What Does Self Love Really Mean?

What does self-love really mean?

After Phelan Well’s first event this week, I felt completely awe inspired to create this blog! I wanted to start by saying that self-love can look different to each individual and I believe this message was consolidated at the Self-love & body confidence event last weekend!

Here are a few pointers which came out of the weekend:

The ability to accept yourself just as you are right now. Whether you are on a health journey, mindfulness journey, seeking a new career path or relationship, change is scary and can be uncomfortable and being hard on yourself in the process will not make matters easier. In my eating disorder recovery, I had to first ACCEPT myself and my body, before I could learn to love it and instead of punishing and depriving it, I nourished it and fought my way back to loving it through self-care, patience and acceptance.

Knowing that strength means something different to everyone and does NOT just mean being able to live a heavy dumbbell. Being strong in mind, believing in yourself, persisting and not allowing challenges to break you, is what will make you the strongest in mind and body. If you don’t always feel “strong”, that’s okay too; to admit you aren’t okay is also a sign of great strength.

Surrounding yourself with positive people who make you feel good, who life you up, encourage you, believe in you and who want the best for you. Having these people around you will enable you to feel better in yourself and act as a reminder to love yourself as much as they love you.

Thinking positive thoughts and planting your mind with them! This one is by no means easy, but the wonderful Sophie Leah reminded us why this is so important. The more we fill the garden in our minds with negativity, self-doubt and criticism, the more weeds and thorns will grow. The more we are able to praise ourselves, forgive ourselves and complement our efforts, the more the flowers can bloom and the more resourceful and happy we become.

Stop comparing. We are all different, unique and like no other and that’s what makes us AMAZING. How can we compare ourselves to someone else when they are nothing like us? It can be hard and I put my hands up and say I have done it, but does it achieve anything positive? No. By focusing on ourselves, our goals, needs, wants likes and dreams we can make ourselves happier. Someone else’s path is theirs for a reason and unless you are learning or getting inspiration from them, it is of little use to you.

Compliment yourself and compliment someone else each day. If you send out positive vibes they will come back to you. It can be so easy to get caught up in all the things we would change about ourselves, but what about all the things that are so great already. Say one out loud right now!

Focus on what matters most, the inside. It’s great to feel great in the way we look, but focusing on the physical appearance alone will not make you love yourself more. Physical appearances can change, but who you are deep inside is what is congruent and what people will remember you for. Ask yourself, do you want to be known as the person with the great abs or the person who is kind and positive?

Make a gratitude list as often as you can. Remind yourself of all you have, all you have accomplished and all you are!

Finally, remember that self-love is a journey and does not happen overnight. Rome wasn’t built in a day and building yourself back up from low self-esteem, confidence and self-worth takes time. Be hopeful in that each day, with each new challenge and step forward you are on your way to loving and accepting yourself just as you are, an imperfectly, perfect you.


How To Cope If You Feel Like You Are Relapsing

Are you feeling at a bit of a loss at what to do? Does it feel like old thoughts around food and body image are returning? Are you worried about slipping back into old habits and undoing all the positive work you have done with yourself around food and body image?

Whether you are struggling with under eating, over eating, a bit of both or just general anxieties around food then these practical tips and advice may be able to help you.

First key bit of advice I would give here is to stop and breathe, accept the feeling and do not beat yourself up for feeling that way.

If you have anyone close to you that you trust, I always advise confiding in them as a problem shared is a problem halved. If not, there are several helplines and information for eating disorder support including B-eat, Samaritans, NCFED.

Furthermore, I would suggest in a moment of despair is to write down the all the things you have gained in your life since beginning your road to recovery. This may be more energy, better relationships, more self-esteem, your hormones may be more balanced, you may be doing better at school, work or general everyday activities. You may even have started to enjoy life without the self-deprecating thoughts around food. Then I want you to write a list off the COSTS that come with listening to that voice, with slipping back into old habits. The impact it has on your health inside and out, the way it affects your ability to have friends and make plans and every waking thought it consumes with its rituals and rules.

Ask yourself, will this make tomorrow any easier, is this one difficult day or week in recovery worth giving up for a life of obsession, sadness and guilt?

Another thing I would advise, if for anyone recovering to keep a journal, write down all the amazing progress you have made, the things that have improved and the coping mechanisms that work.

GET RID of old pictures if they make you compare yourself or make you feel worse.

TAKE A BREAK from social media, you may benefit from being away from a world of filtered images and comparison while you get yourself to a better frame of mind, it won’t go anywhere and when you feel strong enough then you can return.

Is there a way for you to book an appointment with a counsellor or therapist, or go to a local support group where you may not feel so alone?

