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The Colonisation of Women's Bodies

“Most of us have been colonized; other people’s ideas, desires and expectations have taken hold in our flesh. It takes some time and effort to reclaim our own terrain. “ Camille Maurine, Meditation Secrets for Women Really? Our bodies have been colonised? Sounds like a pretty crazy idea, doesn’t it: the colonisation of women’s bodies… it sounds brutal and oppressive. It takes something to wrap your head around the idea that dieting and the pursuit of a thin, toned, young-looking body are oppressive – particularly when no one appears to be doing the oppressing. And yet… Women are told how to look. We’re told how thin we should be to be acceptable or considered beautiful. We’re even told how thin we should be to be healthy! We’re told how young our skin should look. Which saggy or old bits of us ‘need work.’ We’re told if and when it’s ok to go grey – and then how. We’re told how fit to be – and how to get that way. We’re told how to dress ourselves – what we can ‘get away with’ or how to cover up ‘problem areas.’ We’re told which body hair is acceptable and which isn’t. When we’re assertive or ambitious, we’re told we’re not feminine, or that we’re too masculine. We’re told what to eat, and what not to eat. When we do have power (see Hilary, Angela, Theresa, Michelle etc), we’re discussed in terms of our body parts or fashion sense. The invisible oppressor So who is doing the oppressing? There’s no one with a gun to your head, making you comply with all of these instructions on How...

Why Your Body Image Sucks

At some point in your life, you decided that your body was wrong in some way. You were not born with that idea. It was an idea that you internalised from outside of you and came to accept as true. You then probably set about doing whatever you could to remedy its ‘wrongness’, so that your body would be more acceptable. But why? How did you ever get it into your head that your body was a problem? Who gave you that idea? Where Did it all Start? My first memory that my body was a problem, was when I stood on a scale at the age of about 8. In truth, I didn’t know what the number meant, but I did know that my mother and older sister stood on the scale almost everyday, and they were not happy with their numbers. They were the most amazing women in my life! If they thought their numbers (i.e. bodies) were a problem, mine must have been too! How could mine possibly be ok, and theirs wrong? My Mom and sister were either on a diet, thinking about starting a diet, cheating on a diet, or actively not on a diet (meaning eating all the non-diet foods they could, until their next diet started). They were doing this to change their bodies – because somehow they had learned that their bodies were not good enough as they were. Do you remember how you first learned your body wasn’t ok as it was? Did you learn it from a parent, a sibling, friend, teacher – or even a doctor? It doesn’t take...

How Not to Be a Slave to Sugar

Are you one of those people who feels compelled to eat the whole thing? Once you start, does it seem impossible to stop? Have you ever thought about yourself as a sugar addict? And have you ever had the experience that when you’ve managed to cut out sugar for longer than a few days, the cravings went away? But then… the moment it touches your lips again… boom… you’re a gonner… Sound familiar? Me too. Well, that was me. How Not to Be a Slave to Sugar The way I see it, there are two ways to free yourself from that slavish desire for sugar. I’ve tried both. Before I tell you about them, it’s important to understand the craving cycle. The Craving Cycle The reason cravings exist is because you’ve developed an association between a trigger, and the object of desire: in this case, sugar. At some point, you tasted chocolate. You liked it! It triggered a dopamine response (‘feel good chemical’). It’s important to know that all eating triggers a dopamine response. We’re designed to be rewarded by things that are necessary for our survival. But some foods will elicit greater responses than others, because they have higher value. If you think about it, our bodies haven’t evolved much over time. Any kind of sugary food was not easy to come by, yet it’s of high caloric value. When access to food was patchy and unreliable, if you came across fruit, or honey, you’d have eaten as much of it as possible, to protect you for the hunger that was no doubt coming. This is why eating...

New Year, New You (NOT!)

Happy New Year! We have a cultural obsession with the New Year. It’s used as an opportunity to reflect on what has passed, and what we want to create, acquire or let go of in the coming year. Truth be told, every day of the year brings such opportunities! However around the 1st of January, much of the ‘westernised’ world is focused on new goals, new ways of being and new intentions. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of that. However it has given rise to businesses marketing like crazy to sell you stuff you don’t need – and in fact – stuff that will very often have you back as a repeat customer next year! It’s a perfect (if not cynical) business model! We’re peddled: Detoxes to ‘correct the wrongs of the holiday season’ Diets to ‘fight the holiday flab’ Exercise regimes to ‘get you back in shape’ (ugh – you’re already in a shape!!!) Anti-ageing lotions and potions, promising a New Year, New You Gym memberships at reduced rates, to make this year the year that you finally get fit Then There’s Both Personal & Peer Pressure… Don’t you find people ask about your New Year’s Resolutions? What will you give up? Smoking? Chocolate? Biting your nails? Alcohol? What promises do you make to yourself? That you’ll get to the gym every morning before work? That you’ll eat ‘healthily’? Read 5 words from the dictionary a day to improve your vocabulary? That you’ll finally crack the code to permanent weight loss? New Year’s Resolutions are all too often filled with hidden shoulds and have tos. They’re sneaky ways to...

How to Reduce Food Anxiety Over the Holidays

If you’re worrying about how you’ll manage yourself around food over the holidays, you’re not alone! This time of year is very stressful for many people even for those who don’t have the added complication of a dysfunctional relationship with food! It’s a busy time, with a lot going on socially. It’s expensive. There are expectations. And then there are all the family dynamics. For many, it’s a tricky navigation. My whole approach is very much weight neutral, and I work within a Health At Every Size (#HAES) framework. My goal is not to help people lose weight, because what I’ve learned over the years is that intentional weight loss through restriction and over-exercise, rarely works long term. In fact 95% of people who try this, regain the weight, and the majority gain more. My goal is to help people find peace with food and their bodies, regardless of where their weight naturally settles. However, I am going to talk a little about the weight – though not in an attempt to help you avoid gaining it – rather to illustrate my point. The intention of this blog is to give you 5 pointers to help you radically reduce your anxiety around food and eating over the holidays. 1. Expect to Overeat Did you know that ‘normal’ eaters gain on average 1 pound over the holidays, whereas ‘overweight’ and obese people typically experience a significantly higher weight gain (around 5 lbs or so)? Why do you think that is? It’s because ‘normal’ eaters don’t have food rules. They know it’s a holiday period. They expect to eat a bit more...

Why You Keep Binge Eating

This blog could just have one word, and that would be all you need to understand why you keep binge eating. The word is: Fatphobia Fatphobia is the internalised fear of being or becoming fat, no matter what your current size. This fear generates thoughts about how to lose weight (by dieting/detoxing/tracking macros… or whatever) and the actions needed to carry it through (restricting food and exercising). The problem is that diets don’t work for permanent weight loss, for almost everyone who tries it. This has been well documented. In fact, what diets do, is raise your weight set point, lower your metabolism, raise your cortisol levels – and often cause weight gain over the long term. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people say they wish they were the size they were when they started their first diet… in other words, they dieted themselves up to the weight they are now. Why Are We So Fatphobic? There are a number of reasons: The Health-Weight Myth The medical profession, the media and those who have a stake in the $60 billion weight loss industry have perpetuated the myth that the relationship between fatness and ill health is irrefutably causal. This is simply not the case (I’m not talking about extremes here – on either end of the thin-fat scale). Weight may correlate with ill-health, but that does not point to causation. The science is unclear what the correlation means. Does weight cause the ill-health? Could the ill-health cause the extra weight? Or could there be a third issue at play that we don’t know about yet (like...