If you have browsed my website, you may have noticed that my approach to working with clients that have food, weight and shape concerns, is aligned with the principles of Health At Every Size(HAES) and the non-diet approach. Although they are two different modalities, they are fundamentally interconnected, so being HAES aligned also means being non-diet or anti-diet aligned and vice versa. One of the myths I clear up regularly with clients is that I am NOT against them wanting to lose weight and that Health At Every Size is not anti weight loss, either. Let me explain.
Health At Every Size and Weight Loss
At first, the concept of Health At Every Size can be challenging to wrap your head around and accept because it is the polar opposite to what we hear from our doctor and other well-meaning health professionals. We have all grown up being told that thin equals good and being overweight equals bad.
To remedy this, you are advised to go on a diet, which means, eat less and move more. But where has this advice gotten you? *I won’t get into that in this blog, but in short, this narrow advice is outdated and is slowly being refuted by reliable evidence that is not biased towards health, pharmaceutical or beauty industries making billions of dollars.
Dieting is one of the most common forms of disordered eating. Furthermore, research shows that dieting is common among people with eating disorders. As a professional health care practitioner our number one goal is to do NO harm. Focussing on weight and appearance IS harmful. And this is where Health At Every Size comes in.
Health At Every Size is not against weight loss. More accurately, it does not promote weight loss as a goal or a health strategy. The key reasons for this are:
A focus on body weight, shape and size perpetuates externalised and internalised weight stigma.
Weight stigma, also known as weight bias or weight-based discrimination, is discrimination or stereotyping based on a person’s weight.
Evidence shows that weight stigma leads to feelings of shame which makes people less likely to engage in healthy behaviours. It is more likely to result in decreased exercise, increased calorie consumption, unhelpful eating behaviours such as binge eating and/or Bulimia, and poorer weight loss outcomes. Furthermore, people who experience weight stigma have increased psychological stress, depression and anxiety.
Disappointingly, health-care settings are not exempt from stigmatising people living in larger bodies, with patients often reporting receiving poorer care.
Weight stigma is also often internalised—the person perceives themselves to be larger than they really are because they do not look like the thin ideal or they do not weigh a certain number on the scale. Yet, interestingly, by our culture’s standards, they do not have a larger frame body and they are often of “normal” weight or even underweight.
Weight stigma can increase body dissatisfaction, a leading risk factor in the development of eating disorders and an environmental contributor to the development of chronic dieting and disordered eating.
Another key problem with making weight loss the focus is that a person can actively take steps to improve their eating and movement habits, and not lose any weight at all. Despite their overall health greatly improving, that person may then become disheartened and go back to restrictive eating (dieting).
we live in a culture that praises thin bodies and discriminates against larger bodies. But, HAES has the same goal as any other approach: wanting to support our clients in living happy and healthy lives.
The difference? HAES doesn’t believe that this can (or should) be achieved by focusing on weight and body size. HAES (and the non-diet approach) wants to remove this focus.
It’s also important to note, HAES providers generally accept health is not a moral obligation. What does a HAES provider focus on then? Literally everything else across the health spectrum (sleep, food, movement, emotional health…etc).
*By the way, there are also discrepancies in health across lower and higher socioeconomic statuses. I do not touch on this issue in this blog, although I am continually learning more about this. Genetics also play a role. So “health” is based on so much more than food and exercise.
The traditional dieting approach has been in vogue for more than 30 years, but it has the highest failure rate out of any industry.
Many of the women I speak to have spent years, if not their whole lives dieting and weight cycling. Weight cycling is problematic in itself, but the focus on weight can also erode self-worth and adversely affect psychological health.
The Health At Every Size (HAES) approach has received some negative press about not focusing on weight; it has also been suggested that HAES promotes obesity. However, this is where the approach is grossly misunderstood.
The HAES approach helps people find sustainable health behaviours that support overall well-being, acknowledge and address weight stigma, and is inclusive of human diversity in terms of body size, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identification and social status.
There is no doubt when people feel better within themselves, they are more likely to engage in healthy behaviours and feel motivated to take care of their bodies.
