Let’s Talk About Nutritionists

Food, News

With so much conflicting health and diet advice being so casually thrown around, sometimes knowing what to fill your fridge with can be a nightmare. For someone deep in the throws of disordered eating and struggling with its complexities, a qualified nutritionist can seem like a light at the end of the tunnel. No one knows better what we should and shouldn’t be putting in our bodies than a nutritionist right?

Well that’s exactly the problem. Now anyone can become a ‘qualified’ nutritionist (note my use of quotation marks here) by embarking on an online course which takes just 6 days to complete. The issue was flagged up in the recent BBC Three documentary, Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets – which is well worth a watch, by the way – in which presenter and blogger Grace Victory was able to enrol on the course at literally the click of a button, despite her openly having a history of disordered eating.

It is extremely unsettling that what should be an accomplished and respected profession is so readily accessible. For someone who suffers from troubled eating behaviours, whether presently or in their past, becoming involved in one of these courses is like adding fuel to an already roaring fire. Nourishing the obsession in such a way would undoubtedly have a drastically detrimental affect on their health.

Then you have those who believe that calling themselves a nutritionist entitles them to give sound dietary advice, reeling off long lists of foods to be avoided at all costs and pushing their latest money-making plant based craze on vulnerable followers. Yet what’s worse, is that their so-called qualification means we believe it, however far from accurate and extreme the advice may be.

In the UK, more or less anyone can call themselves a nutritionist because it is not a restricted title. To be a dietician however, requires at least four years of studying at university and to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. Qualified dieticians undertake clinical placements and are trained to interpret blood results and medical notes, in other words, they can detect other deficiencies and health concerns caused by disordered eating. Even professionals who call themselves nutrition therapists are often self-regulated and have not completed this essential clinical training and are therefore not suitable to work with someone suffering with an eating disorder.

It is vitally important that anyone struggling with eating seeks the right help from someone who is going to give the right advice. Their Instagram bio may describe them as a ‘qualified nutritionist’ but they could just be another wellness blogger.

For those seeking help from a nutritionist, ensure that they are registered and are a full member of the Association for Nutrition.

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Weight Is Just A Number

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No one likes stepping on the scales to be faced with the horrible reality that they probably ate too many slices of cake last week. The chances are you’ve had your suspicions about those extra couple of pounds for a while but have been in a firm state of denial with yourself. Finally, you pluck up the courage to see for certain and can deny it no longer – the numbers don’t lie after all. While to most, a little weight gain is a minor confidence blip, an inconvenience, for me it’s a minefield. No matter what size I am, I spend my life both dreading it and trying to avoid it, in equal measure.

So when I started to return to health after an illness that saw me shrink to just under 8 stone, the joy and relief of recovery was tainted by the fact that I would inevitably gain weight. I knew it was something that needed to happen – I was the thinnest I’ve ever been, even when in the throws of an eating disorder, I just wasn’t prepared for how horrific it would be when it started to become physically noticeable.

I didn’t notice for a while, I was too busy thinking about what I was going to eat next, high on the excitement of being able to enjoy food again and while I was aware that the food I was shovelling into me wasn’t particularly good for me, I was powerless to my appetite. White bread, smothered with Lurpak became the staple of my diet, I would go to bed dreaming about McDonald’s double cheeseburgers and my boyfriend watched in awe as I devoured sticky toffee puddings every weekend at dinner. Concerned by these new eating habits, I broached the subject with my dietician and of course, there was a perfectly reasonable explanation. My body was starving. I should point out that by this point I had been ill for a considerable amount of time, struggling to eat barely anything most days and what I did manage to eat, my body wasn’t absorbing any nutrients from. It turns out the human body is a pretty intelligent organism and it knows what it needs. I was craving these calorific foods, high in fat and carbohydrates, because my body was severely lacking the nutrients that they provide. The dietician reassured me that once my health and weight began to return to normal these cravings would stop and my diet would stabilise and she was right. Now that my body is nourished again, the bizarre cravings have stopped and I’m back to eating the balanced diet I had before, I’m back to myself again.

What isn’t quite as simple however, is accepting myself. As much as I know that gaining weight is a good thing, I can’t help but be disgusted every time I look in the mirror. When I step on the scales and the dial inches up a few more notches, my heart sinks a little bit more. Each time I’m offered a well-meaning compliment along the lines of,  “You’ve gained weight,” I die a little bit inside.

