Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Body Gossip

A lovely surprise to open the post today to find the Body Gossip book in it. Looks like a FABULOUS book on body image.

And contains a piece I wrote on body image called 'Another Way to Be'.

AND profits go to the Body Gossip org.

Big thumbs up. :)

Thursday, 12 July 2012

How healthy is your 'diet' food?

Have you been watching the BBC series The Men Who Made Us Fat? It's totally fascinating, and has made me think a lot more carefully about what's in the foods I buy from the supermarket. One of the points coming through on the programme is that plenty of so-called 'diet' foods are really not healthy at all; we're just being fooled by marketing.

Now, were I still anorexia/bulimic and watching this show, I know what I'd be thinking - 'So? As long as it's low cal, I don't give a fig whether it's high salt/high sugar.' I was only ever fixated with calories and losing weight; I really didn't care about my health.

In fact, though, looking back I see that whether binging or starving, I was pretty much exclusively subsisting on processed foods. And that will have exacerbated the illness - because the high levels of sugar and salt and artificial crap I ate would have left me craving more.

A few months ago I read an article that suggested you eat only natural foods as far as possible - have a little sugar in place of a lot of artificial sweetener, and you'll lose your sweet tooth. I liked the thinking behind it, so I gave it a go. I cut sweetener from my tea, drank water instead of Diet Coke, natural yog instead of diet. At first, it was an adjustment. But after just a few days, when I tried an artificially sweetened product, I found myself disliking it, finding it too sweet in a fake, sickly way. Now, if my husband forgets and pops a sweetener in my tea - yeuck!!!!

What do you think? Could you try an experiment with what you're eating? Could you examine just where your calories are coming from, and what other stuff - good or bad - is accompanying them?

Saturday, 7 July 2012

HAVING an eating disorder instead of BEING an eating disorder

I’m an anorexic.
I’m a bulimic.
I’m a bulimiarexic.
I’m a binge eater.
Actually, you’re not. You’re you. Your eating disorder is just one tiny part of who you are.

You are not your eating disorder. You have an eating disorder, you are not an eating disorder.

You’re all kinds of things besides your illness. You may be a

Mum
Sister
Friend
Lover
Artist
Writer
Environmentalist
Thesp
Nature lover
Dog person
Collector
Dreamer
Romantic
Pragmatist
Believer
Spiritualist
Brit
American
Woman
Man
Teenager
Middle-ager
Bibliophile
Technophobe

... and so on, and so on. You get the picture.
The great thing about HAVING an eating disorder rather than BEING one is that, when you're ready, you can choose not to have it. When we have something, we have the choice not to have it - to lose it, destory it, let it go. We can't change what we are, who we are (being), but we can change what we have.

Monday, 2 July 2012

"If you want to be happy, be..."

If I just lose ten more pounds, I'll be happy.
If I just get back into those skinny jeans, I'll be happy.
If I just get control over my eating, I'll be happy.
If I just get a boyfriend, I'll be happy.

Really? Will you?

Happiness comes from within you, from being in the moment and peaceful. As Leo Tolstoy said, "If you want to be happy, be."

I was thinking about this yesterday, when I had a particularly stressful day. Three moments stand out as being purely happy. Watching Scooby Doo with my son cuddled up on my lap, smelling the baby shampoo in his hair. Sitting on the back step just listening the the wind in the tress and watching clouds dance across the sky. Taking the first sip of latte in a warm, busy cafe, looking out at the rain beating down outside.

These were moments that I was present, in the moment, alive, connected. Happy.

Try it today. Even if you feel that overall in your life you're not happy, try for one happy moment - even just a few seconds.

A moment's happiness is what you remember in bed at night when you think back over your day.

Friday, 29 June 2012

A random conversation with a butt-naked stranger

I go swimming two, three times a week - sometimes on my own, sometimes with my little boy (age three) who comes in the changing rooms with me.

My son is fascinated by all the bodies he sees in the ladies' changing rooms. 'Mummy!' he shrieked the other day. 'That lady has a bottom just like yours.' I was rather embarrassed, but the lady - who was quite happy getting changed in front of us all - just smiled.

In my experience, there are three types of women in changing rooms:

  1. The get it all out and shake it all about type. Nude and proud.
  2. The happy to get changed in front of other type, but minimises the amount of naked time.
  3. The hide in a cubicle to change type - or if that's not possible, perform awkward acrobatics getting undressed/dressed beneath a towel.
I used to be a Type 3 person when I had an eating disorder. I was very unwilling to let anyone see my body. Now, I've recently realised, I've become a Type 2. I'm not bothered about stripping in the changing room, but I'm pretty quickly in and out of clothes.

This morning, however, I encountered a Type 1, which is always interesting. Up she strode to me, utterly naked, and started a conversation about a news item (the changing room has News 24 playing in it). I managed to maintain eye contact as we discussed the state of the flooding in England, and not look at her ample bosum. I had an overwelming urge to giggle - though I'm not sure why. Finally, my son piped up (loudly), 'Ooooo, nudey rudey.' The lady laughed a lot at that.

