Inspiring you to find peace with food and your body image
Inspiring you to find peace with food and your body image
by Harriet Frew on January 7th, 2020

If you have been ignoring your hunger through persistent dieting or engaging in disordered eating behaviours, understandably, your body will be confused!

  • You won’t know when you’re hungry.
  • You won’t know when you’re craving.
  • You won’t trust your appetite.
  • You won’t know when you’re full.

How we learn to under-eat or starve

1.Being exposed to chronic stress impacts appetite.
2.Not having enough food available means that hunger becomes a norm.
3.Exercising as an alternative distraction from eating, hence why compulsive exercising can become dominant in anorexia nervosa.

How we learn to overeat or binge eat

1. If you are undernourished, your body will crave the nutrients it’s missing.
2. When stomach contents are drained after eating (often through purging).
3. Eating at unpredictable and irregular times; some routine and structure is helpful.
4. Eating food that is highly palatable and easy to overeat on.

If you are exposed to these triggers for overeating/bingeing, you may likely still repeat these behaviours (at least initially), even when normal eating patterns are restored.

This is a normal part of recovery. It can be tricky to hang-in there, when you are negotiating this difficult phase. You have probably lived in fear of losing control of your eating; it might feel that these worst fears are being manifested. This is in the short term. You will come through the other side. The only way out is through!

How to re-set a disturbed appetite control system

1.Eat regularly; this means no long periods without eating. This allows your blood sugar to stabilise.

2.Try to eat slowly and mindfully, so you register the food you are eating. It gives a chance for your body to respond appropriately and acknowledge your eating.

3.Work (with support if possible) on reducing vomiting or chewing and spitting; this will allow body satiation mechanisms to be restored.

4.Aim to get your weight within a healthy range.  When you are underweight, the biological drive to eat will be really strong. You will be extremely sensitive to the sight, smell and flavour of food. This will leave you vulnerable to out of control eating.

5. Develop other non-food self-care and pleasurable activities, as part of daily life.

 Choose activities that activate the left side of the brain that has the soothing system.

Eg: Touch – massage, aromatherapy, reflexology.
Smell – have a warm bath with your favourite fragrance.
Sound – listen to music that you enjoy.
Vision – make your room a pleasant environment with colours, pictures and soft fabrics.

It takes patience, time and commitment to re-set your hunger signals. Be kind and compassionate with yourself in this process.  Your body will begin to respond, as you treat it with love and respect.

by Harriet Frew on January 5th, 2020

When you don’t fit neatly into an eating disorder diagnosis

It is very common that you might not fit neatly into an eating disorder diagnostic category.
In this case, you might believe that your symptoms are not valid or that you aren’t ill enough to warrant help. THIS IS NOT TRUE.

In this case, you might be diagnosed with Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED).

In the past (1987 – 2013), if you were in this category, you might have been diagnosed with EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified). You may well have heard of this? Before 2013, around 50% of people diagnosed with an eating disorder were diagnosed with EDNOS (Beat website).

If you have a diagnosis of OSFED, this is every bit as valid as the other eating disorders. In fact, most people will fall into this diagnostic category.

Your symptoms are serious. They signal a coping strategy for underlying distress and difficult thoughts and feelings.

You are absolutely worthy of treatment. Your symptoms count as much as anyone with a ‘neater’ diagnosis.

Some common OSFED presentations that we see in therapy: -
  • When someone has all the symptoms of anorexia nervosa, but their weight remains in the normal range.
  • When someone has all the symptoms of bulimia nervosa but their frequency of bingeing and purging is less than official criteria.
  • When someone has all the symptoms of binge eating disorder but the frequency of bingeing is less than official criteria.
  • When someone purges regularly without binge eating.
  • When someone massively over exercises but appears to eat ‘normally’.
  • Binge eating to the point of being uncomfortably full, but not full-blown binges.
  • The list could go on........
If you recognise yourself here, do reach out and get help.

You are worthy of treatment.

OSFED is an eating disorder. Don’t hesitate to reach out.

by Harriet Frew on January 2nd, 2020

I used to dive headfirst into the deep-end of January resolutions, with enthusiastic zeal!

