Overcoming the green-eyed monster

green snake

We hear it all the time “don’t compare yourself to others” but in reality, it’s very difficult. As soon as we see someone with something we want, we feel envious and it often leads to feelings of inadequacy or feeling like we don’t have enough. When we do something that we see as taking us away from achieving what they have (like eating ice cream when we’re trying to lose weight) we may chastise ourselves and say things to ourselves like ‘no wonder you’ll never look like so and so, you have no self-control”.

Other than being nasty to ourselves, envy and comparison can cause us to be hostile or even rude to someone else (eg. keyboard warriors). Being rude or unkind never feels nice, we may defend our behaviour or excuse it, but deep down we know that hurting others is really only hurting ourselves. But sometimes it’s hard to avoid, and the result is that we either dislike ourselves or dislike others as a result of comparison and envy.

So how to overcome the green eyed monster?

  1. Acknowledge what we’re feeling. Sometimes just saying “I’m feeling shame and sadness because I think I don’t make enough money after talking to Sally about how much she earns” or “I’m feeling envious of Nikki because she has a beautiful body and I don’t think mine compares” can put it into perspective – both the fact that we’re experiencing emotions (that come and go) but also that we’re having negative thoughts (and thoughts aren’t facts).
  2. Have compassion for ourselves – envy, shame, guilt, sadness – they’re all human emotions, and other people feel them too, it’s totally normal but you’re not alone and you’re certainly not inadequate for feeling them!
  3. Compassion toward others – putting someone on a pedestal is almost saying that their life is easy, or easier than yours. But that discounts that they are also human and therefore deal with all the same things we do – envy, self-doubt, worry about their weight or size, ill family and friends, personal illness and injury, they miss promotions and forget their friend’s birthdays too! Give them compassion and love rather than thinking they have an easy life (especially if they portray an easy life on social media – often this sets them up for high levels of anxiety, should the truth come out or should they lose the things that make them instafamous like their lean body or good looks. They’re often highly scrutinized too, and online bullies hit them hard so it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Give them love and you’ll feel better almost instantly!
  4. Use it as a motivator: okay, so if you think someone’s thinner than you certainly don’t try to lose weight, but it’s really their happiness you envy (which you assume is a result of their lean body) so why not use it as a motivator to be more positive and grateful? These are the things that really make us happier after all.

Remember, as with any negative (or positive) emotions, they’re just emotions and they come and go. Emotions change constantly and although we’re feeling a particular way, it doesn’t mean we need to act upon that feeling. Take a deep breath, get outside and get perspective. If your envy and comparison occurs most often when scrolling through your Insta-feed or watching SnapChat then consider unfollowing these people, or deleting the apps off your phone for a few days while you connect with the things in the real world that make life truly satisfying.


I BROKE MY ANKLE! How I’m eating (and not-moving) now that I’m bed-ridden.

Last week I was thrown off my horse and landed on my ankle. It broke in a number of places and I ended up having surgery that night with 2 plates inserted into either side of my leg. My surgeon has instructed me to bed rest for 2 weeks, a cast or boot (depending how I’m healing) and crutches for another 4 weeks, then a boot for another 6 after that. I won’t be walking on it without a boot for 3 months and won’t be able to start doing my normal activities for 4 months. Full recovery will take 1 year.

brokenfoot

I’m a personal trainer. I was headed for yoga teacher training in November in India for 4 weeks and I horse ride twice a week. I have four dogs who I take for long bush walks and I move my body through yoga or a workout every day and spend the majority of my time at work and home on my feet (we have a 2.5 acre property with gardens and chickens so there’s a lot to do). Needless to say, my new prescription from the surgeon has me pretty stumped (‘scuse the pun).

Of course, as soon as you hear you’re not moving for the next while your mind goes straight to “shit I’m going to put on weight”. But as soon as I had the thought I dismissed it because I know my body will look after me. When it comes to movement, I have no choice. Pain is my conductor, and although I could obsessively crutch down the hallway trying to get my heart rate up (which I probably would have done in the past) my ankle absolutely kills when I’m upright and I want this thing to heal as quickly and as well as possible! So that’s just not an option. Sure, when I’m off crutches and have my Dr’s permission I’ll get back into some upper body workouts and even now 5 days later I’ve been doing some stretches to keep movement and mobility up (mainly because I’m very stiff from lying down all day) but I’m pretty limited by pain and I don’t want to push it so I let my body be my guide and if it feels good I do it, and if it doesn’t, I don’t.

When it comes to food it’s amazing already to observe how my body knows what it needs. From the first morning in hospital my appetite has been severely diminished. I’m not as hungry as often, and my meals have been much smaller because I just don’t feel like eating. I am thirsty like nothing else, so my water intake has been much higher than usual (possibly my liver needing it to flush all the drugs, but I’m sure a lot of water is used in healing and all the processes happening down at my ankle too). I am craving fruit and fresh veggies like nothing else, and really just want light meals. When it’s time to eat I ask myself what I feel like, and then choose that. I’m sure this will change with time. I’m detoxing all the drugs at the moment and so have been feeling quite nauseous. I’ve also slept a lot and sometimes just couldn’t be bothered eating because I’m tired and drowsy. But when I am out of bed and up a lot more my appetite will change. Luckily, I don’t have to do anything different – I’ll continue to check in with what I want and I’ll let my hunger and fullness be my guides as to when I eat and how much I eat.

This is the glorious thing about intuitive eating – I haven’t had to stress. I know inherently that my body will be my guide, and it has so far to a tee. I don’t have to count my calories (which would really be impossible anyway because my partner prepares my meals and asking him to weigh and measure and track all my food on top of the enormous strain of doing absolutely everything else would neither be practicable nor fair). I don’t have to worry for one second that I’ll gain weight, because I know my appetite will be adjusted for how limited my movement and energy expenditure are so my body will figure it out for me.

The best thing about all of this is that I know I can practice the greatest self-love of all – allowing my body to heal in the way that it knows how without interfering. Right now all I need to do is repair these broken bones and me, as in the conscious thinking me, has no idea how to do that! I do not instruct my body to heal, it just does it, intuitively, magically, marvellously. I am so in awe of this incredible thing known as my body, from the way it initially spared me from pain when I came off my horse, to all the things it did up until and post-surgery to protect that ankle from any further damage so it could start the healing process.

Intuitive eating is about so much more than finding food freedom. It has taught me to respect and honour my body and relinquish control from things that my body can look after itself. Now, more than ever, I am so grateful that I learned to shut up and listen.


FAQ: I want to quit dieting, but summer is coming and I’m unhappy with my body. What do I do?

summer

Okay, so I am often saying that diets suck, we shouldn’t diet or attempt to lose weight through traditional means, and we need to embrace our bodies as they are. But I realise this isn’t as easy as it sounds, and sometimes we get some really intense thoughts that we need to lose weight. See, I get them too, but I’ve just taught myself to ignore them or to dig a little deeper and find out what it is that I really want. So, with the beginning of sunny season here in the Southern Hemisphere meaning more bikinis, shorts and other diet-triggering clothes, I thought I’d share with you how I do it.

