Claire Saliu Makeup Artistry

Makeup Artist, Beauty and Lifestyle blogger and busy Mama.

My Body & Me : Building A New Relationship With Food & Wellbeing

Faddy diets promising quick results, the latest fitness crazes and those Insta-perfect bodies in the latest sportswear combos. They are everywhere. You only need to do a quick Google search about weight loss on your iPhone for every single advert or suggested Facebook page pop-up to be weight loss and fitness-related forever. Body-shaming (whether it's about a body that's "too big" or "too small" - it's everywhere we look. So it's easy to see how so many young girls and indeed women of any age can become so focused on anything food or weight loss related.
I'm including myself in this for sure. I've never ever been "skinny". I've always carried a few (or more than a few) pounds extra, even from a very young age. I had a happy childhood, and was lucky to have two wonderful, loving parents and still have the best big sister, all of whom loved me unconditionally, just the way I was. They never once referred to my weight or made an issue out of what I was eating or my portion sizes. But I was always the biggest in the family. My Mam, for most of my childhood and teenage years and even beyond that, was a trim size 8 - and a beautiful, stylish lady too - no matter what her size. My older sister takes after Mam in body shape etc, even down to her "piano hands", and still is the more svelte of the two of us. I used to "joke" that I could never fit into either of their clothes - especially the pretty dresses - and as a result I spent most of my teenage years in over-sized shirts and tees and Wrangler jeans. 

Food was a central part of my day and a big part of our weekly family gatherings at my Nana's house - where the table would be full to groaning point at dinner and "tea" times. My dear Nana was happiest when in her kitchen baking and cooking and then watching her family enjoy what she created. She did it out of love for her family. She used to sit on her favourite stool in the corner of her kitchen with her cup of tea (on a saucer of course) and pick at a piece of bread or a scone while she looked after everyone else and watched us all chatting away. And I can see some of her in myself when I look at how I prepare food for my own family - though I don't make the apple tarts or cakes and I do try to make meals on the healthier, nutritious side. I always over-indulged at Nana's house - I guess most kids do a bit, right? But over-indulging became more than a once or twice a week thing so I never really got a handle on my eating habits at all. 

In my late teens, I went through all the faddy diets out there. I ate all the cottage cheese and ryvita, bought the weight watchers ready meals, and that would last for a little while. Then my Dad would come home with a chipper tea or a ginger cake and instead of having that treat and carrying on with healthy eating afterwards like a "normal" person, I'd consider the diet ruined and just give up. And that dieting and bingeing and feelings of guilt and self-sabotage continued for a long time. I even joined Weight Watchers for a while but, guess what, I didn't stick to it. 

I don't think I've ever verbalized what I'm about to say next. Not even to my best friends, my husband or my family. Or even my therapist. 

I was an emotional eater for sure. And to some extent I always will be. Food was a way of forgetting about my feelings. I would stuff myself to distract myself from a lot. If I was sad, I ate. If I was bored, I ate. If I was lonely or anxious, I ate. And a lot of it was in secret or when someone wouldn't see me. Whilst I had a very loving family and I would never say I didn't have a happy childhood, our Mam suffered from various chronic illnesses and she spent a lot of time over the years in hospitals and in rehabilitation, which although I didn't realise it at the time, must have influenced my comfort eating. That's not to say that I would ever in a million years blame my Mam for my own actions. I was luckier than most kids my age and I will never look back on that time with anything other than admiration and gratitude for my family. I ate to silence the worries and the fact that I missed her when she wasn't around. I couldn't control her illnesses - no one could, most definitely not herself even - but what I could control was food. Restricting myself or bingeing was under my control, or so I thought. 

Fast forward to today, and my precious Mam and Dad are no longer with us. And that's something I struggle with every day. It's something that's obviously not under my control either, and neither is the whole grieving process. However I'm really trying not to fall down the comfort eating and bingeing trap again. I have two children who will obviously learn from watching me and I never want them to have the kind of complicated relationship with food that I have. I want them to grow up with a healthy attitude to having a balanced diet, eating healthily and having the treats in moderation. And not to ever be ashamed of their bodies or anything to do with their appearances. 

So I'm taking back the control of my food habits and my well-being. I'm making some healthy but sustainable changes, like drinking more water (and cutting down on the Diet Cokes) , eating less carbs but not cutting them out entirely, adding more fruit and vegetables to meals for both myself and the family, and waking up earlier than the kids so that I can fit in a morning workout on YouTube. I have been trying out Intermittent Fasting for a while - which I'm still on the fence about as I think it could still be a risk or a trigger for me to end up trying to restrict myself too much - but I will give it another few weeks before I decide if I should abandon it. Since I started Intermittent Fasting and my overall health and fitness journey, I'm about 11 pounds down and still a way to go from my weight loss goal. But so far, the biggest benefit for me from Intermittent Fasting has been that once my eating window has passed for the day, I'm not "allowed" to eat anything else - reducing the risk there of raiding the fridge and the cupboards late at night. 

So, what have I learned so far that might help others on their own journey? 

Healthy food doesn't have to be boring.

Healthy doesn't have to mean a diet of soggy celery and cottage cheese. Or feeling sad and deprived the entire time. For example, for a long time, I wasn't keen on porridge oats. But since I started making it more interesting by adding some healthy and delicious toppings such as frozen mixed berries, a little bit of peanut butter, some chia seeds, chopped dates and cinammon, it has become a staple for me and something I now look forward to eating. There are plenty of recipes and meal plans online and plenty of recipe books out there and YouTubers to check out that will give you lots of healthy but interesting and delicious food inspo. (In fact, if you would like me to do another post on where and who I get my ideas from, let me know in the comments. I'd be more than happy to write something up)

Fill up your plate with plenty of fresh veggies. 

