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Tag Archives: Counselling

Fat Oppression – How to Reclaim Your Self-Esteem

In recent years fat oppression, more Eatingcommonly known as “fat shaming”, has become accepted as the “done thing”. Magazines, TV shows and public figures like Katie Hopkins have made “pointing out a person is fat” acceptable. When clicking on the comment section or a message board where people are discussing other people, more often than not the first things that is discussed is a person’s look and weight with their personality or accomplishments only mentioned as an afterthought. We are living in a shallow world, and anyone not possessing what is seen as the “ideal body” or just different in any way is in for scrutiny.

Being bigger than others has never been easy, except maybe when living in Rubenesque times, I can testify to this: even in the 1990's growing up as a “big kid” was hell at school. But this was AT SCHOOL, kids usually grow up knowing better and stop the bullying when they reach 19. Not this generation: adults gleefully approach other adults in the street, asking “when is it due”, knowing a person isn't pregnant. They think nothing of saying: “should you be doing that”, if they see what they consider to be a “fat person” eating in the street. This used to be taboo. Not anymore.
Many people think pointing out a person is fat helps the “fat person” in some twisted way. Well, no it doesn't: usually they are aware of the problem, thank you, pointing it out only works demotivating.
Of course not everyone is like this, there are many people out there who don't care about how you look. In fact, there are even so called “chubby chasers” out there, folk only falling for those that have “something to grab hold off”. Good to know, of course. But when you are feeling insecure about your weight and have suffered several upsetting altercations with people that judged you, knowing this won’t help: you are sure the entire world is against you and these people are just lying to be kind.
Nobody chooses to be fat and often it has little to do with food intake. My weight gain was sudden. When I was about 7 my weight suddenly changed, almost overnight. I had not changed eating habits, I was a dancer so got a lot of exercise. Still I became fat, and as a result people begun to treat me differently. “I'm not sure you should” were added when cake and candies were handed out at birthdays, judgemental looks were included with my chips, etc. I was never a binger, hardly able to empty my plate at the best of times. My mum schlepped me around from clinic to clinic to find what was wrong with me. At around age 12 I was virtually anorexic, dancing to Michael Jackson most of the day and still I did not lose weight. I tried diet after diet, miracle cure after miracle cure and guess what: I still have nothing to show for it.
This is true for many people.
Of course there are people that gain weight because of food, but it is not something they choose to do either. Usually there is something deeper than “I like to eat” that makes people reach out for comfort foods.
No matter how you gained weight, the end results are often the same: insecurity and a constant fear of being judged. This causes stress and stress often results in weight gain, even if you try to diet. Dieting and not losing weight is even more depressing and you can end up in a vicious self-hating cycle. Others may lose weight, but often find they are still not happy on the inside, not even after all that work.
This vicious cycle is something not many people are able to break, and only few are aware that counselling is an option that could help break it. It is understandable that a person that has been or at least felt judged all his or her life may find it difficult to seek help. This is understandable because some might have met, in the past, with unsympathetic doctors or others in the “care” industry that were not as caring as they could have been. The difference here is that a counsellor is not there to look at your shape and size of your body and judge you. He or she is there to look at your internal world and how this is reflected in your relation with your body and with others. He/she might assist you in finding your self-worth and self-love before you try changing anything about your body. Once you have accepted yourself on the inside, you might not even care about the outside. This is what a counsellor can help you to achieve: inner peace, self-respect to make you see that no one should be able to make you feel bad about yourself, no one has that power.
The support and advice of a counsellor can break years of bad programming you may have internalised. It can also help you on the road to reclaim your self-esteem and help you either accept yourself as you are or help you find a way to lose weight on your own terms. But accepting yourself comes first. Always. No matter how thin or big you are, only the love you have for yourself can make you look truly beautiful and once you find that, weight no longer matters.

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Social Anxiety

Social AnxietySocial anxiety disorder, previously referred to as social phobia, has been redefined in the latest revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).  Social phobia referred to a fear of performing or public speaking. However, researchers have come to realize that this definition was too narrow.  A person can experience extreme discomfort or fear when socializing, performing, working or even eating in public.

Social anxiety disorder is essentially brought on by any activity in which a person feels they are being watched and criticized. Furthermore, the person may go to great lengths to avoid feared social or performance situations, which may negatively impact their occupational, academic or daily functioning.  Additionally, the impacts of social anxiety disorder make it difficult to create or maintain healthy personal relationships.

For example:

A woman is fearful of attending a team meeting because she knows she’ll have to discuss her project in front of all of her coworkers, so she calls in sick to avoid the situation and sends her boss an email update on her project.

