Dieting, binge eating, disordered eating and body shame....how our mental health is being affected by what others tell us

This week is Mental Health Awareness week which is focusing on how we think and feel about our bodies.  In today's society we are swimming in the sea of diet culture and it is all too easy to take what we are seeing for granted.  Our brains say 'of course every woman I see every day wears a size 10...that makes perfect sense to me!' and this becomes our reality...constantly seeking evidence to support this. But by being more mindful and connected with our body's innate wisdom we can go inwards for our evidence instead. 

Healing from dieting, binge eating, disordered eating, body shame and how we think and feel about our bodies can be…well…hard work. We live in a society which has a culture that glorifies and praises dieting tendencies and intertwines our worth with our bodies, our nutritional intake and even our mental health.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 is focusing on how we think and feel about our bodies.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 is focusing on how we think and feel about our bodies.

Because of this we have become lost and no longer recognise what our bodies actually need. We look at them in despair, desperately searching for the answer externally - someone to tell us what to eat so that we can change our bodies. But the thing is, that if we simply turned inwards and listened to our body, it is always telling us exactly what we need to eat and when, to fulfil and satiate ourselves so we can be in the best physical and mental shape. Instead we are choosing to listen to what others dictate is good for us and it is affecting our mental health. Why is this? It is because the experiences we have felt and the behaviours that have been modelled to us, that tell us so.

Our diet culture praises certain ways of eating and movement that aren’t necessarily connected to our specific cravings, satiety, pleasure and connection to our body. What is happening is we are listening to someone else tell us what we and our bodies need, when we are the only ones that ultimately know as we live in it…it is our home…it is our body. It is like someone telling you how you should decorate your bedroom and what furniture you should choose - it will all be coming from their personal map of experiences, and not yours. You might live in it for a while and feel OK about it but you won’t necessarily really love it as the essence of it hasn’t come from you. It is the same with your body. Only you know what your body really needs. No one else. FACT.

The diet culture distracts us from connecting to our body and its unique needs by villainizing food groups, planting seeds of self-doubt and pushing behavior change to achieve external validation. It also convinces us that willpower is an actual thing (and we’re flawed if we don’t have it), that food is the enemy and should be earned, that guilt and shame are motivators to change and that exercise is another word for punishment or compensation.

Mindful Eating

It is time to look within and search for the answers that our body is always giving us. By being consciously aware of why we eat and when we eat, we give ourselves a conscious choice to carry our story of dieting, body shaming and disordered eating forward or to cut the ties and let go of the stories that no longer serve us…i.e: “I must eat everything on the plate” or “of course every woman I see every day wears a size 10...that makes perfect sense to me!”. This does not need to be your reality. By being more mindful and connected with our body's innate wisdom we can go inwards for our evidence instead. Instead we can allow ourselves to love our bodies, be proud of our bodies and honour our hunger and taste messages which overall will have a positive impact on our mental and physical health and means we no longer constantly seeking evidence to support these unhelpful thoughts about the way we eat and how we look.

To begin to be more mindful about your body, how it feels and whether it is hungry or not, here are 5 simple tips for you to follow.

Top 5 Tips to Mindfully Eat

  1. Reflect - before you grab that snack from the cupboard because you ‘think’ you’re hungry, stop and reflect upon how you feel. Are you rushed? Are you feeling stressed? Are you sad? Are you bored? Differentiate between this feeling and how your tummy is actually feeling. Does it feel hungry? Is your tummy rumbling? After you have taken this moment to reflect, do you still need to eat? If so, what is it you actually want to eat and how do you want to eat it?

  2. Sit down - don’t eat on the go. Take a seat and pause before you tuck in. Give yourself the opportunity to appreciate your food. By sitting and eating rather than eating on the go, it will give you the opportunity to track what you are eating rather than snacking on the go.

  3. Do away with distraction - turn off the TV (and everything else with a screen). Often when we watch TV or use a screen whilst we eat without realising. Have you every glanced down from your phone and wondered where all the food want? These distractions make us less aware of what we are eating and how much we are eating.

  4. Waste or Waist - many of us were brought up having to finish every last morsel on the plate and we weren’t allowed to leave the table until it was clean - I certainly was. It is time to resign form the Clean Plate Club; as it takes away choice, the choice to finish your meal when you feel satiated rather than having to stuff in every last morsel. Consider packing the leftovers to go, or just leaving the last few bites. Even though nobody likes to waste food, over-stuffing yourself won’t help those in need. You have the choice for it to become waste or for it to go on you waist.

  5. Silence - try eating your meals in silence. When it is quite it is natural for your mind to wander. Acknowledge these thoughts and then bring yourself back to the experience of eating. Be conscious of your hunger scale as you eat and notice when your body starts to become satiated. You then have the choice to finish regardless of whether you plate is clean or not (see the previous point). Enjoy the consistency of the food and how it makes you and your body feel.

If this post has resonated or struck a chord with you, please be in touch to find out how I can support you to navigate this often emotional and challenging time.

Rebecca x

Rebecca Louise Kelly, Transformation Coach and Touch-Talk Therapy expert

Rebecca Louise Kelly, Transformation Coach and Touch-Talk Therapy expert