Just the other day I was going to the beach with my man and none of my bikinis fit. I’d bought them all 3 years ago at my lowest weight, and then last Summer we were selling our house so I didn’t have time for the beach. Anyway, I got a little nervous, before realising that I had bought them when I was a lot smaller, and starving, and grumpy and unhappy so I grabbed one that did fit and headed to the sandy shore. But then I caught my reflection in his sunnies, and thought ‘shit, my stomach is looking a bit flabby’. So this is what I did:

  1. I looked up. I was sitting on a glorious beach on a Tuesday afternoon when most people were in an office at work. The waves were slowly lapping the shore, the water was crystal clear and a really beautiful turquoise colour and the sky was a perfect blue, with not a cloud in sight. It was stunning. Shifting your focus to your surroundings and becoming mindful in that moment is key to getting your thoughts away from your body. And you don’t have to be in a stunning setting to do so, even now I sit on the train and I close my eyes and just pay attention to the sounds of the wheels click-clacking on the tracks, feel the sun come in through the window and notice my breath coming in gently through my nose. It has an immediate calming effect and you realise you’re just a body on a beach, more beautiful than any body is the ocean and the sand.
  2. Earlier when I was trying on the bikinis and none of them fit I took a deep breath and reminded myself they are just smaller items of clothing. Clothing comes in many sizes, and these ones are smaller than my body. There are also clothes that are bigger than my body, but I don’t worry about not fitting into them. Sure, it means I’ve put on weight, but that’s because when I bought those bikinis I had counted every gram of food that had entered my lips for months, I’d trained 6+ x per week for nearly 2h a day, I wasn’t sleeping, I had called off my wedding 12 days before the date, I felt like I’d lost half my friends and I hadn’t eaten properly in months .. so I was going crazy. So I was smaller, but it wasn’t at all better. Now I’m bigger than then, but I’m happy and I eat food I enjoy, I don’t binge eat or binge drink, I go out for meals all the time, I am absolutely, positively joyful the majority of the time, I have an amazing relationship with movement and I appreciate my body for all it can do. So yes, I am bigger, but I’m happier so really, isn’t that better? (So, maybe you’re not happier. Maybe you’re at the start of your journey, and like I was at that point, you’re depressed and anxious and feel rotten, so you feel like you have nothing to lose if you diet, and a lot to gain. But I’ll tell you from someone standing 2 years on the other side: dieting and weight loss will not bring you the sort of happiness that comes from celebrating and loving your body for all it can do. Dieting will not bring you the happiness that comes from eating normally and letting go of restriction. Dieting will not bring you the happiness that you’re looking for, I can promise you that).
  3. Sometimes I get a thought I should lose weight because I’ve just eaten too much and feel really full. This isn’t a sign I should lose weight, it’s a sign I feel uncomfortable when I eat too much. That’s it. Even thin people eat too much occasionally. When I’ve been consistently eating too much, I remind myself to sit at the table when I eat, get off my phone, eat before I get starving and chew my food slowly. When I do that I eat til I’m comfortably full, and then I don’t feel gross after eating.
  4. Sometimes I think I should lose weight when I catch my reflection in the mirror, and then stare too long. I try not to look in mirrors unless it’s to fix my clothing or make sure I’m not covered in yogurt or coffee (story of my life). But sometimes I do, and I get caught doing the twirl and then think, ‘I’m a personal trainer I should have leaner legs, or more visible abs’. But then I question why? Why are those things indicators of my fitness, or my ability to motivate others during a workout, or my capacity to write programs and take people through a good workout? How would having abs and being leaner impact my ability to help my clients, other than sending them a message that they should look like that too (when I’m constantly telling people to embrace their bodies). How would being smaller make me a better person? A better friend? A better fiancée? Would it really help me feel more confident in situations where I question my abilities? No. The way to get more confident is by being better at something, and having a particular body shape is not being better at anything and confidence is NOT influenced by my weight or body fat %.
  5. The other day I spoke to a client about wanting to diet because dieting itself feels good, working towards a goal. So we decided to set other goals, non-diet goals, that she could focus on for the next few months. I get that feeling, I know it can seem enticing to follow a plan, and get weekly feedback from the scale, to wake up fresh and excited because today you’re working on something you want… and denying diets doesn’t mean you’re denying yourself that feeling, just get it from somewhere else. In my opinion, goals should be behaviourally based, or if they’re outcome based (like do 10 pull ups) you should set process (behaviour) goals in the shorter term – like practice pull ups 3 times per week at the gym.
  6. Sometimes I feel the urge to diet because someone close to me is dieting, and losing weight, and they’re in that joyful, ‘this diet is the best thing on earth’ phase and you can’t help believe them. But then I think about it, about what I’d have to eat if I was dieting, and how I’d have to ignore my hunger, and how I’d never feel satisfied, and how my weight loss would slow and I’d feel so disappointed, and how I’d get in those shitty moods because I still wasn’t at my goal weight and I wasn’t eating enough carbs and I wasn’t eating enough calories and I was constantly wondering if I’d eaten the wrong thing or annoyed because there was nothing on the menu that both suited my taste preference and my diet, and how when I diet I constantly feel ‘not enough’ because the message I am sending to myself is ‘you’re not enough’ and I think of all of that and I hear a big, fat, resounding F*@K THAT!!! And I realise that whilst my friend may be loving it, I didn’t love it, and I’m me not her and there’s nothing I can do to change that.
  7. I remember that dieting causes weight gain, and that they don’t work, and that they’ve never worked for me, and that I’ve always ended up heavier than when I started, and although I get little voices that say ‘but this time would be different, you wouldn’t diet you’d just eat healthier’ I know it’s a lie and I know it doesn’t work and I realise I just have to accept that fact. (I’ve written a whole post about this here.
  8. I use mantras. Sometimes when I’m feeling inadequate, for any reason, I just repeat out loud over and over ‘I am enough, I am enough, I am enough, I am enough’ Sometimes it makes me cry, because by saying it I realise how often I think I’m not, and I’m sorry to myself and I just am so sad for ever thinking I’m not enough, for any reason, and then I feel better and I feel empowered.
  9. I come home to myself. I just sit, and close my eyes, and just come back to my body. It’s a glorious body. It does some cool things (I’ll never get over the way my body can fight bugs or heal my skin when I hurt it or the way my brain can learn new things). It allows me to experience SO MUCH in this life, and I am just so grateful for everything I have experienced and that each day I can experience new things and old things, and things like seeing and hearing and feeling and touching and tasting (most of all tasting :P) and that I can get sparks when I feel my partner’s hands on my body, or feel warm when my mum gives me a hug, or laugh uncontrollably when my brother says something funny, or still feel a flood of love when I think of holding my dad’s hand, even though I haven’t done so for 7 years. I’m so grateful that I can walk up stairs, and swim in the ocean, and read cool stuff, and do handstands in the grass and run through the garden with my puppy. If I can do all these things now, why would I change anything? Maybe you can’t do these things because of your body size, but that’s not an indication you need to shrink, it’s an indication you need to practice more of what you want to do – like practice running, or walking upstairs, or do downdogs until you can handstand. If your current body restricts your movement, then change how much you move, but certainly don’t diet.
  10. I remember it’s just a body. This one is possibly the hardest, considering the diet-culture sodden society we live in. Our bodies mean so much to us, they’re status symbols and high school popularity passes. But you know, they’re just bodies. It’s just a vehicle that allows you to do things. The real you, who you are, you’re inside that body. That won’t change no matter what you do to the outside. Work on that instead, and you will feel 100 times better than any amount of weight loss. Buddhists say we should let go of attachment to all things, and I think this is especially the case when it comes to our bodies. There are so many reasons our bodies will change – like pregnancy and illness and injury and weight gain and age and accidents – in fact, they’re constantly changing and in 7 years not one cell in your body will be the same as it is today. You will be a totally different body. Every day our bodies change and if we hold on to our attachment to our body, we will never be happy. Let go. Just let go and let be and just be.

