So much of my work involves speaking to mothers about their experiences, thoughts and feelings following birth. And so much of those conversations are taken up by worries and stresses over their changing, postpartum bodies. Which breaks my heart. But is also completely understandable, given the fatphobic world we live in. So I was really keen to get Heather Bennett on to write a guest blog post for you.


Heather Bennett is a food and body freedom coach, helping women recover from disordered eating behaviours, negative body image and general food related anxiety. She quit her 9-5 office job in 2021 to start her own coaching business when she realised how much her own experience of coaching had helped her get her life back. Heather knew that she wanted to help other women find the same freedom. She is currently working through a therapeutic coaching qualification, an inner child healing diploma and an eating disorder practitioner skills diploma.


Here is what she has to say...

 

As someone who has come through her own traumatic relationship with food and negative body image and is now coaching others through their own journey, I put together a free guide to help you kick diet culture to the curb. You can get the guide if you subscribe to my mailing list by clicking here.

I really want to be accessible to those of you who may not be able to invest in personal coaching and this free guide seemed like a great place to start. I focus on 4 areas, which are self-care, the numbers we are obsessed with such as calories, weight, size etc, exercise and food.


What actually is self-care?

This can mean different things to different people. For some, taking a bath and having a face mask is their idea of self-care and others may like to spend a day on a racetrack driving a go-kart with their children. However, in my guide I ask you to think about nourishment, comparison, journaling and taking a digital detox.

What do you think of when you hear the word “nourishment”? Is it a delicious meal to nourish your body? Or maybe it’s reading a book to nourish your mind – after all, you’ve had your eye on it ever since it was released but mummy-duties have taken up so much of your time you’ve not allowed yourself to start it yet! Maybe now is the time; Maybe now is exactly when you need to step back and make space for yourself.


As you may already know, comparison is the thief of joy! The moment you start looking at other people and comparing their bodies, clothes, perceived lifestyle or beauty it’s often game over for our morale. One minute you’re feeling amazing in your new dress, and you’ve finally mastered the Dyson Air-wrap, but as soon as you step into the company of other people you begin to scan the room and feel your self-esteem diminish with every glance. Please stop! You probably know nothing about the people you envy. They may be in a different body, but you don’t know how they arrived in that body. It could be a sad story of restriction or eating disorders; you just don’t know! Those people whose lifestyle turns you green with envy may actually be really unhappy because they are having to keep up appearances. They may be exhausted and miserable. They may have money worries and depression; you just don’t know. Be careful who you envy and learn to appreciate what you have. Remember life is short and can be easily taken without a moment’s notice. Yes, I’m being very macabre but it’s true – life is precious so please stop wishing it away because you think you’d rather have someone else’s.


Journaling is quite common these days and often falls into self-care because it allows us to open up and write what we’re thinking and feeling which can be incredibly cathartic. But what I don’t hear very often is people saying how hard it is – because it is! Journaling can be very affronting if you are truly writing your own thoughts down without the fear of other people reading it and judging you. Maybe you notice things about yourself that you don’t particularly like – that’s okay and I applaud you for seeing this. Just treat yourself with compassion and think about why you do it and how it would feel to stop? There are different ways of journaling – you can buy a journal with prompts, or you can just use a notebook and just write. I’d encourage you to add your own prompts to make sure you’re digging deep and reflecting enough for you to feel the benefits. If you’re interested, one of my own coaches co-wrote a journal – here’s the link.



Being able to switch off from the world (including social media!) and tune in to yourself is a beautiful act of self-care. Believe me, it is a challenge but so worth it. I try to do this once a week, but that may not be possible for you with a busy home life and children to care for, so just find your own rhythm. Whether you allow yourself a few hours or a few days, make sure you take time to check in with yourself; How do you feel today; What do you need? How are you going to show up for yourself today? How will you protect your boundaries? What are you going to achieve and how will you know when you’ve got there? This fits in nicely with journaling to capture your thoughts.


Why do we base our worth on numbers?

These bloody digits are everywhere in life - making us feel good, bad, popular, lonely, happy, sad, etc. They are rife in diet culture - weight, calories, size, steps and so on. But why do they mean so much to us? Well, diet culture likes those people who don’t fit in to what it deems “healthy” to feel ostracised until they meet the beauty standard. We obsess about our weight, size and calorie intake until they are all smaller, even if it hurts us.


I’d like to encourage you to stop weighing yourself and even go as far as throwing out your scales. Does that feel wrong to you? I’d like you to explore why that is? I’ll assume that it’s because you have beliefs that tell you weight is a health indicator and that thin/slim is healthier? Are these your beliefs or did you inherit them? In my opinion, someone who has freedom around food and a good body image is healthy, no matter their size. This is because their social health, emotional health and mental health are likely to be better than that of someone constantly dieting and body-checking because when we are obsessing about food and our body, we forget to let go and enjoy life...we focus on the rules so much that we don’t allow ourselves to let loose on holiday or maybe we do but only with the promise that we’ll lose the weight when we get home.



I hate to bring BMI up, but it’s another number that needs to be addressed. I wrote a blog about this which you can read here, but for the sake of this blog I’ll summarise:

· BMI is a simple mathematical formula created in the 1830s by Astronomer (yep – not a doctor, surgeon, dietitian or nutritionist), Adolphe Quetelet.

· This formula was designed to measure populations, not individuals; statistics, not people’s health.

· The people they gathered data from were only those who could afford insurance – typically white, upper class (almost always thin).

· The BMI was never intended for clinical use and cannot tell you anything about the meaning of a person’s “fatness” or their health!


