December 11, 2009

Shobna Gulati and the Battle Against Negative Body Image (Natasha)

During the course of my research, I have unearthed a wealth of newspaper, magazine and online articles concerning negative body image. They report on how it’s robbing our children of the liberal abandonment and unadulterated joy that should comprise their infanthoods, how it’s dominating the waking thoughts of every UK woman between the ages of 10 and 60 and how our obsession with aesthetics is causing significant psychological damage and destructive behaviour in an alarmingly large percentage of us.

Body obsession has reached fever pitch, what with plastic surgery promising to transform our lives and celebrities sharing their diet and exercise “secrets”, we have been fooled into believing that Hollywood style beauty has never been so accessible and that we should berate ourselves if we fall short of this standard. The repercussions  have been silently festering under our noses for so many years that now the stench has become unbearable and we have all had to sit up and pay attention.

Even despite this, I know how difficult it is to make the decision to go public with your own, private body battle. I did a lot of soul searching before sharing my story in the press and on radio – I couldn’t anticipate the reaction I would receive. The experiences I had during my time in the music industry taught me that the public can be judgmental, body fascist and cruel. Ultimately though, I decided that if I didn’t speak up, not only was I participating actively in a conspiracy of silence but I was doing Mark Newey, who cured me, a huge disservice.  I am delighted to say the responses so far have been positive and have encouraged others  whose lives were being crippled by bulimia to seek help from Winning Minds.

I resolved to be as candid as I could about bulimia nervosa and it’s physical and psychological effects and in doing so my pride took, not so much a knock but a full on whack, right on the schnozz. That’s why I’ve got so much respect for Shobna Gulati. In a recent article in the Daily Mirror, she describes her body insecurities and the unhealthy relationship she shares with food.

Shobna’s “Right On Sister Moment” Award goes to this statement:

“I’m not sure eating disorders are to do with wanting to be lighter. I think in my case it is to do with not wanting to be who I am”.

Eating disorder awareness and treatment in many ways hinges on this crucial distinction.

Having met Shobna at Body Gossip, I was left with the impression that she was beautiful, friendly and self assured. I wouldn’t have guessed that underneath this exterior she was battling such powerful demons. I assumed she became involved with the Body Gossip campaign simply because she was a nice lady who wanted to help. She could have let the World believe that too, but she didn’t and she should be applauded for making such a courageous choice.

The overwhelming response to the Body Gossip writing competition and Shobna’s brave admission are testament to the massive extent to which negative body image is a social epidemic, affecting people from all walks of life. Finally, we have recognized it’s destructive effect and now it is our responsibility to counteract it.

Winning Minds are developing a series of pioneering workshops which can permanently transform the mindset and allow you to vanquish body image issues. Negative body image is a kind of slavery and it’s so prevalent that many of us have reconciled ourselves to the idea that it will hold us captive forever. Winning Minds gives you the opportunity to liberate yourself. Click here for our forthcoming workshops.

Click here to read Shobna’s article.

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December 3, 2009

Moss vs French – The Debate Continues (Natasha)

Today, an article appeared in the Daily Mail (click here to read) which amounted to a scathing and very personal attack on the lovely Ms French for daring to be proud of her fatness.

Whilst there was perhaps some validity in the journalists’ assertion that Dawn cannot call for fat jokes to be banned when she owes a proportion of her career to them, I cannot agree that she is a “bad” role model for young women.

Dawn has carved a hugely successful niche for herself, despite not conforming to the identikit Barbie-style sociological ideal of beauty which has prevailed for so long. She has done so by being talented, witty, intelligent, caring, funny and self deprecating – qualities which I could confidently assert most of us would want to encourage in our children. She is a welcome breath of fresh air in the entertainment industry, an exception to the rule and that is why the weight of counterbalancing the current trend for thinness falls on her shoulders and she is allowed to be a little radical in her views.

In addition to the brilliantly satirical French and Saunders and her other television projects, she is a fantastic writer and has designed a range of flattering, fashionable and altogether gorgeous designs for larger women in an effort to banish the days when anyone over a size 16 was forced to hide in a sack-like smock of a thing, eschewing glamour and embracing shame.

She celebrates her size and makes no apologies for it and, let’s face it, whilst her particular shape might not be the healthiest, I don’t imagine that hoards of teenage girls are going to be looking sorrowfully at their bodies and eating thousands of cream cakes in an attempt to emulate her look every time she appears on TV, the way they vow never to let another morsel of food pass their lips every time they catch sight of Cheryl Cole or Kate Moss. Dawn’s images are not plastered all over the walls of eating disorder clinics up and down the country and her words are not repeated like mantras by those whose life’s ambition it has become to recreate her look, unlike other celebrities I could mention.

