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Disordered Eating Archives - Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic
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Stress and Eating Habits

Stress and Eating Habits

When you’re stressed, just about every other component of your life can be impacted in one way or another. Many things that are healthy for you tend to fall to the wayside, with one of the first things being your eating habits.

There are many other aspects of life that are also influenced including:

  • the amount of alcohol you drink;
  • how you approach your relationship with food;
  • how you interact with others, and
  • how much enjoyment you get from the world.

Research has found that the type of stress and your personality will determine the negative impact on your eating habits. At times, you may lose your appetite or you may consciously restrict and control your food intake. Other times, it could mean overeating, impulsive binge eating or comfort eating, in an attempt to make yourself feel better. While your brain may be telling you one thing when you’re stressed, your body is telling you something different.

So, how exactly are food and stress linked, and how does one thing impact the other? Read on to find out more about how a healthier, happier, and less-stressed brain can have a positive knock-on effect on how healthy your food habits are too:

Why Does Stress Affect How You Eat?

To understand how to resolve stress and prevent it from worsening your overeating or restrictive eating patterns, the first thing you need to know is what is causing the stress. Whether it’s stress at home, in the workplace, or due to finances, stress isn’t just in your head. As part of your fight or flight response, stress triggers a range of different biological functions in your body, which impacts how you eat.

Just some of the physical side effects of stress include:

  • Changes in hormones within the body;
  • Increased blood sugar;
  • Increased blood pressure, and
  • A higher heart rate.

Thousands of years ago, the way our bodies handled stress would be incredibly effective. But these days, constant stress can easily lead to changes in how our body works, which in turn changes how we behave.

There are many studies on the biological influences on our behaviours. A recent study showed that people with chronic, high levels of stress are far more prone to crave comfort foods and that this can easily turn into an addiction. While cigarettes, alcohol and drugs are all addiction types that can arise from stress, high-sugar and high-fat foods can also become addictive over time. The longer that stress goes on and the longer your eating habits are unhealthy and imbalanced, it can result in significant disordered eating behaviours or even eating disorders.

Learn more about Work Stress and how it affects males and females differently

Poor Eating Habits Can Make Stress Worse

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The food choices you make when you’re stressed can easily chip away at all areas of your health. By choosing to eat the comfort foods which trigger binge eating or buying unhealthy takeaway that results in overeating, it has a short-term gain with a poor long-term outcome.

While turning to food as a comfort or reward to make yourself feel better after a stressful day, week or month, beyond that immediate rush, you’ll likely find yourself feeling worse. As with any episode of emotional eating or binge eating, you gain immediate satisfaction, but you aren’t learning how to better manage the stressful events that keep triggering you to turn to food to ‘solve your problems’. Unfortunately, turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms will lead to poorer health, reduced stress tolerance, depression and weight gain.

It’s been proven that an improved diet which is healthy and balanced, can increase positive moods, provide you with more energy, and help you think more clearly. But when you’re in the depths of stress, it can be hard to see beyond what’s right in front of you. That’s why you can make the best possible impact on your eating habits by tackling stressors up-front and providing yourself with a good foundation for success and health.

Why Does Less Stress Equal Better Eating Habits?

If your mind is crowded with racing thoughts and constant worry, it will make the most important and simplest things in life more difficult. As such, choosing to eat regularly, and making healthy food choices, a priority becomes hard. It doesn’t help that easy convenience foods are far more accessible than healthier options.

healthy eating, balanced diet, stress management, stress relief, stress tolerance

By tackling your stress, you can give yourself room to breathe and have the mental capacity to make healthier choices. The better you get at managing your stress, the more resilient you become. What once seemed difficult will be easy. This includes being able to choose to eat a healthy and balanced diet which in turn, will help to reduce the cravings for comfort foods and episodes of emotional and binge eating.

It’s impossible to remove all stressors from your life. However, you can learn to manage stress better which will enable you to handle stressful situations more effectively, with the aid of healthy strategies and coping mechanisms. Over time, you will begin to notice your change in perspective, behaviours and ability to cope with stress.