Practice self-care even when you don’t feel like it, take a bath, meditate, call a friend, make a hot tea, watch a film, get out in nature, anything that makes you feel good.

Finally, remember why you started. Remind yourself of how much the eating disorder took from you, the ceased laughter, the inability to think straight, the distance from those you love. The only time you give up the fight is when you STOP trying. So don’t give up and don’t allow that voice, no matter how overbearing and critical it may be, to convince you that one bad day or week is worth going back to a lifetime of misery.


How Travelling Helped Set Me Free

Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

Never has a quote rang truer for my experience of travelling. Let me take you back to planning my trip and the place I was in at the time in my recovery.

I remember the day I boarded a flight to Berlin, age 19 to live away independently for a month and do a travel writing internship. I had booked it on a whim after wanting to do something different that summer and being inspired by my best friends trip to Asia. I was nervous yes, but as soon as I boarded the plane and made friends with the person next to me I knew this was going to change my life. Low and behold this trip was the start of a new me, a me that was able to eat white bread without guilty (something that affected me at the time only 5 years into recovery from anorexia) and drink beer whilst meeting new people. To some this may sound like the ordinary but for me It was a HUGE milestone in my recovery process and I returned home with a new lease of life, more confident in my body and with a new lust for life.

Fast forward two years where my best friend and I sat down and booked our one-way flight to Rio De Janeiro, exciting, thrilling but terrifyingly out of my control, one thing that I still found hard to let go of 7 years into recovery from anorexia. Despite this, it was something I wanted to do and knew I would love despite how scary it seemed with its entirely new culture and a thousand miles away from my partner, friends, family, gym and food. That’s the point of travelling your probably thinking, well yes but for me it was a pretty scary reality and out of my comfort zone.

THE PROS OF MY TRIP:
  • South America is just beautiful, so much diversity, different weathers, beaches, hikes and people which really makes for a breath-taking journey.
  • I learnt to eat a wider range of foods, not know anything about the context of them and pretty much eat what I was given which brought a new found sense of gratitude for my life back home and for food in general.
  • I didn’t have access to a gym, so had to accept that walking, hiking and swimming was my new play area and that I didn’t need the gym to stay fit and healthy, I also learnt how much I LOVE outdoor fitness!
  • I overcame my photo phobia! Something that haunted me in my teenage years hiding from pictures, feeling nauseas if I was tagged on Facebook and many nights avoided at the fear of being photographed, in Brazil I took my first selfie and photo in a bikini aged 21!
  • I learnt that being flexible and out of control is sometimes just the way life happens and there’s nothing I can do to change that.
  • I learnt that the world is a lot bigger than me and my problems and that there was much it could teach me!

__________________________

The only cons were that sometimes I missed home a lot and I did get mugged and thrown off a bike at one point (no damage done thankfully), however in hindsight this brought me massive emotional resilience and I learnt I was able to cope in terrifying situations!

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One of the most amazing things though, was that while on a buggie in Peru, I made a list of what I wanted to do on my return:
1- Learn to drive (still working on that ha)
2- Become a fitness instructor of some sort-yep boxing fitness woo
3- Become a beat ambassador- done
4- Start up something to help others through their eating disorder recovery.

Alas Phelan Well which started as feel good fitness was born and my mission to help people, specifically women with eating disorders, in the latest stages of their recovery through taking care of themselves and their bodies. I was a storyteller, on a mission to inspire others to get through their pain just like I had with mine.

Fast forward to this Summer past, Phelan Well had its first event and I qualified that year as an Eating Disorder Specialist helping those who were in their recovery. I honestly don’t think this would have been a reality without that time away and gaining perspective.

Bringing you back to the present, I have just returned from the most AMAZING trip to Canada to see my best and oldest friend, I went to a little place called Banff in Alberta and it absolutely left me speechless. Its vast open spaces, soaring mountains, crystal blue and jade green waters all inside of a valley meant that worries and stresses faded away pretty quickly. I was back in the bubble of the earth in its rawest form and it was pure bliss. Anyone thinking of taking a trip-GO!

So to finish I thought I would consolidated what my latest trip taught me and what travelling has given me overall, including freedom from an eating disorder.

FREEDOM
Freedom from disordered thoughts, negative thinking, control, stress and worry. The ability to be free and at one with my surroundings which let’s face it, is pretty impossible to achieve in London. Culture shock in a good way. Learning a new way of living, learning new languages and meeting new people is such a good way to open your eyes, mind and heart.

FOOD!
New food, different food, food you may love and food you may hate, but a little variety never hurt anyone and you may surprise yourself how flexible you can be.