If Dawn disappeared from the public eye overnight, we would not see a steep decline in obesity rates in this country. Obesity exists. It’s not ideal but it does. And saying that we do not want to see an example of obesity in the form of Dawn on our television screens is not only denying a large percentage of the population a fabulous role model but is also the adult equivalent of sticking one’s fingers in one’s ears and saying “la-la-la-la-la not listening”.

If you choose to be overweight, or have a larger shape due to a medical condition, Dawn presents an empowering role model that inspires confidence and happiness. She demonstrates that fat and beautiful are not mutually exclusive. And for every Dawn there are a hundred bony, botoxed, plastic princesses. The fact that Dawn’s comments have caused such scandal is testament to the fact she has become so respected, against all odds. And what can we say to that other than “good for her”?

Dawn’s stance is reactionary. If we were not all so obsessed with her size and let her get on with being the brilliant and talented woman she is, she would not have to defend herself with potentially offensive comments. Lest we forget, Kate Moss’ recent comment – “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” was in responce to the question “what is your motto?”. Her motto in LIFE. Not with particular regard to her appearance but generally. Her answer is a sad testament to the extent to which Kate’s physique is the sum of her parts. I highly doubt Dawn’s life motto would relate to her physical appearance in any way. She has far too many other attributes and concerns.

I am left with the question, though – What about the huge spectrum of beauty in the middle? Most of us are somewhere between Kate Moss and Dawn French and to whom do we turn for a positive and inspiring role model? One might cite Beyonce or Jennifer Lopez and whilst I applaud the manner in which they fly the flag for the curvacious, they are still far tinier than you could ever imagine in the flesh and still devote a huge and disproportionate chunk of their lives to maintaining their physique. Like the Clover advert says “it’s great in the middle” and the middle is being neglected. The middle needs to be represented and given a voice.

Please visit www.bodygossip.org and join the revolution.

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December 1, 2009

Eating Disorders – Our Genetic Destiny? (Natasha)

To hear me speaking about the opinions in this blog, click here and go to 1 hour 7 mins.

Today the Daily Mirror published new findings which suggest that anorexia and other eating disorders are genetic.

It’s a tempting theory, isn’t it?

As a society and as individuals it absolves us of all responsibility for the growing number of young people who are falling prey to these hideous, life consuming diseases. As an ex eating disorder sufferer, it allows me to tell myself that all the pain and heartache I subjected my family and friends to and the private torture I inflicted upon myself was all written in my DNA. As my genetic identity and not something circumstance led me to, I am not to blame, my recovery will never be permanent- Hello, my name’s Natasha and I’m a bulimic. And the bullies who taunt our young people in the school halls, the perpetrators of the emotional or physical abuse common in the histories of our eating disorder victims and the emaciated celebrities grinning gummily out at us from the covers of glossy magazines can all sleep easily at night because guess what? It’s not their fault.

What absolute codswallop.

I asked Mark for his take. He said:

“Eating disorders are a behavioural programme which someone has taken on board. It is possible for someone to mimic their parents in early life when they are particularly impressionable, between the ages of 7 and 12, which might be why eating disorders are perceived to be hereditary, but there is no genetic factor”.

I’d take his point a step further and suggest that it’s irresponsible and downright dangerous to encourage the widespread belief that eating disorders are one’s genetic destiny. The work we do here at Winning Minds crucially hinges on allowing people to free themselves of the identity of their issue and reclaim themselves. As long as one defines oneself as “an anorexic in recovery” one entertains the possibility that one might relapse. And whilst that possibility is allowed to fester in the unconscious mind  relapse becomes ever more inevitable.

It was as a direct result of this pseudo-scientific twaddle that Mark and I devised our unique “Shedding the Identity” workshop for ex eating disorder sufferers, which allows them to liberate themselves from the shackles of the eating disordered mindset. It should not be accepted by the medical community that it is enough to equip the patient with the rudimentary tools they require to “take each day as it comes” and send them on their way. Meanwhile the individual in question flails under the silent but stiffling pressure of negative body image and food still being their enemy. We are not born with mind based issues and neither should we have to live with them.

As a footnote to Mark’s thoughts, I’d like to add something which has been a view I (shockingly, for those who know me) have been too timid to venture in public, heretofore. It’s been accepted wisdom for years now that eating disorders are a complex psychological issue, often having its roots in childhood trauma or emotional abuse and thank goodness for that, because otherwise we’d all be told to “get over ourselves and pick up a fork”. But I wonder whether perhaps this is SO ingrained in our perception that we are blind to the increasingly prevalent, more straightforward elements involved with the issue?

Allow me to explain. As a Body Confidence Campaigner I have had the pleasure of speaking with lots of teenagers about their body image (and it is a pleasure, teenagers aren’t nearly as disrespectful and badly behaved as the media would have us believe) and I have come to realise that sometimes it is JUST about celebrity worship culture, competitive dieting and peer pressure. It is no more complex than a young person thinking their social standing and sexual attractiveness depend entirely on their looking like Victoria Beckham and their friends encouraging this deluded belief. Of course, at some stage, the calorie counting and exercising reach obsessive levels, the person in question starts to take treacherous risks with their health and by then it is no longer a question of persuading them that Victoria Beckham looks like ET in a frock because the issue has become far more integral to their mindset – It has become their identity (see above).