Working with a qualified psychologist, counsellor or therapist may be a great way to access those tools. Which will then give you a dedicated pace to tackle any of your eating issues and unhealthy habits once the immediate ‘threat’ your brain is reacting to, is under control.

With the proper tools and the support of a qualified professional you will begin to set yourself up for long-term success by better understanding both stress and disordered eating behaviours.

A healthier mind leads to healthier eating habits.

Here are some simple tips to help you to create a healthier more positive mindset.

Diet Culture Causes Eating Disorders

Diet Culture Causes Eating Disorders

Diet culture is toxic. It promises success, happiness, and health if you can attain a thin or fit ideal and restrict yourself in the name of healthy eating. Diet culture is defined by registered dietician and nutritionist Christy Harrison as a belief system that equates thinness with health. It demonises ways of eating and rewards others, oppressing those who don’t measure up with its health ideal.

The effect of diet culture is so embedded in our daily lives that it can be difficult to recognise and curtail. This culture presents itself in the ways you talk about your body (I’m fat, I need to lose weight), the way you keep track of calories (this is too much, I shouldn’t be eating this), and the way you villainise yourself for eating ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods.

Our society places extreme emphasis on the beauty and cultural significance of body image and weight. Losing weight (regardless of the circumstance) is good, and gaining weight is bad. This appears page after page in our magazines and through the innately rich and fit Instagram models and influencers. Fad diets and ways of ‘losing weight fast!’ are ingrained in our feeds and minds.

The facade of appearing ‘slim and healthy’ as a result of these short-term programs are bound to fail. Research by Grodstein et al. (1996) and Neumark-Sztainer et al. (2007) found that 95% of all dieters are likely to regain any lost weight within one (1) to five (5) years.

Diet culture focuses on restriction, eliminating foods that contain nutrients necessary for bodily function. Their purpose is to identify foods you can’t eat, rather than what is important for good health and nutrition.

How Diet Culture Leads to Disordered Eating

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The diet industry is fundamentally controlled by the moralising of food choice. Good foods, bad foods, and foods we should feel guilty and shameful for eating. The culture of dieting is ingrained in shrinking our bodies to fit into the ‘thin or fit’ ideal. If you don’t measure up, there are lots you can do to change yourself, no matter the cost to your health, livelihood and happiness.

Diet culture is rewarded. Obsessing over ‘healthy foods’ is normalised and heavily disordered and distorted. It can cause women and men to think they’ve reached society’s (or their own) ‘goal’ because they’ve reaffirmed their disorder as healthy, and gotten thinner through binge eating, restriction, and bulimic tendencies. Hunger cues are ignored in the name of health and weight loss when in actuality, this only leads to poor mental, emotional, and physical health.

A study from the Center of Addiction reported that 62.3% of teen girls surveyed were working toward weight loss, and 58.6% were actively dieting. Alarmingly, only 15% of teens were classified as overweight. Those who restricted intake of food are reported to be eighteen (18) times more likely to develop an eating disorder, while those subject to dieting are five (5) times more likely.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with certain ways of eating, such as being vegetarian, eating organic, or shopping locally. But as a society, we’ve moralised eating, exercise, and weight more than anything else. Instagram perpetuates this idea, as we are presented with idealistic, aesthetic posts of clean foods and fit Instagram models. A Netherlands study (2017) recently found that cultural phenomena are linked to the development of orthorexia (unhealthy fixation on clean eating). It found that the more a person is exposed to the type of clean eating content on Instagram, the more likely they are to risk developing symptoms of orthorexia.

Get 7 Tips to Kick Start Your Eating Without Dieting

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Healing from diet culture requires that you recognise such a toxic culture exists, and you have the power to reject it. Healing means that you need to remove all traces of diet culture from your social media, such as Facebook groups or Instagram pages that conform to this culture to prioritise ‘clean eating’. Start to follow pages and users with diverse experiences, varying sizes, backgrounds, and stories that allow you to challenge your internal beliefs and are conducive to growth.