Following the indulgence, of one too many mince pies and not moving from the comfy sofa, the resolutions held the supreme promise and hope of transformation.

Sugar would be completely banned; a shiny, new gym membership would carve out the dream body, whilst I followed a strict regime detailing calories, steps, measurements and goodness knows what else.

Of course, it always started tremendously well.

On day one, my motivation was sky high and plans were followed to the letter. I was sure that this time, I had finally nailed it. This plan was THE ONE! I had unlocked the magical, secret to change; I’d just never had the right willpower or regime in place before.

Unsurprisingly, the zeal and optimism of day one, or even day seven in January, quickly dissipated, as the month moved on.

January is not a month for extreme, low carb diets or cold chicken salads or early morning gym visits. The dreary, dark days and the persistent cold can quickly sap motivation. Three weeks in, I was feeling ravenously hungry and irritable, like an angry bear deprived of food. I was dreading the early morning alarm clock, signalling my supposed gym visits and the body transformation was no way near fast enough.

By Valentine’s Day, the expectations and aspirations of January 1st had been recklessly abandoned by the wayside; with the need for hot dinners and sustaining comfort food sensibly winning the battle.

This was not accepted on my part, with an understanding self-compassion or wisdom of the non-sustainability of such a punishing regime. Instead, the feeling of doom and failure would set in.

‘I don’t have enough willpower; I never follow through; I’m just not good enough’.

My ‘all or nothing’ thinking would lead me into destructive and negative behaviours.

‘I might as well eat everything in sight; there’s no point doing exercise, if I can’t follow through; I might as well self-sabotage to prove how much of a failure I am’.

Thankfully, with the passage of time, I no longer take the same strategy with resolutions.

But what’s changed?

ONE: – Resolutions are no longer fixed in stone, with their achievement marked out, as the holy grail of self-worth. Instead, there are flexible goals in place and part of my longer term development. They are not unique to January alone, but part of the ongoing practice of gently chipping away at enhancing mental wellbeing, relationships; health and happiness. There is no longer a drastic, overhaul that descends on December 31st.

TWO: – I have learned that effective change comes from consistency and baby steps. And isn’t that so boring and underwhelming to hear? How we long for the magical, overnight fix to make it all better! The lose ten pounds in ten day days or transform your relationship in an hour. So rather than the exhausting workout at 5.30am, it’s about adding in that extra walk, but consistently; and instead of transforming my limited social life to friendship-queen status, it’s about making that call to my friend on a Sunday regularly and nurturing those connections.

THREE: -When you’re making change, it helps to have support around you, to stay motivated and inspired.

If you want to dance, enroll in a class with some buddies. Want to stop overeating? Join an online forum, follow some inspiring accounts on Instagram or get some counselling. Other people can be your cheerleaders and spur you on. It can be incredibly hard in isolation.
As we move into 2020, do take from this post, the tips that work for you.

Choose sustainable, achievable mini goals and work on them consistently. Don’t set yourself up with unrealistic resolutions that will be abandoned, well before January comes to a close.
Remember to be kind and compassionate with yourself in this process, as self-chastisement is not in the least bit effective for motivation.

This post is currently live at SELFISH MOTHER

by Harriet Frew on December 31st, 2019

The button on your trousers is prodding uncomfortably into your stomach. You look guiltily at the shiny wrappers in the waste bin, a sombre reminder of the late-night Celebrations binge. Self-loathing seeps through every pore as you finish off the final three: ‘I’m fat anyway, so why not?  You consider that you might as well, before the healthy eating regime begins.

This regime it is not a diet – it says that in the marketing spiel.

It’s a ‘transformation plan’ and it seems to include a lot of green vegetables. Said plan looks promising, enticing you with high expectations of success. You picture yourself, lithe and lean-limbed, showing off your new bod by Valentine’s Day. You can already hear the comments of ‘oh you’ve lost weight, you look amazing’ sweetly ringing in your ears.

You have momentarily forgotten the quantities of hard-earned cash spent on previous diets and the many hopes squandered in the process. If the truth be known, you have lost and gained the same 10lbs more times than you care to remember. In fact, your weight might have crept up a pound or two in the last few years.