A man is meeting a friend at a new bar up the street.  The man gets there first and is flooded with anxiety because he feels everyone else at the bar is judging him.  He knows this is irrational, but the fear begins to mount.  His heart is racing and he is paralyzed unable to give the bartender his drink order.

Diagnosis of Social Anxiety Disorder

According to the DSM-5, the criteria for being diagnosed with social anxiety require a person’s anxiety level to be disproportionate to the situation and the symptoms must be persistent over the span of six months or more.  Social anxiety disorder is not to be confused with panic disorders.  A person experiencing a panic attack fears that what they are experiencing is indicative of a physical ailment, such as a heart attack.  A person experiencing an anxiety attack is aware that their symptoms are a result of their anxiety.

Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder

Traditionally, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) has been a proven treatment modality for anxiety disorder. CBT addresses and corrects maladaptive thoughts and behaviors that are often associated with anxiety disorders.  For example, CBT addresses thoughts such as, “everyone thinks I’m stupid” or behaviors such as avoiding social gatherings due to anxiety by providing techniques and strategies to lessen anxiety.  CBT focused support groups are particularly helpful for social anxiety disorders because it aids in developing coping strategies for social interactions in a therapeutic environment. One’s success with CBT therapeutic technique requires practicing coping strategies both in session and at home.

Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) is a recent humanistic approach to therapy that incorporates structured techniques with unconditional positive regard and empathy to address a client’s issues.  Although EFT was developed for the treatment of depression it has been applied to trauma and anxiety over the last 20 years.  Whereas CBT focuses on correcting maladaptive thoughts and behaviors, EFT addresses the emotional process behind those thoughts and behaviors.  For example, addressing childhood trauma that has led to the dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors that cause anxiety.

Regardless of the therapeutic model used, social anxiety disorder will not right itself or dissipate with time.  In fact, anxiety disorders have been proven to worsen overtime if not addressed.  Reaching out to a mental health professional and committing to utilizing appropriate strategies and techniques are the best way to combat social anxiety.

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Sleeping Problems

Sleeping ProblemsIt’s 3:00 a.m. and you still cannot sleep.  Between tossing and turning you mentally scream, “Just go to sleep!”, but it doesn’t come. You begin to calculate how many hours before you need to get up to go to work. Your to-do list begins to run through your mind later morphing into an in-depth analysis of your life:

Will I be able to pay my bills this month?

Why has my boyfriend been so distant lately?

I really don’t want to give that presentation at work tomorrow!

Suddenly, it’s 7:00 a.m. and your alarm is screeching.  Time to get up and face the day on as little as 1-2 hours of sleep.

If the above scenario sounds familiar, you may be suffering from sleeping problems also known as sleep deprivation and insomnia. According to the Mental Health Foundation, as many as 30% of people in the UK are suffering from severe sleep deprivation.  Lack of sleep can lead to a variety of issues, including mental health issues.  If you are having difficulty falling or maintaining sleep during the evening or suffering from irritability and lack of mental and physical alertness during the day, it may be insomnia.


Insomnia can be tied to a temporary cause such as stress about starting a new job. However, insomnia can also be continual and it has been tied to a variety of physical and psychological causes.

Medical Issues: Chronic pain, allergies, cold and flu, asthma, acid reflux or side effects of some medications, particularly those that contain caffeine.

Sleep Disorders: Sleep apnea, sleepwalking, restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy.

Psychological Issues: Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and general stress.

Lifestyle Issues:  Shift work, frequent travel, caffeine or alcohol intake, drug use, and social life


The effects of sleep deprivation can affect one’s mind and body, including a significant decrease in alertness.  Studies show that alertness and performance can be reduced by 32% with as little as a half hour reduction in sleep.

Additionally, memory and cognitive functions decrease, making it difficult to process or retain information. These impairments can affect a person’s ability to drive a vehicle or operate machinery; it can also result in occupational consequences, such as poor work performance or getting reprimanded by a boss.

Lack of sleep not only affects the individual, but their partner. When one partner is tossing and turning, it disrupts their partner’s sleep, as well.  When one or both partners are suffering from the effects of sleep deprivation this may lead to irritability and conflicts within the relationship. And if suffering from chronic sleep deprivation it may even lead to separate bedrooms or divorce.


It has been proven that maintaining a consistent sleep routine can improve sleep habits.  Therefore, by making minor lifestyle changes, you too may be able to break the vicious cycle of insomnia and improve the quality of your sleep.

Exercise: Regular exercise is not only good for you physically; it can also help reduce stress levels that have been proven to increase insomnia.