Another useful way to combat the restrictive hold of diet culture is honouring intuitive eating. This way of eating abandons the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad foods’, and emphasises eating the foods that make you feel the best. Some days, you’re going to crave pizza or pasta, and others you crave a veggie salad. Intuitive eating is about caring for yourself, and honouring what your body needs, at the time, without cutting out nutrients or food groups.

It’s necessary to concentrate on identifying and healing from the emotional triggers that prompt emotional eating or binge eating. This includes establishing coping mechanisms that enable you to deal with general and food-related stress and anxiety.

Knowing that certain foods aren’t off-limits allows you to break away from the scarcity mindset, and gives you space to make mindful eating choices.

Removing the judgement and guilt, from diet culture, is essential in starting to value your choices and decisions again. Aim to make these choices from a place of kindness and self-care, rather than a place of guilt, fear, judgement and self-punishment.

Take this FREE 3-minute QUIZ to Find Out What’s Triggering Your Sabotaging Patterns and Keeping You Stuck in Yo-yoing Cycles

Whats Your relationship with food, Food Addiction therapy, food addiction psychologist brisbane, food addiction statistics, food addiction and disordered eating, do I have food addiction, why am I addicted to eating, Im addicted to food, why can't I stop eating

Your Information is 100% Secure And Will Never Be Shared With Anyone.

If you want to get some basic hints and tips to improving any form of Disordered Eating Behaviours, Weight Gain or Binge Eating read more here.

Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic provides a bridge between where you are currently and the direction you want to head towards. We offer a variety of programs and services that help you to shift your mindset to a more mindful, healthy relationship with yourself and with food through practical, and realistic strategies you can implement immediately.

How to Reduce Overeating at Christmas

How to Reduce Overeating at Christmas

 Standing in your local supermarket, you glance between the produce section, where you intended to go, and the aisle of baked goods. Deep down you know that if you go down the baked goods aisle that you will trigger your overeating at Christmas mindset and this will lead you to the Festive Season mindsets and behaviours of binge eating which will last for a month or more.

Those brightly coloured stacks of Christmas goodies keep catching your eye. You resist, clutching your carefully prepared shopping list. You are here to buy fresh veggies, salad and roast ingredients for a healthy, satisfying Christmas dinner for your family and friends. You can hear that little voice trying to bargain with you saying that, if you have a healthier Christmas dinner than the desserts and chocolates are okay. You deserve it and you have saved yourself the calories during the main meal.

Making wise food choices can be challenging at any time of the year however, eating healthy at Christmas can sometimes seem like an impossible task. The temptations of Christmastime plus dieting mindsets, which are common yet unsustainable in the long-run, can endanger your short-term and long-term health goals and send you down a sabotaging path.

You’ve probably heard about the endorphin-producing powers of chocolate, but it isn’t the only culprit. Normal human survival instinct responds to everyday Stress by driving you to seek fatty and carb-heavy foods. Eating rich food triggers the reward centre of your mind and leads to excessive indulgence for those who are susceptible.

 The good news is that you can minimise overeating at Christmas and during the Festive Season and reduce your urges by preparing a game plan and adopting a mindset that gives you the mental and emotional resources to enjoy food responsibly without feeling deprived, restricted or like you are on a diet.

10 Tips to Reduce Overeating at Christmas & Improve Healthy Eating

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Tip #1 – Regular Meals Throughout the Day

Relying on willpower alone is stressful and usually unsuccessful. You need to train yourself overtime to manage situations that may disrupt your resolve by developing strategies and healthy patterns that you are happy and confident in sticking to. An effective and healthy eating pattern is to have breakfast within 1 hour of waking up and eating regular, smaller meals based on whole foods every 3-4 hours. This plan can increase metabolism and prevent hunger pangs throughout the day.

Tip #2 – You Have Choices

You can set yourself up for success at the table by assessing what is on offer and then choosing the options that are going to nourish you first. For example, choosing vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, salads and other healthier options first.

