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Overcome disordered eating and find peace with food
Does the pursuit of thin bring the happiness you hope for?
by Harriet Frew on April 27th, 2015

​The journalist, Bryony Gordon’s post in Red Magazine this month talks about body acceptance and how she has finally found this now at a heavier weight, compared to her teenage years and twenties when she fought to keep her weight down and battled with bulimia (Red also has some other positive body image stories this month, I would recommend a read if you get a chance). Now, although by BMI charts Bryony is self-claimed overweight, she has found self-love and self-acceptance with her body and in herself in a way that she never dreamed possible. Gaining weight has actually been quite liberating for her as she has rebelled against the pressure to force her body into the skinny aesthetic she has felt had been demanded of her by society. I would imagine she has felt this significantly in her journalistic career, with regular exposure to famous people, airbrushed images and the world of glossy mags.
So Bryony seems healthier, happier and definitely more at peace with herself at a heavier weight. When she had bulimia, she really suffered physically from the effects of bingeing and purging (loss of a tooth; hair loss and her weight yo-yoing up and down to name a few). She describes the painful years of always restricting, avoiding food and feeling bad about herself. She looks of pictures of herself back then and realises how attractive she looked as a young woman but is acutely and painfully aware that she could not see this at the time. Valuable years were lost as the life focus was predominantly on the need to change herself and her body. Now Bryony is overweight, she is arguably healthier in many respects than when in the depths of her eating disorder. Now she cares for her body through regular eating and exercise; plus has supportive relationships and a sense of well-being resulting in her mind being much healthier too.
The main essence of the article is that self-love does not come from the pursuit, or the achievement of thin. If deep down, you are feeling inadequate; unlikeable; not good enough; worthless, then no amount of external fixing is probably going to make you feel better. Sometimes, you might pursue this route through changing your body. People also try to achieve the same ends through the accumulation of worldly goods; hanging out with the ‘right people’; or valuing themselves on career status or wealth.
So like Bryony, do you have to become overweight to find self-acceptance? I know that many of my clients would baulk at this idea, this almost confirming their very worst fears. I personally believe that actually you can have both – healthy weight (that is not underweight or too skinny) AND a content, calm and happy self-accepting mind.  This involves finding your body’s natural weight where you don’t have to fight it anymore.  It involves listening to your body and tuning back into your natural hunger. When you have been controlling your food for years, getting back in touch with your body might feel a bit like getting reacquainted with a long-lost friend who you met when you were a different person all together. Possibly, Bryony is on this journey herself and has first needed a rebellious backlash, against the pressures of feeling she has to be thin, before she can embrace this area of grey. Who knows but I wish her well and support her entirely for being open on this potentially tricky subject matter.
5 ways that I believe that the pursuit of thin erodes your self-esteem
  1. If you are restricting, there is a physical cost. Tired; cold; obsessed with food; poor concentration; becoming withdrawn; possibly bingeing and purging.
  2. Your rules will begin to dictate your self-worth. ‘If I stick to my healthy eating plan and exercise regime, then I am okay, if I don’t then I have failed’. Healthy self-worth needs to be based on more than your body and your eating.
  3. You might start to use food to cope with your emotions. You will ultimately feel bad about this and experience more negative emotions. Your self-esteem will fall lower.
  4. If you achieve the skinny goal or the perfect body, what a pressure to maintain! What if you gain a pound of weight? Have you failed? Are you worth less than the last time you stepped on the scales?
  5. You will look at other people and compare your body. You are likely to spend heaps of time on social media; websites and scanning people on the street; comparing body parts and then feeling inadequate.  Your focus will be out there in the world, rather than looking in and taking care of yourself and looking after your own needs.  Again your self-esteem plummets.
If you relate to this article and you would like to get some support in feeling better about your body image and managing your eating, then please do get in touch. I would love to hear from you. I am passionate about helping you to eat all the foods you love and have a great body image, without disordered eating or dieting.

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Find peace with food and overcome disordered eating.