FORCED RELAXATION
In Canada I honestly adored the morning-which is something that often causes anxiety for me in London. Instead of waking up with a pounding list of thoughts and to do’s, I woke up looked out the window at the mountains and started my day in a slow and steady pace-this meant the rest of my day followed a similar pattern.

PHOTOS
Albeit my photo phobia has been gone for several years, I definitely did not miss a thing and made sure I captured the beauty of Banff and every moment so I could look back and remember how beautiful it had been.

BIKINI CONFIDENCE
Being able to be in a bikini and not worry about what I looked like, in fact quite like what I saw was again a new found part of my self love journey, something that stripped me of looking after my body for so long.

NEW WAY OF LIVING
It reminded me and opened my eyes up to a potential new life, if I wanted different to what I had now. Don’t settle if you don’t feel like you have found home, the world is bloody massive and there will be somewhere that warms your heart.

THE WORLD IS FAR BIGGER THAN MY PROBLEMS
yes I will still stress, worry meaninglessly and perhaps get caught up with the wrong things but to have the time away and realise essentially I am far stronger, able bodied and resilient that I give myself credit for, reminds me how capable I am and how much I can learn from seeing more of the world. Disasters happen all around us and a reminder to stay grateful never hurt anyone.

LIVE IN THE MOMENT
Living in the moment is sometimes THE best thing you can do-trust in yourself, trust in the day ahead that if you let go for just a second thing will be okay. Learning to let go can lesd to SO much happiness and a sense of contentment which can ease anxiety and leave space for creativity.

Finally, the world is always waiting, to teach you, inspire you, challenge you and remind you. Fall in love with the world and you can fall in love with yourself all over again.

L x


The Dangers Of Dieting

Amongst a modern diet culture, it can feel impossible to know what to eat, when to eat it and what is ‘healthy’. This can be extremely overwhelming and dis-empowering when trying to lead a balanced lifestyle.

There is also, a huge amount of research that proves the immense negative physiological consequences that dieting has, not to mention the effect on the mental state and the fact that it can make you more likely to develop an eating disorder.

Before I continue with what may seem a controversial statement, I must point out that there is a difference between someone who chooses to be healthy for several positive impacts it may have on their wellbeing, as opposed to someone who develops an unhealthy relationship with food and potentially an eating disorder. As Sara Gilbert states, “people who diet may find it difficult to lose the same amount of weight on successive occasions”[1]. Research suggests there may be an underlying metabolic basis for this, which was concluded through a study where rats were given the same diet on two occasions and the second time took longer to reach optimum weight.

My reason for sharing this with you, is not to make you feel like you must deprive more, it is to help you understand that the more you deprive your body of its basic nutrients and food groups, the more malnourished it becomes and the more stress you put onto your body. Living in a restrained way, calorie counting and the AWFUL fad diets we are constantly bombarded with, will only lead to constant worries around food, weight and body image, it will arouse negative feelings and ultimately wreak havoc with your wellbeing.

The human body NEEDS food to fuel it and as human beings, it is one our most basic and important needs. When we deprive our bodies of food and certain nutrients, we are left feeling empty, with cravings, feelings of unease, irritability and often anger. Imagine cutting down the amount of times you brushed your teeth, or took a shower so drastically that your skin started to react or your mouth became sore. Well, consider the drastic impact you could put on your body if you deprive it of food and the nutrients it needs.

My advice today? Eat an array of food groups including carbohydrates, fats, vegetables, protein and of course some of your favourites. Keep your plate full of colour and allow yourself to eat in a balanced way, foods that will nourish you yes, but also foods that make you feel good! If you feel like you need some advice on this, I would recommend seeking help from a professional such as Phelan Well’s resident expert, Rhiannon Lambert, who has a deep understanding of how to eat for nourishment and is an expert in this field.

Whilst I cannot speak for everyone, for me, dieting was one of the biggest causes for my eating disorder developing and what seemed harmless, soon turned into a life-threatening illness. Don’t let this be you, don’t deprive yourself of nourishment because the consequences speak for themselves.

[1] Sara Gilbert, Counselling for eating disorders.


How To Be At Peace In Your Body

Health, wellness and body confidence to one person looks different to another, as we are all SO different, no one size fits all and health does not exist in a single body shape or a bowl of kale. I am going to share with you three key things on how to feel more at peace with your health and your body:

After a holiday weekend, I always like to remind myself, my clients, friends and family, that we need to go a bit easy on ourselves, give yourself a break and allow yourself to “indulge” and be balanced. With an abundance of food, for some alcohol and lots of people, it can prove particularly challenging if you are in recovery from an eating disorder, struggle with low self-esteem or generally anyone who may feel anxieties about an abundance of food. My recovery from Anorexia was always particularly challenging around a holiday such as Christmas or Easter, as I would be conflicted as to how much I wanted to have, how much I should have and how this would make me feel about myself.