Breathe in. And out. And say with me “I am enough”.


Why you should never ever ever diet or attempt to lose weight through diet changes ever again (no matter what your size).

diet

I’m a personal trainer, so 99% of clients who come to me do so because they want to lose weight. ‘I’ve tried everything’ they say. When I ask more questions about why they want to lose weight I always get the same response, ‘to feel confident’. It’s not unusual that tears are shed at this point, and it really breaks my heart that diet failure has caused them so much pain. The thing is, we have been conditioned to think that the only way to lose weight is by dieting, and that should we lose that weight, we will feel confident. However, dieting itself decreases our confidence, because as you’ll read below, we’re destined to fail. And none if it is our fault. 

No matter how many times we hear “diets don’t work” we fall for the diet-culture language traps of “watching my weight”, “it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle” or for the gym-goers “cut or mini-cut”. Just recently I saw a post by a popular instagrammer in the fitness community who is currently doing a “cut” after proclaiming for 6 months that she was happy with her weight and sick of dieting. She was discussing all the ways she did the diet (cut is the word she used) wrong last time including being too restrictive. She spoke about how it will be different this time, but then later spoke about how she tries to not eat until midday so that she has more calories to eat when she does. This is DIET ALARM BELLS!!! The language we use so easily disguises what we’re really doing. So she says “I’m fasting until mid-day to make my mini-cut more bearable” when really what she’s saying is “I skip breakfast and only eat from lunch time so that I have more calories when I finally do it”. This is almost eating disorder behaviour, and concerns me that she has so many followers who’d listen to her advice.

I’m going to predict what happens. In a few weeks she’s finished her mini-cut. She’s perhaps lost the weight she wanted, but then she’ll struggle to keep it off. Her hunger will increase, she’ll have to decrease her calories more, and then she’ll feel lethargic if she doesn’t. She’ll put the weight back on, write a post about how it’s hard for her to deal with the extra weight but she couldn’t maintain that lean body, and then a month after that write a post about how unsustainable a lean figure is for her, how you just have to love your body regardless and how she needs more food to be happy. In 6 months this pattern will emerge again.

She is the typical female. There is nothing wrong with her, or with her body. She is not broken, she just naturally carries more weight than the fitness industry deems acceptable, so falls prey to the pressures to be like the other fitness influencers, unaware of the fact that most of them likely have eating disorders or are just genetically lean (YES, THIS IS A THING! YES, GENETICS PLAY A HUGE PART IN YOUR BODY COMPOSITION!).

Here’s an image of what’s going to happen over the next 6 weeks for her:

diet cycle

Look familiar?

That little orange overweight arrow, well for some that is a period of being overweight, but for many others who are in a healthy weight range it’s just a perception. However, should you continue this cycle, you increase your chance of heading into overweight or obese categories (which is not the worst thing in the world, but it’s certainly not your intention when starting a diet).

This cycle always ends with weight gain and often more than you lose – because your body learns to store more fat, become more efficient (meaning use less energy than usual), slows your metabolism and increases your appetite. The weight gain ends with dieting, and the cycle continues. What you’ll find in most overweight and obese people is that they have dieted their whole life. They are not lazy people who only eat deep fried or fast food (although of course there are some that do, just like there are some thin people that do too) but we find that typically they have dieted more and at any point are more likely to be on a diet.

When your body is in a caloric restriction (whether this comes from calorie counting, counting macros, watching what you eat, fasting, eliminating carbs, eating low-fat, from adopting a plant-based diet or any particular lifestyle regime) your body loses fat. Once it’s lost a particular amount of fat below your set point (the weight you have been at most of the time in your adult life; this number is different for everyone, as is the amount below your set point that your body fat can drop to) your body will say “shit I’m starving!” and it will increase your appetite, increase cravings for particular foods, slow down incidental energy burning (like jiggling legs and moving around), increase feelings of lethargy (read: low motivation and laziness), decrease your mood and decrease the rate at which it burns fat, even increasing how much fat it stores. You feel this as being hungry, thinking about food all the time, never wanting to go to the gym, feeling shit within yourself and seeing either the same number on the scale for weeks or seeing an increase. So you think there’s something wrong with you, you get mad at yourself, you feel like a failure, you aim to decrease your calories every day but end up skipping gym sessions and eating donuts instead. The amount of times “What’s the point?” and “May as well…” pass your lips before eating high calorie foods increases exponentially and before you know it you’ve put the weight you lost back on, plus some, and you wonder where on earth you failed and why you had to be born into your fat body instead of Miranda Kerr’s (I feel like this last sentence was a re-write of my diary at 16 years old).

But here’s the thing: this is all normal, it’s a built-in survival mechanism and humans would not be here if we didn’t have it, which is why it’s so hard-wired into all of us who’ve survived through evolution!

Here are the facts:

66% of people won’t lose weight on diets[1]

Diets are a predictor of weight gain[2]

80% of people will not complete their intended diet program (and this is not due to a lack of ‘willpower’ or ‘motivation) [3]

Most people who lose weight on diets will gain the weight back[4] with as much as two thirds of the weight lost regained in 12 months of completing the program and almost all of it by 5 years.[3]

Dieting leads to binge eating, over-eating, low self-esteem and low-mood[3]

Dieting leads to life threatening eating disorders.[5]

There are very few scientific studies evaluating effectiveness and safety of most diet approaches long-term, which means you could be doing something that won’t work (at best) and will harm you (at worst).[3]

Low calorie diets cause excessive loss of lean body mass (muscle) and program participants tend to return to their original weight within 5 years.[3]

Altering the proportion of calories from fat, carbohydrate and protein (ie. Counting macros or Low-carb/high-fat or high-carb/low-fat) has a limited effect on weight loss and any effect tends to come from caloric restriction overall.[3]

It’s frequently quoted that Einstein said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”. Well, that’s not the definition of insanity, and I’m not sure if he even said it but I always saw this as an indicator that if a diet didn’t work for me I should try another one. And another one. And another one. Oh maybe that one will work this time because ABC is now different and I’m more aware of where I went wrong. Didn’t work I’ll try another one. Maybe a meal service. Maybe another diet. And I did this for 14 years. FOURTEEN YEARS! Einstein would have declared me clinically insane and chucked me in the asylum – I’d totally missed the point. I shouldn’t have been trying different diets, if I was unhappy with my body I should have tried something else other than a diet. So I did, finally, HALLELUJAH! And here I am today.

