Thought of the day today is an excerpt from Ice Cream for Breakfast by Laura Jane Williams. Taking a moment to acknowledge the amazing things your body does is one of the practical steps we can take to improve body image. Our bodies are more than what they look like, they are incredible! Let’s take a moment to appreciate that!
A Turning Point Session (TSP) is for anyone who has come to a point in their lives where they are fed up of struggling with overeating and body image and have reached the the point where they are ready to make a change.
If you have been caught up in a bingeing cycle for a while, I imagine you would have made many resolutions to change in the past. You’ve probably said to yourself most days that tomorrow will be different.
But then it isn’t.
And the cycle continues.
In your TPS, we will have a 3 hour intensive together where we seek to get to the bottom of what may be keeping you stuck. I have many tools in my kit to help us to uncover this and make a plan to change it around. Drawing on approaches from transactional analysis, cognitive therapy, NLP, psychotherapy and coaching, we will have a session which is tailor made for you. You will have filled out a thorough assessment session prior to our session, which will enable me to have an idea before me meet of what techniques we may need to use.
This may be right for you if….
You are fed up of struggling with overeating/bingeing. You know it isn’t supposed to be this hard.
You are ready and willing to learn how to do things differently.
Committing to weekly sessions does not appeal to you.
You will leave the session with tools and resources you can use to turn things around and get on with living your life.
The session includes:
Constructing the narrative - understanding how you have become this way around food.
Understanding neuroscience and how this information can help restore mental sanity with food.
Emotional release work.
A tailor-made plan for you to implement over the next few weeks. Including take home resources.
A Skype check in 4 weeks later.
Learn how to reconnect to your natural appetite. Change the way you make food choices and find freedom from overeating. This course includes:
20 minute Skype session with me before the course starts. This will be an opportunity for you to find out exactly what you are signing up for and to make sure this course is for you.
8 x 90 minute group sessions where we will learn why diets create a really unhelpful relationship with food and led to MORE overeating. Opportunities to share and learn from each other, as well as supporting one another.
Exercises you can used to help you on this intuitive eating journey.
Support between sessions, with group chat available. Research shows that social support is helpful when it comes to motivation and making changes.
For more information, please register your interest via the contact page and I will get in touch to discuss.
We hear again and again that we should love our bodies but how do we even begin to do this?
For many of my clients, accepting or loving their bodies feels impossible. That can be pretty disheartening, so I developed the body image steps to help my clients figure out how to feel a bit more comfortable (or a bit less uncomfortable!) in their bodies.
The body image scale
Where are you right now?
Body acceptance, positive body image or whatever you want to call it, is rarely a linear process. We may move up and down the steps in the space of a day, or even one meal!
Sometimes people say to me that body acceptance feels like giving up. To them I say yes, it is giving up. .
*It’s giving up on self hatred.
*It’s giving up on defining your self worth by your body shape.
*It’s giving up on trying to force your body into the unrealistic ideal portrayed by the media.
*It’s giving up on ignoring your body’s signals.
*It’s giving up on obsession, dieting and all the misery that comes with it.
Where are you on the scale today and what are you willing to give up to move onto the next step towards sanity around food and your body?
It would be fair to say we have never had access to more nutritional knowledge than we do today and yet I don’t believe we have ever had a worse relationship with our weight and food choices.
In 2015 the Global Weight Loss and Weight Management market was worth $158.2 billion with a predicted worth of $259.8 billion in 2022.  With increasing value placed on managing our weight, we should be getting skinnier and skinnier, right? And yet everywhere we turn we are told we are in the midst of an ‘obesity epidemic’.
So what’s the truth? Figures presented to parliament in March 2018 showed there has been a clear increase in obesity levels since 1993, from 15% to 26%. Correspondingly, the percentage of adults who are either overweight or obese has risen from 53% to 61%.  So we are getting heavier. Fact.
You might have heard that diets don’t work but we can have a hard time believing that. After all, if we eat a caloric deficit we do lose weight and we all know someone who has lost weight on a diet, right?
And so it must be our fault. We are too weak willed, too greedy, too lazy to stick to the programme. We blame ourselves. Our self-esteem, already dented by the belief we should be thinner, gets eroded away further as we become more frustrated and despondent with each ‘failed’ attempt to follow a weight loss programme.
