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So you might have heard a lot lately especially online about self love… with body positivity and ditching diet culture becoming more common words to hear, which I am here for all day and everyday. But I also know that its very easy to like a photo online, but then not actually go deeper and talk about it or even put it into practice in your own life. Also I just want to add a little trigger warning to this episode - in case the title of this episode didnt give it away, just so if you are someone who is struggling with an eating disorder or with your mental health when it comes to food and exercise - I love that you are here, and just to let you know that on this episode I dive into some topics that might just not be right for you at this point in time.
So This is something I’m really passionate about talking about and I believe is really relevant for every single day of the year, no matter when you listen to this episode - but If you ARE listening just as this episode is coming out, then it is at possibly the worst time of year for diet culture conversation,and unhealthy behaviours as we roll into the Christmas and New YEars season. Typically you find yourself pummelled by a steady stream of shouty information about dieting, so called cheat meals or naughty foods… ooooh… those foods… aren’t they so naughty… which flows straight on into the billion dollar weightloss industry’s peak of new year new me, loose that holiday weight, before and after pictures, diet obsession and calorie counting.
And I’m here to tell you it is all crap. You see the whole thing is complete and utter bullshit. We have been programmed for decades now that looking a certain way and being a certain size is a direct link to how worthy, successful, or intelligent you are as a person.
Thinness for women has long been held up as the gold standard in her list of accomplishments.
Never mind the fact our bodies are designed to change as we age, our hormones fluctuate, bloody getting pregnant alone dramatically alters our physical size, shape and chemistry. And our bioindividuality along determines whether we are short, tall, thick, thin, have an awesome immune system or whether you are landed with something like an autoimmune condition.
Diet culture would have women relegated to simply being known and remembered for her physical shape. No need to be brilliant, kind, compassionate, philanthropic… just be a size 0!
I know this all too well from my own life, particulaarly growing up through my teenage years, added to the fact that I grew up mostly in South East Asia – where size ‘petite to tiny’ is genetically the standard body shape you see every day. But My teenaged size 14-16 self felt so conspicuous, and permanantly like I stuck out like that one kid who would forgot it was mufti day and wore their school uniform by accident. Yet the ironic thing is that at that time I was training for competitve sports 6 days a week, probably clocking something like 20 hours of training at times,, I was captain, coached other teams, competed in several different sports at the same time, I literally lived and breathed fitness and exercise.
I was the fittest and strongest I have ever been, but I was still the biggest person in the room. I also suffered some of the worst moments of body shaming at that time in my life. It didn’t matter I was a straight A student on top of my sporting achievements. If I was seen in my sports bra and shorts (like I saw every single other team mate around me doing) I experienced body shaming, with one of the most hurtful comments made to me I can recall coming from someone really close to me. Dont even get me started on the annual anxiety fest that came with the public PE weigh in sessions in front of the whole class, always followed by awful body shaming comments usually from some greasy teenage boy behind me in the line up.
So speaking from my own past, you know I then only experienced praise and compliments on my body shape and size at the times of my most extreme disordered eating and obsessive behaviour around food and exercise. Rather than On the flip side during those times when I’ve been my healthiest in mind, body, & soul and I have been a bigger body size. Go figure.
So this brings me to body positivity or being body positive, which really comes down to developing an ability to love yourself at any size. I have been everything from a size 10 to a size 16. Yet I can safely say I was equally as miserable at my smallest body shape as I was at my largest body shape. My size actually had nothing to do with how I felt about myself and Loosing weight definitely didn’t do anything to make me happier. In fact (and commonly so) my brain actually still told me I was the wrong shape/size/weight no matter which end of the scale I was on. And quite possibly more so when I was smaller to be honest!
That key that finally unlocked this messy, painful puzzle in my brain was not my outward appearance – which I had in the past made a mistake and thought was the key to solving all my problems. No, loosing weight and getting “skinny” was actually not the *thing*. But loosing the negativity, self sabotage and ego driven lifestyle that I had ended up in. Which really comes down to ditching that negative mindset that tells yourself you only say exercise because of the pressure from other people (hello instagram fiter comparison land), or you only do certain exercises because they are the only tihng that counts, not listening to your body if you’re tired or sore and so on
So what has worked for me? Well it really has come down to Working on my mind, that has been the ultimate transformation for me. Its given me the freedom to love my body for things like my happiness, the things I can do with it, enjoying life and living in the moment - not waiting for a made up situation like “if I do this, THEN i will be happy” because that shit never comes! That THEN moment never comes!
Now done get me wrong, I 200% believe in exercise, movement and striving to be the healthiest you can be FOR YOU. and in saying that, it will look so different for each person right? Exercise if totally nourishment for your spirit, mind and soul in so many ways, but it doesnt have to look like that chick you follow on Insta who does F45 training and then is pretty much throwing up on the floor on all fours afterwards. It can look gentle, strong, social, on your living room floor, whatever works for you and your individual needs.
I feel like it is so much comes from our mindset and the place in your being that that body image you have about yourself… you know that desire to move your body or eat a certain way comes from. Ask yourself, is this coming from a GOOD place? Or is it coming from a place in you subconscious where you only work out to get the compliments from other people on your appearance?
Does what youre doing right now come from a place of punishment? Are you trying to ‘undo” something that you were taught to believe was negative? Is this coming from a place of comparison? Or even are you STOPPING yourself from doing something, showing up, starting that idea because of the fact you think you have to look a certain way because thats all you’re seeing in media and online?
