How talking on the internet helped me overcome social anxiety disorder

social media mental health recovery uk blogger

Did you know that February 2nd is Time to Talk Day? It’s a great opportunity to start conversations about mental health all over the UK, from schools to homes to workplaces.

About Time to Talk Day

Sadly, many people who suffer from mental illness feel ashamed to talk about how they feel and this just simply shouldn’t be the case. It only takes one small step to ask for help, and just a quick chat with someone who understands can have a huge impact.

time to talk

If you know someone who might be suffering, or if you have a mental health issue yourself; I urge you to use today as a chance to open up about the real issues surrounding mental illness and help end the stigma surrounding the subject. With that in mind, I wanted to share my own personal story today.

Many of you already know my history with depression and anxiety, but what you may not know is how social media has helped me overcome social anxiety in the past few months. Don’t get me wrong; it took me years of therapy and medication to get to this place, but every piece of social interaction online added up to help me along the way too.

Snapchat

If you follow me on Snapchat then you’ll know what I’m about to say. I LOVE TO TALK. Not to other human beings of course – that would be way too much interaction – but to myself on my mobile phone.

When I moved away from Glasgow I realised Snapchat stories was a great way to keep my friends updated with what I was up to everyday, as we now live hundreds of miles apart.

Whilst everyone else is pouting whilst using the puppy dog filter (OK, I do my fair share of that too) I’m giving my viewers the low-down on my mental state as it changes. Sometimes I’m laughing about haggis in an American drawl and other times I’m just talking about my low self-esteem.

It’s a great form of talking therapy, and lots of people have told me they find it helpful to see that other people are going through mental health issues too. It’s made me more open to talking about these subjects in social settings and basically owning my mental health problems instead of pretending they don’t exist.

twitter logo mental health blogger UK

Twitter

Tweeting was not something that came naturally to me. I’m not quick-witted enough to construct jokes that fit into the strict character limitations and my spelling has let me down on more than one occasion.

In 2016 I started using it to promote my blog, and before long had been sucked into various communities (mental health, blogging and Birmingham) and was having conversations with total strangers on a daily basis.

I’ve used it to find new friends, decent WordPress training and a local social media seminar that I would otherwise never have known about. It’s made me go out and make real-life connections with people I’m met online, and without that initial meeting online I honestly don’t think it would have been possible.

I’ve also created my own chat on Twitter where we talk all about body positivity. Plucking up the courage to do all of these things has been a total revelation for me after several years of avoiding social outings and talking to new people.

Instagram

I spent a lot of time taking photos of my food before I realised it’s not really the best use of my Instagram account. I have a history of disordered eating and was obsessed with food for about two years whilst I ate a very restricted diet to lose weight.

I still love food and taking pretty pictures of my salads (I’m a blogger, it’s basically compulsory) but I’ve loved using my Instagram as a way to showcase random thoughts and emotions that happen throughout my day. I’ve tried to spread positivity through my account and that’s had a knock on affect on my mood, meaning I’m generally a little happier thanks to the interactions I make online.

I’ve conquered my fear of talking to camera thanks to Instagram stories and I even did a live stream a few weeks ago. This has made me more confident about talking about mental health in public and I genuinely think I could talk to anyone about it now!

social media for anxiety mental health blogger UK

Blogging

The most powerful tool in my quest to shake the shackles of social anxiety has ironically been the thing that I do all on my lonesome. I sit quietly in bed, at my desk or in my local coffee shop and tap away on the keys of my laptop writing for no one but myself.

During this time I feel free to say what I want. I can explain in detail how I feel about the world, how depression has affected me and how painful yet important my journey has been.

I can do all this from the comfort of my own space; without worrying about how I sound to others, stumbling over my words or trying to maintain eye contact whilst I divulge my deepest and darkest thoughts. I can express myself on my own terms and although it may seem like a one-side affair, it’s really not.

I regularly receive comments and private messages from women who understand exactly how I feel. It’s a wonderful, comforting feeling to know that we are all struggling in our own way and that we’re not alone.

The process of exposing myself online has given me the fearlessness to say many of the things I write about on here in real life. I can now introduce myself as a mental health blogger without the fear of ridicule, because I’ve successfully created a community of supportive people online who I know resonate with what I write about.