Tip #3 – Size Really Does Matter

Choose a smaller plate and keep small spaces between the food, to ensure moderate portions. This is a better alternative to building a small mountain of mash and roasties right off the bat and finishing it all in the name of politeness. This allows you to begin to portion control and learn to not eat with your eyes. 

Tip #4 – Slow Down

Exercise mindful eating by chewing slowly and concentrating on every bite. Eating at a slower pace increases your satiety at a faster rate and can prevent overeating.

Tip #5 – All of the Choices

Select foods that you will truly savour, not dishes that just happen to be in front of you.

Tip #6 – Fresh is Best

Fruits and vegetables are the foundation of nutritious eating at any time of the year. Eating fresh produce over the holiday season will go a long way towards keeping your mood, mental health and energy up and your weight down.

Eat more fruit and vegetables over Christmas to sustain weight, Christmas healthy eating tips

Tip #7 – Your Dietary Needs

Do you have a cousin that serves up fast food feasts for Christmas as a ‘special’ treat or a grandmother that lathers anything and everything in butter and cheese? Prepare your own meal or snacks full of healthy veggies, lean protein, plant proteins, wholegrains, and fruits and explain your dietary needs and goals to the host. Make sure you bring enough to share with everyone!

Tip #8 – Water is Wonderful

It’s easy to confuse thirst for hunger, as both are registered in the same part of the brain, so remember to keep yourself hydrated by drinking at least 2.2L, or approximately 8-9 glasses, of water a day.

Tip # 9 – Routines and Relaxation

As stress is the main cause of those pesky comfort-food seeking urges, de-stressing through other means like going for a short walk, getting 7-9 hours of sleep, doing something fun or meditating.

Tip #10 – Find Meaning

What are the most important things about the Christmas and holiday season for you? Too much focus is placed on the food and this disconnects you from the real meaning of this time. Is it: getting together with friends and family, gift-giving, dressing up, decorating, listening to cheesy music and connecting with your community? These are the true focus that can help you create a healthier mindset.

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Finally, forget the “New Year, New Me” mentality. This is a damaging mantra that only momentarily absolves people from making smart and healthy choices but magnifies negative feelings down the line. This can lead to more Stress, and encourages the repetition of negative and unhealthy cycles. Instead, acknowledge your daily wins and achievements, no matter how small, as this will keep you focused on your goals and health. 

Take this FREE 3-minute QUIZ to Find Out What’s Triggering Your Sabotaging Patterns and Keeping You Stuck in Yo-yoing Cycles

Whats Your relationship with food, Food Addiction therapy, food addiction psychologist brisbane, food addiction statistics, food addiction and disordered eating, do I have food addiction, why am I addicted to eating, Im addicted to food, why can't I stop eating

Your Information is 100% Secure And Will Never Be Shared With Anyone.

If you want to get some basic hints and tips to improving any form of Disordered Eating Behaviours, Weight Gain or Binge Eating read more here.

Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic provides a bridge between where you are currently and the direction you want to head towards. We offer a variety of programs and services that help you to shift your mindset to a more mindful, healthy relationship with yourself and with food through practical, and realistic strategies you can implement immediately.

7 Signs of Binge Eating Disorder

7 Signs of Binge Eating Disorder

It is a common misconception that if you suffer from Binge Eating that you are either overweight or obese. Although the disorder can cause weight gain over time, it can occur in anyone, regardless of their size, age, gender, or race. This lack of awareness, and the stigma attached to this form of compulsive eating, are why a lot of people suffer in silence with their struggle and are unable to identify their experience with the symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder. This disorder affects three (3) times the amount of people diagnosed with Anorexia and Bulimia combined.

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge Eating Disorder is a psychological illness that is characterised by frequently eating excessive amounts of food, in a short period of time, in the absence of hunger. These episodes are accompanied by feelings of a loss of control followed by feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment and disgust. It is similar to Bulimia Nervosa, but with the absence of purging, and needs to be taken extremely seriously. The good news is that overcoming Binge Eating Disorder is possible. There are effective treatments available to help you better understand what the underlying causes are and to help you better manage your emotions, mindset and behaviours. shift your Binge Eating mindset.
Despite the growing awareness of Binge Eating Disorder, you may not realise the severity of your disorder. There are several emotional and behavioural symptoms that may not seem like a red flag to you but would indicate to a professional that you are in need of treatment.

