Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Advice for Grandparents

What should you do if you notice a change in your grandchild’s eating habits?

The first thing to do is to talk to your child (the parent) about your concerns so that you can share ideas to help your grandchild and collaborate on a course of action.

If your child, who is now the parent, experienced eating issues, chances are they will already be vigilant when it comes to their own child and may be taking steps to address the problem.

It has been proven that early intervention can lead to a more positive outcome so it helps to be familiar with the early warning signs:

• Going on an unusually strict diet
• Making excuses to avoid mealtimes
• Avoiding eating in front of others
• An aversion to certain foods previously enjoyed
• A sudden interest in the calorific content of food
• Excessive exercise
• Wearing baggy clothing to hide weight loss
• Change in disposition; hostility

Helping someone you love help their child

• Seek guidance from The Butterfly Foundation, an organisation dedicated to helping individuals and families deal with eating issues.
• Ensure you have a plan of action in terms of working together in the grandchild’s best interests, so that if your child needs a break and you are taking care of your grandchild, the rules apply in both households. This will help prevent your grandchild playing you off against each other.
• The most important thing to remember is to not lose hope.
• Don’t wait for your grandchild to ask for help but don’t push them either. Unconditional love, as simple as it sounds, is most effective

Do not:

• Try to catch them out. People with eating issues dislike themselves enough already and when people are unsympathetic they have even more reason to keep it hidden.
• Watch them eat. It draws attention to the problem and makes the person feel like they can’t eat because that’s what’s expected.
• Pretend nothing is wrong – this only serves to feed the eating disorder.
• Give up on them. You never know what is around the corner that will help them make the shift towards recovery. If you give up it sends the message that they should too.

Come from a place of love and compassion and try to stay open so that if your grandchild chooses to open up to you, you can be there for them.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Value of Positive Self Talk

We all know what negative self-talk sounds like:

"You're worthless" ... "everybody hates you" ... "you're a hopeless failure"

It's so easy to beat ourselves up. Worse, when someone reaches a place of hopelessness, they pay more attention to the negative self-talk and even begin to trust it because it validates their feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. And when you are suffering self doubt, you feel you can't trust anyone, so the natural thing to do is trust yourself - negative self-talk included.

Negative self talk latches on to lack of confidence and erodes it further with incessant negative chatter. And the more you listen to it, the more power you give it.

To break this pattern, acknowledge the reel of negative dialogue and then take action to transform it into positive ideals. Tune in to the the voice in the background, the quieter voice, the voice of self-love - I call this the "voice that speaks from your heart". Think about the things in your life that you are grateful for. Ground yourself in the moment - go outside and feel the sun or the rain touch your skin; take a deep breath and notice the wondrous smell in the air; look at the sky and whether it's sunny or grey, be grateful for the beauty around you. Think about what a loving, caring and wonderful person you are. Think about the people in your life who love you. The things that bring you joy. Activities that excite you.

When you start to change your thoughts, the way the world feels will start to change too.

I love this quote from Norman Vincent Peale "If you want things to be different, perhaps the answer is to become different yourself".

We all have the power to change the things we say about ourselves to ourselves. Positive self-talk can lead us to amazing experiences because it inspires the belief that we are worthwhile. And it also leads to self-love. It is my personal belief that positive body image is inspired by self-love; the way you feel about yourself on the inside, and this reflects the way you choose to 'be'.

Let the love in your heart be the inspiration for who you are ♥

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Private Mentor Program Launched to Help Achieve Recovery

As an author and speaker who is passionate about helping people recover from eating disorders, I have decided to make myself available to conduct private mentoring sessions for people in recovery.

The statistics are shocking and show that eating issues are extremely prevalent:
  • Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychological illness
  • 68% of 15 year old females are on a diet
  • Early onset eating disorder is being diagnosed in children as young as 5
I personally feel that more needs to be done to reduce the incidence of eating disorders, especially amongst teenagers – so I have designed a program that aims to compliment or enhance the work an individual is doing or has already done with a therapist, counselor or psychologist.

I will use my personal experience recovering from anorexia and rebuilding my life, and what I have learned over the past 10 years talking to people about what helped them recover, to mentor others through the process.

My program aims to:
  • Transform negative self-talk into strong positive ideals and beliefs
  • Show that who you will be without the eating disorder is so much more powerful than the eating disorder itself
  • Alleviate the fear of the unknown
  • Empower you, or someone you love, to let go of their current situation
  • Inspire the belief that yes, you can recover - and show you how
  • Help you tune into the voice that speaks from your heart
  • Demonstrate how believing in yourself can and will bring you everything your heart desires
  • Help you find the confidence to let the eating disorder go forever
  • Show you how to rebuild your life with absolute conviction and move forward to create a wonderful future
The prospect of abandoning your eating disorder can be terrifying – but having lost my teenage years to anorexia and turning my life around, I am passionate about mentoring others through the process.