So, what the hell can you do about it if you need to lose weight?

Weight gain develops when the systems the body uses to monitor level of body fat and adjust food intake and energy intake accordingly break down[6]. Two of these mechanisms are eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. These mechanisms are influenced by genetic, physiological and environmental factors, so are not always within our control, mind you so not everyone is going to be able to lose weight. That is just a fact of life. Especially if you’re on a medication or have a hormonal disorder which prevents it. So should you give up? No. There’s a whole movement about Health At Every Size (HAES) which is based on a book by Linda bacon (found here). I’d suggest reading that regardless of whether you can lose weight or not.

If you think you need to lose weight but are currently not overweight according to medical standards, then you need to re-assess your media consumption (especially social media consumption) because you don’t need to lose weight. This means your body is likely not going to easily let go of any weight, if you do it will be very hard and you will find it hard to keep it off too. So I’d suggest changing what you see as an ‘ideal’ body. To me, an ‘ideal body’ is one that lets me do cool things that I love. It may mean increasing your activity so that you’re stronger and more flexible, but it doesn’t mean changing your appearance through intentionally changing what you eat.

However, the best thing you can do no matter what your size is to learn to tune in to your own body. I’ve written a whole post about it (here) and I’d suggest you read that, plus the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole & Elise Resch (found here).

Most importantly, resist dieting! You’ll be a much happier person for it.

References:

[1] Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2012). Intuitive Eating. St Martins.

[2] Lowe, M.R., Doshi, S.D., Katterman, S.N.& Feig, E.H. (2013). Dieting and restrained eating as prospective predictors of weight gain. Frontiers in Psychology, 4. DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00577

[3] National Institutes of Health Technology Assessment Conference Statement: Methods for Voluntary Weight Loss and Control. (1992). Nutrition Reviews, 50(11), 340.

[4] Davidson, T.A.M. (2008). Weight Cycling. In J.L. Longe (Ed.). The Gale Encyclopedia of Diets: A Guide to Health and Nutrition, 2. Gale, Detroit: USA. P. 1004-1007.

[5] Goodrick, G.K., & Foreyt, J.P. (1991). Why treatments for obesity don’t last. J Am Diet Assoc, 91, 1243-1247.

[6] Sainsbury, A., Cooney, G.J., & Herzog, H. (2002). Hypothalamic regulation of energy homeostasis. Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 16(4), 623-637.


Why your bloating might have nothing to do with what you’re eating (and how to reduce it without changing your diet).

bloat

 

I used to get bloated all the time. A specialist told me it was IBS. At the time, treatment for IBS was a low fibre diet, including white bread, and that made it worse. Then the treatment changed to a low fructose diet, which pretty much means you can’t eat most vegetables or fruits, gluten or dairy, onions or garlic or anything with the letter a – z in it. So even I, #dietqueen did not try that one.

The symptoms were crippling though. My mum would say “just wear baggy clothes”. She totally didn’t get it. The pregnant look was the least of my worries, it hurt and gave me gas but worst of all, it seriously killed my mood. I would go into a major depressive episode, I didn’t want to get off the couch, I had no motivation for anything, I didn’t want to eat for fear it would make it worse, I couldn’t exercise because it was uncomfortable and I was just simply sick of it.

A few times the thought popped into my head that I need to stop dieting, and something that stopped me from trying intuitive eating was that I was convinced I had every food intolerance under the sun. ‘So maybe I need to go paleo’ I’d think as I stock piled avocado, sweet potato and pork belly. ‘Oh look, that girl is a raw vegan and cured her IBS’ I thought, as I bought 19kgs of watermelon for tomorrow’s breakfast. Nothing worked. One day bananas made me bloated, the next it was water. There was no pattern and I could never guess what would set it off.

Meanwhile, my life spiralled out of control with the gym/dieting and it soon emerged that I had to quit dieting or I’d lose everything I loved. So I focused on that and figured I’d just have to deal with bloating for now. My psychologist kept questioning my so-called intolerances, ‘but have you ever had them actually diagnosed?’ No, I’d answer, but I’d spent about 50% of my life reading nutritional articles and watching youtube videos, so I was basically a dietitian and anyway, mainstream nutrition doesn’t recognise that everyone is intolerant to basically everything since agriculture, right? (Hmm). She challenged this, and suggested if my symptoms persisted we’d organise to see a dietitian.

But here’s the thing.. once I stopped dieting my bloating basically stopped! I couldn’t believe it. Dieting was causing the bloat? How was that possible? (Well, let’s just remember that firstly, just because something occurs at the same time as something else, it doesn’t mean that one of them caused the other. Similarly, just because something stops at the same time something else stops, it doesn’t mean one made the other stop too, but that’s a science conversation for another time.)

But I looked into it. STRESS is a major disruptor to digestive processes. The University of Nottingham, UK, conducted a study where corticotrophin releasing hormone (which is part of the stress response) was intentionally increased in subjects in two different ways, in both instances the small bowel was constricted which increased the sensation of stomach distention and bloating. They suggest that stress causes water to move from the small bowel to the ascending colon, which is what causes the feeling of bloat[1].

When stress kicks in, a whole lot of mechanisms in the body prepare you for ‘fight-or-flight’ and one of these is to decrease blood flow to the digestive system – there’s no point digesting dinner if you get eaten by a bear! Not only does our digestive system stop when fight-or-flight kicks in but cortisol, which is released as a part of the stress response to decrease inflammation and calm down the fight-or-flight response, actually has an impact on the way we digest food, as well as our gut bacteria![2]

It’s also been found that stress management has had a positive effect on symptoms of IBS. A study conducted by Yasuj University of Medical Sciences in Iran found that cognitive behavioural stress treatment combined with typical treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (medication) was significantly more effective at reducing symptoms than the medication alone[3]

I can’t tell you the number of people who struggle with bloating. And I’m not a nutritionist, dietitian or GP, so I’m not going to tell you what is causing it (and really, it will be different for everyone). But I will tell you this, your diet brain wants you to think that it’s what you’re eating, that there’s some culprit in your food that is causing that bloat. And it may be the case. But similarly, it may not be. I’m all for trying different things, but I’m not down with self-diagnosing digestive disorders and changing your diet in the name of such a disorder. If you struggle with bloating, see a specialist and get it properly diagnosed. If nothing comes up, it could be stress.

