Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Ditch the Diets!

Oh, you wonderful Daily Mail Online readers, you have done it again! I never cease to be amazed by the level of anger and self-righteousness you display, or your willingness to exhibit opinions on topics upon which you clearly have little to no expertise.

Who are these people who become so enraged by other people’s perceived lack of healthy lifestyle/fatness? Every health related headline in the DM might as well read ‘how this person’s laziness/greed is consuming YOUR hard earned money in NHS tax funding. Let’s drive them out of the country with sticks!’.

This week’s particular little nugget of wisdom comes from Lizzie in London who, in response to a story of how hypnotherapy helped one lady go from a size 24 to a size 14, says:

‘The hard work in excercising [sic] and eating well is down to her own will power and sheer perseverance.

Hypnotherapy is not a magic bullet to slimming and weight loss There is still hard work involved!’

First of all, Lizzie, please learn to spell, lest I chase your presumably slender yet woefully uneducated self out of the country (using sticks).

Secondly, as Mark Newey, certified hypnotherapist and catalyst for countless successful weight loss endeavors points out, this thing we refer to as ‘willpower’ is actually our conscious mind, which is a measly 9% of our overall brain mass.

If we indulge in a particular behaviour for a sustained period of time, be it a positive activity (exercising, driving) or a negative one (smoking, overeating) it is adopted by the much larger unconscious brain as behavioural programming, thus freeing up the conscious to think about other stuff (like the yummy bloke we happen to be dating and what happened on Eastenders last night and why you never see a baby pigeon….ok perhaps that’s just me).

Ever read to the bottom of a page and realised you weren’t paying attention and can’t remember what it said? That’s your unconscious mind saying ‘aaaah, I know how to read. I’ve read stuff before! Let me take over this activity’. Your conscious mind wanders and before you know it you’re chastising yourself for not paying attention and having to repeat the entire reading process.

Now, say you make a decision that you would like to change a particular behavioural programme. What’s essentially happening is that 9% of your mind is taking on the might of 91%, attempting to affect change when the massive and powerful unconscious is willing you to continue acting as you have always done. And then we wonder why ‘diets’ don’t work in 90% of cases.

Hypnotherapy is merely a way of bypassing the conscious mind and accessing the unconscious to make permanent and fast changes. It can break long-standing behavioural patterns and wipe the slate clean. Mark tells his weight loss clients ‘now I want you to go away and not give a damn about what you eat’. They stare at him in disbelief, not quite able to comprehend the idea that, after all these years of desperately trying in vain to restrict themselves, they can now eat absolutely anything they want.

The key factor, however, is that because their attitudes towards food, their bodies and themselves have been changed in the unconscious, they will naturally make healthier choices, selecting foods according to what will nourish them, rather than those which will satisfy their emotional cravings.

Which leads me neatly onto my next point. People do not overeat because they are greedy, or lazy or selfish or even because they have an insatiable apatite. Generally, people overeat because it brings them an instantaneous (if very short lived) feeling of pleasure. Comfort eating is merely another crutch, allowing us to feel that we are effectively coping with feelings of loneliness, stress or anxiety. Of course, all it really serves to do is distract us from those feelings (and add an expanding waistline onto our lists of worries).

Guess what other change can be quickly and permanently made in the unconscious? Yes, dear Blog Groupies, we’re back onto my favourite subject – banishing feelings of low self esteem.

And that is why I’m very sorry to have to report that Lizzie in London is, shockingly, wrong.

To find out more about the Winning Minds weight loss programme go to http://www.winningminds.co.uk/therapies/weight-management/.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Ilona Burton -v- Phillip Schofield - My Two Penneth!

Blog fans will know I am not adverse to expressing a potentially controversial opinion – I’ve been known to incur the wrath of the established medical profession on many occasion and “steady on, Tash” must rank up there amongst my friends’ most frequently repeated phrases. Freedom of speech is one of the main reasons I’m so very glad I was fortunate enough to have made my debut into this mental thing we call the World in Essex, England, where you can rant ‘til your hearts’ content without fear of imprisonment/death and I like to exercise that particular human right whenever possible.

I hope that the above demonstrates how genuine I am when I say I am absolutely divided in the Ilona Burton – v – Phillip Schofield (Nikki Grahame) debate as it rages on, fueled by the two penneths of the general populous and our nation’s favourite silver fox’s vehement tweets. Hard as it may be to conceive of, I have chosen to sit on the fence on this one.

For those of you unfamiliar with the entire debacle, here’s a summary:

Nikki Grahame has written a book about her anorexia battle, went on GMTV to promote it and was asked by host Phillip Schofield about the “tricks” she used to resist recovery, which she duly described in some detail. B-eat ambassador and recovering anorexic Ilona Burton then blogged furiously, claiming that Nikki and GMTV were irresponsible to broadcast what was essentially a Guide to Staying Sick.

Que unfathomable mayhem as Nikki Grahame fans, Ilona supporters and the hefty might of the GMTV watching public engaged in a war of words. Nikki was described as “marmite”, Ilona was described as “ignorant” and there were a few choice words of an unrepeatable nature thrown in the direction of Phillip Schofield, too. Phillip and Ilona went head-to-head in Tweetland – throwing balls of indignation like cannon fire into cyber space.