With HAES, if a person loses weight through changing their health behaviours and better self-care, weight loss is a beneficial side effect, not the primary goal.
If you would like help incorporating the HAES principles into your health routine, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Do you binge eat at night?
Grab my FREE ebook ‘HOW TO STOP BINGE EATING AT NIGHT, STARTING TONIGHT’.
It will help you to get out of the binge-restrict cycle and eat normally again.
It can be really easy to feel stuck in a cycle of restricting and overeating. Old habits. Old beliefs. Old stories. In this blog I delve into how you can get unstuck from your unhealthy eating and stop overeating habits.
How to stop overeating habits
Over the years, through behavioural patterns you repeat, you have created a neural pathway in your brain that has created these habits with food and eating.
If you instinctively reach for a coffee the moment you wake up in the morning, you have a habit. By the same token, if you feel inclined to lace up your running shoes and go for a run as soon as you get home from work, you have a habit.
Old habits die hard, and creating healthy eating habits that last more than a couple of weeks can often be harder to develop than we would all like.
However, the good news is, through repetition, it’s possible to form—and maintain—new healthy eating habits that last and stop the overeating cycle. Even long-term habits that are detrimental to your health, wellbeing, and happiness can be tamed and stopped with enough practice and a smart approach.
Maybe you find yourself having the same conversations in your head over and over:
“It’s Monday, I’m going to be good today and start my diet”.
“It’s Monday, I better weigh myself and get back on track”.
Perhaps you retreat towards the same patterns of eating behaviour when you feel stressed, overloaded and overwhelmed:
“I know I shouldn’t eat this, but I deserve a treat!”.
“She/he made me angry. I need chocolate and/or a glass of wine!”.
But feeling stuck is just that – a feeling. No matter how many times you fall into old ruts with eating, you can change your overeating habits. Knowing that is the first step to getting “unstuck” with unhealthy and unwanted overeating habits.
Changing your overeating habits may require professional help, but understanding the basic principles of behaviour change can give you a head start on the process.
How to stop overeating habits
1. Decide if you really want to change
This might sound like a really stupid question…of course, you want to change your eating habits and behaviours, right?
But many people say that want to change their relationship with food and their bodies, and then never do what it takes to actually, permanently change it. I’m not saying it’s easy. It can be a little scary, to begin with. But you have to really want to change it. You have to hit rock bottom, be fed up and done with the restrict-binge-guilt cycle. No more dieting. Commit to trying another way.
Additionally, all psychological models of change emphasise the importance of commitment as a necessary first step. If you don’t see a problem, you won’t work on changing your behaviour. The more honest you are with yourself about the nature and destruction of your eating habits on yourself and others, the more likely you will be to start on the path toward change.
2. Gain insight into what is causing the habit
Once you figure out your inner motives and the incentives that are driving your habits, it will help you change them and stop the overeating cycle.
Slow down and take a good honest look at the situations and experiences that lead up to you acting out your habits. It’s possible (I’ve seen it with clients) that your behaviour is motivated by an unconscious, self-defeating need to sabotage yourself.
Do you unconsciously try to thwart your own success because you don’t feel you deserve to do well in life?
Do you fail to engage in healthy habits because you don’t think your body deserves to be treated well?
Everyone responds to reinforcements (the rewards that strengthen our habits). Some unwanted habits like emotional eating feel good, so we keep repeating them. Eating may also make other problems such as stress, loneliness, and boredom temporarily go away, and this instant relief becomes yet another source of reinforcement.
3. Set realistic goals
Your habits have taken years to establish themselves. So please understand, you’re not going to change them overnight. As much as we love a quick-fix, they just don’t work long-term. You want a permanent solution. Not an exhausting cycle of victory and failure.
So, decide on what you would like to achieve and HOW YOU WOULD LIKE TO FEEL (super important) and set realistic and flexible goals and a schedule that will work for you based on your values, available time and resources, etc.
Getting your body moving and overcoming a sedentary lifestyle is a great example of how you can proceed through this step.
Don’t set yourself up to fail. Saying you’re going to go to the gym five days a week when you’re currently not going at all won’t work. You will likely not achieve that and then use your failure as proof that you can’t change or the process doesn’t work.