Typical Binge Eating Disorder Symptoms

#1 – Eating When Not Hungry

Feeling the compulsion to eat even though you have no appetite. You are more likely to binge on foods that you restrict or deprive yourself of which are commonly known as the ‘forbidden foods’. They tend to be highly processed with high amounts of sugar, fat and/or refined carbohydrates.

#2 – Eating Beyond Physical Fullness

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Your body generally signals to you when you are reaching your physical fullness level. With Binge Eating this signal is turned off and ignored resulting in the ability to consume large quantities of food causing physical discomfort and nausea.

#3 – Periods of Uncontrollable Eating

You may experience moments of compulsive eating where your brain feels as though it has switched off or zoned out, and you are eating without the ability to stop.

#4 – Eating Very Quickly

There is an overwhelming desire and pattern of eating rapidly in a very short time frame to eat as much as you can.

#5 – Secretive Eating

Binge Eating usually occurs alone and in secret. You may have rituals of planning around where, when, what you eat, what else you do. Eating in your car, late at night when everyone has gone to bed and hiding food around the house are all common behavioural patterns.

#6 – Coping with Distressing Feelings

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Binge Eating is often the response to intense feelings, emotions and situations. Food is used as a way to cope with the challenging emotions which suppresses and represses all of the physical and psychological distress, momentarily. Some of the emotions that people find challenging include stress, anxiety, anger, depression, and boredom.

#7 – Distress After Eating

After you have binged, do you also feel ashamed, guilty or disgusted with yourself? Distress after Bingeing is a common sign that you are suffering from Binge Eating Disorder.

If you leave it untreated in the hope that it will run its course, there are an enormous amount of health risks that can occur which include:

  • Obesity;
  • Diabetes;
  • Heart disease;
  • Sleep problems;
  • Mental health issues, and
  • Chronic pain.

Your overall quality of life will continue to deteriorate alongside your self-esteem and self-worth. Binge Eating Disorder is a psychological illness that is often used as a replacement for deeper emotions you may be trying to avoid. Put simply, food equals pain relief.

Seeking a weight loss treatment or program is only going to make your disorder worse. One of the greatest risk factors for Binge Eating Disorder is Dieting. You cannot find the solution in the cause of the problem. It will actually cause you more harm.

You need to increase your own awareness and have the courage to reach out and ask for help. The best way to treat any Eating Disorder is with the appropriate professional support.

If you are showing any signs of this disorder, you have already taken the first step by acknowledging it. If you are still questioning whether you may be suffering from any form of Eating Disorder or Disordered Eating Behaviour, take our short quiz. 

Take this FREE 3-minute QUIZ to Find Out What’s Triggering Your Sabotaging Patterns and Keeping You Stuck in Yo-yoing Cycles

Whats Your relationship with food, Food Addiction therapy, food addiction psychologist brisbane, food addiction statistics, food addiction and disordered eating, do I have food addiction, why am I addicted to eating, Im addicted to food, why can't I stop eating

Your Information is 100% Secure And Will Never Be Shared With Anyone.

If you want to get some basic hints and tips to improving any form of Disordered Eating Behaviours, Weight Gain or Binge Eating read more here.

Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic provides a bridge between where you are currently and the direction you want to head towards. We offer a variety of programs and services that help you to shift your mindset to a more mindful, healthy relationship with yourself and with food through practical, and realistic strategies you can implement immediately.

7 Ways Your Sleep and Eating Patterns are Linked

7 Ways Your Sleep and Eating Patterns are Linked

Sleep is essential to maintaining your mental and physical health, and it has some surprising impacts on your eating choices as well. If you are struggling with:

  • Controlling your weight;
  • Managing cravings;
  • Emotional or Stress Eating;
  • Binge Eating;
  • Night-time Eating (eating after dinner), or
  • Afternoon Eating,

then these seven (7) connections between your sleep and eating patterns are important for you to know.