Yes, the healthcare system still uses BMI and I honestly can’t tell you why. I only assume it’s easier to stick with it than to change? Afterall, it’s a very quick calculation which doesn’t need your GP to take time to talk with you and get to know you; time is money!! Maybe if they did, they’d learn about lifestyle and how fit or even happy you might be rather than cast aspersions. I’ve read that medical training has not moved on very much from the 1980’s despite everything that’s been discovered since then. Until medical education starts to include training on human fat cells and what they actually do for us, I think we have to put up with the fatphobia we often face from our GPs and hope that one day they system changes and becomes weight-inclusive for the next generations. I’d love to recommend this book “Anti-Diet” by Christy Harrison as I’ve found it incredibly enlightening!

Please take note that you can refuse to step on the scales if requested by your GP - just explain your issues with body image and they should understand your concerns. However, if they do need to take your weight, ask them not to tell you and to leave it off of any paperwork you’ll be issued.



One of the best pieces of advice I offer to new clients that find it uncomfortable to be in their bodies is to sort through their wardrobe and chuck out clothes that don’t fit. I remember the first time I sized up and I felt like a failure, but I soon got over that when I realised how much better I felt and how bloody comfortable I suddenly was! Remember, your clothes are supposed to fit your body! After the industrial revolution in the early 1800’s, clothes began to be mass-produced which meant that we no longer had clothes to fit us and instead we had to fit ourselves in to standard sizes. There’s a great blog on this, but the book I recommend above also covers this. As we live in times where clothes are mass produced, it’s unlikely that we will have the perfect fit every time that we buy something, so always treat yourself with kindness and compassion and allow yourself comfort!


Now, I’m not going to give too much of my time up for writing about calories because they get too much attention! Just know that you should be eating enough food to make you feel satisfied but not over-full (uncomfortable) every day. Calorie counting / tracking can lead you down a path of disordered eating behaviours and can sometimes turn in to an eating disorder. You can become so obsessed with the numbers that you don’t see food as energy or nourishment. Just Eat it by Laura Thomas was a godsend when I began my journey and I’m sure you’ll also find it a useful and educational tool. Practice tuning in to your body and recognising your hunger and fulness signals and please know that the well versed thermodynamics equation of “calories in minus calories out equals calories stored” just doesn’t fly anymore...it’s not that simple as explained by Dr Andrew Jenkinson in “Why We Eat (Too Much)”.


How we can exercise intuitively

This can strike fear into many people, especially those of us who are in larger bodies or new mums who haven’t really had a chance to exercise in a while due to mum-duties (I hear from friends with children that you’re lucky to be able to drink a cuppa whilst it’s still hot, let alone dedicate some time to exercise!). Most of us don’t hate exercise (okay, some of us do!) but we tend not to do much because we fear judgement and ridicule. This can be so hard to move on from, especially when asked about “bouncing back” to your pre-baby body and the crazy shit that happens when a certain sportswear company launched a plus size clothing range which caused so much controversy and sparked ignorant comments from the fatphobic public!



Exercise need not be hard or unpleasant. It can simply be going out for a walk with a podcast playing or even a bike ride to your fave café to pick up some breakfast. “Train Happy” by Tally Rye is a great book about finding joy in exercise, whatever that looks like for you. It also covers a lot about diet culture too!

My favourite way to start the day is to take myself out for a walk and maybe even grab myself a coffee enroute. I find that by the time I get home, I’m ready to have a shower, eat some breakfast and crack on with my plans for the day. You may like to try gentle exercise like yoga – there are plenty of online classes for free, so it doesn’t have to mean being out of pocket! The number of audiobooks I’ve blasted through by doing this is crazy…it feels so great to be moving my body whilst educating/entertaining myself with a book. I highly recommend audible but if you can’t afford a subscription, ‘google play’ have some free audio books.


The F-word

I like to refer to food as the “f-word” because it is treated with such disgust by some. However, we seem to have forgotten that food is a life-source, so why do we find it so hard to eat without wondering whether it is “good” or “bad” for us. Well, let me clear it up for you – food has no moral value; it’s neither good nor bad, it’s just neutral. Your body (if you listen to it) will tell you what it wants and also when it’s had enough. It’ll also tell you when it can’t stand the thought of another doughnut and you’ll magically start to crave all the colours of the food-rainbow. We underestimate how blummin clever our bodies are sometimes! You may find that those around you will try to tell you about what you should or shouldn’t eat based on what they believe to be true, but please just eat what you need to ensure you have energy and are satisfied



I won’t lie and say that you’re not going to put on weight when you begin to practice eating intuitively, but I will tell you that it’s very likely to settle after a while to a weight your body will be happy at; the weight it would have been if you stopped trying to control its size in the first place. That starvation mode is a strong response to dieting and when you stop a diet (and you will because they are not sustainable) your body begins to increase the weight it carries to ensure your survival for the next “famine”; which is why pretty much everyone puts weight back on, plus more when they quit a diet. The problem is they think it’s their fault and just go on another diet…it’s a vicious cycle.


For me, variety is key to make sure I enjoy the food I eat. I’d soon go off of cake if I had it every day (I think), so try to mix it up and keep it colourful. If you’re not sure where to start because you’ve been sticking to the same “safe” recipes for so long, look into working with a weight-inclusive nutritionist or dietician.


Come and find me!

I hope you’ve found this useful. If you have any concerns about your food related anxiety, disordered eating behaviours or you’ve found yourself generally feeling crap about your body, please get in touch! You can email hello@heather-bennett.com find me on insta @_heatherbennett


Please note that this blog is not a substitute for individual medical or mental health advice (you should seek that from a health professional) and does not constitute a coach-client relationship.

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