Whether or not it is an oversimplification to blame the deification of twig like celebs for the eating disorder epidemic, it is difficult to deny that it is a substantial contributory factor. And whilst it may be the simplest explanation, it is in many ways the hardest one to solve. When will we really take responsibility for the way our attitudes are condemning future generations to hate the feeling of being inside their own skins? We cannot continue to blame the media. The media, beauty fashion industries work on supply and demand. If we didn’t drink in airbrushed images and factsheets on the latest food fad which promise to magic us into a pair of size 8 skinny jeans in 2 weeks as through they were the elixir of life, they would not print them. It is up to us to adopt a balanced and healthy approach to our bodies. We must understand that our favourite television personality is not, in fact, a demigod and it is not realistic or productive to either attempt to emulate them in the first place, or to berate ourselves when we fall short of an “ideal” it took hours spent toiling on a treadmill, an unwavering devotion to the aesthetic which is not practical for anyone with rent to pay and a real job to hold down to maintain, not to mention an army of stylists, makeup artists, hairdressers, dieticians, beauticians, and because that’s still not enough, airbrushing, to “achieve”.

Women should cease bonding and communication using the language of self criticism. “I hate my thighs, I’m on another diet”. You never know who might be listening. Our children are susceptible to the way we think and behave, just as Mark said and by revitalizing our attitude, we can ensure their health and happiness.

Natasha

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November 24, 2009

The Real Beauty Debate (Natasha)

The media have seemingly never been so keen to provoke a robust debate on the real beauty issue, which is fortunate for us here at Winning Minds and for Body Gossip. One would think it would be difficult to argue with the idea that we should all be happy in our own skins, but apparently there are people out there who oppose our real beauty message………

Body Gossip –v- Giles Coren – Radio 5 Live

On Saturday 21st November, 10.30pm, Ruth Rogers, founder of Body Gossip, went head to head with Giles Coren, debating the validity of Kate Moss’ recent statement – “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” (she has clearly never been to Nandos, then).

Coren is restaurant critic and columnist whose credentials to contribute on such an emotive topic are uncertain (and became increasing spurious as the debate unfolded). In essence, he suggested that the solution to this country’s obesity crisis is….ta da! Anorexia. Why didn’t we think of that? He asserted that he goes for 6 or 7 days without food, that as humans we are “designed to be skinny” and that Kate Moss represents the idealised body type. “We are all fat nowadays!” he ranted in a slightly maniacal fashion, not allowing Ruth, the presenter or indeed the torrent of callers who rang in to expose his argument as the utter tosh it was, to get a word in edgeways.

Whether or not he was deliberately playing devil’s advocate for publicity purposes (one cannot help but wonder whether this was the case with Ms Moss, also) or whether his mind was so addled with the effects of his self imposed starvation that he was unable to form a coherent argument is not clear. Ruth was admirably calm in her rebuttal and pointed out that body types and shapes vary wildly and that surely the most important thing is that we are all healthy and happy, eat well and exercise in moderation.

Ruth has trawled through thousands of first hand body testimonials for Body Gossip, so can really empathise with real people who struggle with negative body image. ………People for whom Kate Moss’ statement would have exacerbated their already fragile self esteem. Yes, it would be irresponsible and downright untrue to blame Ms Moss for eating disorders and body dysmorphia but, as someone in the public eye who is aspired to by millions of women everywhere, she should think more carefully before making potentially damaging statements.

The award for the point that made me whizz around in my swivel-ly chair whilst punching the air with my fists and shouting “Yes! Right on sister!” (yes, I really did this) went to a caller who had been in recovery from anorexia for 2 ½ years. Did Coren not recognise, she asked, that compulsive eating is the result of the same root causes and emotions as other eating disorders and that therefore the “massively obese” people Coren was determined to blame and shame should be treated with the same amount of sympathy and respect? Too right.

Winning Minds Body Confidence Campaign –v- An Old Lady – James O’Brien Show, LBC

(it’s not as bad as it sounds!)

On Monday 23rd November, I was invited by LBC to kick start a debate on body image, loosely based around the fact that Cheryl Cole has a very lucrative contract to advertise shampoo but spends more than most people earn in a year on hair extensions (ludicrous but, sadly, not shocking in the present climate).