Start off slow (two or three times a week), and gradually increase if you want to. Doing something is always better than doing nothing.
4. Be mindful of your progress and don’t be discouraged by slip-ups
Your motivation to change will be fired up in part by the rewards you get from your new behaviours.
However, even the most dedicated and determined people experience slip-ups. Lady, you’re human after all and the road to food and body peace is rarely linear. So please do not beat yourself up. If you use that slip as “proof” that you can never change, you will in indeed, never change.
It’s important to get back on the horse so-to-speak and learn from the experience. What can that experience teach you for next time? How can you approach things differently?
Additionally, sometimes the pleasure of engaging in the habit outweighs the frustration of changing the habit. This will certainly happen in the beginning. Don’t give up! Note these experiences in your journal, but if they keep happening and you just can’t make the change, you may need to adjust your reward system or move to Step 5.
5. Seek support if your habits are proving hard to change
One of the best ways to build your innerresilience is by looking outward for support. If you’re having trouble making these changes on your own consistently and long-term, reach out to your friends, family, or perhaps an eating behaviour and body image professional.
Group exercise programs may be more motivating and fun than going on your own if you’re wanting to be more active. Zumba is SO much fun (don’t worry if you’re uncoordinated, you won’t be the only one!). Having fun is the key to sustainable physical activity and making it a habit.
If you’re afraid that reaching out to an eating behaviour and body image professional will be time-consuming, expensive, or just not worth it, you may be surprised to learn that many of my clients have changed decade-long habits in as little as 4 or 5 sessions (3 months).
They were just like you when they started. Doubting they could change. Believing it would be just like another diet they would fail at. But they did it and their lives have transformed because of it.
Furthermore, needing help doesn’t mean you’ve failed.
It just means the change you desire is going to require more resources than you initially anticipated. And that’s totally normal. You’re not alone in that.
The next time you find yourself on autopilot, take a moment to (gently) knock yourself off that well-worn path you’ve walked for years and begin a new one. Step outside of unhealthy or tired routines and try something new. We create new neural pathways every time we experience something new and different.
Remember, your past might set a precedent, but it need not be your present. There are other ways to feel good about eating, body, weight, and self. They might be unconventional and require an open mind, but if you’re still reading, I think this is just the thing you need.
Open yourself up to change and get “unstuck” from an unhealthy eating mindset and stop overeating habits. I promise you it will be worth it.
Diets should come with a warning label. Warning: Dieting increases your risk of gaining MORE weight. That’s right, diets cause weight gain. Reliable, evidence-based research is proving over and over that no weight loss initiatives to date have generated long term results for the majority of participants.
I’m delving into why below.
Many people know that dieting doesn’t work long term and most are shocked to hear that the process of dieting itself, can in fact increase your body’s propensity to gain weight over time. Scientists call this “dieting-induced weight-gain”.
A 2011 study of more than 2,000 sets of twins aged 16 to 25 years old examined the weight-increasing effect of dieting. The twin who participated in intentional weight loss was nearly two to three times more likely to become overweight than their non-dieting twin.
With each additional dieting effort, their risk of becoming overweight increased even more. The researchers concluded, “It is now well established that the more people engage in dieting, the more they gain weight in the long-term.”
The Journal of Obesity review estimated that, at best, only 20% of participants maintain weight loss at one year, and the percentage of those maintaining weight loss decreases further by the second year.
The researchers suggest that these statistics would be worse if participants who dropped out of the programs and those who had diagnosed comorbidities such as mood disorders or binge eating disorder had been included.
Furthermore, research has also shown this to be true in children; and that the risk of binge eating and food preoccupation increases with the frequency of dieting.
Researchers at UCLA reviewed 31 long-term studies and concluded that dieting is a consistent predictor of weight gain, with up to two-thirds of the participants regaining more weight than they lost.
The conventional approach is ineffective.
But letting go of weight loss and dream of a thinner body is hard. I get it. I’ve been there many, many times.