My arms – the only part of me I have ever considered as slim enough – now appear twice the size they used to be, my collarbone is no longer protruding and the gap between my thighs is getting smaller by the day. While all of these are positive signs, physical indicators of good health, I hate each and every one of them and I also hate the fact that I hate them. I’m happy my body is healthy again, yet I can’t accept it in its healthy form.

The worst part is not knowing if what I’m seeing in the mirror is as it really is or if my mind is lying to me, distorting my view with it’s dysmorphic tendencies. I might feel bigger than I’ve ever been, but the scales say I’m no heavier than I was before I fell ill – a healthy weight – and the numbers never lie, right?

I may be healthy physically, but mentally there’s still some work to be done. I need to listen to my body and to trust it, if I’m craving that slice of cake it’s not because I’m fat and greedy as the voice in my head would have me believe, it’s because my body needs sugar. I need to train my mind to work with my body rather than against it so that the dinner table is no longer a battlefield. I need to learn to love my body and to look after it, because it is healthy and for that I am grateful. For me gaining weight is the first hurdle, but the real recovery begins after.

Be Balanced Not Clean – The #EatClean Backlash

Food, Uncategorized

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The ‘clean eating’ phenomenon has been clogging up our Instagram feeds for too long. It is finally starting to face its inevitable backlash and I for one, am glad. The ‘eat clean’ hashtag has been deceiving us for long enough, with Instagrammers and food bloggers convincing us that their raw, vegan, plant-based or superfood diet is not in fact a diet, but a simple lifestyle change resulting in a healthier way of living. We are led to believe that not only will eating clean help us lose weight, it will give us clear skin, shiny hair and resolve a whole range of health issues from digestive disorders to reducing the risk of certain cancers. Sounds too good to be true right? That’s because it is, unfortunately behind all those filters lies an unhealthy truth.

The irony is, that I actually enjoy many of the foods that fall into the ‘clean eating’ category, but it’s the term that I dislike. Describing a particular way of eating as ‘clean’ implies that any other way of eating is ‘dirty’ ‘unclean’ and generally negative, therefore shaming those who are not on the bandwagon. It’s that issue again of labelling certain foods and in this case, even entire food groups, as ‘bad’ and if we consume them, that makes us bad too. This is not just true when it comes to others, but also ourselves, leading to self-persecuting behaviours which are at best a very unhealthy way of thinking and at worst the early symptoms of an eating disorder. Lets remind ourselves that being healthy is not just about the body but the mind too.

Great British Bake Off star Ruby Tandoh, who has spoken publicly about her battles with eating disorders, has been one of the first to lash out against ‘clean eating’, penning a controversial column for Vice in which she attacks food bloggers – and now authors of their own cookbooks – such as Ella Henderson (now Mills) and the Helmsley sisters, the leaders or shall we say, instigators of the clean eating craze.

http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/ruby-tandoh-eat-clean-wellness

Like Tandoh, I bought into the clean eating concept, believing that I was heading towards a healthy lifestyle and that eating clean was a positive way to deal with recovery – I could concentrate on what I was eating, rather than not eating at all – and not only were these foods okay to eat but were actually good for me. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I was actually not recovering from my eating disorder at all, just channelling in a different way. I became obsessed with what I could and couldn’t eat, overcome with an astonishing sense of guilt if I so much as looked at a carb. For me, and for many, eating clean is just another way of controlling what you’re putting into your body.

Orthorexia, an eating disorder which stems from an obsession with ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ foods, is not yet officially recognised by the medical profession, but this doesn’t mean it is any less dangerous. I don’t want to presume, but the fact that there has been an increase in the number of people suffering from this disorder in recent years, correlating with societies preoccupation with clean eating, I think speaks for itself. Food snaps and selfies of post-workout abs on Instagram, are just a part of the latest wave of thinspiration. These images which fill up our news feeds are just as detrimental as the photos of thigh-gaps and collarbones which I used to scroll through on Pro-Ana sites. Only now, the problem is that it brands itself as ‘wellness’, fooling us into believing it is a positive, healthy lifestyle. ‘Wellness’ is a term that should mean caring for and nourishing the body, but in this case, it is quite the opposite. While it is true that not everyone who chooses to ‘eat clean’ will develop an eating disorder, we need to be aware of the dangers and we need to stop branding these trends as healthy, preferable ways to live.

To me a healthy lifestyle is about being balanced, not clean. Cutting out entire food groups unnecessarily is not balanced and certainly not healthy. Eating healthy is not a new concept or a latest trend, it is what we’ve been doing for years – eating three meals a day which include fruit, veg, meat, fish, dairy and carbs. There’s a reason that these foods make up a balanced diet and that is because they contain the nutrients that our bodies need to survive. It’s incredibly simple, so why is this so often forgotten? Food is a resource for life, not the object of living.

