The path I needed to go on to get here:
Name a diet and I’ve tried it. I spent years in a cycle of self hate and self destructive eating, a walking calorie encyclopedia and diet club veteran. What started as a way to lose my teenage puppy fat turned into years of dysfunctional eating, severe body image issues and an eating disorder.
I have no memories of liking my body - even as a small child - and I started secret eating from a really young ate. I was never really bullied (thank god, I know I had it easy compared to lots of people) but I did get comments from other kids. I was also tall from about age 9 so I just felt huge compared to everyone else my age. I truly believe that had I been encouraged to be active and eat well that eventually I would have grown out of my puppy fat, but my Mum grew up in a culture where dieting was the norm so at the age of 13 she let me go to a Weight Watchers meeting with someone’s else Mum. I don’t blame by Mum, she was just doing what she thought was best for me. And like lots of people, she was sure that diets would get me to lose the weight and then I’d be happy.
I vividly remember the shame of stepping on a scale in front of stranger at that first meeting but also the feeling of ‘yes, this is going to fix all my problems.’
But so began a decade of body hatred, disordered eating and eventually, a non-diagnosed eating disorder. During this time, I would skip Mum’s home cooked meals for microwave dinners because I could count those easily. I exercised religiously but never from a place of joy just as a way to burn more calories. Even if it was 10pm, I had this old Cher aerobics video (yup, I’m that old) which I’d put on and do every single day without fail.
Even though I was this confident kid who loved drama, internally I thought my body was disgusting. I would poke and grab at my fleshy bits wishing I could magic them away.. Diet culture had taken it’s hold and I was convinced if I could just get thin, then everything would be easier and I’d be happy (and have a hot boyfriend and a great life).
I get sad looking back, thinking about the social occasions I skipped because I didn’t want to 'ruin my diet'.
I wish I could go back and tell my teenage self all the things I've learned now. It would have saved me a lot of tears. There were no body positivity or plus size models as role models. The feeling of being ‘big’ I’d picked up as a child still hadn’t gone away even by now I was no longer the tallest person I knew. I never considered loving myself! How could I possibly do that when I hated my body so much?
By 16, I was secret eating at night when everyone was asleep but because I never got ‘really thin’ from my binges, I never considered it as anything to worry about, even when it had escalated to up to three times a day at University.
Thankfully in my mid-twenties I had a huge wake up call. In a bid to ‘lose the last stone’ I had stripped my diet back to almost nothing but cottage cheese and rice cakes. I had moved from Weight Watchers to Slimming World and the scales just wouldn’t shift any more (I look back at photos and I’m so shocked at how thin I actually am, it’s no wonder my body wouldn’t lose anything else)
I didn't know what it was at the time but I had this nagging feeling that there must be another way. I wasn’t living my life and I promised I would learn to love my body whatever it looked like. I just couldn’t diet any more. I walked out of my last slimming club and never looked back.
It was hard. But it was REVOLUTIONARY.
Thanks to women’s magazines, social media and societal pressures we have forgotten to appreciate how amazing we really are. (Trust me, when I trained to be a massage therapist I learned all the biology of the body that I’d never appreciated before.) If diets worked then there wouldn't be a billion pound industry (and growing) and we'd all be thin.
Diets do not work. Fact. 99% of diets fail and all but everyone puts the weight on within 5 years (I'm using the word 'diet' interchangeably, it could be a lifestyle plan, juice detox or shake plan. If the end goal is weight loss - it's a diet babe!)
The diet industry relies (and profits) on us feeling shit about ourselves. It sells us false happiness for future dates that will never come. But it'll never come because diets don't change your thoughts. They don’t tell you that we all have a weight set point that’s really difficult to move out of and that the more you diet the more you slow down your metabolism (yes, really!) But the real kicker is that your metabolism will never return to it’s original speed(!), even if you start to eat normally again. This means, yep, you’re more likely to put ON weight the more you diet. I mean WTF!
Every day there’s a new quick fix out there. Are we meant to be eating fat? Carbs are evil? Do calories count anymore?! Fruit is full of sugar, right?! No wonder we’ve all lost our confidence around food But do you ever actually listen to your body? I definitely never did. We've given all the power to external forces who tell us we're not good enough (including that voice in our heads!)
Even when we think we have a balanced view of food I’ve found clients are often labelling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. How many times have you used the words 'naughty' in relation to something you've eaten and then berated yourself after you've eaten it?
We're measuring our worth by the wrong scale
You are so much more than a number but by living by the scales you are placing all your happiness in a piece of metal.
Diets rely on willpower and this by its very nature is limited. When you slip up it's easy to fall into 'f*ck it window' where you give yourself permission to binge on all 'forbidden' foods until you're 'back on track' again, sound familiar?
This cycle leaves us hating our bodies and blaming ourselves. It leaves us feeling a failure, says to us that we're not good enough and because your social media feed is full of photos of success stories there must be something wrong with you. Quite frankly, this is bullshit.
At the very least dieting is a waste of time and energy, but at its worst they can ruin lives through eating disorders.
Imagine living from a place of 'hell yes' instead of putting things off until an imagined place in the future. Imagine looking in the mirror and liking what you see - regardless of the number on the scale. Imagine saying f*ck you, I love my body and no one is going to change that.
Getting rid of diet mentality is just the beginning but it's a place of body confidence, happiness and freedom. I promise, once you're free you get to spend your brain power and energy on all the other things more fun and important!
Today I’m happy.
I’ve relearned how to listen to my body. And I've released the power food used to have over me. I will never, ever go on a diet again. And yes, not every day is a walk in the park – I still have to work on my body confidence and always will. But now I let my body tell me when I’m hungry and when I've had enough. Sometimes I want a salad and sometimes I need mashed potato. That's balance. That's real life babe! And I want the same for you.
I now love my body, I don't care if it meets a beauty standard or not. I can get undressed (or even get naked) in a changing room, I can wear a bikini and not give a fuck what people think of me. I'm grateful for all my body does for me.
And I want the same feeling for you.
Since I've been on this path, in 2013 I trained as a professional massage therapist (MTI), where I discovered how genuinely amazing the human body is (regardless of aesthetic) and I've retrained as a health coach with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN). I learned about bio-individuality and no one correct diet for everyone. And I'm now passionate about everyone discovering their own blend of wellness, which might be 6pm yoga and green smoothies but it very much might not too. Wellness should look different for everyone. Just like everyBODY is different.
Find out more about my work on my coaching page and in my FAQS.