The problem with a diet, and even a healthy ‘programme’, is that it doesn’t change the way we make our food choices. We hand our decision making over to the plan. We limit options to help navigate our way through our food abundant culture but then we don’t learn how to make food decisions that ultimately support our health – both physically and mentally.
The diet or plan is usually a temporary measure, to get us where we want to be weight-wise, but then what? Many of us go back to how we ate before the diet, gain back the weight and start the cycle again.
Placing a structured eating plan aside for the moment, is it possible that the nutritional information we know could actually be contributing to the problem?
One of the problems with nutrition is that it makes certain generalisations. There are these ballpark figures thrown around about how much (or little) we should be eating. Many of us will have heard that it is 2,000kcals for women and 2,500kcals for men but did you know this varies wildly from person to person and that even something like ethnicity affects our basal metabolic rate? 
Having a number in our heads about how much we should be eating could be counterproductive. Ever heard someone say that they haven’t eaten much today, therefore they can ‘justify’ indulging? Believing that we need to justify or balance out our food intake causes us to try and cognitively figure out what we need to eat instead of learning to listen to our bodies.
If I go for a long run or have a hard physical work out, I often experience an absence of hunger on the day. Instead, I notice that the day afterwards, when my muscles feel a little tired, I am hungrier than usual. Nutritional rules would advise things like carb-loading or increasing protein intake on the day of exercise. These may work for you but for me, I’d be eating more when my body doesn’t want to because I believe it’s what I should be doing. My journey has involved learning to focus on listening and getting to know what works for me.
Nutritional rules can involve ignoring our bodies’ hunger signals and using our heads, instead of our bodies, to figure out what we should be eating. A lot of people experience a blood sugar spike when they eat white bread but some people don’t. Some people don’t like going to bed on a full stomach and others do. There is evidence that intermittent fasting has a positive impact on health and weight but I know people who feel shaky and unwell if they don’t eat regularly.
We try to adhere to the rules and conquer our appetites but appetite is a powerful survival mechanism, which will fight back if you try and quash it. Many people who try to control their appetites may end up being controlled by them.
The intuitive eating movement is gaining momentum as a solution to following the rules. It’s not about control, it’s not about perfection. It’s about aligning with what your body is telling you, honouring your hunger and eating what makes you feel good. You have permission to eat and to eat what you enjoy.
There may be a fear that if you give yourself permission to eat whatever you want, whenever you want, then you will end up binging. I certainly used to feel this way. Binging is often driven by the fear that something won’t be available later, or a diet is imminent (see previous blog on last supper eating). I truly believe that we need to get rid of the moralising of food as good and bad and refocus on how the food makes us feel. I have found the best intention to hold when deciding what to eat is:
Eat what you want but aim to feel better after eating than you did before.
Eat what you want but aim to feel better after eating than you did before.
If you hold this intention, you will learn to listen to your body’s signals. When body and mind are in sync, well, that’s a harmonious place where I’d like to stay.
What’s in a word? In the most basic sense, it’s written symbols or sound we use to communicate to each other. What truly brings our words to life is meaning. We may say we’re feeling “depressed” or “anxious”, what do those words that really mean to the speaker and the receiver?
My experience of feeling depressed or anxious will be different to yours. There will probably be be some commonality but the words we use to describe our experience differ in personal meaning from person to person. This means that understanding each other can become complicated.
Some argue that the words frequently used around food and weight may make it harder for us to achieve our desired changes. “Weight loss” contains the word ‘loss’, which tends to have a negative connotation and “diet” contains the word ‘die’, also considered to be a negative experience to be avoided at all costs!
But are we really affected by seemingly hidden words in our common lexicon? Surely we are smarter that that. We know what weight loss and diets are, so why would we necessarily associate them with death and loss? This is the realm of the unconscious, non-rational mind, so no-one can say for certain. It’s interesting to consider that a diet does involve trying to harness our mighty appetites, the most important survival drive required to stay alive, second only to breathing.
The longer I spend working in the field of disordered eating, the more convinced I am that the diet mentality in our culture is having a n insidious, negative impact on our relationship with food and our bodies. We have never had access to more nutritional information than we do today and we have never been so unhappy with our weight.