The chances are that many of the people I meet in real life will also understand so now I can proudly state who I am and what I stand for, and that is a wonderful privilege.

Have you found an unusual way to overcome social anxiety? Head over to Twitter and use Time to Talk Day as a way to share your story with me!

Why I’m grateful for my mum

gratitude mum mental health blogger

 

This week in the Year of Gratitude Challenge the topic of conversation is my mum. I don’t want to bang on about it too long because let’s face it; we all love our mums. I’m sure you can identify when I say she’s been there for me no matter what, looked after me when I’m ill and washed all of my cider-stained clothing throughout my university years. So let me keep this light-hearted, simple and to the point. Check out fellow blogger LuLu’s posts on gratitude too.

She spoils me

As much as I like to think of myself as a strong, self-sufficient girl boss (not quite a Beyonce but I’ve definitely got a Kelly Rowland vibe going on) there are still times when I need my mum to bail me out. Not in any serious sense like paying my rent (OK maybe that has happened) or credit card debt, but more in a “I’ve ran out of clothes” kind of way. Recently she treated me to a selection of Marks and Spencer underwear (that’s some fancy shit as far as I’m concerned) and I was on cloud nine for a good few weeks. She is also exceptionally good at keeping me fully stocked with my Liz Earle favourites which to be honest makes life more bearable on so many levels.

She has no expectations

Yes, I am grateful for the fact that my own mother has never had any expectations of what I should become. I’m sure she’s always had hopes and dreams, but never once has she led me to believe that I should do something in particular to please her. Never once has she scoffed at a failed essay, an ignored hobby or a poor outfit choice (remember when satin shirts were in?) and for that she’s the best. When I left university without Honours she was totally cool with it, and looking back it was such a gift to feel free enough to do that without any guilt. She also agreed that quitting my job was the best thing to do for my mental health.

She gives me space

It’s hard to explain to people what I mean when I say I need space. What I really mean most of the time is that I need to be alone. Often for days at a time. I have a small amount of energy to deal with stressful situations (which for me are busy places, socialising with people, being away from home) and when that energy is used up I need to recharge. Being such a stereotypical introvert means that I regularly need to be left alone with only myself for company. I know to others that might sound selfish, but luckily my mum can tell when I need that time and she lets me take as long as I need.

What are you grateful for this week?

 

10 things you should stop doing just to please other people

mental health blogger UK stop pleasing other people

When I was 17 I grabbed a box of the brightest red hair dye I could afford and went from blonde to copper one Friday afternoon in my parents’ bathroom. It was the first time I’d thought ‘fuck it’ and done something on a whim. I kept it that way for a few years, but as my career progressed I returned to my natural shade of blonde in the hope that I would appear more ‘professional’ and ’employable’.

Since turning 30 have had a few more ‘fuck it’ moments; including going back to that copper shade I was when I was 17. I’ve decided it’s time to stop doing what other people expect of you. Here are a few examples…

  1. Playing it safe with your hair colour

If you like to experiment with your hair then good for you. Pink and blue hair is kind of trendy right now, but if you want it that colour until you’re 60 then rock on. Some people think bright coloured hair looks unprofessional but nothing says, “I get shit done” like a mermaid inspired bouffant, in my opinion.

2. Settling for a job you hate

For years I climbed the corporate ladder in an industry I hated. I didn’t have any other skills (or so I thought) after doing the same type of work since I was 17. I spent years getting promoted, taking on extra responsibility and earning reasonably good money for what I did. I had an office and my own department and it looked like I had it all together. Really I was terribly unhappy and it took a mental breakdown to realise my career wasn’t making me happy. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough to try something different.

3. Eating something you know makes you feel shit

Sometimes only Oreos will do. I get it. But when you’re sat in a restaurant and you know that eating dessert is going to make you feel overly-full and bloated then don’t do it. You don’t have to order burgers and fries when you know you’d rather have salad (those days DO exist, I promise). You don’t have to keep up appearances for fear of looking like you’re a stick in the mud – eat what makes you feel good.

