that that in itself will automatically result in improved health. Unfortunately, most main stream weight loss plans encourage a reliance on over processed ready meals and snacks with a huge list of unpronounceable and questionable ingredients. As a general rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it!!!
If you do an internet search for HAES (Health At Every Size) you will see that there is a whole movement dedicated to the cause of eating for health rather than weight loss. Their theory is that dramatic, sustained weight loss is practically impossible for the vast majority of people. In fact they go on to point out that: “Efforts towards such weight loss are instead held to cause rapid swings in size that inflict far worse physical and psychological damage than would fat itself.” I couldn’t agree more. Been there, done that and worn the XXL t-shirt!
Eating for Health
So how do we eat for health? Well, the most significant dietary change you can make is to ditch any processed food that you currently eat. As a general rule of thumb, if it comes in a package with a list of ingredients on the side, steer clear! Remind yourself that real food is ingredients rather than has ingredients. If you start buying and cooking good quality fresh produce, this in itself will have a dramatic impact on your health. Focus on real food that is grown in a field rather than made in a factory and you won’t go far wrong. Just aim to include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, good quality meat and fish, eggs and dairy, nuts and seeds and healthy oils in your daily diet. No other rules; no points, syns or calories to count. Just a range of gorgeous food for you to experiment with and enjoy in abundance!
I’ll admit that If you have been caught in the diet trap for a long time, it can feel scary to turn your back on the set recipes/meal plans and daily counting. For some, the freedom can even feel daunting and somewhat overwhelming and if you feel you need some support with that, then by all means, get in touch! I can promise you that once you start to flex your food freedom, the difference it makes to both your physical and mental well-being is astounding; When you shift your focus away from weight loss, life starts to taste so much better!
I’d love to hear from you if you’ve had similar experiences with your GP. Have you visited the surgery about a non-weight-related issue, only to be sent away feeling fat and useless? Or have have you ever followed a diet plan provided by your GP? How did you find it and what sort of support were you given while following it?
Please feel free to share your comments in the box below, on my Facebook page or group or by all means, email me directly.
Wow!!!! Where to begin……….? Well, last night was the night when I finally got to see the documentary, Embrace whilst sitting in a cinema surrounded by amazing ladies. It’s a film I’ve been trying to bring to Truro Plaza since December last year and I know that many there were surprised to find out that it was actually the first time I’d seen the film.
I know it sounds crazy, but even though I hadn’t actually watched it, I fell in love with Embrace back in 2013 when the initial Crowd Funder appeal started circulating on Social Media. At the time, I was still firmly ensconced in Slimming World and getting more and more desperate and demoralised by my lack of progress, lack of freedom, and resulting lack of happiness!
Seeing the early trailer for Embrace almost felt like a gift… A glimmer of hope that there were other women out there who felt just like me and that there was another way. Not another diet – God knows I’d tried (and failed and succeeded and failed and succeeded and failed…. You get the picture!!!) enough of those. But another way of living, thinking and being. It was undoubtedly one of the things that encouraged me to begin my journey towards self love and ultimately to re-train as a body positive health coach.
For those of you who haven’t heard about the film, it is an eye-opening documentary which was made by Aussie Taryn Brumfitt after she came to terms with her own body image issues and decided to investigate the effects of these issues upon women across the globe. Her findings are both heart -breaking (she discovers that 91% of women hate their bodies – WTF?!!!) and encouraging as she goes on to meet some incredibly inspirational women who prove that it is possible to make peace with your body in even the most difficult of circumstances.
I think it’s safe to say that all of us in the cinema last night felt moved and inspired by the film’s message and content. What particularly struck me was the fact that it wasn’t ‘just’ a film about learning to love your wobbly bits. And neither was it about encouraging obesity or an unhealthy lifestyle (a criticism that is often lazily fired whenever the words “body positivity” are mentioned).
Embrace covered many other aspects of body image issues, from the models who struggle to maintain their stick thin frames (and keep the work rolling in) to burns survivor Turia Pitt whose belief that her horrific accident “may have been the best thing that ever happened to me” as it has given her a different point of view and a different path to follow. I mean…… WOW! Who didn’t feel humbled and ashamed of their own seemingly insignificant “issues” at that point?!
While I loved the film itself, I have also been utterly amazed and overjoyed by the conversations that have already begun happening as a result. In the few short hours since last night’s screening, I’ve had ladies telling me that they are going to quit dieting, that they are no longer going to criticise their own bodies in front of their own children and that they want to make other positive changes in their lives as a direct result of watching Embrace.
We have to keep talking to one another about the body image issues that we all face. In our offices, shops and staff rooms, it is depressingly common for conversations to revolve solely around the latest diet or exercise trend and how much weight it’s going to make you lose. A great starting point would be to try to steer those conversations in a more positive direction. Tell them about Embrace. Tell them what you’ve learned!