It sounds obvious, I know. But if your protein and carb portions need to be smaller, which they usually do when you're counting calories or following any sort of points system, filling up your plate with low calorie, yet voluminous vegetables can really help to leave you feeling satisfied and keep you fuller for longer. I try to fill up my plate with asparagus, courgettes, peppers, brocoli (particularly tenderstem brocoli which for some reason feels a little more "interesting" to eat for me, no idea why), kale, cauliflower etc. They are all rich in nutrients, will help fill your tummy yet won't pile on the calories. 

Meal prep and plan ahead. 

We've all been there many times - or at least I know I have! You've had a long and busy day, you open the fridge and you'd rather poke your eyes out with a fork than start cooking a healthy dinner from scratch. So the chicken, the veg and whatever else stays in the fridge and you reach for the takeaway menu instead. Or, you've just done a weekly grocery shop and after all the pallaver of picking, packing and paying for it all and lugging it home, the kids are getting hangry and you don't have a lot of time to spare before war breaks out. Plus you've no idea what you actually want to cook because you didn't make a meal plan. You might also have gone to the supermarket whilst you yourself were getting hangry so as a result your shopping trolley contents weren't as sensible as it could have been. Sounding familiar to anyone else?  

Anyhow, to try and avoid all of this, set aside some time, each week, before you do your weekly grocery shopping, to make a meal plan and a specific shopping list for that meal plan plus anything else that you need for the week. And stick to the list! What I try to do is select a slightly easier and less time-consuming dinner option in the meal plan for the day I do the supermarket run, so that I can't "chicken out" of cooking. And while that's cooking, I'll try to wash and prep all of the fruit and vegetables that I've just bought and put them into tupperware containers in the fridge. That way, we are all much more likely to cook or snack on the healthy things as we don't have to go and wash and chop them "on demand". Not only will this help you eat the healthy options, it will help you cut down on food waste too as you're less likely to forget about that bag of spinach wilting away in the fridge drawer if it's at your eye level every time you open the fridge - and it's washed and ready to use so no excuses, right :) If you wan't to check out my recent blog post on meal planning and grab a copy of my free printable meal planner, you can do so over here.

Don't deny yourself completely.

Call it human nature or someone's way of having a laugh at the dieter's expense, but nothing makes a food more attractive if you've been told you can't have it. Or at least that's what I've found anyway!
I used to be so hard on myself (and sometimes I still am to be honest) when I "slipped" up or ate something that wasn't part of the healthy food plan, and would then consider the whole thing a failure and give up. Instead, what I should have done was declare that day a "cheat day" - or even that meal, and limit the damage caused by going straight back to the plan. Quite often, one treat isn't going to cause too much damage anyway. What causes more damage is the guilt and self-sabotage that tends to follow afterwards. So have that cupcake or pour a few crisps into a bowl and allow yourself the treat every now and then. It will only become a problem when you eat the whole box of cakes or jumbo bag of crisps when you finally give in to the temptation after denying yourself for ages - or of course if you  end up having them every day :) 

Exercise is just as important for your mind as it is for your body. 

I've tried everything over the years. My Mam, my sister and I even went to League of Health exercise classes back in the day (anyone else remember those??) I joined a gym, kept at it until my membership expired and I moved house, and then didn't bother looking for an alternative one. I had an exercise bike, a mini stepper, the arm and ankle weights. I used to watch and try and follow Rosemary Conley on weekday morning telly, Aerobics Oz Style on Sky and had a box full of exercise videos and later DVDs. Yet I didn't stick to any of them for long enough to realise that I needed them for more than the calorie burning. It's only now that I'm a "grown up" and a Mum, I understand the importance of that head space that having time to go for a walk/jog/yoga/HIIT session gives you. And that it helps you sleep much better too as well as helping anxiety and depression. If you don't believe me, pop onto YouTube and find a workout video that you would like to try, or chuck on the runners and headphones and get outside for half an hour whether you walk or run or a combination of the two, and tell me how you feel after you've accomplished that one thing and you've started to feel the effects of those endorphins. In fact, the days that I don't exercise now, I can feel a difference in my mental state, in how productive I feel for that day. 

Don't eat your feelings. 

This is probably my number one piece of advice. Don't be like me. Don't reach into the fridge or the cupboard when you're stressed or upset or lonely. You might feel like it's helping for those few minutes, but all it's doing really is creating a temporary distraction from whatever is causing you pain as you're hands and mouth are engaged in another activity. Nine times out of ten, a few minutes later, the guilt sets in and you wonder why you even did that. As not only are you still feeling the same as you were before that family pack of Doritos, but now you feel guilty or weak for not resisting the temptation. And so the cycle continues. 

Instead, if you are feeling like you might comfort eat, make a cup of tea, text a friend or family member, listen to a song that lifts your mood, brush your teeth or literally do any sort of activity that keeps your mind busy and your body active and away from the fridge. Another good one is to paint your nails - because then you physically can't open that bar of Dairy Milk or you'll ruin your paintwork :) Before you know it, the will have passed and you will have made it through that few minutes without giving in. 

So, there it is. My advice for anyone who is currently struggling with their relationship with food. I'm no dietician or fitness expert or pscyhologist. I'm just someone who's been there too and is still going through it. I have no idea when I will reach my "goal weight". And to be honest I will probably still struggle with a few of those stubborn pounds forever. But if on this journey, I find balance and learn to be a bit more content when I look in the mirror, I'll be happy. I hope this post was helpful. If you have anything you would like to ask or any tips for the rest of us reading this, please feel free to share below. My comments and my inbox are always open :) 

Bye for now,

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