Fiona mental health blogger UK

4. Drinking alcohol

A glass of bubbly to cheers to someone’s new job or 30th birthday is often seen as obligatory. Just because someone hands you a free glass of cheap cava doesn’t mean you have to drink it! If, like me you know that alcohol brings out the worst in you; why bother?

5. Going for the healthy option

Similarly, it’s easy to feel like you have to eat what people expect you to eat. So you told people at work you’re on a diet and the next day you want a cheeseburger. You probably don’t want to eat it in front of those same people in case they comment on how you’re diet didn’t last long, or they talk about you behind your back. I felt like this for a long time and I would regularly eat ‘healthily’ in front of others and binge on junk food in secret. This often meant that I would overeat when I was alone because I felt so panicked and ashamed of what I was doing. Eat that goddamn cheeseburger.

6. Wearing something conservative

I spent my life trying to dress appropriately according to my peers. Hearing the dreaded phrase “What’s everyone wearing?” before a night out used to put me on edge. I probably already had an idea of what I wanted to wear and if not, I didn’t need a panel of gorgeous ladies giving me suggestions. Wear what’s comfortable. Wear what makes you feel fierce. Wear whatever is clean that day cause it’s not really that important.

7. Agreeing with someone’s politics

I’m the ultimate ‘nod and agree’ person in any social situation. I hate confrontation (who the hell doesn’t?) so I tend to just go along with whatever the general consensus is on a topical subject and hope that we get back to talking about the weather before it gets too complicated. I’ve realised though, that my opinion is just as important as anyone else’s. If I hear someone saying something that I think is racist, sexist or morally wrong then I think I have a responsibility to question it. If they can see my side of the argument that’s great; if not then at least I can say I tried.

What do you do to please other people? Are you willing to try and stop?

 

 

Why I’m grateful for my family

gratitude mental health blogger UK

It’s that time again where I want to set my other work aside and practice gratitude. This is a task I’m taking great pleasure in if I’m honest, and I didn’t realise just how much I have to be grateful for until I started this challenge. I’m also joined by Lu Lu Blue who is doing this challenge too.

I won’t talk about my husband today as he got an entire blog post dedicated to him last week, instead I want to talk about my close family. I come from a small family. It’s just my parents and my two brothers and I. We are a quiet bunch of folks and we get on pretty well.

Here are a few specific things I’m grateful for and why:

My parents always encouraged extra-curricular activities. My younger brother Colin played football and my older brother Stuart has been a drummer in a band since he was a teenager. I was in a drama club, played piano and loved drawing and writing as a kid. We were always expected to try our best in school, but as long as we could promise mum and dad that we ‘tried our best’ we were never judged for our grades. This helped build our social skills and let us express ourselves creatively in a way which has made us who we are today.

We’ve all done stupid stuff. Thank god that we’ve stuck by each other through it all. No one holds a grudge in my family and we all remember the good – and embarrassing – times more than anything else. When we get together we generally have a laugh about stupid shit we’ve done and enjoy it. There’s no judgement.

We live apart but it’s not too bad. One of my brothers now lives in Australia, and although it’s hard not to see him at family events I’m grateful that he’s found a partner and settled down in an exciting new place. I’ve moved away from Scotland too (only to Birmingham, so not quite so far) and I’m grateful that my parents still make the effort to come and visit me as much as possible. I’m also grateful that they forgive me when I get busy and forget to call them for a few weeks. I need to work on that one!

Above all, I’m grateful for the unconditional love I receive from all of my family members. As someone with depression and anxiety it’s easy for me to feel like I’ve become a burden to others when I’m going through a particularly bad period. I know I have family I can rely on and I can ask them for anything. That’s what I’m most grateful for.

 

 

4 reasons why Blue Monday is the perfect time to admit you need help

mental health blogger UK blue monday help

Every year the media reminds us that there is one day in January called Blue Monday. It’s today. It was created as a PR stunt by a lecturer from Cardiff who has since admitted that the whole concept is “not particularly helpful”.

Having a day dedicated to people claiming they are ‘depressed’ is a bit of a slap in the face for people who are clinically depressed or suffering from serious, long term mental illness which leaves them barely able to function. Whilst we should all be careful when we throw around over-used terms such as, “I’m so depressed” or “This is suicidal” we should also take this opportunity to raise awareness about genuine mental illnesses, which are incredibly common yet often go unnoticed in everyday life.