My top tips to reduce stress? Stop dieting, start meditating, practice yoga and walking in nature, and lie on your back for 5 minutes every day breathing into your belly. Decrease your stress levels and see if that helps.

Struggle with bloating? Comment below and share your story. If you have any questions you can always email me acacia@perfectlyyouwellness.com, or attend one of my workshops or retreats. If you find yourself struggling with intuitive eating or quitting dieting, I offer coaching and more info can be found (here).

References

[1] Pritchard, S.E., Garsed, K.C., Hoad, C.L……& Spiller, R.C. (2015). Effect of experimental stress on the small bowel and colon in healthy humans. Neurogastroenterology & Motility, 27, 542-549.

[2] McCormick, C.M. Practicing safe stress: A selective overview of the neuroscience research. In H.Cohen & B.Stemmer (Eds.). Consciousness and Cognitition. (2007). Elsevier Science: London, UK.

[3] Kamkar, A., Glolzary, M., Farrokhi, NA.A., & Aghaee, S.H. (2011). The Effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioural stress management on symptoms of patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Armaghane Danesh Bimonthly Journal, 16(4), 300-310.


How to eat without rules or guidelines and still have control

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This is also known as intuitive eating. (P.S. This is a long post, go grab a cuppa and settle down.)

I’m going to start with a disclaimer: you can’t learn to eat intuitively by reading a step by step blog post, or even reading a book. Sure, this will help (I hope) but intuitive eating (IE) is really a ‘learn by doing’ kinda thang. Be prepared for a rocky road, it’s not simple, it’s not easy (at first), like most good things you will question why you’re doing it more than a few times, and you won’t be able to eat intuitively right from the start. But the only way to learn this is to start and just to keep going one step after another. The principles of IE seem simple, but years (decades?) of conditioning have meant our innate ability to eat has been covered by external rules that will take time to undo. Little pathways have been trodden in our brain, and it takes focus to make new ones. A much more comprehensive guide can be found in the Intuitive Eating book by Elise Resch & Evelyn Tribole, which can be purchased on Amazon (here).

Before you start eating intuitively I want you to make yourself a promise. This is probably the most important step, and should you not do this now, you will struggle much more in the future. Make a promise that never again will you diet, try to lose weight (this doesn’t mean you won’t lose weight, just that you won’t focus on it), or eat according to external signals. This includes detoxes, fasts, becoming vegan (you can do this later, should you be so ethically inclined but just not any time soon), cut out food groups or make any other ‘decision’ about food or eating. This is not a rule. This is a decision to commit to yourself. Should you go against it, that’s okay! IE is all about learning to be flexible with your food and with yourself.

  1. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat all foods.

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This is counter to everything you’ve ever heard. When you first start this, every cell in your body screams that  you’ll get fat, you’ll never be able to control yourself, you’ll only ever choose junk food and you’ll die of cancer in the next 6 months. Just ignore those voices; keep calm & carry on.

The book  goes into a lot more detail, so it would be redundant for me to repeat it (you simply can’t get from one blog post what you’ll get from the whole book) but this step works in a number of ways so I’ll summarise them a little.

Firstly, when you allow yourself to eat anything you’ll probably choose to eat foods you’ve been depriving yourself of while on any sort of restriction. All the foods we’re not “meant” to eat are generally what we binge on, and these are the foods we’ll want when we start this journey (if I had $1 for every client who tells me how much pasta, ice cream & bread they’ve been eating when they start this I’d be a rich woman!). If that freaks you out, and you’re now thinking you shouldn’t do this, then you should definitely do this. The more you eat these foods, the more they’ll become normal, you’ll get habituated, and they’ll lose their sparkle. I now permanently have a tub of ice-cream in the freezer and sometimes it doesn’t get eaten for weeks (other times it’s eaten every night).

Secondly, when you restrict these foods our inner child rebels and screams ‘NO!”. When you start a diet, that child is quiet, sleeping, excited for what’s to come. But just like a kid on a long flight, after the first movie or two you become bored and want off that plane NOW! That inner rebel is demanding, and loud, and eventually can’t be ignored. This isn’t your fault, it’s actually hard-wired into us for survival, which we obviously don’t need any more, but the human body just doesn’t evolve that fast! When we allow all foods, we have no need to rebel, so we gain control back.

Thirdly, giving yourself permission puts trust in yourself. This is such an important part of IE and a really necessary step to learn. We have been taught by the diet industry, the media, well-meaning parents and health care professionals that we don’t know how to eat, that we need to be told what’s good for us, how much of it to have and how often we should have it. But that’s simply not the case. No one needs to tell us when we fall over and scratch our self to heal the skin, no one needs to tell us to breathe, no one needs to tell us to wee and poo. Yet modern first-world humans have brought it upon themselves to tell ourselves how to eat. As though we haven’t been doing it since the dawn of time. All of this conditioning has meant that we suddenly think particular foods are “bad” or that we can only have a certain amount and should eat at particular times. When we break these rules, we jump on the rule-breaking train and break all the rules while we can until the police come back and tell us what to do again. And we continue this pattern, and learn that we can’t be trusted. Here’s the thing: you can be trusted, your body can be trusted.

Your body knows exactly what it’s doing. It’s the rules that muck things up.

The last (but not final) point I’ll touch on with this is that when you give yourself permission to eat all foods, you’re giving yourself permission to eat vegetables and fruit too. Everyone skips to ice cream and pasta when they think of all the food they can eat, but allowing yourself permission to eat any food you like means you can choose a salad, or some steamed veg, or a fruit platter for dessert, and you don’t have to eat them just because you’re on a diet (and don’t have to avoid them just because you aren’t). We eat for a whole heap of reasons, and nourishing ourselves is just one of those – both with foods full of vitamins and minerals, and foods that taste delicious.

  1. Eat according to your hunger and your fullness

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This sounds so simple. It is SO hard. Again, our conditioning has taught us we don’t know how much to eat, and we don’t know how often to eat. Your metabolism won’t break if you don’t eat 5 times a day, by the way. It simply doesn’t work like that. Your metabolism doesn’t slow down because you’re not eating frequently enough, it slows down when you don’t have enough calories in and your fat cells are diminishing. It has absolutely nothing to do with how often you eat.

If we’ve been dieting for a long time, it’s not easy to know what hunger feels like. Often people think hunger is when you’re starving, but waiting until you’re that hungry to eat will mean you overeat and generally search for high-calorie foods. Then  you learn that if you eat when you’re hungry you’ll overeat. You need to find the in between. Start rating your hunger out of 5. 0 is not at all hungry, 5 is ravaged. Eat at a 2 or 3.

Similarly, it’s hard to know what satisfaction and fullness are. We either eat just enough because we’re constantly told we eat too much and so eat just until hunger goes away, or we eat too much because we’re too hungry, or breaking a rule, and then we feel uncomfortable. Just like hunger, you want to rate your fullness out of 5. 0 is not at all full, 5 is quite uncomfortable. Eat until a 2 or 3.