My mentoring program will help individuals discover how to move forward with courage, confidence and conviction.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

'Beginner At Life' returns to Australia

Following its acclaimed Australian premiere at the Tap Gallery in 2008, New York City playwrite Alana Ruben Free is bringing Beginner At Life back for two performances at Newtown Theatre and one at the Bondi Pavilion during April and May 2010.

This is a wonderful and inspiring event that I highly recommend. I attended three performances of Beginner At Life in 2008 and had the pleasure of spending time with Alana in Sydney, as well as New York when I visited there in 2009. Alana is a truly inspirational woman. She brings to the fore truth, authenticity and the quest for inner wisdom in her deeply moving and powerful one-woman-play that tackles eating disorders, self-image and growth.

Following the New York and Canadian seasons that starred the playwright, the Australian production will again be performed by accomplished Australian stage & screen actress Donna Brooks. Alana Ruben Free will be visiting Sydney for the performances and leading discussion sessions with expert panelists after each show. I am honoured to be asked to take part as an expert panelist after the shows on Monday 26 April and 3 May and look forward to helping expand upon the compelling insight into the heart, mind and body of a woman who has suffered from anorexia.

As Alana Ruben Free’s play unfolds, one cannot help but be drawn into the heartache, anguish and despair of anorexia, only to bask in the exhilaration and ultimate freedom of recovery through finding connection with your heart and true self. Beginner At Life is a riveting and poignant account of one woman’s tumultuous journey that will resonate with the desire that lies in all of us for truth, love, connection and purpose.

Beginner At Life
Monday 26 April and Monday 3 May at Newtown Theatre, Cnr King and Brays Streets
Sunday 9 May, Bondi Pavilion Theatre, Queen Street, Bondi Beach
Tickets $20. Bookings MCA Ticketing 1300 306 776 or online

For more information visit www.beginneratlife.com

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pregnancy a Potential Trigger for Eating Disorders

An article in yesterday’s Courier Mail brought awareness to the issue that women in their 30s and 40s are increasingly seeking help to battle eating disorders because of pressure to be “yummy mummies”.

The Butterfly Foundation’s Julie Parker said the eating disorder support service was increasingly being contacted by older women – or their husbands and partners – for help.

She said: "Any time a person's body experiences significant physical change, such as a pregnancy or menopause, it increases the potential of them experiencing body image, self-esteem and weight-related concerns."

A recent survey conducted by Tommy’s, the baby charity, and Johnson’s Baby company, showed the number of mums-to-be more concerned about fitting into their skinny jeans than their baby’s health is rising. The survey also found one in 50 British women develops an eating disorder during pregnancy.

Having suffered from anorexia as a teenager and recovered by my early twenties, I can vouch first hand that falling pregnant was a very challenging time. Of course, it should have been a celebration of one of life’s gifts. But instead, I felt terrified because I knew that my body was going to change and there was nothing I could do about it.

The day I couldn’t fit into my favourite pair of jeans was the most confronting. I felt paralysed by fear. I tried to focus on the life growing inside me and how amazing that was. After hours of soul searching, I decided to be pragmatic about the situation and visit a maternity shop.

I felt excited about my new pregnancy clothes … until someone said to me ‘look how fat you are’. I wanted to say ‘I’m not fat I’m pregnant’ but that confidence evaded me. The second I was alone, I cried hysterically. ‘You’re fat’ is the worst thing anyone can say to someone who once suffered anorexia.

That one comment was enough to trigger a barrage of negative thoughts and emotions, and although outwardly I appeared happy and together, inside I felt terrified about gaining weight and what my body would look like after the baby was born. I had trouble looking at myself in the mirror. When I ran my hands over my swollen belly to try to connect with the growing being inside, I felt sick with fear.

I decided to revisit the reasons I ditched anorexia all those years ago. I thought about how happy I’d been when I recovered, how much joy I’d derived from life. And again, I had a choice – to embrace my pregnancy and trust that my body would do what it had to do to produce a healthy baby. Or fight it and risk the health and wellbeing of myself and my unborn child.

So I made the decision to look deeply, turn my fear and uncertainty around, and trust the process.