That comparison game has been a massive one for me personally in the past - I used to be so fucking hard on myself that I didnt look like the people around me. That emotional connection I had made between my bigger size and being less worthy than others around me was toxic you know… it took me a long time and a lot of work on myself and my mindset and unlearning the diet culture bullshit that had been taught to me from so young, it wasn’t an overnight thing to heal that wounded part of myself. And I’ll stick my hand up and say I’ve been there with the misguided and uneducated mindset around weightloss and exercise, you know posting the before and after shots online , I’ve been there and I know now how harmful that was to not only myself but other people around me - by saying that I wasn’t important or valuable or that my life is reduced to a series of before photos … because lets face it, I was never actually happy with the “after” that I labelled myself as. Was I only going to stop posting those photos when the after was down to being a bag of skin & bone?
So many women and young girls particularly are just so ingrained from early on. Sadly Most girls have been on some kind of diet before they are 10 years old - and I dont know about you, but I am one of them! I lost track of all of them over the years, but I can remember my school lunches in primary school I nick named them bird-seed because they were literally like a few pieces of dried fruit and sunflower seeds. In high school I was put on Atkins, & we never had a scrap of treat food like fizzy drink or chocolate or chips in our house. It was fucking miserable. And it jsut reinforced that mindset of the fact that there was something different about me. Something that had to be fixed. Plus it totally led to a restriction and binging cycle because if i ever DID get the opportunity to have junk food I was like the cookie monster having to EAT IT ALL because my little brain didnt know when the next opporunity would come along.
So another question that is helpful to ask yourself when it comes to food, is to check in and honestly answer yourself is this decision you are making coming from a place of negativity? Or is it a decision being made from an empowered, calm, grounded place of peace? Cos of course you can eat ANY way you like, if you want to make choices that are nourishing and superfoods and unprocessed and no junk food… of course thats cool, but just check in with yourself to be honest and see if those decisions you are making are attached to some sort of moral compass or goodness or validation even… or is it just because its what lights you up , makes you happy and feel awesome?
I’ll tell you a story about my relationship with food during this past year - so for those of you who know me or who have been following me for a while you’ll know that I have hypothyroidism and I take a majority approach to manageing my thyroid through diet choices and lifestyle choices - which is everything from removing toxins from my life, gentle exercise, taking stress out of my life, etc
Well, back when I was first diagnosed I had a huge amount of healing to do from things like leaky gut, skin issues, headaches, brain fog, no energy, irritable bowel, food sensitivities you get the picture its a long list… I’ll talk about thyroid health in another episode but lets just say i was no good, and i definitely wasnt gunna be building my empire spending half the day in bed and the other half the day running to the toilet (sorry if thats too much info but we’re all friends here now)
Now the approach to healing took some doing right, its not a quick process, with eliminating things that were preventing me from healing, & so in July we had planned this epic 2 month digi nomad travel adventure through Indonesia and Australia. Which I knew I wanted to be fucking HEALTHY for right, I prepped myself by getting my thyroid and gut ready to go - like I am going to be able to eat OUT everyday, & not get sick & I’m going to be living my best life without having to run to the toilet every 2 minutes, & I’m gunna have an amazing time!
So I got myself all good, I had my non-negotiables to cater for being Gluten & Dairy which make me suuuuper sick and less sitting pool side and more sitting in a pharmacy… but you know, the “nice to avoids” I was relaxed about, like I’m not going to be able to avoid soy milk in remote parts of Indonesia, if thats the only dairy free option and stuff like that…. Because to me it was way more important on my emotional priority list to spend 2 months making memories, enjoying time with my family, eating out together at a cafe, rather than adhering to a lifestyle choice that is far easier to manage in my own home - not travelling through the jungle where english is really limited!
And you know what? I had the most epic fucking time. Has my body changed thanks to adding in foods I had been choosing to limit or not include in my lifestyle? YES Absolutely! But I am so fucking happy that I have a year full of happiness and adventure I have lived and I’ve eaten all the gluten free dairy free pizza and gelato along the way! And the best part, that at the same time I’ve been able to build a business, start growing as an entrepreneur, keep working on my mindset and grow as a holistic human being… who gives a fuck what my clothes size is!
So I want to wrap this episode up with giving you some awesome people to follow and learn from, because ultimately I want you to feel that sense of freedom and confidence that comes with breaking free of what might have been 30 or 40 years of being surrounded by diet culture… so i’m going to include in the show notes a list of accounts that I highly recommend following, because one of the first steps you can take like right now, and actually I’m going to give you a little bit of a action step from this episode, is when you next open your apps, unfollow ANYONE who makes you feel less than or unworthy or you constantly compare yourself too… I do this all the time, and I’m going to do it again this week, you know theres a girl i followed on insta who i love her vibe, her animals, her beachy lifestyle, but her message around loosing weight i just couldnt tolerate in my life, so I unfollowed her. Its as simple as that, if you find yourself comparing your body to someone elses, hit that unfollow button!
And I promise these awesome women like Jes from the millitant baker, Megan from Body Posi Panda, Michelle from Scarred not Scared, Caroline from the Fuck it Diet .. they are going to be even MORE delightful and colourful and fun to follow, and they’ll leave you feeling like you’ve just ridden a rainbow while sitting on a unicorn out of diet culture and into self love land!