  1. Deal with your emotions without food.

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Emotional eating is common. But a lot of the time, it’s an excuse. You want to break your diet because you’re hungry and sick of chicken and salad, so you make up an excuse – you’ve had a big day, you deserve it, you’re bored, you’re emotional. Once you start allowing yourself all foods and eating according to hunger and fullness you might find (like I did) that emotional eating just disappears.

Some may not though. Eating can be a coping strategy we’re taught from babies (if in doubt when the baby is screaming, shove some milk in its gob). Eating is distracting, and we get immediate pleasure from it.

Eating might also be a defence mechanism. It’s not unusual for people with a trauma history, especially sexual trauma, to eat as a protective mechanism, as a shield to keep people away. This is understandable. If you think this is why you eat, I’d suggest having a chat to a professional about it.

If you do eat emotionally, before getting rid of it as a coping strategy, you’re going to need some new ones, or you’re not going to cope when you’re feeling emotional, and you’ll resort to your old crutch. (Which is totally fair enough). So experiment with things that make you feel good. Write a list (I love lists). My favourites are:

  1. Have a bath
  2. Go for a walk
  3. Play with my dogs
  4. Call a friend
  5. Meditate or do yoga

When you know you’re not hungry but you’re reaching for a snack ask yourself “what do I really need?”. The answer is never food. Eating will not get rid of the need, and then you’ll just feel uncomfortable + whatever you were feeling before.

4. Eat mindfully

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The scientific literature shows incredible evidence for the health and wellbeing benefits from mindful eating. I’ll do a whole post on it soon but for now I’ll say this:

  • Sit down when eating
  • Eat off a plate
  • Eat without distractions
  • Eat slowly
  • Pay attention to your food
  • Chew slowly
  • Stop halfway, and check in with how the food tastes and how full you are

This step is just as important as the others. When you eat distracted, or standing in the kitchen, or straight out of the fridge, or while driving, or at your desk you’ll likely eat more, enjoy your food less and reach for something else afterwards. You can’t check in with how full you are because your brain needs to pay attention to register that it’s eating. If you currently don’t ever eat at a table undistracted, give yourself a goal of once a day, and just increase it slowly.

The most important thing is to be easy with yourself, remember there are no rules with IE, these are only guidelines and you can’t mess it up. It’s a learning experience where you’re getting to know yourself again, and that can take time, years and years even, maybe our whole lives. It starts with changing the way you eat, and it bleeds into your entire life, you’ll see changes in areas you never knew were affected by your dieting and restrictive eating.

If you have questions or comments, please let me know below. Alternatively you can always email me acacia@perfectlyyouwellness.com, or attend one of my workshops or retreats. If you find yourself struggling with intuitive eating after reading the book, I offer coaching and more info can be found (here).

 


Feeling tired? Here’s how to get more energy… without changing your diet.

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Something clients often struggle with is seeing that ‘diet-for-weightloss’ mindset and ‘diet-for-health’ mindset are the same thing. That little health bug in your ear, telling you something is unhealthy or shaming you for not eating more vegetables is just as unhealthy as the one that tells you to eat for a particular body type or weight. Either way they’re external food rules and no matter what the motivation, external food rules lead to feelings of deprivation, bingeing, guilt, shame and confusion around food choices.

But we know from past diet experiences, and we hear from advertising, that eating a particular way can give us more energy. One of the most common things clients say to me is that they want more energy. The thing is, if you do it by changing your diet externally, which is not sustainable, then even if you get more energy in the short term, if you can’t actually stick to it then what’s the point?

There are other ways to get more energy and feel great in our bodies without changing our diets, so let’s explore:

  • Eat according to hunger and satiety – our bodies have in-built mechanisms to flush out food and digest well, and it regulates these itself. So listen in to what it has to say.

 

  • Get 8+ hours of sleep. If you think you do, but you’re still tired and lethargic, then keep a sleep diary for 2 weeks (or even better, a month). Not only will it motivate you to want to put in the bigger numbers, but you’ll get an accurate picture of whether you’re really getting the right amount of sleep. Generally, for our body to work best, we want to be asleep by 10pm and wake up no earlier than 6am (ok so I’m a personal trainer and I only wake up after 6am on Sundays, but if I’m feeling really tired despite 8 hours of sleep, I’ll know it’s because of the super early morning and not some diet defecit). Going to bed at 2am once a week, even if you sleep a lot the next day, can have a huge impact on how tired you feel during the week, it’s not as easy as catching up those long hours through a Sunday sleep in so keep the massive nights to a minimum.

 

  • Drink 2+L water a day. Dehydration accounts for a huge amount of sluggishness, so make sure you’re getting the H2O.

 

  • Not eating enough. This plays into #1, but I often hear clients who get the 3pm crash who have barely eaten all day (despite hunger).

 

  • Watch your caffeine. The jury is out on how much is ‘healthy’ but the way caffeine acts is to block the receptors in your brain that receive a message that you’re tired. The neurotransmitter sending that message doesn’t stop being produced though, so when the caffeine wears off you get a huge rush of ‘I’M TIRED’ into your brain.. so while caffeine is useful sometimes, it’s not a good one to rely on or to overdo.

 

  • Move your body every day. I’m not talking about structured exercise, I just mean intentional movement. However you chose to do it. And with that, increase your unintentional exercise too – take the stairs, walk to the photocopier every time you print, go talk to colleagues rather than send an email, go for a walk at lunch, stand up and stretch every hour or so at a desk.. you get the drill.

 

  • Watch your alcohol intake (and stop the recreational drugs). The way any drug (nicotine, caffeine, stimulants, alcohol…) works, is to block or excite particular areas of the brain. Basically, they interrupt your normal brain functioning. And your brain likes to be in balance, so getting it back to ‘normal’ is hard work! They can deplete particular energy neurotransmitters too, that take a while to be regenerated, and processing alcohol and drugs takes a lot of work from the liver so naturally, you’ll feel pretty shattered while it detoxes.

 

  • Find purpose. Really? Yep! If you’re in a job that’s boring or working with people you don’t like, how stimulated are you going to feel? If you’re over-worked and constantly rushed, is it surprising you feel exhausted? Find a purpose and follow it. If you have to do your current job, then do so, but find a purpose outside of work to keep you excited and motivated.

 

  • Meditate. Thinking is exhausting. Sometimes a little switch off from the judgmental, critical thoughts is all we need to feel replenished (and the bonus relaxation isn’t bad!)

 

  • Check who you spend time with. Draining people are draining (der). They are hard work, suck your energy and drain your emotions. Think about the people you spend the most time with, do they mostly add to your day or take from it? If the latter, start to think about why you have them there. If they’re family, think about ways you can build boundaries so that you’re not constantly being taken advantage of. Regenerating people regenerate, so collect them and keep them close.