Naturally, as someone who works with the media, having had personal (and rather extensive) experience of an eating disorder and also heavily involved with Body Gossip (for which Nikki Grahame is, it has to be said, an excellent ambassador) I couldn’t resist sticking my oar in.

So, the first point I’d like to make abundantly clear is that I cannot bring myself to blame Nikki Grahame for any of this. She has been incredibly brave in admitting she has anorexia (which many similarly slender celebrities will not, and simply put down to yoga and eating sushi or some such bollocks) and the proceeds from her book are going to B-eat, so she clearly has honourable intentions.

Having said that, I can understand totally why Ilona was angered by the episode. It’s a classic dilemma which I have encountered with the media on several occasions. Fortunately, I have been lucky enough to have been taken into the bosom of Cosmopolitan Magazine, the fantastically empathetic and responsible journalist Ken Goodwin at ITV West and the regional BBC radio stations, all of whom have heeded my insistence that, whilst I am prepared to speak candidly about my eating disorder, I will not divulge specifics concerning weight or tips on how to excel at bulimia. Ultimately, the message should be positive.

In fact, just last week I took my Body Confidence Campaign to a school in Hertfordshire and was asked my a student what ‘diet’ I had gone on in my teens to drop such a significant amount of weight that my terror at regaining led me to bulimia and I made a point of refusing to tell her, and to explain why I was refusing to tell her.

However, scandal sells, and people are interested in two things: celebrities and extremes. At this moment in time I am neither. I was extremely bulimic, not that you would have been able to tell unless you were specifically seeking out the swollen glands, red raw knuckles, constant flu-like symptoms or mood swings which characterize the disease. And therein lies my point. The idea that an encyclopedic list of all the methods one can employ to fool doctors into believing you are recovering is in any way “raising awareness” for non eating disorder sufferers is utterly specious. Secretive habits surrounding eating disorders are exactly that: Secret. If they can be concealed from a doctor, your average GMTV viewer won’t have much better luck detecting them.

Having now fully recovered and being a healthy weight, I would be extremely taken aback if GMTV invited me onto their sofa to discuss my experiences, or indeed my ongoing campaign to prevent young people from following the same path as me. I’m simply not shocking enough in my current happy, fleshy, bosomy, feisty form. We do not see enough genuinely recovered people in the public eye and the message we are sending to current sufferers as a result is “this will haunt you forever”. Which is almost as soul-destroying as the fundamental message “there’s no point in trying to get better”. That, however, is hardly Nikki Grahame’s fault. My hat goes off to our Nikki for making the best she can of the circumstances she find herself in.

Eating disorders are consuming the lives people in the UK at a terrifying rate. Like anything dangerous, there is a responsibility to report it responsibly. Whilst I applaud GMTV for giving the issue air time, I do agree with Ilona that the interview could have had a detrimental affect on current sufferers. Would a self-harmer have been asked to explain exactly the ways and means they inflicted pain on themselves and how they concealed their cuts and bruises?

I want to open this one up to the floor, because it’s a debate which interests me immeasurably. Are you Team Ilona or Team Schophey?

So there you have it! I do believe that might have been my least rant-fuelled blog of all time. Could it be that the passing of my 29th birthday last month marked my passage into well reasoned and mature adulthood? Probably not. I’m sure something will inspire me onto my soapbox in the forthcoming weeks so stayed tuned!

To read my recent report for Flavour Magazine on Body Image, Eating Disorders and the Media, click http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/54bf6b67#/54bf6b67/10

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

'Just Tax the Stupid People!'

So even in the midst of all this election madness, the brains responsible for implementing health policy have managed to make another spectacular gaff. It’s amazing they found the time, really – I’d be impressed if I wasn’t so full of abject despair.

The latest bright idea is to tax ‘bad’ foods, in the hope that the higher cost will see a decline in Britain’s much maligned obese population.

Upon closer inspection, the proposed foods for increased taxation include crème fresh, lurpak butter, full fat milk, strong cheddar and luxury biscuits. With the exception of the biscuits, all of these foods have significant nutritional value, providing essential protein and calcium – With full fat milk being just about the most nutritional thing you can consume (and, incidentally, a popular choice for a quick injection of (what’s the opposite of empty? Meaningful?) meaningful calories amongst recovering anorexics). Butter has long since been proven to be much better for you than margarine, which is chock-full of toxins and other nasties. And show me someone who consumes crème fresh on a daily basis and I’ll show you someone who can afford the added tax.

Of course, I’m not advocating a diet consisting solely of high-fat dairy produce, merely pointing out that these can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. As my friend Michelle, a registered nutritionist, points out “variety is the cornerstone of good nutrition”.

So it’s all the luxury biscuit’s fault! Of course! Why haven’t I noticed all the obese people frantically cramming in mouthfuls of luxury biscuits in the World? Bad, bad luxury biscuit!

