It feels a little bit self-indulgent to have a page all about me and my story. I do, however, think that it’s very important to be open and honest about my past because it has a big influence on my approach to studying psychology and nutrition, blogging and working with clients.
I have first hand experience with many of the struggles that my clients face and I know just how hard it can be to feel like you are totally alone in those struggles. I want to help my clients realise that however unlikely they may think it is, they do have the power to take control and build a healthier and happier life for themselves. I will be there to support them at every step of the way by helping them to understand themselves better and implement strategies to change their unwanted thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
So when did it all start?
A PATH TO WELLNESS
As a child I was never concerned with what I ate or the way I looked. When I started my undergraduate psychology degree I put on the typical ‘freshman 15’ from too much partying and eating less than nutritious food. In my second year I moved out of halls to live with my friends and started eating diet foods and tracking my calories to lose weight.
I began a cycle of dieting whereby I would lose weight for a special occasion only to put it back on again. This continued for another three years until I started my Masters degree in Health Psychology.
The Health Psychology MSc taught me about the effect that our lifestyle can have on our physical and mental health and how to develop better habits. I started to try new foods, such as chia seeds, kale and sweet potatoes. I also joined a gym and began to learn about different styles of exercise and how to fuel my body.
Everything was going great and I was feeling amazing. I graduated from my masters in 2013 and decided that I wanted to have a career in promoting wellness and helping people to change their unhealthy habits.
I would love to say that I carried on in my healthy routine, but actually, the worst years of my life were to follow.
A BUMP IN THE ROAD
As I said, I knew that I wanted to promote a healthy lifestyle as part of my job. In order to do that I thought that I needed to look a certain way (i.e. slim, toned and flawless) before people would respect me and take my advice. I was nowhere near overweight but I thought that I needed to drop some weight and tone up so I began to reduce my food intake and ramp up my exercise routine.
The pounds fell off but I thought that I still had a long way to go before I achieved my goal of looking like the photos of influential fitness and wellness bloggers that I saw on instagram.
In January 2014 I moved to Singapore to start my job as a research assistant studying motivation. By this time I had convinced myself that I should workout every single day and only eat ‘clean’ food- nothing processed, no bread, no fat… basically nothing but vegetables, and even then only certain vegetables were allowed. At the time I was happy with this diet (there are loads of delicious types of fresh fruit in Singapore), although I had terrible stomach aches every day and was feeling less energetic. My dad came to visit me after three months and was shocked when he saw me at the airport- my bones were visible, my hair was thinning and my skin was dull. He tried to convince me to eat more but I was so scared to put on weight and to eat ‘unclean’ food. In fact, I was so deep in my disordered thinking that I didn’t want to change.
I had developed so many rules around food- what I could and couldn’t eat, how much I could eat, when I could eat it … the list was endless and it felt impossible for me live any other way apart from according to the rules that I had set myself.
After 8 months I returned home and things got even worse. I would literally spend all day every day thinking about food that I wouldn’t let myself eat. I was constantly hungry, grumpy and eating anything was a mental battle. I fell out with my family daily and they were distraught that they could see me wasting away in front of them but do nothing to stop it.
Then one night I woke up and felt starving. After a mental battle with myself I decided to go downstairs and eat some oats (one of my ‘safe’ foods at the time). I took a spoonful and I can only describe it as the most amazing thing that I have ever tasted – it was almost like angels started singing when I took that first bite. I was totally distraught with myself for breaking so many of my food rules but the next night I woke up again for a snack. And the night after that…. And the night after that.
I would wake up and raid the kitchen for absolutely anything I could get my hands on – whole jars of Nutella, boxes of cereal, multipacks of crisps, tubs of yoghurt- and that was just in one night.
I had moved back in with my parents at the time and it got so bad that my mum literally had to start hiding food so I that wouldn’t eat it.
I felt totally hopeless and out of control.
I didn’t want to eat all of the food but when I woke up in the night it was like I was possessed and I just had to do it.
Gradually my eating during the day time began to normalise and I stopped restricting myself so much. I was still deeply upset about the night eating situation and I started to gain weight rapidly which terrified me and made me feel awful.
My clothes didn’t fit anymore and I was desperate to do something about it. I started to exercise even more and searched online for different ‘miracle’ diets, including paleo, cutting carbs, cutting fat. But nothing worked and I ended up bingeing earlier and earlier in the day and had started to make myself sick after a binge.
GETTING BACK ON TRACK
I knew things were getting bad and on the insistence of my family I started to see a therapist. At this time I also began a regular yoga practice and keeping a gratitude journal.
The therapist encouraged me to start listening to my body, get clear on my values and goals and to start pursuing those.
I was still clear that my goal was to live a healthy lifestyle and help others to do the same (even though ironically I was far from healthy). I completed an online training course in Nutritional Therapy and secured my place on a research PhD in psychology.
The binge eating began to get a little better but sometimes it would just take control, especially if I was stressed, upset or restricting my food intake during the day.
When I started my PhD things weren’t exactly perfect but they were a whole lot better. I wasn’t seeing the therapist anymore and I was eating from all food groups, exercising regularly and feeling more positive. I decided to start my blog at this point. However, when deadlines loomed or I felt that I wasn’t making satisfactory progress the night time binges would begin again.
Sometimes I would feel happy with my life and sometimes I would feel totally hopeless that my struggles with food and body image would never end. I felt that there was no one I could talk to about it and no one who would understand.
I knew that I didn’t have the energy to carry on as I was.
I knew that something had to change.
I started to get clear on my goals and how I was going to achieve them; setting up re:Wellbeing (<- my registered psychology business name) was a major step to achieving my goals and it has kept me constantly motivated and inspired. I also put in place strategies to reduce stress during my PhD because I knew this was a trigger for my unhealthy habits.
I’m pleased to say that I have come a long away in a short amount of time primarily through understanding myself better and changing my daily environment to one that promotes happiness and encourages me to live a healthy lifestyle.
I have the most energy that I’ve had in years and actually look forward to eating chia seeds, kale and sweet potatoes. I workout about three times a week and walk when I can. Plus, I now eat chocolate (which I do almost every day) with absolutely no guilt.
Why am I telling you this?
It isn’t to gloat. It’s to show you what is possible if you give yourself a chance.
I know that it is possible to change your life because not only have I studied the psychology of behaviour change in depth but because I have lived through the experience myself – from hitting rock bottom to finding a way out.
I started working 1-1 with clients to help people who are struggling to integrate healthy habits into their lifestyle in an enjoyable and non-restrictive way. I want to help people to increase their motivation to make changes, sustain those changes and find balance. Most of all, I want people to know that they’re not alone in their struggles and I am here to listen and support them to find solutions if they choose to work with me.