We live in a world that prizes thinnes. The “thin ideal” is the concept of the ideally slim female body. The common perception of this ideal is a woman who possesses a slender, feminine physique, with a small waist and little body fat.
Oddly enough, the size that the thin ideal woman should be is decreasing while the rate of female obesity is increasing. Making this iconic body difficult for women to healthily attain, let alone maintain.
This creates a gap between the actual appearance of the average woman’s body and its expected appearance which, depending on the extent to which a woman internalises the necessity of living up to this ideal, can have serious psychological effects
The degree to which women are psychologically affected by the thin ideal depends to what extent the ideal is internalised. Research shows us that women generally relate the ideally thin body to positive life outcomes such as happiness, confidence, career and romantic success; and consequently, a majority of women value the thin ideal to some extent.
If not dieting then what?
There is the belief and fear, that quitting dieting – in whatever form that may look like – will cause you to let yourself go.
You’ll never stop eating and your weight will balloon out.
Maybe you will gain weight after quitting dieting. But, maybe you won’t.
The point is, no-one (not even those people who guarantee you will lose weight following their program) has a crystal ball and can see into the future and predict how your weight and shape will change.
I don’t know what your weight will do. I can’t and don’t promise you anything when it comes to your weight.
What IS a fact backed by science is that the pursuit of weight loss through dieting behaviours, in the majority of cases, causes people to re-gain weight and often gain more weight on top of that.
Science has shown us, that there is not one diet or ‘lifestyle change’ out there that can generate sustainable weight loss. If you look at the research, most people are followed up beyond one to two years post the diet. Diets cause weight gain.
What’s the point of putting in all the hard yards, spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, starving, busting your guts doing exercise you hate. To lose the weight and then put it all back on again a few years later…?
Big Investment. Little return.
That’s physically, mentally and emotionally damaging (there’s science to prove that too).
Research aside–what has your own dieting experiences shown you?
Diets cause weight gain. Eventually.
That is why there is a saying that goes along the lines of:
“The quickest way to gain weight is to try and lose weight”.
Health At Every Size (HAES) is a growing movement that “supports people in adopting healthy habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control)”.
The HAES movement focuses on research and epidemiological studies that support the idea that health is achievable at any weight, not EVERY weight. Some core findings include:
-Underweight people get the same diseases as their overweight counterparts -Overweight people live just as long, if not longer, than normal weight people -Underweight and obese people have an equally higher mortality rate -Focusing on weight loss as a tool for health has a very low success rate
It’s a trans-disciplinary movement away from restrictive, weight-focused programs toward a non-diet, weight-neutral approach to healthy lifestyles.
Simultaneously, mindfulness, which has been shown to be a viable approach to improving health in the workplace, is a promising addition to the field.
A variety of organisations, programs, and authors are advocating for a non-diet, weight-neutral, mindfulness-based approach. Evidence for this paradigm shift is accumulating with great results.
The hard truth is, a focus on weight loss as a goal is ineffective. It gets it all backwards.
You need to focus on your health and changing your relationship with food and your body first. Then let weight loss be a byproduct of that. IF there’s weight to lose.
It not sexy. But, IT WORKS!
Stepping off the diet roller coaster is hard. But I’m here to support you every step of the eay and guide you through an approach that is a lot more kinder, enjoyable, long-term, and that gets results.
Is dieting and the pursuit of weight loss holding you back from finding an easy and enjoyable relationship with food and your body? I bet it is.
That’s OK. We all have to start somewhere.
I can’t promise you weight loss, but what I can promise you – I can help you stop emotional eating and/or binge eating and feeling at ease in your body. I have a 100% success rate with my clients.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch if this is something that you need help with.
Many of my clients treat their pets with more respect than their own bodies – they feed them, give them their meds and vaccinations on time, take them out on walks, and are kind to them. I choose the word RESPECT as a launching point for working through body image issues. Treating your body with respect means treating it with dignity and meeting its basic needs. Read on while I delve into how you can begin to respect your body.
Start with body respect
When my clients first come to me, they either use food as a way to cope with their emotions or because they’re caught in a cycle of restricting and bingeing. For the most part, their present body shape is partly representative of the way they take care of themselves.