Near the end of Tandoh’s column, she cites an experiment in which a group of women were fed foods they knew and enjoyed and then the same foods in a pureed form. The results showed that their bodies absorbed more nutrients from the meal they had enjoyed eating than from the less-palatable pureed form, proving that taking pleasure from what we eat leaves us better nourished.

So there you have it, scientific proof that enjoying your food is good for you. What you enjoy is down to you, there’s no one size fits all when it comes to diet and the best part of being balanced is finding foods that both you and your body love. Try new foods, experiment with recipes, learn to cook, go out to dinner and most importantly, ditch the #eatclean for #balancednotclean.

What Does True Luxury Mean To You?

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Luxury

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noun, plural luxuries

‘free or habitual indulgence in or enjoyment of comforts and pleasures in addition to those necessary for a reasonable standard of well-being’

The dictionary defines a luxury as an indulgence, something beyond necessity, a pleasure to be sought after and enjoyed. We grow up with pre-conceived ideas about luxury, the thrill of fast cars, the feel of soft Egyptian cotton against your skin, the exhilaration of champagne bubbles slipping down your throat, white sand between your toes. To put it simply, luxury is usually inextricably connected to money and possessions. In reality though, it means something different to everyone. Who is to say that what gives one person the ultimate enjoyment out of life is the same for everyone else. In reality, luxury is much less a materialistic thing and more the ability to have a certain experience or a particular outlook. A feeling rather than a thing.

I recently read a blog post by about what true luxury means to someone who suffers from anxiety and it pretty much summed up all my thoughts on life right now. What luxury means to me has suddenly and dramatically changed, whereas I’ll gladly admit I used to have those very same materialistic concepts about luxury which I mention above, luxury for me now couldn’t be more different.

Luxury for me now is being able to eat a meal of my choice and actually enjoy it. At no point in my life did I ever think it was possible to get so excited about having a cup of tea in the morning – I actually go to bed looking forward to this very prospect. Speaking of which, another luxury is actually sleeping through the night, as is going to work every day. Luxury is waking up in the morning and wanting to go outside, to make plans with friends and to be able to stick to them, to not flinch or pull away when your partner touches you. Laughing and making someone laugh is one of the greatest luxuries life has to offer.

I used to read articles in magazines about people who had found a new love for life after overcoming illnesses and personal battles but these stories never resonated with me. I found them touching, sure, but emotionally they never really scratched the surface. Now it turns out, I can not only relate to these accounts but I have one of my own. I have had the epic realisation of how enjoyable every day life is once a heavy burden, such as illness, is lifted and I am probably happier than I was even before the burden was put upon me. Throughout the worst of it, it seems I was too busy concentrating on simply getting through another day to realise how much my illness was affecting me. Slowly eating away at every aspect of my life. It sounds grim and it is, but when you come out the other side and begin to reclaim each of these aspects, the happiness is overwhelming. It’s like discovering everything you love for the first time again.

It’s safe to say that there are very few benefits to living with chronic illness, a lot of the time it sucks, but the times when it doesn’t and I am well, I feel a sense of genuine happiness which I truly believe – knowing myself, as I think I do quite well by now – I would never have felt had I not had to feel all the bad stuff. That to me is true luxury.

13 Things No One Tells You About Depression

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1. It physically hurts.
Although depression is a mental illness it can cause physical pain too. From muscle ache and joint pain to stabbing sensations and that physical dull ache you feel in your gut when totally overcome with misery.

2. You literally feel like you are going insane.
Depression manifests in various different ways, including panic attacks, irrational thoughts and social anxiety. It can make you feel like you are crazy, you’re not you’re just sick.

3. You can’t differentiate between which thoughts are rational and which are the depression speaking.
Suddenly your head is filled with intrusive, depressive thoughts. Identifying these against your rational thoughts is tough and confusing, but an important step towards recovery.

4. Depression often makes you feel nothing at all.
People assume that depression means you are sad or “down” but it can actually mean not feeling anything at all. Feeling numb and emotionally exhausted is a definite a symptom of depression.

5. Except guilt, you feel guilty all the time.
If suffering from depression isn’t bad enough, imagine feeling guilty for suffering from depression. The guilt is a depressive emotion that makes you feel selfish, ungrateful and a failure, but the illness is out of your control, it’s not your fault.