You’re not alone

If the calculations are to be believed – which they typically aren’t – then you’re more likely feel depressed on January 16th over any other day in 2017. With Christmas credit card bills looming, the temperature dropping and resolutions inevitably failing it’s easy to see why many of us are feeling a little low compared to the weeks leading up to Blue Monday.

The good thing about feeling crap on this day is that we all tend to feel the same way. You’re not alone. It’s a good time to take a step back from your current situation and see if you’re mood has been low for a consistent period of time. Do you have ‘the blues’ or are you actually suffering from depression?

It’s a hard question to answer on your own, and many of us hate to admit that we might need medical help, but sometimes we need an outsider to take a look. If you feel your friends and family are too close to see what’s really going on -a common issue- then see a doctor. They can spot warning signs, evaluate the facts and give guidance. If you’re still unsure check out this NHS page which helps you differentiate between low moods and depression.

It’s in the media

Even though mental health problems are one of the main causes of the overall disease burden worldwide, by some cruel twist of fate it’s still a taboo subject in modern society. The fact that most major news outlets will feature a post on Blue Monday means that at least for one day, it’s likely to a common topic of conversation. You might not want to bring it up with your employer, but talking over an article you find interesting with a trusted co-worker might at least give you the confidence to consider it in the future.

It’s also a great day to utilise all the social media posts and bloggers out there who are giving advice from personal experience. Remember everyone’s mental health is affected differently so you might need to visit a couple of websites before you find something that speaks to you. Check Hannah and Beata for some mental health chat.

It’s just one small step

Asking for help is terrifying. When I started to feel unwell I waited months before I felt like my illness was ‘bad enough’ to require assistance. Even then, I was sure I was going to be laughed out of my doctor’s office and told to get over myself. I was suffering from stress which led to depression and anxiety, but I wasn’t fully aware of that until I explained my symptoms to a GP. I was constantly agitated, unable to concentrate, emotional and physically exhausted.

When I was advised to take at least a month off work to start recovering it was the first step in my journey to restoring my mental health. I wasn’t offered lots of treatment options or advised on how to change my lifestyle during that first visit. That would’ve been too overwhelming for me. I was happy just to acknowledge that I wasn’t coping. Having that weight lifted off my shoulder by telling another human being was the best I’d felt in months.

It’s a fresh start

January is full of resolutions and grand plans for the future, but you don’t have to put any pressure on yourself to change. Don’t add any more stress to your life. You can however, see it as a fresh start; a time to let help in, maybe slow things down a little and learn to take better care of yourself mentally. Try taking a small step towards putting yourself first for a change.

It could be something small like a bubble bath or spending time reading your favourite book. You could even make plans to start a new hobby or meet up with friends you’ve been neglecting for a while. Seeing a doctor can help you realise that these small steps are what add up to improving your overall mood and bringing back that lust for life that’s missing when depression takes over.

Is today the day you’re going to ask for help?

More info:

Seeking medical help about mental health

Contact Samaritans

 

Year of gratitude week 2: Spouse

 

It time to explore the year of gratitude again, and I’m so excited to talk this week about how grateful I am to have my husband! If you like this post then check out this post from LuLu Blue on the same subject.

I don’t think you need to be in a relationship to be happy. Quite the opposite in fact; you need to be happy in yourself to develop a good relationship. I don’t talk much about my marriage online because it was my choice to start blogging – not his – and it’s not my place to start sharing our private life online. There are however a few things I want to highlight;

He has showed amazing strength throughout my mental illness

When I quit my job and soon realised I was unfit to work at all, he was incredibly supportive. He didn’t make me feel guilty about being unable to provide an income to our household and even though I often felt like I wasn’t contributing, I never felt under pressure to go back work until I was ready. I acted irrationally for many months. My social anxiety was particularly crippling but he was always by my side in those situations where I felt I might have to ‘escape’ at any moment. As soon as I needed to leave I gave him the secret nod and off we would trot, calmly without any fuss. This was an immense help to me because when I felt like a total weirdo he didn’t question it.

grwhat i'm grateful for 2017

He brought me to Birmingham

When he was offered his dream job in June 2016 and given a month to relocate, I didn’t think twice about screaming “Yes! Let’s go”. I’ll admit I had some teething issues when we first arrived – no surprise there – but I’m so happy we left Glasgow to come here. Obviously I still pine for real potato scones and Irn Bru on tap but Birmingham has given me so many opportunities with regards to blogging, work and meeting new people. I’m pretty sure I would never have ended up here (geographically and mentally) if it wasn’t for him so I’m incredibly grateful for that.

