Be kinder to you self(ie)

When did you last take a picture of yourself? How did it make you feel when you took it, and after you’d posted it?

The other day I felt like my Instagram could do with an update, so I decided to take a quick selfie. It was only after around 10 minutes of trying to get a good shot that I realised that I’d taken over 70 photos. And I wasn’t happy with a single one, so none of them made it to my page.

I actually think that when you have low self-esteem, taking photos of yourself can help you realise that you are more attractive than you think you are. It honestly can be therapeutic, and I think it really helped my recovery. But, the pressures of posting them online can totally flip that and make you insecure all over again. You worry about what people will say, how embarrassing it’ll be if no one likes them and even worse, if someone posts a nasty comment.

When we look at the photos our friends, celebrities and influencers post of themselves, we only see the filtered reality. We don’t see the hour of hair and make-up, the camera roll of different options and then the photo editing that happens after. We just see that flawless, finished selfie that we feel like we can’t compete against.

The important thing is to remember that every time you feel that way. Just because someone looks perfect to you, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t feeling every bit as insecure as you in real life. We all feel social media pressure sometimes, and we have to remind ourselves that one person’s beauty does detract from our own. Recently I’ve tried to leave a nice note in someone’s comment section at least once a day, because I think the more positivity there is online, the better we’re all going to feel.

If you take a photo you like, post it. And because you want to, not because you want someone else to tell you you’re good enough. Because there’s nothing more beautiful to see in your feed than someone who is feeling good about themselves that day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Five self-care swaps to make now

If you’re struggling with your body image, feeling a little low right now or just want to maintain your mood, a little self-care can go a long way. And everybody’s got different ways of making themselves feel good. But every now and then it’s good to check – are the things you’re doing actually making things worse?

Over the years I’ve found swapping some of my self-care activities has made me a lot happier. Here’s a few of ’em:

Swap magazines for flowers

When I was in treatment I was so weirded-out that every time I was sat in reception a table full of fashion mags greeted me.

Fashion magazines. In a treatment centre for people with eating disorders. Really?

I’ve always loved them and got the greatest thrill from reading them. But at some point you realise that you very rarely get to the end of one and think, wow I’m feeling great about myself now. I still read them if they’re around, but I never buy them anymore. Instead, I indulge in my other passion and buy a (cheap) bunch of flowers once or twice a month. Try it, your heart and your home will be happier for it.

Swap running for walking

A good cardio workout is definitely a way to vent your frustrations at the end of a bad day, but there’s also a point when you start using that kind of exercise to punish yourself and your body, and that’s not OK. So try going for a walk instead –  ideally outdoors. Not only is it gentler on your knees, it’s also a time to think things through. Whenever I’m not sure what to do, or need some time to think, a decent walk by the beach always seems to help.

Swap messaging for phone calls

Every other millennial I know is kinda like, uhh no thanks on this one. But I promise it’s not as ick as it sounds. We’re all guilty of messaging constantly because it’s easier and hey, emojis are fun. But once in a while an hour-long phone call to a friend or family member will make you feel better than a whole day of online chatting. Old fashioned I know, but after you do it once you quickly find yourself wondering why you don’t do it all the time.

Swap fitspo influencers for body positive ones

I’m personally guilty of being on Instagram way too much because I love it. To me, beautiful images are everything. But again, we’ve all got to remind ourselves that our feeds are not factual. A few minutes on there and you can quickly feel like you’re not good enough and you’re doing nothing exciting with your life – especially if you’re following a tonne of people with ‘perfect’ bodies. And if you’re trying to recover, a scrolling sesh filled with abs and clean eating will do you no favours at all. My advice when you’re struggling is to stay away completely, and when you’re feeling better do a bit of a cull. Unfollow anyone who makes yourself feel bad about yourself (toxic friends included) and replace with people who you can relate to and empower you to be exactly who you are.

Swap waxing for massages 

Body hair is totally a personal choice and if waxing is something that makes you feel good after it’s done, then absolutely go for it. But it makes me sad that there are some people out there who put themselves through the pain of it when they don’t even like the results because of the pressure to look a certain way – especially ‘down there’. You do you, and if someone loves you they’ll respect your choice. Because it’s your body, no one else’s.

So if you do want to do a different treatment, try massage. It’s an amazing way to remind yourself that you do deserve nice things and that your body is something to be cherished, not tortured. It also helps get rid of some of the tension you carry when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. A little too pricey? Try using coconut oil on yourself at home. I’ve done it once a week over the summer and it’s such a simple thing, but I’ve found it really helps you love yourself a bit more as well as nourishing your skin with a natural moisturiser – it’s win-win.

Self-care is so necessary at every point of your life, but it’s especially important to remember to be kind to yourself when you’re not feeling so great. They might not work for you, but these swaps are just a few things that I think have made me feel better. The important thing to ask yourself is what can I do for myself today to make myself feel happier than I did yesterday?