6. The future is the most terrifying thing out there.
The future is a huge black, meaningless void that you cannot bear to even think about.

7. No matter how much outsiders try, they will always lose an argument with depression.
However much they reassure and argue with you, your people will never be any match for the arsehole that is depression. “You ARE worthless, useless etc…”

8. Most things people will say to you are not just not helpful, but categorically unhelpful.
Unfortunately, a lot of people just don’t understand depression which is why we so often here things like “just cheer up” or “don’t be so depressed.” This is not only completely pointless advice but it can also be detrimental to how the sufferer feels.

9. It doesn’t make you sad all the time.
Believe it or not, depression doesn’t have to mean lying, weeping in bed in the dark for months on end. Many people living with depression go out, carry on working and even make jokes. Stereotypes don’t allow for this.

10. Likewise, even people with a happy disposition can be depressed.
It is a medical illness, individual to the sufferer and it can affect anyone.

11. Everything that ever meant something, suddenly means nothing.
In a depressive state, you lose sight of everything that you ever loved or enjoyed previously – hobbies, interests and relationships. It’s like you never even existed before the illness.

12. You can’t just take a pill to make it all go away.
Doctors are pretty quick to prescribe antidepressants these days, but while they can help some people with depression to live a more normal life, they are not a long term or permanent solution. Getting better is a long and complex process.

13. It’s a lonely place.
Depression is a seriously lonely illness. It feels like no one in the world understands, and it’s no wonder, because a lot of people don’t. What’s important is that some people do and some are willing to try. Surround yourself with these people or be one of these people. They’re the ones who matter.

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How Hannah Altman is Glitterbombing Beauty Standards

Features

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“Sugar and spice and all things nice, that’s what little girls are made of.”

Not according to Hannah Altman, a 20 year old photography student from Pittsburgh, who is, to put it bluntly, glitterbombing, beauty standards through her thought-provoking, poignant exhibition of feminist art. Hannah’s photo series, titled “And Everything Nice” is a distinct expression of the pressures on women to look a certain way. In the photos, of which her best friends are the models, Hannah substitutes glitter for various body fluids, including blood, vomit and tears to draw attention to societies instinct to sanitise and ornament women’s bodies. Hannah has used glitter visualise the pressure women feel to be attractive regardless of anything else, despite what might actually be going on.The result is a striking and haunting look at today’s beauty standards.

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http://hannahaltmanphoto.tumblr.com

Time to Talk Day – Take 5 To Blog

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It’s Time to Talk day. People across the nation are taking 5 minutes to have a conversation about mental health, whether it be at work, with friends or online, and the response has been huge. Here is my #Take5ToBlog entry, have you taken your 5 today?

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1. My name is Sarah and I have experienced depression and Anxiety and have also suffered from the eating disorders Anorexia and Bulimia.

2. My mental illness has affected me in both positive and negative ways. Over the years, it has negatively affected every aspect of my life including family, friendships, relationships, and university. However, it has also helped to shape the person I am today. I would never choose to live with a mental illness but it has strengthened my character and become the source of inspiration for much of my work.

3. My greatest source of support has been… I wouldn’t say I have had one consistent source of support. More recently, there is one friend who has seen me at my absolute worst, never judged or abandoned me and was the catalyst for my recovery. After feeling consistently let down by the NHS over many years my blog has been my main source of support and motivation for getting better and staying healthy. Then there’s my boyfriend, who is responsible for making me happy on a daily basis.

4. My hope for the future is that people will no longer feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about their mental health and that mental illness will be recognised and accepted just as physical illness is. I believe that if we can diminish the stigma we will save more lives. Mental health is not a taboo.

5. I’m taking 5 on Time to Talk day because openly speaking and writing about my experiences has helped me in overcoming my mental health problems and facing some of my biggest fears. I consider myself extremely lucky to have survived my mental illness and to be in a position where I can help others to do the same. My hope is that my words will encourage just one person to speak out, seek help or even simply, to not feel so alone.

If This Girl Can, so can you

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Sport, a word that instantly fills me with dread and conjures up uncomfortable flash backs of desperate attempts to get out of P.E lessons, which involved disgusting maroon hockey socks, chin pads and the girls changing room. This changing room has made such an impression in my memory that despite not being subjected to it for at least seven years, thinking about it now I can almost smell the sweat and mud as we peeled those hockey socks off our legs. I can practically feel the shame and embarrassment sweep over me as I wrestled to change my shirt in the corner without anyone catching a glimpse of my stomach or my M&S AA-cup. Obviously I know now that these feelings were much exaggerated by puberty and the fact I was a 13 year old girl in a room packed with other 13 year old girls. The shame I felt then was totally unnecessary, but due to my severe lack of self-confidence I spent six years of my school life not just dreading, but going to extreme lengths to avoid sport.