#1 – You’ll Eat More When You Sleep Less 

Studies have found that when you sleep less than the recommended 8-9 hours a night, you will consume more calories over the course of your day. Scientists don’t know exactly why, but the evidence is clear that poor or inadequate slumber and excessive food consumption go hand in hand.

#2 – You’ll Get More Food Cravings If You Sleep Poorly 

Being well-rested is imperative for impulse control. If you are running on less sleep than you need, it makes you more likely to indulge in food cravings, particularly for foods higher in fat and lower in protein. This can have a significant effect on Binge Eating, Stress Eating or Night-time Eating as you are more likely to consume more calories, overeat or binge, after a night of poor sleep.

#3 – Eating a Poor Diet Impacts Your Quality Of Sleep 

Unfortunately, it seems that the link between food and sleep goes both ways. If you sleep poorly with less than 8 hours of sleep, you most likely have a lower variety and poorer nutritional quality of foods plus are more dehydrated, than those who sleep well. Interestingly, the analysis found that those who slept 5 hours or less actually consumed less overall carbohydrates. Therefore, if you want to sleep well and find a healthy weight, you need to find a healthy balance and variety of nutrients in your eating plan, and stay optimally hydrated. Without this, you will most likely perpetuate the vicious cycles you are trying to stop.

#4 – What You Drink Impacts How You Sleep 

There are people out there that swear they can have coffee, energy drinks, or any other caffeine-laden beverage, and it does nothing to their quality of sleep, but this has been proven to be untrue. Admittedly, some people are not aware of the effects of caffeine on sleep. Research has found that there is an interruption to sleep quality and a delay in the body clock. The effects of caffeine have been found to delay the sleep cycle by between 40 minutes to 105 minutes. The delay then affects wake or arousal times.

#5 – Eating Late Impacts Your Sleep 

If you’re eating late at night instead of being in bed, there is a pretty good chance you’re sleeping less. It turns out the link between late-night eating and poor sleep goes far deeper than this. A study by University of Arizona Health Sciences found that junk food cravings were twice as likely associated with night-time eating and snacking. The major predictor of this behaviour was poor sleep quality. The study also found that the pattern was significantly linked with Obesity, Diabetes and other health problems.

#6 – You Are More Susceptible to Mindless Eating While Sleep-Deprived

A study found a link between short sleep duration, Obesity and mindless eating and drinking behaviours. It was found that you may spend approximately 8.7 extra minutes each day eating mindlessly while doing other things. It was also found that you are likely to spend approximately 30 extra minutes per day drinking sweetened drinks (not water). This might not sound like much, but if you are consistently consuming calories mindlessly, that’s going to add up, particularly when you consider that this could be working in tandem with some of the issues we’ve already discussed.

#7 – Your Emotions Respond Negatively to a Lack of Sleep 

After a bad night’s sleep, your body’s stress hormones are elevated, which means that you are likely to be more irritable and less able to concentrate. For those who tend to eat to deal with negative emotions, this can make you more susceptible and less able to say no to the cravings when they kick in.

How you talk to yourself when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep can make a real difference. Learn more about the impacts of your internal language and how to be more positive, when it counts.

5 Tips to Getting a Better Night’s Sleep

Here are five (5) simple tips to consider to help you improve your sleep. Remember that sleep and eating patterns are linked. Once your sleep improves, you will create a positive effect on your cravings, all of your eating behaviours and weight. 

Tip #1 – Sleep Environment 

Getting your environment conducive to sleep is so important to have both good quality and quantity. Everyone is different! If you and your partner are keeping each other up at night, you might need to think about creating your own spaces for sleep. Your relationship and health will positively benefit from both of you getting a really good night’s slumber. Some of the things to consider: noise, light, temperature, bedding weight, and smells.