He accepts me entirely

We forget when we fall in love that things change. People’s interests and desires grow and adapt over time and this has been true for me over our 12 year relationship. When we met I was a rock-chick who slurped cider for breakfast. Now I’m a gym-addict who loves nothing more than a night in with a face mask and a bowl of soup. I’ve been a size 20 and a size 10. I’ve had a well-paid management job and now I work for minimum wage. No matter what decision I make or how I think I look to others, I know that I’ll always have the unconditional love of my husband.

What are you grateful for this week?

 

Can Instagram really make you more body positive?

body positivity instagram mental health blogger UK

Since ditching the dieting lifestyle that gave me the ‘perfect’ body and a twisted mindset, I’ve made a conscious effort to redefine what beautiful means to me. I’ve retrained my brain to realise that not everyone can or should look the same.

We can’t all have a tiny waist, a big perky butt, a generous bosom and golden, cellulite-free skin. The constant quest to be a bit skinnier, more toned and overall more aesthetically pleasing to others is exhausting. I wondered if maybe I could use that energy trying to love myself the way I am, instead of picking apart every flaw I saw in the mirror.

So decided to take action and unfollow any accounts on Instagram that made me feel bad about myself. It’ll come as no surprise to you that Instagram is a big player in how I construct my idea of beauty in the modern world. I’m sure it is for you too, even if you don’t realise it.

body positivity instagram mental health blogger UK

I thought following fitspo accounts (FYI I am an avid gym-goer) were good motivation for me. I thought looking at their chiselled abs and jiggle-free triceps everyday would make me workout harder and stick to my low-calorie diet with ease. I thought I was tapping into an endless source of will power; just what I needed if I was going to succeed at creating my dream body. Unfortunately, all it was really doing was convincing me that my body would never be good enough.

It’s not that slim, toned, Caucasian female bodies shouldn’t be inspirational. Every body needs representation. It’s that they shouldn’t be the only type of body we see in mainstream media. It might be inspirational to someone else, but to me it was an unattainable goal that was damaging my self-esteem and mental health. We all need people to look up to, but the pool available to us has become rather exclusive in my opinion. You only have to look at a magazine stand to see that there is a certain type of ‘look’ that gets to bask in the glory of front-page status.

mental health blogger UK

I choose to follow women who are fuller-figured, because that’s similar to my own body shape. When I’m feeling crap about myself I want to scroll through my Instagram feed and see Megan belly-dancing in her underwear and Grace talking about her lopsided boobs, because that shit gives me life. It’s relatable. It makes me feel worthy.

So I’ve surrounded myself with women who don’t normally get media attention, but I forget that the rest of the world hasn’t caught up yet. Every now and again I catch sight of a new celebrity promoting laxatives to teenage girls, or hear that the latest Kardashian show is grotesquely named ‘Revenge Body’, and my heart breaks for the pain and torment our young women are forced to go through as the result of what is forced down their throats.

The good thing with social media is that if we want to, we can control what we see. Don’t like it? Unfollow. Easy. Unfortunately it works both ways and we only see what our Instagram idols want us to see.

The fit-chicks show you their bulging biceps and monstrous pancake towers stuffed with Oreos and Reese’s Pieces. They don’t show you the 5am starts, sleep deprivation, endless cardio and egg-white-only omelettes they endure 90% of the time to achieve their look. I adore images of real women sat in their underwear exposing their tummy rolls. It’s not until I spot the caption underneath – explaining how they felt fat, ugly and reluctant to even share the picture with their fans – that I realise even Instagram-famous girls have insecurities.