For this reason, I am not at all surprised to hear that there are 2 million fewer women partaking in sport than men in the UK. I am finally free of it, why would I put my self through that again by choice? And for enjoyment?

Although my issues with sport are deeply rooted, most women are familiar with the fear of judgement that comes hand in hand with exercising. Whether it’s when getting changed at the gym, making the walk from the changing rooms to the poolside or your thighs jiggling when you run past someone in the park.

The “fitspiration” that plagues the internet is just as damaging as the “thinspiration” found on Pro-Ana sites and has made exercising about being thin, ripped, tanned and flawless. It might not be perfect, but Sport England have done their research and recognise that something positive needs to be done. The campaign is their attempt to encourage women to get involved with sport – and it works.

Playing sport is about teamwork, friendship, stress-relief and enjoyment, which is why I think the This Girl Can campaign is great. It does exactly what it claims to – watching it made me
want to get active, it made me want to play sport, a feat which I never thought possible. The women in the advert look happy, healthy and they’re doing it because they love their body, not because they hate it. They look like women I know and if they’re doing it, why can’t I?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toH4GcPQXpc

10 Superfood’s to Add to Your Shopping List

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In my previous post I wrote about why we shouldn’t be “detoxing” this January, but that is by no means to say that we shouldn’t be trying to live and eat healthily. The problem with detox diets is that they more often than not – well pretty much always, actually – rely on cutting certain foods, and sometimes entire food groups out of your diet. I prefer to focus what I can add to my diet to improve it, rather than what I have to take away, or deny myself.

I’m getting personal now, but for me, restricting certain foods can be triggering, and what starts out as a seemingly innocent quest for a healthier diet, soon turns into an obsessive, guilt-ridden nightmare, over which I have no control. I find that concentrating so hard on what I can’t eat – the forbidden fruit, so to speak – sparks negative thoughts and sets me up for a fail from the very beginning. You know that old saying “we only want what we can’t have” yeah, that pretty much sums me up.

So, I have eventually learnt from my track record and am now taking a different approach to improving my diet, by adding new foods. Nope, not taking anything away, just adding some new ones into the equation – and yes I am feeling okay! For once, I am actually trying to eat better for the health benefits rather than to lose weight and I have to say I think I could get used to it.

Of course, I’m not just talking about adding any old thing you fancy to your diet, I’m talking about the foods that have proven health benefits, the foods that can do great things, I’m talking about, drumroll please, the superfood’s.

Obviously this list could go on and on, but here’s just a few of my favourites to inspire your tastebuds!

Quinoa

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Spinach

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Beetroot

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Sweet Potato

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Blueberries

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Greek Yoghurt

Pomegranate

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Avocado

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The Big Fat Lie

News

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“Big Fat Lie” is an incredibly accurate way to describe an eating disorder, which is exactly why, I imagine, Nicole Scherzinger has chosen this as the title for her new album in which she addresses her own struggles with an eating disorder.

Nicole has been open about discussing her struggles with eating disorders since 2012 when she first spoke out about her battle with Bulimia on VH1’s Behind The Music, but recently she spoke to Digital Spy about overcoming the disease and how her fight has helped make her the success she is today.

“[That fight] is a big part of who I am and what has gotten me here. And what has gotten me to this place of strength.”

Nicole has done what unfortunately so few sufferers find the strength to do, and has found a form of therapy in talking and singing about her struggles.

“I realised that, even though it was a hard subject for me to talk about, when I did I was able to help other people and inspire other people.”

For me, this quote completely sums up the fact of the matter. It is incredibly painful for someone to talk about what they’ve been through, whether they are in the public eye or not, but it is those who do, and those who recognise how important it is to do so, who can inspire change. I completely applaud Nicole for writing music so openly about her eating disorder, when celebrities come forward about their own issues, it gives me almost a feeling of unity. It doesn’t matter how “famous” someone may be, the pain they have felt is as real as yours or mine. The influence which celebrities have on society means that when they speak out they not only raise awareness but also offer reassurance to sufferers in the knowledge that they can identify with the same battles. I am thankful to Nicole for recognising this and being brave enough to speak out. I’ll be giving Big Fat Lie a listen when it comes out on the 20th October.