Tip #2 – Regular Bedtime 

Your mind and body need a schedule in order to activate your sleeping hormones at the right time. Being consistent with your bedtime means that you are allowing yourself the time your mind and body need to fall asleep.

Tip #3 – Bedtime Routine 

To activate your sleep hormones, you need to prepare your mind and body to fall asleep. By having a routine, just like you had when you were a child or that you have for your children, it signals that this is the time of day that you are doing the activities that help get you ready to go to bed and have a restful sleep.

Creating new habits and routines can be difficult if you don’t prioritise them and yourself. Read more here.

Tip #4 – Decompress and Relax 

Part of your bedtime routine needs to include some boundaries and deadlines for stimulating activities. Your mind and body cannot prepare for sleep if it is wound up, stressed, anxious, excited, stimulated and the likes. Therefore, you need to have a reasonable cut off time for doing, watching or reading anything that is going to overstimulate your brain and keep you up. A good starting point is at least one (1) hour before bed. Such things include social media, news, work, gaming, movies, TV show, and conversations etc. Find things that help you relax and get ready for a restorative night’s sleep.

Tip #5 – Regular Wake Time 

Just as you have a regular bedtime, you also need to have a regular wake time. This helps you maintain consistency in your sleep cycles which has a positive effect on the rest of your routine and day, even when you don’t sleep that well.

Forming any new habit is difficult. The best way to form new habits is to know what you want for yourself and why. If you need help to form the habits you need to improve your sleep and eating patterns, we are here to help. 

Obsessive Focus on Body Image Leads to Disordered Eating

Obsessive Focus on Body Image Leads to Disordered Eating

There are very few people who don’t spend a little time worrying about their body image including their body weight and shape.

After all, we’re constantly bombarded with messaging that “slimmer is better”. It’s virtually ingrained in us that a thin, fit body is linked with success and happiness, and that gaining weight is something to be ashamed of.

A pervasive “diet culture” has sprung up, with trim and toned celebs spruiking fad diets to ease the shame of being what’s considered “overweight”.

It’s not just the media that’s spurring on unrealistic expectations about how our bodies “should be”. Off-hand comments about you putting on a few kilos, or constantly hearing complaints like “I look so fat in this dress!” can unconsciously contribute to your body image issues.

What is Body Image?

Look at yourself in the mirror or picture your body in your mind. What do you see? How does it make you feel?

Body image is what you believe about your appearance (accurate or not), as well as how you feel about being in your body.

People with a negative or distorted body image are at risk of developing Eating Disorders, Disordered Eating Behaviours and are more likely to experience Depression, Anxiety, low Self-Esteem and social isolation.

It’s not just overweight people who suffer from a negative body image. Even people within a healthy weight range can develop distorted views about their body size and shape or fixate on a particular body part. In their obsessive quest to “fix” themselves, they may become vulnerable to Dieting or restricting calories or food groups which in turn can lead to Disordered Eating Behaviours such as Stress, Emotional or Binge Eating.

Your Own Internal Image of Thinness Drives Your Unhappiness

For both males and females, Disordered Eating Behaviours appear to come from a desire to be thin (known as the internalisation of thinness) or to have the ideal body. Research by Mancilla-Diaz et al. (2012) found that in regards to social body ideals, there is a strong influence from society, culture, peers and social media. In particular, a female’s internalised ideal body is a major risk factor in the development of Body Dissatisfaction and Disordered Eating Behaviours such as Restrict and Binge Eating. The same study found that more so for females that there was a significant peer of friend influence, on their internal body ideal.

Signs Your Focus on Body Image and Weight is Unhealthy

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Maintaining a healthy balance of what you eat and exercise is important to overall physical and psychological well being. When your focus on body image becomes excessive, and you start to find that eating and exercise becomes a struggle, emotionally distressing or perceive that you are a failure, then your mental health can begin to suffer.

Signs of Body Weight and Shape Focus Based on Diet Culture and Behaviours:

1. Feeling extremely self-conscious about your weight, or a perceived bodily flaw, constantly comparing yourself to others and experiencing constant, negative thinking about your body.