My first crucial piece of wisdom/advice here is to remind yourself that: YOU ARE ENOUGH. YOU ARE WORTHY. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL INSIDE AND OUT. The amount of food or alcohol you consume does not correlate to whom you are, how much willpower you have OR how “deserving” you are of your next meal. Did you know that scientific based evidence proves that the more sugar you consume the MORE you crave it and the less satiated you feel? That means that ANYONE can have times where they feel like they have eaten “too much”, or indulged to a point that feels “unhealthy”.

Secondly: Food is only as guilty as we make it. Controversial, yes? Does that mean you should never include vegetables and protein into your diets, no! Yes we NEED vegetables, complex carbohydrates and protein, but that doesn’t mean that if we eat chocolate or a slice of cake we are not eating well or that the foods are “bad”. Amongst a wellness revolution it feels like everyone is a fitness addict, nutrition expert and only eats avocado on rye and while there are SO many benefits to living an active lifestyle and eating wholesome foods, there is the rise of eating disorders such as Orthorexia, which is an obsession with eating “clean” foods only and if this doesn’t happen, people are often left feeling insanely guilty. The best thing you can do is strive for balance in your meals, listen to what your body needs and allow yourself to have a little bit of what you fancy in moderation so you do not feel deprived, guilty or in conflict with food and your body.

Thirdly: Stop and ask yourself right now, is your BODY really the problem, or what you THINK about your body? We are only as “big” or “small” as the person we are comparing ourselves to, our skin is only as clear as the person’s skin we compare ours to, etc. You get my drift? If society was to change its ideals of beauty, would you change yours? Strive not to look like the photo shopped image on the magazine, or anyone else in fact, strive to work on feeling like the best version of YOU, because that is the only thing you can ever truly attain.

Finally, I want you to practice these two mantras the next time you feel guilty for eating, or the next time you put your body down. “Food is medicine”. “Food is nourishment” Plain and simply put, we NEED food to survive, it is a basic and highly important part of self-care that we NEED in order to function, work, love and be loved. If you feel like you have a negative, disordered or obsessive relationship with food, please reach out, you are not alone as a staggering 1.6 million people in the UK alone that are right there with you.

What happens today doesn’t define who YOU are as a person or what choices you go on to make. Whatever your journey, know that nothing lasts forever and YOU have the power to strengthen your mind and life to live more freely, in peace with your body.

For more information or support:


My Thoughts On ‘Overshadowed’ BBC3

Dark harrowing but realistic.

There isn’t much that could depict the true agony of an eating disorder, whether that is anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and so on. Especially as eating disorders and mental health do not discriminate, they can affect ANYONE at any age, male or female. In this case the protagonist, Imo is stereotypically a white young female. Despite this, the drama does tap into the fact that anorexia is very much like having another voice inside your head, a person outside of your own body controlling your every waking thought and move. Some may say it’s like your worst best friend. It starts out by being there for you, comforting and supporting you when you feel like you need someone or something to rely on, but sooner or later it has you on constant self-destruct mode, running your health into the ground until all you are fixated upon is numbers and control.

In my opinion as a professional and recovered anorexic, Eva O Connor, whom herself suffered, managed to portray a close to realistic interpretation and it is important that she did not get the actress to lose weight for this role.

Anorexia may start by trickling into your life through a diet regime, or exercise pattern, but sooner or later in manifests and takes over every inch of your life, from your friendships and relationships to your work and/or school life. You WILL NOT be able to live a happy life, a normal life in the grips of this eating disorder and Eva O Connor shows this deterioration well of Imo’s life and mental state well.

I was also impressed with Eva’s commentary on the millennial world of vlogging, and how for some people social media can cause a very negative impact on their mental wellbeing and health. Imo, the protagonist becomes obsessed with revealing every inch of her private life, she even receives hateful commentary along the way, but it is not until she is hospitalised that she realises this is one thing keeping her stuck in the eating disorder.

Anorexia can feel like a type of possession, that’s why the character Imo, is so unaware that there is anything wrong for so long, because you cannot see yourself become enthralled in this highly dangerous disease.

I would say, all in all if you are suffering then the content will be distressing and potentially trigger some unwanted thoughts and beliefs. For professionals or those seeking to understand eating disorders, this is a just representation of living with the mental illness that proceeds to have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.

For more support or information please email info@phelanwell.com or call the beat helpline: 0808 801 0677


Phelan Well is about achieving a healthy mind and body which together makes for a healthier you. Restore a healthy relationship with food & body image.

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