Saving Myself from Body Image Destruction

Lifestyle
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I decided to go on a diet one day – and it nearly scarred my relationship with food for life.

Most of you know I had a very turbulent relationship with food and my body. But I’ve never shared the experience until now. So many of my clients and readers confide in me, tell me about their journeys, and I want them – and you – to know you’re not alone.

At 16 years old I started a diet. For fun. Why not. I wasn’t particularly overweight, but losing weight excited me. So I dieted. And I felt AMAZING. People were commenting. I could wear a bikini with such confidence. Wow…this is fun! I am on top of the world.

But then…

One thing led to the next…

I took it too far. As most of us do…

I became obsessive. It was inevitable – I have a typical Type-A personality and have the tendency to become a perfectionist.

A dieter. A fad dieter. A calorie counter.

I dieted and dieted to the point of food restriction…and I became incredibly underweight. I began fearing food. Food was the devil. I was jumping on the scale non-stop. I needed control over every mouthful of food and ounce of body weight.

It was exhausting.

And then, these restrictions led to bingeing on foods.

A very vicious cycle, because after the binge I would restrict even further. I know you get me.

Because remember…deprivation usually – and in my case, ALWAYS – leads to overeating the food I had deprived myself. This is a reason I ensure that In my personal routine and in my nutrition practice for my clients, part of the homework for a healthy eating plan is to incorporate foods you want/crave. I know the damaging effects of deprivation, and it never leads anywhere good. You may think you being ‘so good on your diet’ but somehow, some way, you will eventually eat that food…and you will likely overeat it.

If my diet wasn’t perfect, my life would feel out of control.

So I used food to control my life.

Being thin felt good. It felt like I could control EVERYTHING. It’s a very false sense of control, because you are not fixing the core issue. But in order to keep that feeling I had to keep the diet and weight under control.

It took years of self-healing, therapy and study about health and the human body, but I have finally freed myself from the tormenting thoughts. Well, mostly.

You see, sometimes those old thoughts pop up at certain times. This is because my mind tries to bring me back to patterns of the past.

“Jess, you don’t look skinny enough in those pictures.”

“Jess, you didn’t need that glass of red wine, did you.”

“Jess, you are not good enough.”

“Jess, you did not eat perfectly today.”

But now I am able to reign those thoughts back in and say…..

HANG ON A MINUTE. STOP. PERFECT DOES NOT EXIST.

YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH.

YOU ARE HEALTHY.

I breathe deeply. Fill myself with feelings of gratitude for my healthy body.

I meditate. Practice yoga and mindful eating. I won’t allow those thoughts to take over.

But I have trained myself to recognize those thoughts as just THOUGHTS. They are not real. Remember – not all of our thoughts are actually worth believing. Most of the time it is just our mean girl or our ego taking over.

I wanted to share my top tips that help me from falling back into the bad body image trap.

  • Tap into the real root of the pain and what is causing you to control food. I started seeing a good psychologist and food therapist. It is never really about the food. We use food to control some pain in our lives we have not yet dealt with.
  • Breathe deeply in the moments of panic or guilt. When I ate I would feel tremendous amounts of guilt and sometimes panic. I would calm myself by doing 20 deep belly breathes in that moment.
  • Enter a peaceful place In your home. When you feel guilty, out of control with food or emotional and you know a food binge may be coming, try to sit in a peaceful spot in your home for ten minutes and identify what you are feeling. If you proceed to the kitchen….put the food you choose onto a plate and sit down with it.
  • Eat each meal in a very calm and peaceful environment. No TV/phones/fights/work meetings when you are eating.
  • Spend 30 minutes a day in solitude. Reconnect with yourself and fill yourself with love. This is so important. When you fall back in love with yourself, your relationship with food heals.
  • Let go of the diet mentality. You actually have to commit to ending the diets and starting again on Mondays. You need to truly surrender and believe in the power of wholefoods. Shift your mentality from dieting to nourishing your body.
  • Feel gratitude for the parts of your body that you do like. Why do we look in the mirror and only see the worst parts? Why don’t we see the ones that look amazing? We so good at criticizing our dear bodies. Focus on one part of your body each week and praise it. Some of you are thinking, “Jess, I do not have one part of my body I like.” Well, then be thankful for having arms and legs or a beating heart or a brain that is healthy and thinks clearly.
  • Practice yoga. Yoga gets me out of my head and into my body, what a relief!
  • Remember food is ABUNDANT. You can have some later. You do not need to eat it all now. This really helps people who binge or over eat.
  • Write in a food + symptom diary. Write down how you feel after each meal. This helps you connect with food and perhaps cut back on the foods that do not make you feel well and energised.
  • Release the guilt. So, so hard, I know. I had to state affirmations like “I let go of the guilt around this meal because it does not serve me well” or “ I choose to let go of the guilt because I know that my diet is good enough.”
  • Let go of the perfect number on the scale. You have to let go of that number. The number you weighed when you were 15 or 16 or 25 or 30. Bodies change and evolve constantly. Scales make us so anxious and anxiety/stress does not do us any good. Instead, focus on how you feel in your clothes – and more importantly, in your head.
  • Trust your body. Everyday single day I state, “I trust my body knows how to heal. I trust my body knows how to break this food down. I trust my body will be at its best weight. I trust my body. “