My arguments, based on my own experience, speaking with clients at Winning Minds and going into schools to discuss body image, were threefold:

1. We live in a culture of celebrity worship. In an increasingly secular society, the words and actions of celebrities are taken as gospel and people attempt to emulate them in every sense, with no regard for the surgery they have had, the help they receive from their armies of stylists and makeup artists or the fact that they have usually been airbrushed to cartoon-like proportions. In trying to reach an impossible ideal, we berate ourselves when we fall short of our goal, resulting in negative body image.

2. The pendulum of feminism has swung to a massive extreme.  Whereas the original point of feminism was to ensure (quite rightly) that women could do or be whatever they wanted, based on their skills and talents and not on their gender, now women are expected to be everything to every one. We must smash the glass ceiling, be a domestic goddess, whilst always remaining glamorous and polished. We see other women who, by our own somewhat skewed criteria, look better than us and assume, wrongly, that they are automatically happier, more loved and more successful.

3. Men do not care in the slightest about the circumference of our thighs. I asked some of the 16 year old guys I teach what makes a girl attractive. They said “if she is smiling”. Never has the phrase “out of the mouths of babes” been more appropriate .

Ergo, women are their own worst enemies and of course our insecurities are perpetuated by the beauty and fashion industry to sell us things that we believe will bring us a step closer to our self-imposed ideal.

It was thrown open to the floor…..

Most callers broadly agreed with me, women phoned to speak about their own body anxieties and men called to say they wished their partners would stop moaning as it drives them bonkers and they think she is beautiful just the way she is. Some of the female callers blamed the derogatory comments of men for their self-loathing or said they dieted constantly out of fear that their husbands and boyfriends would look elsewhere.

However, one 70-something year old from Bedford really took umbrage with my opinions. She called to say she was quite convinced I must be really insecure in myself (even though I had quite categorically told James O’Brien, the presenter, that I think I’m fairly gorgeous on the whole, apparently that was bare faced lies) and that no woman could possibly be as confident as I was coming across. James very kindly pointed out on my behalf that I had admitted to having a significant, decade long battle with bulimia and that it had taken me a long time to reach such a balanced view.

It was announced “our next caller, Christine from Saffron Walden”:

“Hello James”, the caller distinctly and huskily purred ….. I recognised the voice immediately…. It was my Mum!

Concerned, as I am sure you can understand, that my Mum had called in to tell Mrs Non-Comprehending 70-something to “lay off her daughter” and “come and ave a go if she thinks she’s ard enough” I began teddy bear rolling on the floor with my hands pressed over my eyes repeatedly murmuring “Mum, it’s not weeeerf it!” (Mark was, fortunately, busy with a client and therefore not present to witness this spectacle).

It was a huge relief to all concerned that Mum was actually compelled to ring in for much more objective reasons – Working as a style consultant for a bridal boutique, the body hang ups of their clients quite often overshadow the joy and elation that should remain unadulterated (excuse the pun) on the happiest day of their lives.

The absolute truth behind my own opinions is that, were it not for Mark Newey and neural recoding, I would not be as self assured as I am today – My views on beauty would have been exactly the same, but I would not have been so able to “practice what I preach”. Of course I don’t think I am physically “perfect” in the traditional sense of the word but I’d rather devote my time to helping others to become happier and healthier than in the fruitless and hollow pursuit of a Barbie-like physique.

In summation I said that we should all try to make the best of ourselves and represent our own version of healthy, attainable beauty, without reference to Cheryl Cole or whoever happens to be the current media darling.

You can listen to Ruth’s debate with Giles Coren by clicking the following link and forwarding to 37 minutes (prepare to be infuriated, though!):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00nyf7r/Stephen_Nolan_21_11_2009/

You can listen to my interview with James O’Brien by clicking the link below and downloading the podcast of his show on Monday 23rd November, I was on at approximately 12.15:

http://lbc.audioagain.com/

To read Ruth’s Blog, including her bid for Kate Moss to hop off the skinny bandwagon, click the link below:

http://www.bodygossip.org/blog

You can email me – natashadevon@winningminds.co.uk – and tell me your thoughts on The Real Beauty Debate. I’d love to hear from you.

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November 11, 2009

“Shedding The Identity” – A Pioneering Workshop for Ex ED Sufferers endorsed by B-eat

Shedding the Identity – A Workshop for Eating Disorder Sufferers “in Recovery”

As we go through the recovery process, eating disorder sufferers are told that, whilst our destructive behaviour (the bingeing, purging and starving) may cease and to the outside World we may appear “normal” once more, inside we will always feel the emotions associated with our disorder.

We are told that our issue is something we must live with forever and that acceptance of this is part of recovery. We are told that we must take each day at a time and that there will always be struggle and inner turmoil.

The truth is it does not have to be this way. Anorexia, bulimia or compulsive eating is not your identity and does not have to remain a part of you. You can shake off its shackles, reclaim yourself and enjoy being free.

You can get on with your life.

