Dealing with anxiety & stress over Christmas

Christmas is coming…!

So everyone loves a bit of Christmas, right? Mulled wine, fairy lights, chocolate everywhere, epic roast dinners… but it also is the time of year where you’re expected to see EVERYBODY before the New Year, party every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and then the day itself can be a political hotbed of family in-fighting!

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Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Or may you have to do a lot of travelling. Or see relations you’re not hugely cool with. Or maybe you have eating issues, or social anxiety and the pressure is just too much.

I get it – our family is craaaaaaaay and this year we’ve opted to hole up at home in London, just me and the Boy and not do the big stressful family tour thing!

I also used to have an eating disorder as many of you know, and now I’m doing #100DaysSober I have had to turn down a LOT of alcohol at client drinks and office and general Christmas parties over this period.

Top tips for staying sane…!

Read on to discover my fave mental and physical wellbeing tips for the festive season, including mental health, food, fitness, alcohol, eating disorders, office parties, and family politics…

Just say ‘no’ to FOMO.

You don’t have to go to every party. Or if you do, you don’t have to stay until 2am. No-one has a gun to your head. Prioritise what YOU want. It’s hard at first, but when you get used to it, it’s empowering.

If you don’t want to go to something, apologise and suggest meeting up at a time more convenient for you (be it Jan, Feb, March, whatever!)

You can be polite and still take care of yourself. And remember: you are responsible for your actions, but not for anyone else’s reactions. That’s on them.

A therapist told me that once and it’s changed my life.

Make some time for you

Remember to schedule in some down time to treat yourself, be it some time to have a long bath, or lie-in, or read alone… whatever you need to re-charge so you don’t feel totally frazzled.

You do you, no explanation needed

If you don’t want to drink alcohol, or eat something, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. A smile and ‘no thank you, I’m fine,’ should suffice. If people push, you can firmly say you don’t want to talk about it.

If you’re hosting parties, take note:

  • Don’t ask people why they’re not drinking alcohol. It’s not your business.
  • Don’t ask people why they’re eating / not eating something, or make comments about them being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘treating themselves’ or ‘behaving’ or ‘staying on track’. It’s not your business, and if people do have eating disorders / disordered eating, this is supremely unhelpful.

Meditaaaaaaaate, meditate, meditate

It doesn’t have to be hippy-dippy. Even 5-10 minutes a day on an app like Calm, Headspace, Buddhify or Happy Not Perfect can help you reset, destress and relax. Breathing deeply taps into your parasympathetic nervous system (your ‘rest and digest’) system.

Take the pressure off

Remember, perfection is impossible. There’s no such thing as a perfect Christmas. People may not always get on 100% of the time. Things go wrong, turkeys burn, dogs eat the Christmas cake… c’est la vie.

Try to enjoy spending time with family, time off work, time eating amazing food, and stop expecting a chocolate box picture perfect Victorian Christmas with angels singing, family looking angelic and not annoying each other… don’t set impossible standards for it to live up to.

Eat mindfully

Christmas is a time to enjoy food. Enjoy it for what it is and don’t stress about weight. The trick is to try and eat when you’re hungry and not gorge when you’re full, or keep picking at quality street.

Savour your food. Focus on the smell, taste and texture. Have whatever you like – but just take it slow, chew it, enjoy it, and stop when you’re full – you can have more when you’re hungry again! This ‘naughty’ mentality means people binge because they feel Christmas is a free pass to be bad, but in reality there’s no good and bad – you just need to listen to your body and appetite, and not go overboard.

Over Christmas, yes there’ll be more off types of food you’d usually try to moderate better – chocolate and cake etc. That’s okay. Don’t sweat it. Just try to eat as mindfully as possible, and focus on getting those vitamins and minerals in as well – lots of veggies with that roast!

Alcohol… *mistletoe and wine*

If you drink alcohol, try to make sure you’re drinking mindfully and enjoying it, not downing the bottle…! And fundamentally, keep hydrating with water as much as possible.

