Have you fully considered the number of men and women who have an abusive relationship with food? In the US alone, it has been estimated that more than 30 million adults will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime.
Now consider all those who have negative behaviours and thoughts associated with eating, but who don’t have what would be defined as a full-blown eating disorder. Have you ever looked in the mirror and picked your body apart, or told yourself that you need to do a juice cleanse to lose weight? Have you ever felt guilty after eating or saved calories so you can binge on a ‘cheat meal’ later in the day?
In my professional role as a registered nutritionist, I know that most of us have disordered behaviours and thoughts around food, weight and shape. As a recovered anorexic, I know how it feels to experience these. I was a chronic self-abuser; I spent a decade fighting myself and my body. The result? I developed osteoporosis by the age of 22 and may never have children, yet I also learnt a lot and found my passion for helping others take care of themselves. Read on as I share three of my most powerful tips for how you can show yourself more kindness in your approach to nutrition, and still reach your goals.
Think of a mountain
At the top of the mountain is your goal, and you are hiking up the mountain towards it. You can do this as quickly or slowly as what feels good to you. You can take a break; you can even go back down to lower ground. But when you reach the top, you know the view will be the most incredible thing you have ever seen. You will feel incredible. Now, capture that in a colour, image or sound.
This mountain metaphor was presented to me in year 10 of my eating disorder. It was the final year I was ill. After all the therapy, self-help articles and sheer will to get well, I thought I was bound to always be anorexic. This powerful visual changed that. It empowered me to view my recovery as my responsibility and my choice; I could go back down the mountain if I chose. It also made success feel beautiful and gave me hope. Whatever goal you are working towards; I encourage you to take a hike up it.
Open the flood gates
Yep, open them right up. Cry. For goodness sake, let yourself cry. Often, we stuff our emotions back down as soon as they start bubbling up. By stuffing those emotions down like a bulimic going on a cookie binge, you are hurting your body. In the short-term it can literally lead to binges or using food for emotional support, in the long term it can lead to chronic disease, weight gain and depression. The solution: let yourself feel all the things; good, bad and ugly.
This is something that, as an only child brought up in England, I was very bad at. I felt like I had to be perfect all the time, which included never showing vulnerability, dark emotions, or fears. But I had a lot of these, especially as an anorexic teenager. I suppressed them so much so that I eventually burnt out. Several times. And then I was vulnerable; the exact thing I was trying to avoid.
Take it from me, quit the need to be perfect; it’s total crap; and give your body grace. Feel like crying? Let yourself cry. Feel scared or vulnerable? Share with those you trust. What I’ve learnt is the things most personal are often most general. Let others help you and let yourself be human.
Trust your gut
Self-trust is HUGE, especially when it comes to eating. My clients say they are worried about their snacking habit, they want to do the latest fad diet, don’t know what a healthy dinner looks like. Why? They don’t trust themselves. I blame a lot of this on the food industry and media; we are bombarded with mixed messages and clever marketing. However, when it comes down to it, many of us intuitively know what to eat, how much and when. Trust that gut. It’s one powerful tool that came built-in when you were born.
And that brings me to my final point: that you already have what you need to love yourself, have a fantastic relationship with food, and reach your goals. However, it’s truly an inside job. That was the hardest thing for me to understand. Sure, I knew it but I didn’t truly understand it. What really helped me was hearing about other people’s journeys, and so after I recovered from my eating issues I decided to start talking about my experiences. This year, I even decided to write a book about them!
My mission with this is to inspire as many women as possible to look after themselves and turn their backs on self-abuse. If this is something that is also important to you, please contribute to this book by visiting gf.me/u/zgaip5 . In doing so, you’ll be helping change your life as well as the women closest to you.
Lizzy Cangro holds masters in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge and Nutrition from King’s College London. www.nutritionbylizzy.com