At Winning Minds we use a unique “neural recoding” technique which combines NLP (Neuro linguistic Programming), coaching and hypnosis to remove “bad programming” from the powerful unconscious mind and allow our clients to conquer their demons. We specialize in eating disorders and are dedicated to allowing our clients to liberate themselves and reclaim their lives.

Ex-sufferers are often overlooked. It is assumed because the behaviour has stopped the emotions will have too. This means there are thousands of people in UK who have been left with issues surrounding food and negative body image who are struggling without the support they need and deserve.

Our powerful and unique one day workshop will allow you to permanently vanquish your eating disorder and everything associated with it.

It will allow you to silence the voice that tells you that you will never be good enough and that you might relapse at any moment.

The workshop, conducted by leading NLP, coaching and hypnosis practitioner Mark Newey with an introduction by ex-sufferer and body confidence campaigner Natasha Devon, will include a free self-hypnosis CD tailored to your issue, worth £49.95.

This workshop is supported and endorsed by B-eat, the UK’s leading eating disorders charity.

For forthcoming dates and venue details, email natashadevon@winningminds.co.uk or call the number below.

For your free consultation, or to book your please call 0800 083 0143


0800 083 0143

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November 6, 2009

Eating Disorders – A Mum’s Eye View

On a social evening out, having set off determined to enjoy myself and have a break from the ‘hand wringing’, I mention to a distant friend that my previously wholesome teenager had lost almost half their body weight in 6 months. ‘Oh, that’s good’ she said smiling and nodding in approval…. I wanted to cry.

We are now a society obsessed with weight loss/obesity at the expense of personal achievement and happiness, to the point that alarmingly even the word ‘diet’ is no longer a word to describe the content of one’s dietary requirements, but a word synonymous with the miserable nibbling of tasteless snacks in the futile hope that we will somehow be more accepted, happier and successful if we were to conform to an unrealistic weight and size. Bla de bla….

To the government, schools and our NHS I say be afraid- be very afraid because disordered eating is escalating amongst our children (some as young as 8 ) at an alarming pace. Whilst public awareness is very slowly gaining momentum (check out Winning Minds/ Beat/Body Gossip), at present the help desperately needed by both the victims and their families is extremely difficult to find.

I recently listened in horror to a particularly ‘well rounded’ government spokes lady who patronisingly proposed that we put a system in place whereby all children have their bodily measurements monitored at school-I wanted to come at her with a tape measure and loudly announce her waist size, just to see how she felt about it!

As a mother, I have felt angry, frustrated, guilty and desperately worried as I sought to find a solution to this debilitating problem.

Let’s start with the guilt we feel as parents that always comes with the territory.

As we watch our bubbly, opinionated, ravenous youngster full of hope and enthusiasm turn into a sullen shadow of their former selves, we stop hoping that ‘it’s just a phase’ and realise with trepidation that they are in the grip of an eating disorder. Anorexia is the ‘glamorous’ one by the way- we need to be particularly vigilant about the increasingly popular but silent bulimia, which contrary to popular belief causes little or no weight loss but instead destroys both physical and mental wellbeing.

Like addicts, victims will become cunningly deceptive and while you watch them deteriorate in front of your eyes, with your relationship despairingly reduced to ‘eating related’ topics, you battle for the answers- sometimes concluding that as the mother-this must be ‘your entire fault’. More hand wringing ensues.

Ignorance is no excuse as they say and we have had a big part to play in the upbringing of our children. We need to acknowledge this and take responsibility for the sake of our future generations. With food in such abundance these days, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea for us to show either our love or praise in the form of a cake/chocolate bar -as did our own parents in bygone years when such things were really a ‘treat’. However to get a balanced picture, lets take a harsh look at our own eating/body image issues as women. I struggle to think of a female friend or relative, with or without children who is content with their body and for whom eating and the calorific values aren’t of great significance, or who eat simply because they are hungry and stop when they are full. Through yoyo dieting, our natural ability to monitor hunger has been destroyed and I question whether it is wise to insist on plate clearing from our children at a young age. Ironically, as young mothers we were praised by our health visitors for the ounces gained by our offspring through over feeding-now it seems we are being punished.

The guilty stage thankfully put aside (very exhausting and we did our best with what we knew); we naturally turn to the NHS for help. My experience was one of utter frustration by the lack of adequate resources and knowledge to understand that an eating disorder is a psychological disease that presents while our youngsters struggle hopelessly to overcome their apparent inadequacies in a culture bombarded by the air brushed image, in a vain attempt to conform to an impossible anatomical ideal. As parents with all the emotions that encompasses, we are totally unqualified to deal with this problem which for some, will dominate their lives and all the hard earned academic qualifications in the world won’t help these young adults to succeed in life.

And so in the impersonal starkness of a sound proofed consultation room and out come the dreaded weight charts, BMI tables and diet sheets. I am told that my presence isn’t necessary….