 

Most of all, remember that food is not the only pathway to health, energy and vitality. Focusing on food takes up so much time and energy that the rest of the important stuff tends to fall to the wayside. Being in a caloric defecit in and of itself will make you lethargic and tired. So next time you’re feeling sluggish, give these tips a go and see immediate results that last forever.


how i cured my sugar addiction

 

As soon as I heard that sugar is addictive, I was hooked. That’s my problem! I thought, my mind racing. Once I start I can’t stop, and I crave sugary things all the time! So, with vigour I attacked an 8 week no sugar challenge head on. I thought it was my last chance at getting my crazy diet patterns in check because I’d tried everything else. I managed to stick to it too; I was so committed to quitting the white stuff that one day at the markets I automatically picked up an unsuspecting strawberry quarter from a tasting platter and put the little pink thing in my mouth – the delightful spark of sweet reminded me quickly what I’d done, and I hastily spat the dirty, addictive thing into the nearest bin.

My final day of the 8 week challenge finished and I was a new woman. I’d lost a few kgs and even navigated a Japanese restaurant with friends without having any sugar – sticking to a varied diet of sashimi and grated white radish. We were going away for the weekend and I couldn’t wait (to eat). First stop: organic café to buy all the raw vegan cakes, aka. blended date and nut mix, aka. SUGAR. We were staying at a hotel in the middle of nowhere, so our only place to eat for the weekend was their restaurant and so there were basically no snacks. All I wanted was snacks, and sugar, preferably sugary snacks. How I had managed to keep away from my delightful white powder for the whole 8 weeks I didn’t know, by the end of the 8 weeks I’d even convinced myself the thought of a banana was weird. But, lo and behold, seat belt off, and PHWOAR! Sugar cravings came back with intensity. Fuck, I’d missed out on that epic, dense, flourless chocolate cake at my sister’s lunch for nothing.

Fast forward about 3 years from then and my so-called ‘sugar-addiction’ is no longer. I don’t get ‘sugar cravings’ and I do enjoy sweet things (mainly dark chocolate or ice cream) but I don’t need to eat them compulsively once I start, and I can say no if I’m not hungry or just not in the mood. I keep ice cream and chocolate in the house at all times and I never would have been able to do this in the past, because they wouldn’t have lasted a hot minute.

So what the hell is this about? Why didn’t the challenge cure my addiction and how is it that I am no longer addicted?

Well, here’s the truth.

THERE IS A LACK OF SCIENTIFIC DATA PROVING THAT SUGAR IS ADDICTIVE!

(Actually, it seems like scientists can’t even agree on what addiction is at all, but ain’t no body got time for a post on that argument). For the time being, we’ll agree with psychiatrists (because psychologists got rid of the word completely) and say that it means “dependence” and is characterised by cravings, withdrawal and tolerance. So, a paper published in the European Journal of Nutrition reviewed the scientific literature to find evidence to support the claim that sugar acts as an addictive substance in the human body…and they really couldn’t find any. Basically, what they tell us is that most of the studies on sugar addiction have been done on rats, rather than humans (which is problematic unto itself, for obvious reasons). What these rat studies have shown is that addiction-like behaviours (like bingeing) that do occur in rats as a response to sugar, are due to intermittent access to the sugar – meaning they can only have it sometimes. When they’re restricted to only having it sometimes, the rats do binge on it, but when given free range – they don’t![1].

Another paper analysed the literature to establish whether sucrose is physically addictive and found it isn’t and also demonstrated that when comparing sugar to drugs of dependence, there are many differences – including, but not limited to, the fact that although humans may get sugar cravings, they don’t tend to get tolerance (meaning you need more and more each time to get your hit) or withdrawal (which is the physical effect of not having substance of abuse, and can be life threatening – eg. Alcoholics may have seizures and heroin addicts get immensely sick).[2]

But what about dopamine and reward centres in the brain (the token argument of those who advocate for quitting sugar)? It seems that it’s not so simple as sugar-quitting advocates would have you believe. One study that compared the way a part of the brain (called the nucleus accumbens) fired up when rats pressed a lever for cocaine, water or food showed that the neurons fired differently for cocaine than for water or food[3]. Another study examined monkey brains and how their neuronal pathways fired up in response to either cocaine or fruit juice and concluded that the way cocaine acts on the brain is not the same as when the monkeys were presented with the juice.[4]

From these studies we can see that all in all, under normal conditions of consumption sugar acts on different brain circuits to drugs of abuse.

So what was the deal – if I wasn’t addicted to sugar why did I retaliate from my abstinence with such gusto? Well, it comes down to that ‘intermittent’ part. Rats (and humans) want things they can’t have, or really, we don’t want things as much if we know we can and will get them; we like the unpredictability of it all[5]. So, when we’re deprived of something, when we can’t have it or when we haven’t had it for a while, especially food, our brain flicks a switch that basically makes us want it more. You know, like the whole ‘don’t think about a pink elephant’ thing? Also, our brains aren’t good at suppressing thoughts[6], to the point that the more we try to suppress them, the more we think that exact thing, so when we say “don’t eat sugar” all we think is “eat sugar”.

Secondly, dieting has been shown to precede binge eating (as have a number of other things), because again our bodies are trying to keep us alive by making us gain weight after losing it[7]. There’s a whole lot of evidence to support this, but that’s a post for another day. So, I’d lost a few kgs on this quit sugar diet, which was intentional (although, as with all diets, I’d convinced myself it was all in the name of “health”) – I wanted abs, and I’d heard quitting sugar can help with that. So once the diet was over, it was only natural that it was now time to binge, according to my body I’d been starving, and needed to put the weight back on! Finally (well, not really there are a lot of reasons to explain this but I’m trying to keep this short (ish)), a study from Japan showed that craved foods are generally those that are liked (der) AND restricted![8]. So naturally, restrict something you like and you’ll crave it.

The last thing I’ll touch on is our emotional attachment to sugar. Breast milk contains more sugar than fat or protein[9] and from birth, we’re given the breast (or bottle) when we’re upset. When we’re kids, adults often use food as a reward (like ice cream after the dentist, thanks mum!) or to shut us up (like in a supermarket). Sweet foods are associated with all major holidays and special occasions (lollies & cake at birthday parties; fruit mince pies, Christmas cake and pudding at Christmas and chocolate & hot cross buns at Easter) and generally these are fun times, so naturally these foods are associated with fun, happiness and social occasions. Although it’s an apparent addiction-cure, my journey to quit sugar didn’t actually deal whatsoever with my emotions, or my lenience on food when feeling highly emotional. Interestingly, the time when I most often ate due to emotions was when I was happy – because when I was happy I wasn’t focused on my body and what a shit person I was for not looking like a fitness model, so I relaxed the barriers a bit and let myself enjoy food. This weekend away, for instance, was a perfect case in point – plus there’s no better way to celebrate than with cake, right! So, really I’d say the closest sugar gets to drugs of addiction is that they’re both used as coping mechanisms.