One of the things that helped me was a magnet that came with an item of maternity wear. It simply said: “Yes you look beautiful”. I looked at this often, reminding myself that my body was beautiful, and that I too was beautiful on the inside. I developed affirmations associated with loving and nurturing myself so that my baby would be healthy. I reminded myself of the importance of listening to the voice that speaks from my heart. I made sure I exercised in moderation to foster a positive body image. I chose to focus on the wonder of my body growing a human being, instead of incessantly worrying about the way I looked. I shifted my focus to the things that brought me joy, planning for the baby, decorating the nursery, reading pregnancy books and combing through baby names on the internet.

Years of therapy during recovery from anorexia taught me that only I had the power to change the way I thought, and it was up to me to create the experience I wanted.

I had to trust myself, trust my body and draw on my inner strength.

I became vigilant about monitoring my thoughts and feelings that were connected with my body and weight gain. I gave myself permission to just ‘be’ during the first six weeks after the baby was born, and promised myself that after the six week check up, I’d develop a routine that included time for exercise.

Allowing myself this six week sabbatical took so much pressure away. I planned to lose the weight in moderation and without a self-imposed deadline. I decided to try on my favourite pair of jeans the same time every week, knowing that one day I would fit into them again.

That day happened five months after my son was born. I felt proud of myself for not succumbing to the pressure to lose my pregnancy weight as quickly as possible. Being honest with myself and identifying my triggers throughout pregnancy and beyond, and turning them around, enriched the experience so that it became profound and positive.

I encourage any woman suffering anxieties about pregnancy weight gain to revisit the amazing process of creating a life, and listen to the voice that speaks from their heart. Remember that pregnancy is a profound experience and you are playing a leading role in the miracle of life. That is to be celebrated.

For help contact The Butterfly Foundation

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Body Image Still An Issue

This week's issue of Who Magazine is "The Body Issue". The fold-out cover showcases high profile Australians including Jodi Gordon, Tom Williams, Catriona Rowntree, Pat Rafter and Lisa Curry to name a few, in tasteful black body wear.

"The Body Issue" discusses body bullying, negative body image at school and male body image and shows how these Aussie icons embraced their bodies as they matured.

A candid interview with Vanessa Amorosi reveals the singer was body-bullied as a teen. She says "there's a lot of pressure that goes on in schools. It seems important when you're younger but with age you realise it's really not. It's about whether you're fit and happy, and doing what makes your soul content, rather than thinking "Should I eat that next piece of cake?"

Many of the people I interviewed for Why Can't I Look the Way I Want agreed that there is a great deal of pressure at school and in the peer group. Individuals with a high level of body image disturbance may be at an increased risk of developing eating disorders, with dieting the greatest risk factor. A study of adolescent girls found that 68% of 15 year-old girls are on a diet and of those, 8% are on a severe diet.

Tom Williams says "at school and growing up as a young lad, I didn't look like the other boys. They had muscle, I was just lanky and lean ... I always used to beat myself up about it".

Pat Rafter says he exercises for wellbeing and "some days you wake up and you have a bit of a fat day. I like to stay in shape and feel good about myself, but I don't go to an extreme where it goes beyond that".

Unfortunately, some guys do. 17% of males are on some form of diet and recently a Men's Forum in the UK revealed that a study of male US college students found that when guys were asked to pick their ideal body type, they chose a picture showing a man with approximate 12 kilograms more muscle than they had on their own bodies.

Body image dissatisfaction in males can directly affect self-esteem and as a result, trigger a determination to alter the body through excessive exercise. Because it is socially and culturally acceptably for guys to undertake a lot of physical activity, the dissatisfaction can often go unnoticed by family and friends.

Male eating disorders can be triggered by a psychological vulnerabiltiy caused by low self esteem, feelings of loss of control, emotional vulnerability and an effort to get the 'perfect' body that is idealised by society. Warning signs include an overaggressive approach to fitness, following dietary programs to the extreme, using dietary and protein supplements, an increased interest in fitness magazines and a sudden change in eating habits.

When it comes to females Christine Anu's interview in Who Magazine gets my vote. She says "I was always unhappy as a skinny girl ... I'm really quite physically confident now. I find myself a sexy woman and I'm able to really personify that for me. You are sexy in how you feel, the confidence comes from how you carry it".

I often talk about the importance of self-love because it is my belief that positive body image stems from how you feel about yourself on the inside. Christine Anu sums this up beautifully, as does Who's statement "true confidence comes from banishing image battles and learning to love what you've got". Amen.

For more information on male eating issues go to: 9AM with David & Kim.