Bedtime routine: Creating a bedtime routine in which you go to bed and get up at the same time everyday will help to reestablish your circadian rhythm. Also, partaking in relaxing bedtime rituals, such as taking a warm bath or shower prior to bed or putting on lavender lotion can help the body relax into sleep. Lastly, set aside 8 hours for sleep.

Bedroom décor: The bedroom should be the most relaxing room in your home.  Using warm colors, such as blue, is psychologically proven to be relaxing.  Additionally, using heavy curtains or wearing a sleep mask to block out the light.

Electronics: In our society, disconnecting from our gadgets may give us some anxiety, but it is important to turn off the TV, smartphones, IPads and Computers a few hours before bed. This is due to the stimulating effects they have on the brain and the interference with sleep.

If lifestyle changes are not effective in improving your quality of sleep, you may want to consult with a general doctor or mental health professional to address the physical or psychological issues, listed above, which may be interfering with your ability to sleep well.




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You Can Overcome Eating Disorders

eating disorderYou Can Overcome an Eating Disorder

In the UK, eating disorders are more common than most people think. In fact, healthcare professionals assert that approximately 1.4 million men, women, and youth contend with an eating disorder like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.  That is a lot of suffering occurring right there.

An eating disorder can be classified as a disorder in which one focuses on food much of the time and finds it difficult to focus on other things. Experiencing such a disorder can pose many health threats and can even become life-threatening.

Do you have an eating disorder?

Those that suffer with an eating disorder have a difficult time recognizing that they do. It is usually family members or friends that become concerned about their behaviors associated with food.  They may begin to lose weight rapidly and/or take exercise to an addiction level. They may obsess about food, preparing delicious meals or becoming obsessed with recipes, yet they will only eat tiny bits of foods themselves. They may continually talk about how overweight they are, even though they are not. An eating disorder can literally take over your life.  Along with obsessing about food, you may begin to experience a host of negative emotions like sadness, anxiety, anger, frustration, shame, and more. You may also become fatigued, having little energy to go about your normal daily routine.

If you think you are struggling with an eating disorder, it is important that you be courageous and seek professional help for the matter. No, it might not be easy to pick up the phone or email for an appointment with a counselor, but it is the very first step to overcoming the eating disorder and the emotional and/or mental problems that may accompany it.

What are some red flags when it comes to eating disorders?

  • Not eating at meal time
  • Eating just a tiny bit at meal times, often the foods that have little calories
  • Preparing wonderful meals for others, yet choosing not to eat them yourself
  • Obsessing about recipes/collecting many
  • Skipping many meals
  • Displaying odd eating rituals/habits, like cutting up your food into little pieces
  • Binging on food and then purging
  • Using laxatives
  • Seeing yourself as overweight when others tell you that you are too thin
  • Hiding your body under baggy clothes
  • Only eating in secret

If you recognize yourself in some of these symptoms, you should consider seeing a professional for an assessment.  You could very well be suffering from an eating disorder.

The causes of eating disorders vary. Here are a few theories:

Biological Issues. Some theorize that sufferers could be predisposed to genes that make them more vulnerable to experiencing an eating disorder.

Psychological Issues.  Some people that struggle with eating disorders have psychological or emotional issues that may contribute.  They may have low self-worth, shame, or have suffered some trauma at some point in their lives.

Societal Issues. For those that live in the West, society tends to equate thinness with beauty and success, which is completely false. The media promotes this often, so it is important that men, women, and youth recognize that this type of reinforcement is simply hogwash.


Should you feel you are struggling with an eating disorder, you may benefit greatly from counselling.  You can learn to manage your symptoms and cope with stress and negative emotions with positive coping skills. As you contend with any underlying issues, freeing yourself from the pain and suffering associated with it, you might become more confident and happy with yourself- inside and out!

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Tips For Climbing Out of the Pit of Depression

DepressionEver had a season of depression that just wiped you out?  You want to feel all happy, but for some reason you just can’t. You lie in bed at night thinking how yucky your life is and you wake up in the morning dreading yet another day.

Yes, depression is a real downer.

It really is such an energy zapper, sometimes even making everyday tasks difficult to accomplish. The severely depressed have a difficult time getting the gumption to shower or even cook a meal and eat.

The good news is that you don’t have to allow depression to completely rule your life.  You may have a day or two of the blues (everyone is entitled to those), but depression and darkness do not have to be your reality for weeks, months, or years.

By all means head to your GP if you’ve tried to beat your depression and can’t. He or she will be able to assess whether you’re dealing with long term depression or some temporary general unhappiness. Should your state of depression be situational, there are things you can do to take control of some symptoms by making lifestyle changes that have been found to alleviate many symptoms of depression.