In all, it's lovely to be comfortable enough in my skin not to be worried about people judging me. But I think, perhaps, I'm a way off being a Type 1 yet. Mind you, judging by my son's love of running about butt naked, perhaps he won't be following in his mother's footsteps...

Thursday, 28 June 2012

What would reaching your 'ideal' weight actually mean to you?

This morning I was in the doctor's surgery flicking through a mag (as usual, a good few months old) when I came across an article about a lady who'd reached her 'ideal' weight after years of longing for it. She'd gone from a UK size 14 to a size 8. But she was honest enough to admit, she was no happier at all...

Now, she's thinner, but her problems are exactly the same. And in fact she finds little pleasure in clothes shopping, because she doesn't feel comfortable at her new size; she doesn't enjoy eating, because she's worried about regaining the weight; she's bored of exercising constantly, and was depressed that she felt the need to go running on Christmas Day; and the thinner she's got, the more she's obsessed over bits of her body she doesn't like - cellulite, wrinkles and so on. She admits that actually she was probably happier as a perfectly healthy size 14 - but now she's become a size 8, she's afraid what people will think it she reverts. Most of all, she doesn't know who she would be if she just let go of trying to be thin.

How much of your life have you given up to wishing you were a different size? 'If I was just x stone, then I'd be happy and successful and beautiful', I used to tell myself when I was anorexic. I spent a long time chasing an elusive target weight. And then I got to that weight, and nothing felt better inside, so I set a new target weight - and so on, and so on.

The thinner I got, the colder I got. Tired. Constantly ill. Obsessed with my appearance. Miserable around food. Miserable out clothes shopping. Zero confidence with men and with friends. I look at pictures of me back then now and am appalled by how I look - hunched shoulders, baggy top, 'don't look at me, please' written all over my face.

Now, I'm curvy. Healthy curvy. I have no ideal weight; I simply level out at my natural set point, which is by no means skinny. Here, now I've stopped chasing that 'My life will be perfect if I'm x stone' fantasy, I enjoy chocolate muffins and wear bright, colourful clothes I like and chat happily with complete strangers without being paranoid they're sizing me up and enjoy meals out with family. Most importantly, now I'm not dreaming of this 'ideal weight', there's lots more room in my head to dream (and achieve) other things - having babies, doing up my home, writing books, developing my business. Stuff that truly makes me happy.

Friday, 15 June 2012

The gym: friend or foe for eating disorder recoveree?

I recently joined the gym at a hotel nearby my house. Several reasons: to get access to the pool, which my little boy is really keen to play in; to have a place to go out of the house for work and leisure (working at home gets rather stifling); and to improve my fitness, which isn't great given all the sitting at my desk I do!

You'll note the reason that's NOT on that list: losing weight. Not at all bothered about that; would just like to feel a bit more energetic.

My favourite way to get fit is swimming, and I'd have quite happily signed up just to swim - but the hotel only offers full membership, including gym. It's been a good decade since I've set foot in a gym - at the height of my anorexia, I was working out for four hours a day, and during recovery I made the choice to drop the gym because I felt it fed the competitive, perfectionist and obsessive parts of me I was trying to tone down.

So there I was, last week, attending the compulsory gym induction at the hotel - because they wouldn't even let me swim without this induction. My husband and I turned up expecting a 'here's how to use the machines' tour. Instead, to our horror, we were put through a gruelling fitness test which left us both weak-kneed!

I wasn't too bothered - in fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find I wasn't quite as unfit as I thought. What DID bother me, however, was the fitness instructor's inability to understand that

1. I didn't want a fitness programme.
2. I didn't want a weight loss target (and I certainly didn't want to be weighed!).
3. I didn't want a lesson in how best to tone my stomach muscles.

Looking at my UK size 14 frame, with all the wobbly bits that come with having had a baby, he was bemused as to why I wouldn't a full education in how to achieve 'the body beautiful'. Actually, I suspect I know a LOT more about how to do that than him, but I didn't bother to tell him.

Since joining, I've come to the gym several times, and I'm enjoying it (I'm typing this in the hotel cafe). I do 20 minutes in the pool or the gym, and I intend to work up gradually to 30 - at which point I'll stop, because 30 mins a day is plenty for fitness.

On my first session, I sailed past the personal trainer, did 10 minutes on a treadmill and 5 on a rower, then sailed back out. He caught me at the door, and gave me a lecture: 'Leaving so soon.' Utterly maddening!

I'd love to hear of a gym with a really healthy approach to fitness and working out, where trainers have understanding of eating disorders and exercise addiction, where they have a realistic and supportive approach to body size and shape, where good self-esteem counts for more than how many lat pull-downs you manage. In the meantime, until I find such a gym, I'll continue to work out oblivious to my surroundings, in my shabby old trackies, singing along to my iPod and not caring a jot that the six people lined up next to me on treadmills and running much, much faster than me.