The truth is that neither of these images is better than the other. There are the preened models like Ashley Graham who show us that plus-size women can wear designer clothes and walk on catwalks. Then there are the ladies like Melissa who show themselves rocking mini-skirts in the bacon isle . Both are equally important. They are showing the world that we can be whoever we want to be.

The power of what Instagram can do is down it it’s users. We can continue to filter the shit out of everything or we can start posting real images like Kenzie Brenna. She started a campaign called Cellulite Saturday and it’s one of the most fantastic acts of positivity I’ve seen. She actively encourages others to share pictures of their own cellulite and they did.

Guess what? No one dropped down dead at the site of dimpled legs and bums on their screens! Women can be real and authentic and beautiful and empowered all at the same time!

Without Instagram that may not have been possible, so we should be grateful for that. With more women using social media to make their voices heard and their supposedly imperfect bodies represented, who knows where we’ll end up? I know for one I’ll be using it as a tool to spread the word that we all deserve to love our bodies, no matter what.

#LoveMyBody

Talk more with me about body positivity on Twitter

 

Year of gratitude week 1: Why start this challenge?

mental health blogger uk gratitude 2017 challenge

If you didn’t catch my post earlier this week, click here to find out more about the year of gratitude challenge that I’ve decided to try out on my blog.

I won’t lie. I kind of decided to do this at the last minute. I was at my in-laws house over Christmas and I was hiding in our allotted guest room whilst my husband was out with friends. I’d hit the wall with socialising and needed some time to myself. Whilst scrolling through Pinterest I came across this pin listing 52 writing prompts in relation to gratitude. Had I stumbled across this in the middle of August, it’s likely I’d have thought ‘nice idea’ and moved on. But with New Year’s Eve imminent and the thought of a new calendar of blog posts to plan, the concept seemed interesting. Here are a few specific reasons…

Weekly deadlines

When it comes to goal setting I’m a firm believer in ‘fake it until you make it’. I will set a deadline or sign up for something that seems totally unattainable, knowing deep down that the act of setting the goal is what forces me take action to make it happen. When I signed up to run a half marathon several years ago I knew that I would do it because I’d booked and paid for my place. I didn’t think about the end goal much, just the steps I had to take to get there. I announced it publicly – albeit just on Facebook – which it held me accountable; another mind trick I regularly use on myself when I’m putting off doing something. I like the idea of having a weekly schedule of ideas to write about from a blogging point of view. More importantly, I like that I will be reflecting on my life in a positive, helpful way on a regular basis. I believe this is going to set me up to have a strong, healthy outlook over the next 12 months.

My mental health

I’ve overcome some things in 2016 that I’m really proud of. I didn’t plan to do most of them but for whatever reason, I felt confident enough to try and I wasn’t disappointed. I started writing more regularly, made progress with my social anxiety, started to work through my body image problems and faced up to my issues around food. Blogging about mental health has been a cathartic process for me and for that I’m eternally grateful. I hope I always have the ability to write in some form, and committing to this challenge is a way to secure that for the next year. I know it will help me work through some negative thoughts as well as give thanks for everything that’s brought me to this point.

grateful for 2017 mental health blogger UK fiona thomas

Share the love

I make myself cringe when I read some of the crap I drone on about on here, and I’m fully aware that I sound like some self-proclaimed internet ‘life coach’ when I say you get what you give in life. I know you’ve heard it a hundred times before, but I truly believe that you receive the energy you give out. When you are constantly negative then your life becomes negative by default. I use the word ‘energy’ with no spiritual connotations; it’s merely the best word I can find to describe what I mean. I want to use this challenge as a way to send out positive energy about all the good things in life. I want to point out the small things that make my world a happy place, even when I’m not necessarily happy myself. Suffering from depression means that those days will certainly come, but I know making time to pick out the good will help me ride out the storm until it passes.

What are you grateful for today?

#LoveMyBody Twitter chat starting Monday 8pm

body positivity twitter chat mental health

I’m so excited to tell you that I’ll be hosting my very own Twitter chat starting this Mondat at 8pm.