Here are some great changes you can make:

  • Exercise regularly

If you want to take control over your depression, exercise is a great way to start.  By committing to an exercise regime throughout the week, your mood may be elevated.  When we exercise, our bodies produce a chemical that makes us feel more pleasant and we also tend to feel better about ourselves, as we are being constructive with our time.  You can take a brisk walk, join a gym, engage a friend in golf or tennis, or go for a swim. The exercise does not even need to be strenuous. Simply planting flowers or a small garden is an example of calm, light exercise that will give you a boost emotionally.

  • Change your eating habits

Another great lifestyle change involves your eating habits.  It is so easy to get caught up eating unhealthy foods, which have the effect of making one feel sluggish and possibly gain weight.  Our bodies need healthy foods to be at their optimal performance. Begin to eliminate unhealthy foods one at a time and introduce healthy foods into your diet.  Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, drink plenty of water, take vitamins, and stay away from sugar as much as possible.  You will find that as you progress in eating healthier, you will feel better about yourself mentally and your body will begin to feel better as well.

  • Acquire a supportive network

Having friends or family is important, as it is oftentimes a relief to be able to share concerns, stressors, fears, etc. with a supportive person.  If you communicate your problems to a person that you trust, you might feel better after sharing your experiences with them. You can also consider going for counseling for help.  You might be able to honestly communicate your problems and receive support, becoming more aware of your emotions and thoughts with someone who has been trained in listening attentively without judging you.

  • Consider getting a pet

Pets can be very therapeutic for those who struggle with loneliness or depression.  Consider getting a cat or a dog to offer company and unconditional love.  Plenty of men and women have gained a sense of approval and feel needed as their `pets’ lavish love on them.  If you are not able to have animals in your home, you could purchase a bird or even a hamster or guinea pig.

  • Meditate

Some people have found relief from depressive symptoms by regular meditation. Even just five or ten minutes of solitude deliberately paying attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental way, may be all that is needed to get you feeling better.

  • Get out with a friend

Isolation will not do you any good or alleviate depressive symptoms. Make the effort to get out with a friend and do something that you enjoy. Being with another person, smiling, laughing, and talking will do wonders for your mood.

There are things that you can do to help alleviate symptoms of depression.  Give these tips a try for a few weeks and see if your mood improves. Sometimes you just have to dig deep and make yourself do the things you don’t really want to do to pull yourself up out of the pit of depression.  In the end, you’ll be glad you did. Today, make the decision to take action and do what you can to beat depression

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Could counselling be a choice for you?

images (1)Have you ever heard anyone saying 'this is just an excuse to wallow in misery”? If given the option would people really choose to wallow in misery as opposed to living a happy, fulfilled life? Fortunately statements like that are becoming less and less common and the stigma attached to mental health illnesses such as depression and anxiety has significantly diminished over the years. It is not so uncommon nowadays for people to look for counselling or psychotherapy as a way to overcome difficulties or as a powerful ally against the battles of mental illnesses.

A frequent misinterpretation of looking for counselling is that only weak people or ‘losers’ do it. This could not be further from the truth. As Richard Taite, founder of Cliffside Malibu, a Drug & Alcohol Addiction treatment centre in the America, said “Not only do successful people not fear therapy, they embrace it…. Psychotherapy is a tool that creates success. Smart people use it.”

Awareness of mental health illnesses has also increased in recent years in the UK. The Mental Health Foundation (UK’s leading mental health research, policy and service improvement charity) has created the Mental Health Awareness Week. For one week each May they campaign around a specific theme. This year’s theme was anxiety, one of the leading causes of mental ill-health in the world.

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)’s Governor, Dr Andrew Reeves says that the greater awareness of mental health illnesses, largely thanks to high profile people such as Alastair Campbell speaking out about it, is also relevant. "While, traditionally, things got worse and worse until the GP eventually prescribed medication, I think this growing awareness has made people much more likely to recognise and acknowledge their own mental health problems and be more proactive in seeking support at an earlier stage."

A BACP survey carried out earlier this year has revealed that 28 per cent of Britons have consulted a counsellor or a psychotherapist, compared to just one in five people in 2010. “The significant increase in the number of people consulting a counsellor or psychotherapist is evidence that people are seeing more and more value in these extremely effective interventions” says Dr Andrew Reeves.

It makes sense to think that if you had a heart condition you would look for a cardiologist, or if you had a broken arm you would be seen by an orthopaedist. Therefore with the awareness of mental health problems increasing and the stigma around it decreasing, people in the UK might find it a bit easier to look for a counsellor or psychotherapist if they feel they can benefit from it or envisage the chance of leading a happier, less stressful life.

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