2. Prioritising working out over everything else – spending increasing amounts of time exercising, even at the expense of other important engagements and pushing yourself to physical exhaustion.

3. Weighing yourself compulsively (often several times a day) and feeling depressed when you see a result you’re unhappy with.

4. Counting every calorie or weighing every gram, to the point where you’re cutting out a huge range of foods based only on their caloric value.

5. Becoming obsessed over a diet regime and following it religiously. Fad diets that eliminate important nutrients can be highly detrimental to health. In addition, dieting ensures that food, body weight and the need for willpower are always at the forefront of your mind.

6. Avoiding social functions for fear of having to eat in front of other people or succumbing to the temptation of restricted foods.

7. Regularly skipping meals or employing tricks to suppress hunger such as chewing gum or constantly chugging water.

8. A belief that achieving a certain body weight equates to happiness. Believing being thinner will solve all your problems can cause obsessive thought patterns that lead to neglecting the true sources for improving your life habits, career, relationships and happiness.

Are your eating patterns causing a Disordered Eating Behaviour? Read about the complex patterns of Disordered Eating

7 Tips to Improve Body Satisfaction and Acceptance

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While it’s true that focus and consistency play a huge part when it comes to improving your eating habits, if you Stress too much over the negatives, you can fall into obsessive thought patterns. Here’s are some seven (7) tips on how to improve how you think and feel about yourself and your body and avoid the obsessive thinking traps:

Tip #1 – Aim for a Healthy Acceptance

Diet culture and 12-week challenges revolve around unattainable goals for perfection and to get the perfect body shape and weight. This focus will always let you down. Humans possess flaws and blemishes that nothing can fix – and that’s perfectly fine!

Remember, there’s more to a person than their weight, body shape and looks. Beware of your inner critic and counter it by focusing on the positives in life – your strengths and attributes.

Tip #2 – Become Aware of Your Negative Self-Talk and Thoughts

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Pay attention to what your mind is focusing on day-to-day. Are you falling into depressive moods because of negative thoughts about your body? Listen to these thoughts and write them down. Recognising these negative attributions is the first step to positive change.

Tip #3 – Be Mindful of Triggers

If a Youtuber’s healthy living channel is causing you to reflect unhappily on yourself – look away! The same goes with Instagram, TV shows and magazines that can trigger obsessive thinking over dieting, exercising, losing weight and body shape.

Tip #4 – Stop Comparing Your Body

Going around comparing yourself to others is tiring and pointless. Everyone’s body and physiology are totally different. As for bikini-clad Instagram models, remember, loads of them are digitally enhanced and posed to reduce their natural flaws – pretty much nobody looks like that!

Tip #5 – Focus on Who You Are

Rather than focusing on what you hate about your body and yourself, take the time to reflect on what you are good at and why people love you. Remember, your interests and hobbies, as well as the people you enjoy spending time with, represent who you are, not your body weight and shape.

Your Self-worth is connected to your body image, satisfaction and acceptance. Find out how you can improve your Self-worth….. 

Tip #6 – Nourish Your Mind and Body

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A healthy lifestyle equals a healthy body, so make sure what you eat is well-balanced. A good ratio to follow is 80% whole foods and 20% processed foods. If you restrict yourself too much, this could lead to Binge Eating Behaviours. In turn, this will impact your ability to make healthy choices, increasing your Stress levels which often results in cycles of dieting or restriction and Binge Eating and ultimately, weight gain.

Tip #7 – Finding Joy and Happiness

Having an ‘ideal’ body won’t lead to happiness! You need to live your life now and do things which make you happy. Doing things you love can also result in higher Self-esteem, Confidence and Acceptance. The happier you are, the less you will focus on your body weight and shape because you will have more to focus on and live for. Happier people also find it easy to nourish their minds and bodies, live a healthier life and be a healthier weight.

N.B. If your body dissatisfaction is starting to seriously impact your life, seek professional help. If obsessive thinking about body image is affecting your mental health and relationship with food, talk to a Psychologist.