They conclude that it’s ok after all- your teenager doesn’t qualify for further specialist treatment because an optimum ‘anorexic’ weight/BMI has not been reached, at which point incidentally would find them unable to move, requiring hospitalisation and drip feeding in order to avoid death. Should we just wait for that then? Surely prevention is better than cure? I ask for some advice in supporting my teenager through this and I am told I should ‘separate myself from the situation’.

We are however offered fortnightly weight monitoring which predictably sees a further plunge into depression as an unwanted kilogram is gained following a week of bargaining and downright blackmail on my part at mealtimes. The well meaning, but ill advised nurse chatters on about the virtues of eating 5 a day, claps her hands with apparent glee and happily ticks her box. I continue to wring mine because my own knowledge anticipates what is coming.

For the next week we secretly add 3 spoons of sugar to small cups of tea made with whole milk- half of which is sipped at an agonisingly slow rate, whilst I watch on anxiously in the hope that a Rich Tea biscuit will also be accepted (this is breakfast and lunch combined you understand) A massive effort will now be made by the victim to lose the kilogramme plus a bit more-for them this is not good news from their distorted perspective and the ability to articulate any logic or reasoning is not forthcoming. Needless to say that despite coaxing, further appointments are not met, the nurse’s box stays ticked for the kilogram weight gain and we are no longer a part of the official statistics- but very much on our own.

Next to come after further research is the best health care money can buy at a private clinic-but out come those dreaded charts again (where do they get them from?).

On seeing such dramatic weight loss over a short period of time (although still not at that magic ‘anorexic’ weight)) we are offered the choice of counselling for an unspecific number of weeks/months, or perhaps we would prefer a good old dose of anti depressants?

By this time my teenager is out of college and ‘jobseeking’. It is then suggested by the director of this prestigious institute (as he hand’s us a consultation bill for £430) that ‘getting a job and forming a routine’ would be a magic answer to all the problems.

By this point I witness barely enough energy or indeed will to lift a fork let alone get out of bed to attend an interview and we are now on our 4th wardrobe of ever shrinking outfits. It seems more upsetting to see clothes hanging off bones that fitted perfectly only 2 months before-and now they are even harder to find in such small sizes-even though my ‘child’ is now 6 foot tall and still concerned about a perceived protruding stomach.

The age has also been reached whereby any form of counselling is a choice for the patient and I am left with no doubt that at this point I am being seen as an ‘over bearing mother’.  I don’t care. In my role as a mother of three over the years I have protected, encouraged, empowered and nurtured my children to the very best of my ability. But clearly ‘banana medicine’ won’t do the trick this time and I want someone/something to blame (refer to first page) but mostly I need some help and there is so little understanding and support available.

I take warm milk (that won’t be drunk) to help them sleep as the body tries to fight the hunger, and feel agonised to notice the downy hair that has appeared as an attempt by the body to preserve heat. Out of clothes I see a skeleton protruding from the bed sheets and the hollow gaze of lifeless eyes. Counselling is not needed I am told-

I may need it myself before long….

Then there are other methods of self harm and deluded weight loss. Many young people and indeed adults suffer from alarming body dismorphia and in their muddle of self loathing manage to maintain an ‘acceptable’ weight via the bulimic system or the use of dangerously high doses of laxatives-

So, all is well then according to the ‘experts’- providing no one can actually see the crumbling teeth, the straining organs or the screwed up lives of the victims and all who love them.

So we coax and bargain and take heart that a couple of private counselling sessions are attended with’ lip service’ at further financial cost, but predictably that fails too. The digging up and dissecting of any past cause for emotional angst on a weekly basis is understandably unitising and therefore something that needs to be sought voluntarily- if it is to have any positive effect long term.

So what now? How will this nightmare end? Looking at photos of my laughing, chubby cheeked children is too painful to be an option at this time. An old acquaintance was shocked at the sight of my teenager and asked if they had a life threatening illness-I didn’t know how to answer.

I concluded two things -firstly that this problem is much more wide spread than many people imagine, affecting boys too, but like any mentally based illness it is still quite a taboo subject. As parents we are barely out of the ‘my little so and so has just got 4 a stars’ stage (beware this is even more common in high achievers) to find we are very ill equipped to cope with it.

Secondly, having tried everything we could think of (including ignoring it!) I realised reluctantly that nothing we could do or say would make any difference to this unhealthy mind set which had now taken hold.

By the time that constant worrying and food related nagging had become a horrible way of life and we felt hopeless, we heard about Winning Minds  and I was anxious and intrigued to know more about it. We balanced up the cost against endless further depressing counselling sessions, plus the time that had now been dangerously ‘wasted’ and concluded that 2 x two hour sessions to alter this debilitating mind set without the need to rake up possible causes was a much more appealing concept-and most importantly, once you understand it, hypnotherapy treatment makes perfect sense amongst all the……….(I want to say ‘shit’-but not very appropriate!)