In all seriousness, I don’t think we can justifiably place the blame for rising obesity levels on the luxury biscuit alone, so all we are left with are a lot of luxury biscuit consumers, ex-anorexics and people with any degree of common sense who are (understandably) more than a little hacked off.

As Michelle goes on to stress:

“It’s annoying how this is being framed as an ‘obesity’ issue. It’s actually a heart disease issue, which can be tied more directly to saturated fat consumption. And there’s no proof that a lower-fat diet will help people lose weight in the long-run, so the ‘obesity’ link is specious”.

What this essentially boils down to, once again, is the powers-that-be making a profit from our vices. Vices which we are positively encouraged to adopt by their self-righteous, condescending, whiney and generally irritating attitude in the first place.

Forbidden things are ‘cool’. Look at smoking. The incessant anti-smoking advertising, vile pictures on the packets depicting unsightly diseases and public place ban has done little to quell their consumption in anyone I know. In fact, it almost makes me want to take up smoking myself in an act of protest.

The attitude being generated is “tee hee, look at me, I’m exercising my freedom by jeopardizing my health. That’ll show those smothersome bore-bags in government”. It might be bonkers, but then emotions often are.

The general public are left in a situation where they are perpetually ricocheting between the binge-eating (which is now associated with pleasurable emotions of rebellion and ‘treating’ oneself) and the ‘starting their diets on Monday’ mentality (which of course the wealth of resources, DVDs, books and ‘diet’ foods will be more than happy to enable us to do). Low fat ‘diet’ foods, incidentally, are usually crammed to the rafters with sugar (and I don’t notice high-sugar foods being taxed, which is yet further evidence that the whole concept owes more to a concern for consumerism than for the health of the populous).

The answer is a combination of educating the public about the genuine nutritional value of foods (relatively easy) and increasing their self-esteem so that health becomes, crucially, more important than simply 'thinness' (mammoth task, which projects like Evolve, Body Gossip and the Winning Minds Body Confidence Programme are toiling constantly to bring to fruition). In the meantime, as my Mum would say, ‘use your noddle’.

On that note, I’d like to quote Absolutely Fabulous’ Edwina and propose a ‘Stupidity Tax’ - to be imposed upon all people who genuinely believe Kate Moss is healthier than Crystal Renn.

To hear more maniacal ranting from me on this thorny issue, tune into BBC Radio Essex tomorrow (Weds 12th May) at 11.30am, 95.3fm or click http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/essex/hi/.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Exciting Events in the Month of May!

1. Lushh Event - Thursday 6th May 2010 - Stoke-on-Trent

Red carpet event - An evening of self-celebration for confident women featuring fun, frolics and cupcakes! It's free to go and will feature exhibits and guest speeches, including one from me on behalf of Body Gossip. Go to http://www.lushevent.co.uk/ for full deets.

2. Body Confidence Workshop in Association with Evolve Media, Tres Health and Winning Minds - 22nd May 2010 - Chelsea Bridge

This marvellous event will teach attendees the key to self esteem and unlocking their real beauty. Led by Mark Newey (aka my boss) with an introduction from yours truly.

Best news is, Evolve community members get a breathtaking discount - £25 down from £75 for the first workshop (and then £50 thereafter). On 10th May, if you're a member of Evolve Magazine on Facebook (just type Evolve into the search box and use your noddle, as my Mum would say) you will receive an email with a secret password to enable you to claim your discount when you book. Tickets are on a first come, first served basis.

http://www.treschelsea.com/ - here is the link to learn more about the rather gorgeous venue.

3. May issue of Flavour Magazine

Flavour Magazine is a free London culture magazine 'for the young and ambitious' available in various places throughout the capital and also online: http://www.flavourmag.co.uk/. Look out for the May issue which will feature a Double Page Spread on Body Confidence, featuring opinions from Mark Newey, Ruth 'Wonder Woman' Rogers (founder of Body Gossip) and Sam Thomas - founder of Men Get Eating Disorders Too (www.mengetedstoo.co.uk)

4. Tamanda Walker

Tam Walker sings lovely melodious pop/soul tunes that make your ears go "aaaaaaah". She is also annoyingly beautiful. But very lovely, so we forgive her. She is an ambassador for Body Gossip so we want her to become very famous, please.

Tamanda is currently in the Cordless Show competition - sign in/register and then click on the "vote" button http://www.cordless-show.com/view_profile.asp?member=dGFtd2Fsa2VybXVzaWNAZ21haWwuY29t

and finally.........

5. Assortment Dedicate and Other Groovy Things on 'The Culture Club', Reach FM

My fellow journo Karla Williams' and I are introducing our show, The Culture Club, on Sunday 9th May on Reach FM. The show will air at 11am and is then repeated at 8pm. There are TWO CHANCES to listen to there is NO EXCUSE not to tune in (none whatsoever. Nope. Not even that). This week features Assortment Dedicate, of whom I am a massive fan and think everyone else should be too (www.myspace.com/assortmentdedicate) and a theatre director with AMAZING chin dimples. Also the usual theatre/music/DVD reviews and generally Karla and me larking about in an amusing fashion.

Listen by tuning into 87.7fm or clicking http://www.ape-media.com/reachfm/