Ideally I guess don’t drink, or limit it to very small amounts, as studies now show there’s technically no ‘safe’ amount of alcohol, but realistically people will drink, and life is for living and enjoying so just drink in moderation, stay hydrated and be safe!

Just remember, alcohol can make you more jittery and anxious, so consume with caution!

Move!

I’m not saying you need to rigorously gym over Christmas, but regular walking and a home workout or two (use this site, or apps like Sweat with Kayla, or free youtube videos!) can get rid of that stress and/or lethargy that can accompany the Christmas period. A crisp, Christmassy walk outside in the cold can really clear the head!

Movement is super important for stress, anxiety, depression and mood disorders as endorphins are nature’s happy pill!

Take a deep breath and walk away from family politics

Christmas gatherings aren’t the best place to thrash out serious issues*. Try to smile it out and not engage. Leave the room if you need to. If it’s normal family annoyances and feuds, breathe deeply, go and meditate or walk for a while and move on. You can argue later when you’re calmer, and not in front of all of your relations and likely to upset yourself and multiple others. (Unless it’s very serious: see below!)

*Obviously some things are intolerable, whatever the time of year. So equally take care of yourself, be safe, and you can and should just leave or walk away if something is dangerous or damaging. It’s okay to put yourself first.

Practice gratitude

Christmas should be a time to reflect on the year and all you’ve accomplished and everything amazing that’s happened, and to enjoy time with family and friends.

(I’m not religious so that’s it for me anyway! If you’re religious I guess it’s extra special!)

Be grateful – for family, friends, presents, food, a roof over your head, an income, a job, your body, the clothes on your back… when you’re truly feeling grateful it’s hard to be properly stressed, and there are people out there far worse off than us. Perspective is all it takes. There’s a lovely meditation called ‘The Universe’ on the app Buddhify, which helps put everything in perspective.

Lots of love & merry Christmas!

B

xoxo

 

 

F*CK THAT: A message to the creators of those ‘what to wear for your body type’ graphics

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Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

I said I wasn’t going to post about wedding stuff, because it’s very personal to me and my fiance and I are very private about that kind of thing.

But in looking for inspo, especially in the realms of The Dress, we came across a lot of graphics. They go something like this:

“What to wear for your body type:

Pear shaped? Wear XXXXX sihlouette.

Apple? Wear XXXXX sihlouette…”

And so it goes…

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

And it’s not just weddings. Magazines and online articles tell you the ‘best slimming outfits’ or how to ‘dress to flatter your body type’.

Why am I kicking up about this?

BECAUSE YOU SHOULD WEAR WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD.

WHAT IS ‘FLATTERING’ IS WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD. PERIOD.

PS. FUCK ‘SLIMMING’. Just… don’t even start.

The problem with these cookie-cutter guides is they’re basically assuming a normative beauty standard (let’s call this societal ideal the ‘norm’ for ease) and by saying ‘if you’re a pear, wear an A-line dress to emphasise your waist and cover up your big hips’, what they’re implying is you need to create the illusion of a different body because yours isn’t good enough as it is.

Yes, this is a subtlety. But it’s there. And it’s insidious.

If they’re talking about black clothing being slimming or horizontal stripes NOT being slimming, they’re preying on insecurities and pushing the societal ‘norm’ and obsession with losing weight and being slender down our throats… and by recommending ‘slimming’ clothing, they’re undermining curvy and fat bodies, and suggesting they too should be ‘fixed’.

And they’re doing this so subtly with helpful ‘advice’ and tips that even little girls can come across in magazines… (during my EDs I consumed massive amounts of this rubbish, and it definitely helped fuel me putting my fingers down my throat… how terribly sad and twisted is that? But I didn’t even realise because it’s the ‘norm’, right?!)

Darling… let’s get something fucking straight. Your body IS good enough, exactly how it is. 

If, like me, you’re technically a pear shape (you gain muscle and/or fat most easily on your legs and hips, and your skeleton likely has a slightly wider pelvis than shoulders – so take note, no amount of dieting is going to change this!) and you want to wear a fishtail/mermaid sihlouette for your damn wedding dress, but these graphics and articles imply you shouldn’t because you should be trying to ‘hide’ or ‘de-emphasise’ your lower body…

F*CK. THAT.