With a new year dawning, it is seductive to prioritise weight loss and body transformation as a passport to renewed confidence and self-esteem. Sadly, the plans that promise, often cannot deliver long-term, being wholly unsustainable and impractical. Crucially, they have the potential to disrupt your relationship with food whilst exacerbating the critical voice, that damns self-esteem and judges eating.
What if you ranked your mental wellbeing more highly?  

When feeling emotionally robust, you can handle the tumultuous emotions and ride the stormy seas of life more effectively. You are increasingly present and mindful, being in the moment. You are less reactive, calmer and positive in your relationships.

If you work on your emotional health, this will undoubtedly benefit your physical health also. You will feel less need to escape your emotions, through comfort eating, drinking alcohol, over-work or over-spending.
5 ways to prioritise mental wellbeing
  1. Start with the basics. If you are looking after your beloved pet, a child or loved one, you will ensure that they get enough sleep, eat regularly and breathe fresh air. It seems obvious, but many people do not take time to care for themselves in these fundamental ways.
  2. Life will always be busy and demanding. Alas, you do not have a fairy godmother to give endorsement of you doing kind things for yourself. Instead, you will need to give this permission and to not feel guilty about it. Otherwise, life becomes one giant slog. Then, understandably you will turn to food or drink as a short-cut to gratification and self-love, as you won’t have the energy to utilise more constructive means. Find activities that personally bring you contentment and joy. It can be the little things, such as a frothy cappuccino in your favourite café; trying a new skill such as pole-dancing or reading a book you adore.
  3. Spend time with the encouragers and cheerleaders in your life who lift you up, accept and validate you. The ones who make you giggle and smile. Not the whiners and drainers; the ones you feel obligated to see and who dump all their problems on you. Learn to say no and protect your valuable time.
  4. Be mindful of your absorption of information. We are so vulnerable to mindlessly scrolling through social media and unconsciously taking in values of perfection and materialism, then feeling inadequate. Instead, consciously seek out meaningful content – in podcasts, blogs or books. Search to find material that educates, inspires or lightens life.
  5. If you are feeling stuck in life or continually repeating old, faulty loops of behaviour, think about accessing counselling. You have probably paid pounds for diets or gym memberships with the promise of a physical transformation. As an alternative, consider investing in your emotional health, perhaps through visiting a therapist, and reaping the benefits long-term.

by Harriet Frew on December 11th, 2019

Is it helpful for food packs to display how much exercise a person would need to burn off calories?

Research from Loughborough University says ‘yes’ and that this type of labelling could cut 200 calories from a person’s daily average intake.

I disagree.

Yes, we have an obesity epidemic.

But what about the 1.25 million people (BEAT) who have an eating disorder?

Making this kind of information mainstream can only exacerbate disordered eating symptoms.

Disordered eating is not just an issue for the underweight; many people of all shapes and sizes struggle with this.

If you are prone to counting calories; obsessively monitoring activity levels; purging through excessive exercise – making this information available is only going to make these symptoms worse.

This is because our relationship with food is complex.

Knowing what to eat and then putting this into practice, are very different things.

Having nutritional or exercise information might work for some. For many, it’s not the answer long-term. It massively over-simplifies things.


Overeating or undereating, for many people can be a coping strategy. A way to manage emotions (soothing, numbing or distraction) or a way to escape from the stressors of life. And, if you’re on the poverty line, it can be your one affordable pleasure.

Many healthy foods are expensive and eating well is largely a privilege. Whereas, convenience high fat and high sugar foods are relatively cheap and abundantly available. If you are strapped for cash, you are going to buy these foods, as they are affordable, never mind what’s on the label.

So if not labeling, what to do instead?

Education that considers the complexities of our relationship with food.

For example: ‘healthy week in schools’ needs to address the psychological too.

Better mental health provision, so people learn to self-care and manage emotions in constructive ways.

Making it easy to access and afford fruit and vegetables for everyone.

Dealing with poverty and the massive inequalities in our culture.

These issues are complex. What do you think?

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Inspiring you to find peace with food and your body image