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Laura Phelan, mental health and wellbeing expert tells ONE LDN how to make changes to your relationship with your health, to preserve your emotional wellbeing and help your health & fitness progress.

Amongst a wellness revolution and a saturation of heavily filtered/perfected images on platforms such as Instagram, we are unsurprisingly still seeing a rise in eating disorders and body dissatisfaction. Did you know
that 80% of women in the UK are dissatisfied with their appearance, and the biggest worry young women around the ages of 13-16 experience is about what they look like? Not to mention the 10% of men that are currently struggling with Body Dysmorphia in gyms. I know, these facts are hard hitting, but there are things we can do to cultivate a more positive body image and get a little bit more body confidence for ourselves and society.

Health, wellness and body confidence to one person looks different to another, as we are all SO different, no one size fits all and health does not exist in a single body shape or a bowl of kale. I am going to share with you 6 key tools, including CBT exercises so you can feel more at peace in your body:

My first crucial piece of wisdom/advice here is to remind yourself that: YOU ARE ENOUGH. YOU ARE
WORTHY. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL INSIDE AND OUT no matter what the media/or body obsessed culture likes to convince you of otherwise. The amount of food or alcohol you consume does not correlate to your worth, how much willpower you have OR how “deserving” you are of your next meal.


Food and body image do coincide with each other and this is often best known as Food and Mood. I often go by the saying that, food is only as guilty as we make it. Controversial, maybe? Does that mean you should never include vegetables and protein into your diets, no! Our bodies do NEED vegetables, fats, carbohydrates
and protein, but that doesn’t mean that if we eat chocolate or a slice of cake we are not eating well or that these foods are “bad”. There is a rise of eating disorders such as Orthorexia, which is an obsession with eating “clean” foods only, and if this doesn't happen, people are often left feeling insanely guilty. One of the best thing you can do is strive for balance in your meals, a balanced plate ( see above) and listen to what your body needs and wants, allowing yourself to have a little bit of what you truly fancy/enjoy (for me I have some chocolate most days because I enjoy it) this can stop you feeling deprived, guilty or in conflict with food and your body. A helpful place to start would be to practice these two mantras the next time you feel guilty for eating, or the next time you put your body down. “Food is medicine”. “Food is nourishment” Plain and
simply put, we NEED food to survive, it is a basic and highly important part of self-care that we NEED to function, work and exist. Remember that we are all so unique and what works for one person may not work for another, always seek advice from a qualified Nutritionist or Dietitian that can advise you on eating WELL not LESS.

Thirdly: “Train from a place of love” (quoted by Felicity Hayward on the Girl gains podcast.) Amongst
a wellness revolution it feels like everyone is a fitspo and hitting up 2 gym classes per day. While there are many benefits to living an active lifestyle, and it is something I advocate for, as as it helps relieve stress, improves your mental health and physical wellbeing and can leave you feeling empowered
and ready to start the day. My advice would be cultivating a positive experience with your body by moving it in a way that works for you, this could be dancing, swimming, lifting weights, boxing or even walking! Exercising from a place of love, self-compassion and actual enjoyment is SO much more beneficial to your mental and physical wellbeing.

Finally: Stop and ask yourself right now, is your BODY really the problem, or what you THINK about your body? We are only as “big” or “small” as the person we are comparing ourselves to, our skin is only as clear
as the person’s skin we compare ours to, etc. If society was to change its ideals of beauty, would you change yours? Strive not to look like the photo shopped image on the magazine, or anyone else in fact, strive to work on feeling like the best version of YOU, because that is the only thing you can ever truly attain and the relationship you have with your body and self is the most important one you will ever have. Body checking in mirrors and distorted/negative thoughts about your body can often be a sign that its time to seek some help
from a Therapist or someone who has training in body image and/or eating disorders/body dysmorphia.

Here are a couple of CBT exercises I do with my clients to help improve their body image:

The first one is: Make a list of what your body does for you inside-out. It is so easy to get caught up in our legs not being “toned enough”, or our teeth not being “white enough” or calling ourselves horrible names because we experience bloating. Have you ever thought to stop and think of what your body is? Have you ever focused on the feeling of your legs carrying you through a hike, walk or running for that bus to make your dream job interview? These are things we take for granted every day and things that some people in the world are robbed of in tragic circumstances. What are the role of your organs and what ability does having working legs and a health strong heart allow you to do? Give this a go next time you are feeling negative about your body, get out that pen and paper and write about how your arms enabled you to swim in the sea and how your heart beats to keep you alive!

Second: Write a letter to your body, in third person and start to consider it as a vessel that you have complete responsibility for, what would you say to it if you truly and deeply respected it despite what it looked like, what would you say to your younger body, the one you neglected, starved or treated disrespectfully. Think of how you can learn to trust in one another again and remind yourself it is your home, a home that you are in sole responsibility of. Treat your body well and I promise it will serve you internally and externally.

To conclude, remember that your body and appearance doesn’t define who YOU are as a person or what choices you can make. Even if you feel bad about your body, you still need and deserve to eat, just
because them jeans didn’t fit you in that shop, you still deserve to own and wear jeans. The day I stopped going to war with my body was the day I finally felt at home in it and you can too.

Whatever your journey, know that nothing lasts forever and YOU have the power to strengthen your mind and
life to live more freely, in peace with your body.

For more information or support contact me at laura@phelanwell.com

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