Now, hold on, you might be thinking… but I am self-conscious about *insert body-part here* and I do want to de-emphasise it…

A couple of things: firstly – that is TOTALLY NORMAL AND OKAY, we all have insecurities. This is about dressing in a way that YOU feel confident and at your best. My issue is with a cookie-cutter approach that ASSUMES you want to do certain things, as this implies that you should, to conform to the ‘norm’, and if you don’t, you look ‘wrong’ somehow.

However, I’d also  encourage as a side-note to explore WHY you feel negatively about that body part – chances are you’ve been affected by messaging we’re bombared with EVERYWHERE about what our bodies should look like. When we’re born, we don’t hate our thighs, or our stomachs, or our chest or arms. We get hungry, we get happy, we sleep, we live life. Our insecurities are LEARNED.

And if you work on it, you can UN-LEARN them too. Case in point: I used to long for skinny legs. I’d repeate the 90s Kate-Moss-heroin-chic mantra ‘Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’ while I threw up the 1 apple I’d eaten that day. Because I felt like being skinny, like models, actresses and magazine imagery that I saw as a young girl, was what I should be.

Now? I have wide hips, and I have strong quads, and it’s still where I hold more fat and muscle, while my mid-section doesn’t gain so easily. And I am more than OK with that. I love my body now. In the words of Shakira, lucky I have strong legs like my mother / to run for cover when I need it…

(But I do appreciate that its tough to get to that place of self-love. I know you can’t flip a switch. It took many, many years, therapy, briefly medication, reading anything and everything, soul-searching, a supportive boyfriend and a LOT of effort plus a Harley Street Nutritionist and a million positive instagram influencers to help fix me! To get started on your journey to accepting your body the way it is, click here for some life-changing stuff with Mel Wells…)

You’re allowed to want to emphasise the parts of your body you like most.

You’re allowed to want to de-emphasise or downplay the parts that make you feel less confident.

The only thing you should be wearing is whatever you freaking want.

The wedding dress issue is neither here nor there – the same is true for ALL outfits at ALL times.

On your wedding day, though, not only again do you want to feel confident and happy in yourself (so you don’t need helpful ‘advice’ about what society considers most flattering for you because f*ck the norm, f*ck general opinion, YOU are the one wearing it!), but you’re marrying someone who loves you AS YOU. You don’t need to look like anyone but yourself, or to try to fit into some constructed ideal.

Just wear whichever damn dress you please.

And if it happens to align with the advice? It doesn’t matter at all, that’s totally cool, as long as the advice isn’t the driver. If it’s genuinely what you want, go for it.

And if, as in my case, you’re likely to be breaking all the rules? Well, I’ll leave you with this babes:

kat
Photo credit: Pinterest

#5 Inspire Interview Series – MEL WELLS – AUTHOR, ACTRESS, SPEAKER (+ Health & Food Psychology Coach)

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Photo credit: melwells.com

Welcome back to another Inspire Interview – I’ve loved doing this series soooo much because I love hearing peoples’ stories and insights into the things that really matter – finding things you love doing, drive to work hard, career, balancing health and a personal life and everything between! If you missed the previous installments, you can catch up with the full list here!

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Photo credit: melwells.com

Today we have a very special ‘episode’ – and I say episode because rather than the usual written piece because I have something new for you all…!

Being on camera is not in my comfort zone really at all, but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to speak with the incredible Mel Wells and this super driven woman is all about pushing past your comfort zone! You may know her face from Hollyoaks, or you may know her from her brilliant bestselling book The Goddess Revolution and inspiring instagram feed… Mel has also been featured in Forbes Under 30 and was voted No. 1 Young Female Entrepreneur to Watch in the UK by About Time Magazine.