Please talk to Winning Minds. Call 0800 083 0143 for your free consultation.

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Anorexia – Jennifer’s True Story and the Treatment the Really Works

Anorexia just happened. I didn’t see it coming, but when I was made aware of its presence in me, I didn’t want it gone. I had to work hard at it, and I worked at keeping the lies in my head that bound my body up so tightly. Then again, if I didn’t feel so worthless, the lies wouldn’t have been there in the first place.

My predisposition to an ED put the symptoms in place as well as the initial thought patterns of failure, perfection, worthlessness etc, but I exacerbated those patterns to deepen my involvement with starvation.

I needed a regular ‘fix.’ I couldn’t let up for a second, or I’d spend days depressed, running at ridiculous hours and emptying the contents of my stomach with laxatives at 5.30 in the morning. It was punishing. Hunger pains told me that I was winning the battle even though they sometimes kept me awake most of the night. There was comfort in them somehow. There was control.

Anorexia took on an almost OCD capacity. I felt like if I ate certain foods, something bad would happen. I was also extremely paranoid. I’d think that people were watching me eat all the time, thinking or talking about how disgusting I was and how I didn’t deserve it behind my back. Soon, I wouldn’t even drink in public it became that severe.

Control was a major thing. I felt like I couldn’t control the things in my life throughout my time as a sufferer, but I could ‘control’ food. It felt like the two equated. Bad day, eat less. Ok day, don’t punish yourself as much.

I remember being huddled in the corner of my room. My self esteem having hit rock bottom and I felt like I couldn’t leave the room out of fear of being seen. I hated myself that much!

I also remember being so hungry and too embarrassed to ask for food from my parents. I physically couldn’t say the words ‘I am hungry’. I couldn’t admit defeat or I thought I’d fall apart at that moment.

When you have an eating disorder people tell you “one day you might be able to eat three meals a day and you might put on weight. You might appear normal to the outside World but inside you will always feel like an anorexic and every day will be a struggle”.  Like so many others, I accepted this unquestioningly, thinking every day I could work at changing my behaviour but I would never change my mindset- That once anorexia takes hold of you it stays with you for life.

But I have learned that this doesn’t have to be the case. That a unique and pioneering technique does exist which can remove anorexia’s destructive voice and its constant lies from your mind.

Find out about this technique http://winningminds.co.uk/eating-disorders/anorexia-treatment/

Call 0800 083 0143 for your free consultation.

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November 3, 2009

Natasha’s Story and the Bulimia Treatment that Really Worked

As had become my custom, I had just thrown up into a plastic bag. That’s the problem with flat sharing, you can’t disappear into the bathroom after every meal and claim you’re having a bath, using the thundering of the taps to hide the sound of your retching – People get suspicious and/or irritated that you’re using all of their hot water.

I don’t know who writes television programmes, but I can tell you they have never suffered from bulimia. On TV people throw up and emerge from the experience pristine and perfectly made up. Well, I’d been bulimic for nearly ten years and I’d never mastered that particular art.

Mascara cascaded down my cheeks, my nose and eyes streamed and sweat glistened on my forehead as I lay next to my bag of vomit, trying not to hyperventilate and to slow the frantic beating of my heart. This was the same thing I’d done every single night for a decade – Ram my protesting body full of every food I could lay my hands on and then force myself to vomit until I was dry retching and my vision went blurry. Every waking thought concerned how I’d orchestrate my next binge and how I could purge it without the people around me finding out.

The irony was that of course my friends and family knew. They might not have known I was bulimic, specifically (unlike anorexia, the signs aren’t immediately obvious unless you know what you are looking for), but they certainly knew something was “up”. I was maniacally happy one minute and withdrawn and tearful the next. My behaviour was erratic and unpredictable and I said things I didn’t mean to the people I cared about most. I’d lost some of my dearest friends and frightened the ones that chose to stick by me.

At work, I’d often fall asleep at my desk, exhausted with the momentous amounts of effort it required to maintain this miserable, monotonous cycle. I was in debt. All my cash spent on food – Literally “money down the toilet”.

I’d become a recluse – bulimia was my obsession, my hobby, my only constant companion and I’d accepted it as my identity. I’d sacrificed my career, my potential, my social life, my looks, my personality and ten years of my life to it and now here I was – Laying on my bedroom floor next to a bag of sick. And that is when the thought struck me. I tried to dismiss it but it wouldn’t go away – “I’m going to have to kill myself”.-

You can’t endure these sorts of things without realising that you need help. My first trip to my GP had been 7 years previously. He’d looked slightly perplexed when I’d confessed to being bulimic – Almost as if he didn’t really understand what the word meant. He’d weighed me and said “well, you’re not underweight” ……So that was alright then, apparently. As long as he could tick me off on his little “BMI” chart that meant that I must be healthy, I couldn’t be playing dangerous games with my physical and mental health like I’d claimed.