Nowadays I eat sugar in moderation (yes, Sarah Wilson, there is such a thing as sugar in moderation) and I no longer over-eat when I’m happy or excited. This is all down to quitting dieting and quitting restriction, which gave me control back. As soon as I told myself I could have sugar whenever I want, and allowed myself to do so for a while, I got habituated to it and it lost its sparkle. I also learned to find other ways to feel good, like meditation, yoga, spending time in nature or talking to a friend or someone I love. Because I decided to let go of my dislike for my body and instead appreciate it for all that it can do, I also lost the need to over-eat when I was happy, because I feel good about myself and my body all the time.

Paradoxically, I think quitting sugar, or quitting any food group, causes us to crave it more. Over-eating anything is about so much more than the chemical properties of that food. Humans are complex; we are dynamic organism in a constantly evolving environment and our behaviours are dependent on so many different factors both internally and externally. Don’t let the health industry fool you into thinking sugar addiction is real, or that it can be cured by abstinence (which, FYI, is no longer even the token treatment for drugs of addiction). Give yourself permission to eat all foods (including sugar), connect with your internal hunger and satiety signals and learn to deal with your emotions without food. That is the real secret to how I cured my sugar addiction.

References (because I’m not about alternative facts)

[1] Westwater, M.L., Fletcher, P.C. & Ziauddeen, H. (2016). Sugar addiction: the state of the science. European Journal of Nutrition. 55(Suppl.2), 55-69.

[2] Benton, D. (2010). The plausibility of sugar addiction and its role in obesity and eating disorders. Clinical Nutrition, 29(3), 288-303.

[3] Carelli R.M., Ijames S.G., and Crumling A.J.: Evidence that separate neural circuits in the nucleus accumbens encode cocaine versus “natural” (water and food) reward. J Neurosci 2000; 20: pp. 4255-4266

[4] Bowman E.M., Aigner T.G., and Richmond B.J.: Neural signals in the monkey ventral striatum related to motivation for juice and cocaine rewards. J Neurophysiol 1996; 75: pp. 1061-1073

[5] Berns, G.S. McClure, S.M., Pagnoni, G., & Montague, P.R. (2001). Predictability modulates human brain response to reward. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2001, 2793-2798.

[6] Wegner, D.M., Schneider, D.J., Carter, S.R. & White, T.L. (1987). Paradoxical effects of thought suppression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53(1), 5-13.

[7] Polivy, J., Zeitlin, S.B., Herman, C.P. & Beal, A.L. (1994). Food restriction and binge eating: A study of former prisoners of war. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 103(2), 409-411.

[8] Komatsu, S. & Kenjiro, A. (2014). Food craving and its relationship with restriction and liking in Japanese females. Foods, 3(2), 208-216.

[9] Jenness, R. (1979). The composition of human milk. Seminal Perinatol, 3(3), 225-239.

 

 


How to love yourself: a step-by-step guide

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Self love is not something we’re taught at school. Instead we’re taught to multi-task, to compare ourselves to others and to be the best. Self love is about having unconditional friendship with yourself. Just like your friendship with your best friend, self love is about being compassionate, caring, dependable and gentle… with yourself! For various reasons, by the time we become adults many of us don’t like who we are. Perhaps our lives don’t look like what they think they should look like or we still don’t seem to have our life “together” or we just can’t seem to say the right thing! So how can you move from a place of self-hatred or disappointment, to a place of self-love?

Step 1: Make a decision. Repeat after me: I will love myself. No matter what, I’ll put my needs first. I’ll have my back, no matter what I’ve done. I’ll love myself despite what I look like.

Step 2: Practice. Remind yourself every day ‘no matter what, I love myself‘. Remind yourself multiple times a day.  Look in the mirror and say ‘I love you [name]’. It’s hard. Maybe you’ll feel silly. You might cry. You may just need to start just by looking yourself in the eye.

Step 3: Treat yourself like you treat your closest friends. Forgive yourself when you stuff something up. Laugh it off when you say the wrong thing. Be kind to yourself when someone says something that hurts your feelings. Try to find the positives when you think you’ve made a mistake. Do things to make life easier for you.

Step 4: Practice self-care. Look after yourself the way you look after someone else you love. Buy yourself gifts. Give yourself time. Let yourself do things imperfectly. Take care of you! This can take the form of buying good quality food, spending time in nature or having a hot bath – do whatever you enjoy and spend time relaxing. Even if you have only 5 minutes for self-care then that is enough.

Step 5: Listen to what you need. When you’re feeling fed up with yourself, when you’ve lost patience or you’re feeling down ask, “what do I need?“. Whatever it is, give it to yourself. You cannot give to others what you don’t give to yourself, and you can’t meet anyone else’s needs if you’re not even meeting your own.

Step 6: Be assertive. You are valuable, remember that. As in step 5, your needs count! Telling others what you need, or how they can meet your needs, or even how you’re going to meet your own needs is not bitchy or aggressive, it’s looking after yourself. Sometimes that means saying no, sometimes it means reaching out for help.

Step 7: Reframe your thoughts. How do you speak to yourself? Would you speak to a child the same way? Be gentle, be kind, be patient and be loving. When you hear that voice that tells you you aren’t worthy, you’re not enough, or you’re not a good person acknowledge the thought with “I notice I’m telling myself I’m not good enough because [eg.I am too fat]” and reframe it with a non-judgmental response, such as “my value is not dependent on [my weight]. I am a better person when I’m happy, [not when I’m thin]“.

Step 8: Ask your friends. Finding it hard to even see anything good about yourself? Ask your three favourite people the top 5 best things about you. This is a really rewarding exercise. You will be nicely surprised and may find the perspective helps you see what you otherwise may not.

Step 9: Ask someone else. If you practice and you practice but can’t seem to get there, maybe you need some assistance. Enlist the help of a professional.  The Australian Psychological Association will provide a list of psychologists in your area (for readers in Australia).

Step 10: Deal with your emotions without food. When you eat to deal with emotions you’re masking your ability to see reality. If your current situation is only bearable because of the packet of Tim Tams and half tub of ice cream you have each night after work, your current situation will stay the same – because you’re allowing it to be by eating instead of dealing with what’s really making you unhappy. If you can only get through your day with chocolate bars and lollies, then you won’t have an opportunity to experience the boredom of your current job, and so you’ll never change it. Allowing yourself to stay in unhappy situations by eating to deal with the emotion instead of coping in other ways or changing the situation in the first place, is not being respectful or loving to yourself.

Step 11: Get rid of mirrors and scales. Each time you analyse your body in the mirror or step on the scale, you’re reinforcing the value that what you look like or how much you weigh matters. If this is the case, you’ll never be enough. Self love is saying I am enough no matter what I look like or how much I weigh. I choose to love myself no matter what. Weighing yourself or criticising your body says I’m not good enough until I lose Xkgs or get rid of the cellulite. Just as you don’t love others because of what they look like, you will never love yourself just because of what you look like. Losing weight does not increase your ability to love yourself. Send yourself the most powerful message of all by getting rid of the scales and refusing to do body checks every time you see your reflection!

Just remember, self-love is possible and most of all, it’s worth it. Start small, be gentle with yourself, and most of all be kind. If you try this, tell me what you think in the comments below!