Mel does truly amazing work empowering women to fight back against diet culture and regain their happiness and health – her brand new book Hungry For More encapsulates everything this Inspire Interview Series has been about so settle down with a cup of tea and prepare to be inspired…

Back in London having lived in Bali, and now with a second book to her name (pre-order Hungry For More now to win free access to a special Masterclass with Mel and a chance to be entered to win one of her retreats in Bali – see her website for details!), Mel and I talked about all the BIG stuff – finding your ‘calling’, how food and your habits and relationship around it are reflective of the wider picture of your life and whether or not you’re fulfiled.

Press play on the video now to hear Mel’s story and epic insights into work, life, balance, spirituality, healing eating disorders, figuring out what you want from life, meditation and tonnes more! Plus the usual quick-fire round at the very end of course!

The interview: Mel Wells on being Hungry for More!

Thanks so much for chatting with me Mel! We look forward to reading your book when it’s out on July 10th!

Where to find Mel

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Photo credit: melwells.com

You can find Mel on instagram here and her website here!

If you’d like to pre-order Hungry For Moreher new book, get over to Amazon baby!

She also has a youtube channel, and you can also check out more on her Goddess retreats (hello Bali!) here.

Want to shop her first book? Get a SIGNED COPY of The Goddess Revolution from her online shop. And if you don’t love a tank that reads ‘green juice now, champagne later’… I don’t even know where to start! 🙂

Thanks for watching and hope you enjoyed the unusual Inspire Interview format! ❤

B xoxo

Clean eating: the good, the bad & the ‘dirty’?

pexels-photo-988865.jpegClean eating is something which has come under fire over the last year or so in wellness circles, and has more recently drawn attention from the wider public, originally picked up by Tatler (who published a report on the ‘trend’ sweeping society schools) and also reported in this Daily Mail article on clean eating in boarding schools.

Diet culture needs tackling. Where ‘clean eating’ feeds this – it’s a problem. Individuals need to be educated and supported. Perhaps the lesson here is all viral fads are unlikely to ever be holistic (when things go viral they’re not joined by the scientific papers and research are they?!) and so are potentially always dangerous because a fad, even if it sounds saintly and perfect and #wellness, is still a fad and the lifestyle that follows from it is unlikely to be as tailored, balanced and healthy as it needs to be if it comes from a buzzword, be it ‘clean eating’ or ‘Atkins’. – B, @legallygymliving

pexels-photo-461428.jpegClean eating: what is it?

The way I and many other fitness and nutrition enthusiasts understand it is the idea that certain foods are, for want of a better word, ‘cleaner’ than others… i.e. not processed, as close as possible to their natural state… Essentially from nature. I heard phrases when I first got into clean eating like: ‘if it didn’t die or grow in the ground, avoid it’.

And what’s the harm, right? We all need to be encouraged away from eating so much processed, junk and massively added sugar-laden food don’t we?

Well… to an extent. I personally believe the ‘movement’ started with these good intentions – to encourage eating whole, natural, unprocessed foods as much as possible, to try and ‘re-set’ what people regard as go-to foods to a healthier place. For example, James Duigan’s Clean, Lean cookbooks (he founded Bodyism and coached celebs like Elle McPherson).

But increasingly there’s been a backlash against the movement as it grew – let’s talk about why.

Clean eating: the backlash

Semantically, the opposite of clean is dirty, right? So the backlash can be summarised in a nutshell like this.

People begin dividing foods into ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’. It spirals out of control. Orthorexia rises (an eating disorder where people become obsessed with only eating ‘clean’), presumably triggered by the cultural prevalence of a movement that seems healthy but encourages binary thinking about food as GOOD vs BAD. Instead of being a balanced, encouraging tagline, the term essentially seems to encourage an either/or mindset and this catches on beyond the pockets of health bloggers and fitness professionals via instagram, and grows and grows into a clean eating frenzy – so we’re basically back to demonising certain foods on a fairly wide scale, because they’re not clean, and worrying about whether we can eat stuff – is it ‘clean and lean’ or is it ‘dirty’ or ‘bad for me’. It’s like the 80s and 90s fad diets all over again, but dressed up as balance and health. pexels-photo-236147.jpeg

This is pretty much how and why the backlash happened.

And I agree it needs to be discussed – it’s dangerous, particularly for impressionable young girls, boys and even adults who glean all their nutritional information from the media – to become brainwashed and let this kind of mindset spiral out of control.