As you know, I’m a huge advocate of body positivity and have gone through a lot of issues with food, dieting and body image. I love the positive messages that are out there regarding body acceptance and want to bring everyone together to a safe space, without judgement where we can all lift each other up and work towards loving ourselves unconditionally.

Add me on twitter and be sure to join me at 8pm to share the love!

#LoveMyBody

Why I’m not dieting this January (even though I’m a size 16)

no dieting mental health January body positivity

A few years ago I would’ve planned a fresh new blog post ready to go live featuring my favourite fat-loss tips for January, or how to ‘get back on track’ after Christmas. Now, I can’t be f*@ked with all that. 

I still love eating healthily because it gives me the energy to do the things I enjoy, but apart from that I’ve kind of given up on weight-loss. I’ve been there, living the ‘fitspo’ life, and I’m done with it. Here’s why…

I’ve been thin and it wasn’t all that

A lot of people look back on pictures of themselves when they looked different and have distorted memories about how they really felt at the time. When I look back on pictures of myself aged 18 and weighing approximately 200lbs, I was overweight but having the time of my life. I had just moved away from home, started university, was meeting new people everyday and learning who I really was. I was socialising like mad and I was incredibly happy. When I was at my leanest – aged 27 – I was battling depression, anxiety, obsessively over-exercising and following a very low calorie diet. I was still happy but I was very tightly wound and had strict rules about what I ate and was constantly hungry, leading to poor brain function and irritability. I’m not saying that you can’t be thin and happy; but don’t put all your eggs in one basket thinking that it’s the answer to all of life’s problems. You’ll still have problems no matter what weight you are.

Restriction isn’t sustainable

It took me years to understand that pretty much every diet is destined to fail. It’s not your lack of will power that lets you down; it’s the fact that you’re restricting yourself so much for so long that your mind and body inevitably cannot do it any more. The penny started to drop when I read a book called Intuitive Eating, although I still did a few years of crash-dieting before what I read began to make sense in my head. I’ve tried to explain to people that a)learning to love your body as it is will stand you in better stead than trying to change it and b)dieting is almost 100% guaranteed to fail in the long term. The truth is, I didn’t believe it myself until I’d dieted for 12 years, lost approximately 60lbs and gained it all back in the end. Sometimes you have to live through that to see that you’re not the one person that’s going to ‘stick to the plan’ and prove everyone wrong. I get it. Just take it from someone who has restricted food groups for most of my adult life; IT DOESN’T WORK.

You’re not defined by your aesthetic

I’ve written before about how when I feel really low about my body image, I like to remember how I look at other people. I very rarely look at someone and think much about what they look like in a typical sense. I’ll perhaps notice a nice necklace they’re wearing, the smell of their perfume, how friendly they were, if they smiled or held eye contact with me. When I look at my friends and family I see their personality traits; I genuinely don’t think about what they look like in a negative way whatsoever, so the chances are no one else is giving a crap about what I look like either. No one is noticing my double chin, my muffin top and my hairy legs and if they ARE then frankly, they need to get a life. I know that what I bring to the table is more important that a thin body, so why fixate on that small, insignificant part of me?

Your brain can do so much more than just count calories

When I was fixated on counting calories it honestly didn’t leave time for much else. I was always on my phone figuring out what I could eat that day and scrutinizing food labels to see which had the fewest calories. I was always trimming calories at every opportunity, but never eating a proper meal to compensate. I ‘had to’ exercise for a minimum of 60 minutes per day (ideally double that) so my mind and body were both exhausted. I didn’t realise the perpetual use of will power combined with a low calorie diet was draining away all my brain power. Since I’ve stopped fixating on food and exercise I’ve had the energy to socialise and write everyday, which are two things I don’t want to give up.

Food is amazing

I’m sure you’re aware of how flippin’ fantastic food is. We can’t survive without it and we are lucky enough to have almost any kind we desire at our fingertips in plentiful amounts. It’s a great way to socialise, show gratitude, celebrate and commiserate. We don’t need to overindulge but sometimes it’s nice. It’s such an important part of our world that it seems wrong to cut it out and stop ourselves from enjoying it. I’m not saying we should eat what we want, when we want all the time; but maybe its time to loosen up and appreciate what we have?

Have you given up on dieting?