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All-inclusive anxiety

I recently went on the most amazing trip to Mexico and I pretty much can’t stop talking about what an incredible country it is. But one thing that I think we need to talk about more is the constant dieting dialogue that surrounds going on holiday. Whether you’ve been through or are going through an ED or not, there’s so much pressure to get your ‘beach’ body. For me, that pressure comes in these three phases:

Pre-holiday

Literally, from the second it’s warm enough for you take off your winter coat in like February, until it’s time to put the heating on again the following autumn, you’re bombarded with the message that you need to get in shape for your holiday. The media, your mates – everyone seems to be on a panic crash diet and you feel like you have to do the same.

On holiday

So, you made it through that part and now it’s time to chill and enjoy yourself, right? Well, for me that pressure seems to follow me off the plane onto my plate because I feel like I can’t look bloated in my swimwear, and on social and next to the skinny girls on the beach, so I carry on stressing about everything I eat. I love going away, but in terms of eating anxiety, I find holidays almost as stressful as Christmas. I really had to push myself this time round to not freak out about eating whatever I wanted.

Post-holiday

Whether you fully made the most of the all-inclusive or not, you get back and somehow convince yourself that you’ve put on a stone and you need to lose the weight immediately, totally not helped by everyone telling you how ‘healthy’ you look, usually while they’re dieting for their holiday. And then you start thinking you need to lose weight for the next time you go away… and so the cycle of pressure starts again.

Yeah it’s important to eat healthily and love ourselves, but the truth is, no one should ever starve themselves for what they think is a perfect holiday figure. Because if you have a body and you have a bikini, then you have yep, you guessed it, a bikini body. But even if you’re recovered or just have an OK body image, you’re not immune to feeling like that isn’t good enough – I know because I really felt it this time round. Holidays are such a treat and a celebration of how amazing this planet is, and none of us should feel inadequate when we step out into the sunshine. So here’s me doing just that, because the more we relax, enjoy our bodies, eat what want and be ourselves when we go away, the less those thoughts win.

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Me, now

When I look back on my life seven years ago, my body seven years ago, I sometimes feel like it all never even happened. From where I live to what I weigh – almost everything in my life has changed since then. And I couldn’t be happier that so many of the dreams that got me through recovery are now my reality.

This is me now, and I felt like it was important to show what my body has chosen to be post treatment – it’s never constant, it gets smaller (and yep, sometimes bigger). But the point I guess is that it’s healthy, it’s mine and I’m finally ok with that.

What this photo doesn’t show though to be honest, is that I spent the morning before taking it stressing if I looked ok and if I should wear something else, or how the night before I was freaking out inside about eating fast food. But that’s reality, right? In a world where almost everything delete-able, it’s sometimes frustrating that you can’t swipe away your thoughts. They don’t go away, but eventually you do figure out how to put them on mute when they do pop up. And on those days when you do like yourself (like today), you make sure you share it.

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Forecasting your feelings: five things to do when you think you’re going to relapse

I wish I could tell you that once you get better, you’re just better. But it isn’t like that, because life isn’t like that right? Someone once told me that a drug addict will always be an addict – whether they’re using or not. And it’s the same with eating disorders – each day you eat is just another day you didn’t relapse. You just have to take life one damn day at a time and make the most of the good days. Because the bad ones will come, and threaten to ruin everything you’ve worked so hard to put right.

Sometimes you see those relapses coming because you know your triggers, so you catch yourself in a decent amount of time to say  to yourself “Yeah, no that’s not gonna happen this time.” But usually, for me anyway, they sneak up on me. Because the times when I find things tough are when I’m too busy to even notice that I am – I recently caught myself doing just that. A lot was changing around me and actually, all amazing things. So how could I possibly even mess it all up? Surely I should have been at my peak… but I wasn’t.

What I hadn’t realised that in all the positive and rapid changes that were happening in my life, inside I was riddled with fear that I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t deserve any of it. But that didn’t come out as that, instead it came out as me stressing about what I was eating, my appearance and yep, my weight. It wasn’t until mid-conversation one night with my boyfriend after a dinner disaster than I burst into tears and blurted out “I’m just finding things hard at the moment.” that I even realised that I wasn’t coping. Ever since I’ve been more mindful that I need to be more aware of how I’m feeling and doing everything I can to stay in a good place. So what do you do when you are on the road to relapse? Much like triggers, everyone is different. But here are a few things you can do when you need to bring yourself back from the brink.

First of all, you have to be kind. Whether it’s painting your nails or spending time with your pets, do more of whatever it is that brings you comfort and happiness. Self-care is the first step to self-love – and we all need a bit more of that TBH. Schedule it in to your diary if you have to, just make sure it happens.

