It's true what they say – the body keeps the score. But Bite Size Nutrition’s Gillian was jolted into action when she received an undeniable message from her body that something was very wrong. Here's how she went from restrictive to intuitive eating and swapping restriction for nourishment. Plus, the nutrition, body image and mindset coach shares some of the major signs of disordered eating.
In a world where unrealistic beauty standards and diet culture often dominate the conversation around food and body image, 36-year-old Gillian has a story that stands out as a beacon of hope and transformation. Her journey is one of rediscovering her self-worth, embracing intuitive eating and nurturing her body with love and compassion.
“In 2019, I realised I hadn’t had a period in 3 years and finally came to terms with the fact that this was VERY unhealthy, and I started my journey of healing my relationship with food,” Gillian says.
It was this pivotal moment that marked the beginning of her path to healing her relationship with food and her body. But let’s rewind a bit first to the early stages of Gillian’s journey. For years, Gillian had been caught in the throes of disordered eating and an obsession with achieving a specific body image. The relentless pursuit of an idealised physique led to a host of physical and emotional consequences; clear signals that her body was crying out for help.
“From a young age there was a battle between ‘healthy’ food and ‘unhealthy’ food at home- my mom loved treats and desserts and my dad was anti-sugar,” Gillian says. “To layer on top of that, my mum also spent most of my childhood trying to lose ‘the last 10 pounds’, and I even remember going to Weight Watchers meetings with her when I was 4-5.”
It was after moving to Spain back in 2014 that Gillian got into CrossFit and weightlifting, which then lead her down the path of tracking macronutrients – this involves monitoring the daily intake of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
“Macro tracking ‘worked’ but I became obsessed with the numbers, obsessed with weighing myself and seeing the scale go down, and I was more self-conscious than ever,” she says.
Despite becoming a nutrition coach, Gillian found herself unable to follow the a beneficial advice she gave her clients.
“While I was technically ‘helping’ people, I was struggling. I would encourage others to enjoy treats and meals out with friends, but I couldn’t do that."
The Journey to Recovery
Gillian's journey to healing was not a linear one. It was a process that required deep self-reflection and self-compassion. She made a conscious decision to embrace the principles of intuitive eating, and her shift in mindset marked a significant turning point in her life.
"Mindful eating became my daily practice," Gillian explains. "I learned to listen to my body's hunger and fullness cues, trusting its wisdom to guide me in making food choices that nourished both my physical and emotional wellbeing."
The process was not without its challenges. Gillian faced moments of doubt and discomfort as she confronted her ingrained beliefs about food and body image. However, with each step, she discovered the power of self-compassion and the freedom that came with letting go of harmful judgments.
"Now, my relationship with food feels easy, comfortable, and contributes to a life I'm really proud of," she shares.
One of the most significant shifts for Gillian was her acceptance of her body's natural changes. "Yes, I gained weight. No, I don't LOOK as fit as I used to," she acknowledges. "But I have so much more peace of mind and attract so many great people in my life because I'm not obsessing over food anymore."
Gillian's story serves as an inspiring testament to the transformative power of self-love and intuitive living. Her journey is a reminder that we can break free from the shackles of diet culture, heal our relationships with food and body image, and embrace a life filled with self-compassion, confidence and authenticity.
The Major Signs You or Someone You Know is Dealing with Disordered Eating
Gillian shares a few of the biggest indicators of restrictive or disordered eating, highlighting that many of these are all too common.
“So many of these behaviours are ‘normalised’ but they are NOT normal,” she says. “I was praised for many of these, but they were contributing to my terrible relationship with food.”
- Thinking about food all the time
- Not eating when you’re hungry
- Being overly concerned with calories, macros
- Fearing certain foods- often carbs, sugar, ‘treat foods’
- On the flip side- eating a lot when you’re not hungry
- Inspecting your body/weight regularly (body checking)
- Comparing what you eat to others
- Needing to ‘make up for’ or burn off calories
- Regular overeating or binging (binging would fall into eating disorder territory)
- Cutting out food groups or foods that you enjoy eating
- Feeling guilty or ashamed for what you’ve eaten
As Gillian continues her work as a nutrition, body image and mindset coach, she’s keen to transform our attitudes towards food, helping to put the focus on health and nourishment over restriction and weight loss.
“We think that if we just had more discipline or willpower this stuff would be fixed, and that’s not the case,” Gillian says. “In fact, in MOST cases, the thing that helps the most is more self-compassion.
“And body image issues- they’re not ANYTHING to do with your physical body. Body image is a psychological issue- it will not be ‘fixed’ by losing weight or changing your body.”
Gillian’s Tips for a Healthier Mindset
“First, practicing something called body functionality appreciation – this is practicing gratitude for your body’s functions and what it allows you to do; for example, ‘I’m grateful my arms allow me to hug people I love”, Gillian says.
This practice promotes a positive and holistic approach to self-esteem and body image by shifting the focus from appearance to the remarkable capabilities of the body – and when you think about it, the human body is pretty impressive!
“In my body image program, we also do a lot of work around reducing body checking behaviours – these are the often habitual ways in which we ‘inspect’ our bodies, and they draw attention to the things we don’t like,” Gillian shares. “We also do a lot of work on understanding that our thoughts are heavily influenced by media, peers, family, etc, and our thoughts ARE NOT facts.
“This is so helpful when overcoming body image challenges because it means you can choose which thoughts are helpful for you and which ones are not.”
Gillian reveals her Confident Eater Program is specially designed to support clients looking to break down unhelpful attitudes to eating.
“In this program we work on breaking food rules, developing values-based decision making skills as well as increasing ability for mindful eating and hunger/Fullness awareness,” she says. “I have a body image coaching program called The Confident Body (notice a theme here?) and in TCB we work on developing a practice of body image flexibility – this is a state of being able to accept that yes, you may not love every part of your body, but your appearance doesn’t have to dictate your happiness or self-worth.”
So, if any of this is sounding familiar, you might be wondering what’s your next step? Gillian says reaching out is paramount.
“I would say don’t feel ashamed to ask for support or help… and be careful who you get help from,” she says. “I guarantee right now you have someone else in your life who shares some of your challenging feelings or thoughts, or at the very least is open to hearing you. Having someone who you can talk to, whether it’s your best friend or partner, or a family member can be really helpful, but if your finances allow for it, therapy and/or coaching is highly recommended.”
Learn more about Gillian’s story and coaching over at Bite Size Nutrition.