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TESTIMONIALS

Hi Jessica, I believe in synchronicity so when I was guided to you .on FB I was intrigued and inspired. I turned 46 last week and my husband bought me your book. I wanted to thank you for sharing your wisdom in such a beautifully presented way. My  copy is now filled with tabs and post it notes with actual notes throughout. I am dairy intolerant since having my gallbladder removed 15+ years ago, I don't eat meat, very minimal gluten and was told 12 months ago my gut was not digesting my food properly so I wasn't receiving sufficient nutrients and taking supplements would be a waste of time.  My weight fluctuates tending to gain rather than lose but now I believe I have a tool to help me bring my body back into balance that I need for my health and longevity of life - so again thank you. The first few steps to creating a stronger path forward for my health has found its foundation in your beautiful book, The Healthy Life.

With kindest regards Samantha

I'm writing this email because I wanted to tell you how much I love your blog and how you really helped me in my health journey. Thank you for sharing all your advices and experiences.

When I started my studies, I was drinking lots of coffee and I was eaten the wrong foods, and feel bad about it, I wasn't at my best. So I had done some research on the net but at first I didn't found advices that are for me, and then I found your blog. It was exactly what I was looking for, good advices and healthy recipes. Now I'm following your advices on rest more, and snacks between meals and prep the meals and take time for myself to reconnect with my body and let go my anxiety, etc, and I have a more balanced life and have a new relationship with food thanks to you.

I bought your book and it's honestly the best book I have ever bought. I suffer from IBS and anxiety. I have paid so much money seeing naturopaths however after reading your book and all of your tips I'm noticing so much of a difference, so simple and easy to follow. And symptoms have dramatically decreased. Also you have helped me to relax. Currently drinking the protein health smoothie! Thankyou your amazing.

@maddy_walters

Hey Jessica!
I haven’t yet brought ‘The Healthy Life’, but I do have the clean life and your slim down plan! I would like to thank you so much for the knowledge your share and the message you put across about health and wellness. I’m studying Nutritional Medicine in Melbourne and absolutely love the philosophy that you share with your JSHealth community. The work you’ve done to show people that leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t boring, tasteless, difficult or depriving is amazing and hope to share the message myself one day. You’ve inspired me to start my own blog , to share the message and have taught me so many things about my own health! You should be proud of your achievements! Thank you again

- Jacinta

I searched for help and tips through the Internet and found Jessica Sepel. This is seriously not exaggerated, but she was the reason why I have dared myself to eat again, to have snacks in between, to nourish my body. I could slowly improve my negative thoughts about my body image and my stupid anxiety of gaining weight. Besides, The Cleanest Gut was awesome too! A huge thank you! Especially from my mum. Seriously, without you I wouldn’t be where I am now!

@mariashealthytaste

Congratulations on your new book! It looks absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been following you on Instagram for a few years and you’ve inspired me to slowly but surely eat healthier without giving myself a hard time when I don’t. It made me so happy (and weirdly proud) to see the Daily Mail article on The Healthy Life. I remember trying out your recipes before you even had your eBook out! I can’t wait to get my hands on the book. Keep up the great work.

– Sophie

Cooking in this way truly brought out the foodie in me and has instilled a huge passion for health and wellness! Life throws you hard and frustrating things sometimes but I truly believe that this is where we learn more about ourselves and what our passions in life are! Thank you for inspiring me on my journey to health and wellness!

@freed_from_foodie

I am a yoga teacher in Johannesburg and am thrilled to have bought your book today. I love making healthy, nutritious food for my family, friends and fellow yogis! Thank you for this book and your inspiration (had to share a pic of my book on my recipe stand in the kitchen).

– Helene

I bought your beautiful book during the week and told my bestie to go out and buy it also! I love love love it. It is the book I would give to my younger self if I could (I am 41 years old). Everything is just so sensible and informative and is definitely a book all teenagers should have. This should be a text book for girls becoming teens. I will love going back and re-reading it many many times and can't wait to make more of the recipes. Thank you Jess - you are an incredibly inspiring woman and you should feel so proud

Michelle Curtis

My fiancé bought your book and we have cooked some of your meals. Amazing! I love your outlook on a healthy lifestyle and your hints and tips with preparing tasty meals are fantastic. Thanks for reviving us to live a healthier lifestyle and get our bodies wedding ready.

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