I’d seem councillor after councillor, who wanted me to recount every experience I’d ever had from the moment I’d appeared out of my mother’s womb.

Now, I’m an intelligent girl. I knew exactly what had bought me to this point. We all have traumatic experiences and I’d chosen to express my pain with this peculiar sort of self-harm. What I didn’t know was how to stop what I’d started.

So my current GP had settled on merely prescribing me huge dosages of antidepressants and signing me off work for two weeks every time I asked for help. I spent those two weeks being sick, taking laxatives, exercising compulsively and sinking deeper into my depression.

And now I’d come to the conclusion that the only way out of the subtle daily torture was to end my life.

That was the wake up call I needed to look further a-field than the NHS and really get proactive about helping myself. I was not the person I had become and there had to be a way to claim the real me back.

I don’t believe in coincidences. A few weeks after I made the decision to get well by whatever means possible, I heard about Mark Newey and Winning Minds. I went with no clue what to expect and thinking this would be the first of many alternatives I would try to get myself better but at least I was doing something.

2 x 2 hour sessions later and my whole World had changed. It was like that bit in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy opens the door of her house and discovers that outside is in glorious Technicolor after a life of black and white.

The last time I made myself sick was in July 2008. I lost my eating disorder and I found myself. I am free. I am me.

To find out how I was treated go to http://winningminds.co.uk/eating-disorders/bulimia-treatment/

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October 15, 2009

Eating Disorder Treatments – Finally A Cure That Works

Traditional therapies tend to tackle one side of the numerous issues which lead to eating disorders, but are not all-encompassing.
CBT
Cognitive behavioural therapy tells the sufferer to take one day at a time and “manage” their issue – With guidelines to avert their destructive behaviour. This focuses on the symptoms of the eating disorder, but not the root cause.
Counselling
Psychotherapy or counselling takes the opposite tactic and attempts to focus on all the emotional issues which might be at the route of the eating disorder, by asking the sufferer to evaluate their life and recount traumatic past experiences.
Because the emphasis of counselling is on “counting your worries”, it can even mean that the sufferer becomes more depressed as a result and their eating disorder worsens.
The NHS
In the experience of many sufferers, (including Tasha at Winning Minds), the NHS will either fail to properly diagnose an eating disorder  (particularly bulimia, because sufferers tend to be a normal weight) or, if they do recognise it, they will prescribe one of the therapies above, which tend to prove unhelpful, for the reasons stated.
Weight Charts
It is worth mentioning that the NHS weight charts, which are used to ascertain whether a patient has a healthy “BMI”, tend to allow for a patient to be considerably underweight by any other standard and yet still be deemed “healthy”.
Not all anorexics weight 5 stone and, as mentioned, bulimics can often be within a healthy weight range. At this point in time, it is the experience of many eating disorder sufferers that they are only taken seriously by the NHS if they fall into the “underweight” catagory on their weight charts, and it is not at all clear what these charts are based on.

The therapies which tend to be prescribed for eating disorder sufferers are designed to teach them how to “manage” their issue, one day at a time.  This perpetuates the myth that, whilst yor destructive behaviour may cease, you will always FEEL like an ED sufferer on the inside. This does NOT have to be the case.

Traditional therapies will tackle one side of the numerous issues which lead to eating disorders, but are not all-encompassing.

CBT

Cognitive behavioural therapy tells the sufferer to take one day at a time and “manage” their issue – With guidelines to avert their destructive behaviour. This focuses on the symptoms of the eating disorder, but not the root cause.

Counselling

Psychotherapy or counselling takes the opposite tactic and attempts to focus on all the emotional issues which might be at the route of the eating disorder, by asking the sufferer to evaluate their life and recount traumatic past experiences.

Because the emphasis of counselling is on “counting your worries”, it can even mean that the sufferer becomes more depressed as a result and their eating disorder worsens.

The NHS

In the experience of many sufferers, (including Tasha at Winning Minds), the NHS will either fail to properly diagnose an eating disorder  (particularly bulimia, because sufferers tend to be a normal weight) or, if they do recognise it, they will prescribe one of the therapies above, which tend to prove unhelpful, for the reasons stated.

Weight Charts

It is worth mentioning that the NHS weight charts, which are used to ascertain whether a patient has a healthy “BMI”, tend to allow for a patient to be considerably underweight by any other standard and yet still be deemed “healthy”.

Not all anorexics weight 5 stone and, as mentioned, bulimics can often be within a healthy weight range. At this point in time, it is the experience of many eating disorder sufferers that they are only taken seriously by the NHS if they fall into the “underweight” catagory on their weight charts, and it is not at all clear what these charts are based on.

At Winning Minds we focus on changing your mind-set. That’s why our unique neural recoding technique might have been invented as the ultimate eating disorder treatment.

Find out how what treatments are available now

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