True, not all overeaters will gain weight. Just like not all dieters will binge. However, most do. Only approximately five percent of people who go on a diet to lose weight will keep that weight off longer than two to five years.
But weight aside, this unhealthy relationship with food and our bodies, is well, unhealthy. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
It’s soul-destroying and a life thief.
So how do we look after our bodies without going on a diet?
Health at Every Size (HAES) encourages respect for all bodies, a critical awareness of ourselves and of compassionate, attuned self-care. People may – or may not – lose weight as a result of improved self-care, but their health and well-being will surely benefit. The goals and outcomes of HAES include:
Self – and societal-acceptance for every body.
Truth in health care
A fair society
A healthy relationship with food
Trust in yourself and your body
When you respect your body, you are in partnership with it. You become grounded in your physical body and you’re able to benefit from all it has to offer you.
We are healing our relationship with food, our bodies, and ourselves. Just like when you’ve lost trust in any relationship in your life, it takes time to get it back. When it comes to body respect, this is reciprocal. Respect carries reciprocal energy. Your body will honour you when you honour it at all sizes.
However, you cannot heal your relationship with your body with a plan to make it into what the dominant culture thinks it “should” look like.
Body diversity is real. The more we try to fight it, the more anguish and struggle with food will ensue.
If you treat your body as a structure worthy of respect and it will respond in kind. Abuse or ignore it and it will break down in various ways until you learn the lesson of respect.
Keep this in mind:
You don’t have to love or even like every part of your body to respect it.
But, it is the beginning of making peace with your body and genetics.
It is a critical turning point in stopping dieting and becoming an intuitive eater.
It’s okay if you wish you were smaller.
It’s okay if you wish your tummy wasn’t so round.
It’s okay if you wish your thighs weren’t so dimpled.
These are all normal things to think and feel.
It’s important to hold space for what you wish was different and still respect and appreciate the body you have.
It doesn’t mean you aren’t doing a good enough job loving yourself and your body. It means you are human. It means you are a woman living in a world in which being thin is idolised.
With this in mind, I encourage you to think about “body love” a little differently:
You don’t need to love your body, but can you respect her? Shower and brush your teeth daily, eat some fruits and vegetables and go for a walk in the sunshine.
Can you appreciate her – for keeping you alive every single day? How many times does your heart beat each day to keep you alive?…the average person’s heart beats approx 108,000/day! Your heart works hard for you ♥
Can you show her kindness and compassion today? Take a rest when tired and tell yourself you’re doing the best you can in the moment. Stop and take a few deep breaths.
Remember ~ It’s okay to not love your body. It’s okay to wish things were different.
However, you can’t hate yourself into change (long-term), but you can respect your body into change.
I hope this helps you take the pressure off of yourself to “love your body”. Start with body respect.
Also, remember body respect is a practice. So much of what we desire to bring into our lives takes time and practice. Body respect is not a new plan, a gimmick, or a short-term solution. It’s a way to truly heal—an opportunity to focus on finding joy and pleasure again, as you turn your attention towards the parts of you that perhaps you lost sight of while dieting or trying to fix yourself.
It is an ever-evolving relationship that changes with our healing, our complicated lives, and as we age.
If you’re wanting the support and tools to begin a new relationship with your body, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me here>>
We know that sleep is essential for our well being, despite this, most of us are still not getting enough of it. But did you know, if you’re trying to lose weight, the amount of sleep you get may be just as important as your diet and exercise. Read on to learn how sleep and weight loss are connected and it may be impacting your ability to find your balanced weight.
Sleep and weight loss
Imagine two women you know: they both eat well and exercise regularly. One is thin, yet the other no matter how hard she tries she can’t maintain her focus. She struggles with her hunger, always craves sugary foods, and, despite her efforts in the gym, she doesn’t achieve the same results as someone else following the same program.
Maybe she’s lazy.
Maybe she strays from her meal plan.
Maybe she has no willpower and self-control.
Or, maybe it’s none of those things…
Sleep controls your diet
It could be between living your life, working, and exercising, you’re forgetting to sleep enough.