Influencers like Alice Liveing realised the movement was having unintentional negative consequences, and distanced themselves – Alice famously changed her instagram username from @cleaneatingalice to @aliveliveing partially for this reason.

A nutritionist’s take

Read the Daily Mail article for Rhiannon Lambert’s (a Harley Street nutritionist) comments on this, as I think it’s key to read what actual nutritionists are saying about these issues!

pexels-photo-296879.jpegMy two cents: clean eating, orthorexia, & foodie language words have power, but also have (& need) context!

I am not a nutritionist, so I’m not qualified, I can’t advise, this is just my personal view! I am a nutrition and fitness enthusiast and I followed the clean eating trend as it rose, and fell. I see both sides of the coin. It didn’t trigger orthorexia in me, despite being an ex-eating-disorder sufferer (of bulimia and body dysmorphia). It has clearly triggered an increase in orthorexia, or at least been problematic for ED suffers and this really needs to be addressed.

I think we need to be so careful about how we talk about food and ensure we’re not promoting things that can make it easier for eating disorders to be triggered. But remember – they are eating disorders and it’s a mental and physical health issue. Describing food as clean isn’t a single cause, and the movement was initially, I believe, well-intentioned and an attempt to educate.

It’s hard to know what language to use because there’s no getting away from the fact that some foods ARE nutritionally more beneficial than others. The problem is, a description of food can’t be taken in isolation (and neither can a meal or a snack!) We need to look at the whole picture.

Yes, labelling foods as just clean or dirty is damaging in isolation.

You can have cake, burgers, pizza, nachos etc. in MODERATION and still be healthy (and lose fat if that’s your goal).

Just like you can eat a caloric surplus of ‘clean’ foods – nuts, rice, sweet potato, chicken, broccoli and gain weight.

Ultimately, it’s about the wider culture, and your wider nutritional intake, self-image, body confidence, the whole shebang. We can’t lie to ourselves and say pizza or chocolate are as great for our bodies gram for gram as broccoli, mixed veggies, potato and lean protein! I appreciate ‘dirty’ is a loaded word but we do need to be aware of the additives in our food.

So I think it’s all about context, balance, and trying to avoid saying ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ around food as much as possible, but sometimes I do say ‘clean’ and I think providing the context is there, it’s totally OKAY. The problem is the way people are educated about their diet in general, the way certain body types are idolised or vilified, the tearing apart of celeb bodies in the media (constant comments particularly with women in the gossip mags!) and the fact it’s ASSUMED all women WANT to lose weight… to name a few!

Diet culture needs tackling. Where ‘clean eating’ feeds this – it’s a problem. Individuals need to be educated and supported. Perhaps the lesson here is all viral fads are unlikely to ever be holistic (when things go viral they’re not joined by the scientific papers and research are they?!) and so are potentially always dangerous because fad, even if it sounds saintly and perfect and #wellness, is still a fad and the lifestyle that follows from it is unlikely to be as tailored, balanced and healthy as it needs to be if it comes from a buzzword, be it ‘clean eating’ or ‘Atkins’.

Where describing foods as clean can be helpful and is done in context, I think that’s fine.

What are your thoughts around these issues? It’s such a complicated topic! Let me know in the comments.

Ooh, and I also published a post a while ago you might like to read if you’re interested in this area (see ‘An Apology’ here)  in which I dealt with how I now feel about past bits of my fitness and health ‘journey’ (cringe), where I did promote clean eating and various things that at the time I loved but now don’t feel comfortable about…

B xoxox

Are you affected by anything in this post?

If you suffer with an eating disorder, think you do, or are struggling with your relationship with food or your body, please contact your GP and a nutritionist (and ideally therapist).

Some of the organisations below may help:

Beat, an eating disorders charity. (They have a helpline too!)

NHS UK Eating Disorders Page

Rhiannon Lambert BSc, MSc, ANtr – an ED specialist nutritionist

Laura Phelan – an ED Recovery specialist

Mind, a mental health charity.