Secondly, make sure you surround yourself with positive influences – like friends who love and support you, as well as have a positive body image. I find one of the most difficult things when I’m in that place is to be anyone who talks a lot about dieting, because I feel like I should be on one too and get super stressed about it.

Next, take a little break from social media. I LOVE Instagram, but I have to remind myself that it really is just a highlight reel. Because it’s easy to start thinking the way you look, your social life and well, just your life in general isn’t as glamourous or exciting as the people you follow. But these really are just the filtered bits of their day – no one posts the moment they got a massive spot or they couldn’t do up their jeans.

It kinda goes without saying I guess but the most important thing to do is eat (go figure, I know). But I don’t mean go crazy and eat a whole cupboard’s worth of food incase you do wake up tomorrow and start restricting – I mean listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry. Try to eat three decent meals a day, with someone if possible to make sure you don’t skip. Oh and a snack or two inbetween wouldn’t hurt either. And when you feel those thoughts rising up that you ‘can’t’ eat something, challenge them. Once in a while I eat cake or something else I’m afraid of, just because in my head I’ve told myself I’m not allowed to. Every time I feel like that, I find eating a small amount of it forces me to snap out of my fears. Because you know what happens when you do? Nothing.

Finally, talk. When you notice your behaviour or thoughts are starting to change tell someone you trust so they can watch out for you and give you the support you need. Because if you still can’t snap yourself out of it, it’s vital to have someone who cares about you who can step in and get you the help you need before it’s too late.

No matter where you are in your journey to wellness and happiness, there are always going to be times you are going to face heading back down the road you came from. The most important thing to do is realise that and equipt yourself as best as you possibly can with coping mechanisms that work for you and positive people to help you carry on in the right direction – whatever the setback may be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The trouble with compliments

Having grown up, shall we say, on the plumper side, when I started to become anorexic the thrill of being told I’d lost weight became an addictive hit of endorphins incredibly quickly. One that each time spurred me on to think, if I just lose a few more pounds… and, well we know how that ended up.

Thing is, losing weight isn’t always good. My friend, who unlike me had always been supermodel tall and very slender recently found herself trying out a sugar-free diet just to be a little healthier and accidentally lost so much weight that she found herself with an unhealthy BMI, when ironically she was trying do the opposite to get pregnant at the time. When women around her started to tell her how good she looked, she was disturbed by their reactions and she told me that she understood now just how hard it must be to recover from an eating disorder when you get nothing but awe at how skinny you are.

Even though I’m technically recovered, my weight has yoyo-ed ever since. At the moment, I’m well but the thinnest I’ve been other than when I was purposely starving myself. And I can’t really explain why, especially when it’s weight loss that was never intentional. But even with the majority of my friends knowing my issues with food, the compliments they make are not of concern but of praise that I’m slimmer again.

I’m at a place in my life now that it doesn’t get to me as much as it used to. I’ve just learned to hold my breath and let those words wash over me and try not to think that this must mean I was fat before, or that I should lose weight now. But for that split second that’s exactly what it makes me think. And that’s one of the most challenging barriers to recovery, because people generally, and especially women are always impressed by thinness. That path to oblivion is reinforced every time someone tells you that dress looks good on you because you’re so thin – sometimes by complete strangers.

Unless you know the person has been making changes to live a healthier lifestyle most of the time, weight loss is a sign of emotional unease like a bad break up or problems at work. If fat shaming is socially unacceptable (and so it should be), why is thin praising ok?

Compliments help us all see the beauty that other people see in us, but we are all born with a body type and all of them are completely valid and equally beautiful. And when it deviates away from its natural state the only person who has a right to comment on that body is the person who lives in it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The imaginary bump

I never had an imaginary friend, but I was always kind of jealous of the kids that had one.

Not because I wanted to walk around talking to thin air, I didn’t envy that. But you have to admit they were never alone. Just pretending to have a friend who was always there for them seemed to give them confidence and comfort, like that security blanket you still tuck under your pillow for post break-up blues and pre-interview nerves.

So what if something imaginary could help you recover from an eating disorder?

Sounds ridiculous, but it worked for me. When you’re not eating your mind gets so rigid that you can’t seem to rewire the sections that tell you that you don’t deserve to nourish your body. And because you can’t change your thinking, you can’t change your actions.

At some point in all that, a thought crossed my mind – would I do this to myself if I was pregnant?

So I coaxed what imagination I had left into treating myself like I was. Pretending you’re eating for someone you love, for someone that cannot feed themselves gradually makes you realise how wrong thinking that you’re not worthy of that is. And as you become stronger physically, you start to shake off those mental shackles and shift that imaginary love for the baby you never even had into a very real love for yourself.

I’m not saying it’d work for everyone, but pretending I had a bun in the oven helped me well, put an actual bun in my mouth. And eat it too.

 

 

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