I walked out of the cinema last night on a total high which, thanks to all of the wonderful messages of encouragement and support that I’ve received today has not disappeared yet. It is amazing to be a part of such a powerful surge of positivity and I feel honoured to have watched the film, on International Women’s Day, in a room full of brilliant, diverse women (and 3 men!)
Now its time to keep the momentum going. We’ve seen the light, so now let’s work together to make it glow even brighter!
So Valentines Day has been and gone for another year; the foil wrapped chocolate hearts have left the building and the crème eggs are filling up the shelves as we speak!
I have to say, I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentines day. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a hopeless romantic at heart, but I don’t like being told when to be romantic, and I hate the idea that romance has only one day designated to it annually! However, one thing that I did love about V-day this year, was the widespread encouragement to pay more attention to self love in the midst of all of the teddy bears and over priced flowers.
Now, for many of us, self love is an alien concept which is tricky, if not downright impossible to grasp. Loving ourselves is something we just do not do! From the shaky days of adolescence when our bodies morph into something which feels uncomfortable and unrecognisable, we often continue to foster a difficult relationship with our bodies as we grow and mature. We’re forever being told how important it is to make our bodies look the same way they used to when we were young, carefree, (child-free?!) twenty-somethings. We’re encouraged to chase an ideal which for most of us, just isn’t attainable. Because guess what, our bodies are constantly changing. Its what they do!!! Time of the month? Pregnancy? Post pregnancy? Winter? Summer? Menopause? An ever changing reflection is an inevitable part of life and yet we’re all fixated on looking like a younger/slimmer/more toned version of ourselves. And worse, we’re told that’s absolutely how we should look……. and if we don’t? Then we’re just not good enough!
We’re encouraged to fixate on the us of yesterday rather than being happy and content with the us of today.
It’s safe to say that we have all been brain washed. The media is constantly telling us that in order to be accepted by wider society, we must all look a particular way, and that if we don’t, then we damn well need to be doing something about it – sharpish! Hence forests worth of magazine pages, filled to the brim with the latest quick fix diet fad promising to make us all look like Jennifer Anniston.
But then they take it even further, because the next thing we’re led to believe is that if we attempt the latest diet (the one that promises a “bikini body”) but we don’t achieve it in the same way that Jennifer Anniston has, then it is definitely, undoubtedly, 100% OUR FAULT.
So now look at you….. not only do you not have a bikini body, (and are therefore, by default, a hideous mess) but you’re also a failure because everyone else manages to stick to this diet and achieve wonderful results – if you don’t believe us, just look at the before and after pics………..
Bloody hell, it’s no wonder we’re all struggling in the self love department. I’m surprised we manage to get out of bed in the mornings! The truth of the matter is that, of all of the people who lose weight on a diet, 95% will go on to regain the lost llbs , and then some….. 95%!!!!!
When you look at numbers like that, I think it’s pretty obvious that the problem is with the diets, rather than the dieters. But here’s the the big secret; diets are designed to fail! They are intended to be a short term fix, because guess what, keeping you coming back for more, time and time again is how they make their money.
So I say, its time we stick two fingers up at the diet industry and make a change ourselves. Let’s sack off the diets and stop trying to turn back time (damn you Cher!) and instead, put in the effort that it takes to start loving our bodies as they are today.
Given time and encouragement, we can all find something we like about ourselves, but for some of us, the battle has run so deep, for so long that it can feel like an insurmountable task. So in a bid to get the ball rolling, I’ll go first……..
Ok, I may not look like a supermodel (who does?!), but I’ve got two strong legs that allow me to walk my children to and from school every day; oh and those two children….? I grew them in my belly (how amazing is that?!!) So I guess I’ll excuse it for being soft and wobbly!!! I’ve got two brilliant ears that let me listen to the latest Elbow album REALLY LOUD and a cracking voice that lets me belt out the amazing choruses……see, absolutely no room for false modesty round here!
Now it’s your turn. It may be your gorgeously thick hair, your dimples when you smile or your perfect sense of direction! Whatever it is, notice it, appreciate it and be grateful for it!
Once you start making your list of positives, try reminding yourself of them regularly and then adding to them each time a new aspect of your fabulous self becomes apparent! Once you start making small mind-set shifts like this, you’ll be amazed at what a difference it can make to your general sense of wellbeing.
Replacing the negative self talk with some positivity is a big, bold step towards a brighter future and if you’re looking for more help and support, why not sign up to receive my FREE 7 Happilicious Days challenge where you’ll find more small ideas which can lead to big change!
I’d love to hear about the positive shifts you make in your life, so please drop me an email or pop over to the facebook group to spread the positivity!