Sleep affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) levels. Chronic sleep deficiency has been seen to result in higher blood sugar levels. Eventually, this excess insulin ends up storing fat in all the wrong places, such as your liver.
Moreover, scientists have discovered exactly how sleep loss makes it nearly impossible to lose weight. When you don’t sleep enough, your cortisol levels rise. This is the stress hormone that is associated with weight gain around your stomach. Cortisol also activates reward centres in your brain that make you want food.
Most people believe that hunger is controlled by willpower and learning to control your appetite, but that’s incorrect. Hunger is controlled by two hormones: leptin and ghrelin. Without sufficient sleep, we risk our body’s ability to maintain a healthy balance of these hormones that make us feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When we don’t get enough sleep, our levels of ghrelin increase and our levels of leptin decrease. This makes us feel hungrier throughout the day than we might be if we were well-rested.
Lack of sleep also makes you crave foods high in sugar and fat. A study found that just one night of sleep deprivation was enough to impair activity in the frontal lobe, which controls complex decision-making. You don’t have the mental clarity to make good decisions, specifically with regards to the foods you eat. When you’re overtired, you also have increased activity in the amygdala, the reward region of your brain.
The bottom line: lack of sleep means you’re always hungry, hungry for bigger portions, and craving junk food and you don’t have the proper brain functioning to tell yourself, “No!”
What to do
When we’re getting good quality sleep (7-10 hours depending on the person) we digest and metabolise our food better. Fat stores are accessed and then burned off more efficiently. We also feel happier and more sociable.
In other words, good things happen when we get enough sleep! So let’s start prioritising more sleep.
Is sleep the missing factor to finding your balanced weight?
Eating healthy doesn’t need to be hard. There’s a perception that eating healthy is expensive and time-consuming (sometimes it is). The problem is, people believe they have to be perfect, so they don’t bother at all. However, perfection is impossible and completely unnecessary.
What ‘Healthy Eating’ Looks Like In 2018
We put so much pressure on ourselves to have a perfect diet, comparing ourselves to how “good” people are eating and how “bad” we have been ourselves. All that pressure and guilt takes the pleasure out of eating.
Healthy eating doesn’t mean you can never eat your favourite foods. It certainly shouldn’t feel like punishment.
This is what ‘Healthy Eating’ might look like to you in 2018:
Ignore fad diets, and restricted and restrained eating.
There’s no one size fits all diet (It’s trial and error).
No foods are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ (Food is not a moral issue). Labelling food gives it power. YOU are the one with the power, not the food.
Ensure you eat your macros daily (carbohydrates, protein AND FATS), but don’t get too hung up on it.
Eat as many vegetables and salads as you can.
Limit (do not restrict) processed foods.
Keep it simple. It doesn’t have to be fancy.
Eat how your great-grandmother ate. Eat food as close to its original source as possible.
Don’t have time for eggs in the morning – make a nutritious smoothie. You can get over half of your fruit/veg intake for the day before even leaving the house!
Pick a place to start – don’t put pressure on yourself to change everything all at once. Planning ahead with meals, keeping a list of your favourite recipes handy, and getting food delivered from the supermarket can help you with time constraints.
Have healthy food and foods you enjoy stocked in the pantry, fridge and freezer so you can throw things together on a whim.
Have a meal or small snack every 3 to 4 hours. This fuels your metabolism and helps prevent binges and blood sugar crashes.
Visit the farmer’s markets or supermarket to stock up on supplies and dedicate some time each week or fortnight to cook in large batches and freeze meals.
Importantly, instead of focusing on what you think you can’t eat; focus on all of the foods you can eat… and how great such foods make you feel. Be creative with food and keep food fun, this will help remove any stress around food.
Most of all what it comes down to is realising that there is no ‘perfect’ diet. Just a diet that’s right for you, in that particular time. Even the “perfect day” isn’t perfect if you eat the same thing over and over again.
Life is about balance. Doing the things that are right for you the majority of the time. For me, food is not just fuel for my body, it is for pleasure too.
Happy New Year! I hope 2018 is your year to shine!