In a recent survey by Esquire magazine, 35% of British men would be willing to lose a year of their life if it meant being 20lbs lighter. A whole year of life! Time that could be spent with their families! All for a 20lb weight loss? These were not morbidly obese men with health risks but men who clearly felt they fell short of the ideal body size that has been so exalted in our society.
Another survey found that women had an average of thirteen negative thoughts about their bodies everyday. These would have just been the thoughts they noticed themselves thinking, the actual number may be even higher. What words were they thinking to judge their bodies? The personalised, felt meaning of those words corroding away self-esteem on a daily basis.
I’ve recently been delving into the body positive movement. In a nutshell, it promotes feeling positive with your body, however it looks and feels, RIGHT NOW! Not waiting until you’ve lost those 10, 15 or 50 pounds but today. Just because we accept ourselves today, it doesn’t mean we’ll never make changes. The paradox is that when you practice unapologetic self-acceptance, change is actually easier than trying to punish or hate our bodies into being smaller.
For many, the idea of group therapy sounds horrifying. How are you supposed to sit in a room full of strangers and expose the your struggles and pain? What will they think and how on earth is it supposed to help?
In this post I will address some of the most commonly held beliefs and concerns about group therapy. Some of them are myths that need to be dispelled and others may hold a grain of truth.
#1. I don’t know what to expect.
Whilst the group is made up of unique individuals, every group also develops a group personality, which looks very different from group to group. In our first session together, we discuss how we want to use the group and develop a group agreement. This is where we establish what it is we are hoping to achieve and what to we need to feel able and safe in the group to do this. This often includes a commit to respect each other’s experience, giving each other space to speak and a discussion about how the group feels about members being in touch with each other outside of the sessions.
#2. People will judge me.
Yes. Yes they will. Every opinion or choice we make is a judgment. When we listen to others speak, we are trying to put what they are saying into some kind of context that makes sense to use. This means drawing on our own beliefs and experience to discern what is being communicated. Sometimes what we say won’t make sense to others, it might jar with something inside of them and their interpretation of our situation will differ from our own. This is not something to be fearful of, this difference can be embraced and used to bring about change. When we continue to view our problem in the same way over and over, that’s when we get stuck. Hearing other people’s response to our situation, when done respectfully, can be exactly what facilitates the change we desperately want.
#3. My problem/struggle/situation is so unique, no-one will understand.
Nope. Your struggle is not unique. There are no new problems out there. When we are circling the drain it may feel as though you are utterly alone and no-one else has ever felt the way you do now.
I think this is one of the biggest misconceptions, which prevents people from reaching out for help. Often this idea has been reinforced by many past experiences of being misunderstood by others.
One of my favourite moments when facilitating groups is when someone is sharing and I see the recognition on the faces of other members. Heads start nodding around the room and the sharer feels heard in a way they may never have experienced before. This chases away feelings of shame and isolation.
While your situation may not be unique, you certainly are.
#4. Isn’t individual therapy more effective?
Not necessarily. Group therapy can offer support in ways not achievable through sitting one on one with a therapist.
Group members often connect with each other in a way not possible to replicate with a therapist. They connect through mutual experience. One of the most powerful tools of recovery in 12-step programmes for addictions is the idea of reaching out for help and offering help. When we help others, we help ourselves. If you suffer from depression yourself and you give some supportive understanding to another who is also suffering from depression, you both benefit. If you are able to use your own suffering to help another’s then you bring meaning to your own experience and have managed to draw something positive out of your pain. You get to help and be helped at the same time.
This mutual reciprocity is not possible with a therapist, they are not (hopefully!) going to tell you what a difficult time they are having, to give you an opportunity to help them. It just wouldn’t be right. Individual therapy is great for talking about some of the things you wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing into a group.
So while group therapy can be a nerve wracking experience, the potential benefits are huge. If you are struggling with binge eating or compulsive overeating, my next therapy group starts on Friday 6th April 2018, 6.30-8pm for 8 weeks, Wigmore Street W1U, £30 per session.
For more information, click here.
Twickenham-based therapist, Alison Brake, takes a look at why it's so difficult to change certain behaviours in her article Attachment: Why letting go of unhelpful behaviours is hard.
Alison takes us through some of the common obstacles to changing self-destructive behaviours and explains how many of these things will be happening outside of your conscious awareness.