What are the key signs you are suffering from a distorted body image?

body image

Body dissatisfaction and building body image resilience


One in five adults feel shame, and one third feel low because of their body image in 20194.

Distorted body image and body dissatisfaction seems to be on the increase, but how can you recognise the signs of distorted body image and how to overcome it? This article will outline some of these signs and signpost you to some methods to overcome distorted body image.


What is a distorted body image?

Body image refers to how individuals picture their body, regardless of how it looks. It is comprised of a complex network of factors including thoughts, feelings, evaluations and behaviours relating to your body1.

Body image is a dynamic concept which can change daily due to our mood, stress levels, or any external cues of the day, such as how clothes feel on your body.

Your body image can alter your behaviours, either concealing or revealing your body, or even pursuing a diet to try and change the body.

You may see articles online using the terms body image distortion, negative body image, body dissatisfaction and many more similar terms – these all refer to the same phenomenon.

However, body dissatisfaction is when there is a difference between your perceived body image and your idealised image of what your body should look like1.


What causes distorted body image?

There appears to be a range of factors that contribute to our relationship with our bodies including socialisation, physical changes within the body, and our environment and family systems.

In fact, self-recognition is assumed to have developed by the time we reach the age of two1. In your toddler years you are exposed to social norms and begin to internalise these, especially in relation to gender stereotypes and expectations.

It has been reported that 40-50% of children aged 6-12 years reported being dissatisfied with their body size / shape5. Children may start to manipulate their appearance to get approval from adults and peers – therefore some researchers claim body image is a learned behaviour and not something humans naturally do1.


How do I know if my body image is distorted?

We are all exposed to the same messaging in the media, yet we don’t all have distorted body image.

Body image is a social phenomenon, with one in five adults reporting images used in advertising had caused them to worry about their body image4, with those experiencing any form of teasing about their body as a child more likely to have distorted body image1.

There may also be a link between body image and self-esteem, with high self-esteem protecting us from negative thoughts about our body and reducing any anxiety that others will judge our body negatively1.


What are the key signs you may be suffering from a distorted body image?

  • Feeling unhappy with your appearance
  • Losing interest in activities that once made you happy
  • Experiencing low self-esteem
  • You have trouble eating in front of others
  • Constantly comparing yourself to other people
  • Avoiding mirrors
  • Avoiding social situations because you’re worried about what you look like
  • Hyper fixating on specific body parts and engaging in body checking behaviours such as grabbing or poking different body areas
  • You feel guilty when eating or drinking because of how you look

We all may experience some of the above from time to time but a key sign you’re suffering from distorted body image is a preoccupation with any of the above.

If you constantly compare your body to what it used to look like or what you think it should be, you are experiencing body image distortion – and if you then act on this through activities such as dieting, cosmetics and products, or even to the extent of surgery, then you may be experiencing this distortion6.


How to overcome distorted body image?

Firstly, know that you are not alone in your experience. Many people are experience bad body image.

As we aim to overcome distorted body image, we should focus on building a positive body image, or even body acceptance. Researcher, Catherine Cook-Cottone2, says cultivating a positive body image plays a powerful role in recovery from an eating disorder.

Body acceptance involves agreement between the inner aspect of yourself such as thoughts and feelings with a concept of the body that accepts all shapes, sizes and unique qualities – as well as the emotional protection of kindness toward the body2.

In a study asking those with high body satisfaction about their body’s, they commented on their ‘flaws’ but were not troubled by them, rather accepting them as part of themselves2.

We are here to support you on your body acceptance journey with our top tips to cultivate better body image!


  1. Prioritise your mental health

There is an established link between negative body image and mental health problems. Over one third of UK adults have felt depressed or anxious because of their body image4. By working on taking actions that will improve your mental health, you will, in turn, improve your body image.


  1. Notice how you talk to yourself

Your thoughts create your reality and journaling is an effective tool to begin observing your inner dialogue. When you have a negative thought about your body, write it down and then challenge yourself to write three neutral statements. It may feel challenging at first but the more your practice the easier it becomes.


  1. Detox your social media

Find what works for you as stepping back completely from social media may be most beneficial if it contributes to a negative body image. However, if you use it for social connection, prioritise cultivating your feed, setting daily limits and seek out body positive accounts that add to your life, rather than take away.


  1. Set goals to improve body function

Changing our goals from appearance-focused to function-focused is more sustainable when we are healing our relationship with our body. Focus on what your body allows you to do every single day such as run, walk, play, dance, swim! You may choose to set goals such as improving your cardiovascular fitness, getting stronger or improving your flexibility.


  1. Engage in embodiment practices

The aim of embodiment is to come back home to our body where we feel a deep sense of connection, appreciation, and attunement with our body. Many individuals we work with at EHL are disembodied, meaning they are out of touch with many sensations and emotions that arise in their body. You can start to practice embodiment through many practices such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga or dance.


  1. Cultivate an environment to support a positive body image2.

Surround yourself with other humans who don’t hyperfocus on their body. If you know someone who is struggling with their body image, we have a post on supporting them in a way that is most helpful.

If you want more support, we are here to help you every step of the way!

Contact us at [email protected].

To learn more about our group coaching programme head to THRIVE to join a safe and supportive community of like-minded women on their journey towards body confidence, food freedom and self-love.


Team EHL x



Hosseini and Padhy 2019 https://europepmc.org/article/nbk/nbk546582

Cook-Cottone 2015 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1740144515000285

Braun et al 2016 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1740144516301000

Mental https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/body-image-report/exec-summary

Smolak L. Body image development in childhood. In: Cash TF, Smolak L, editors. Body image: a handbook of science, practice, and prevention. 2nd ed. New York: The Guildford Press; 2011.

Phillips et al 2001 Surgical and nonpsychiatric medical treatment of patients with body dysmorphic disorder https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11815686/

5 Safe alternatives to emotional eating

emotional eating

How to stop emotional eating and what to do instead


We’ve all seen movies showing post-breakup ice cream cravings to deal with heartbreak – but should we be worried about using food as an emotional crutch? And is it harming our health? In this article we will look at emotional eating, how to deal with it in general, and more specifically the relationship between emotional eating and stress.


What is emotional eating?

Emotional eating is often defined as our tendency to overeat as a response to experiencing negative emotions1. In German, the term Kummerspeck means grief bacon4 and refers to eating when sad.

We should remember that emotional eating can be used to refer to eating of any kind – over or undereating – driven by a psychological and / or emotional trigger, whether that’s a positive or negative emotion.

We eat food that is nostalgic and associated with happy memories as well as consuming when we are bored or anxious. It is only when we over-rely on food in response to negative feelings that we may need to be concerned.

Hunger that causes emotional eating often comes on abruptly in response to a stressor and leads to a longing for foods that are easily palatable or associated with positive experiences. Do you find yourself eating more when you are stressed or anxious? Or do you eat when you are bored?

As we reach for these foods, emotional eating can lead to feelings of guilt directly after the experience. If this is something you often encounter, it may be time to investigate whether you are eating emotionally.


Why should we be concerned about emotional eating?

Links have been found between emotional eating and depression, as well as binge eating and various eating disorders5. Emotional eaters also tend to report higher levels of body dissatisfaction and an increased desire for thinness5.

A 2013 study found that 40% of participants increased their food intake when stressed, while 40% decreased their intake3

Emotional eating may be considered an example of disordered eating, with a risk of tipping over into the territory of an eating disorder.


Emotional eating and stress

When we are stressed, our bodies quickly release adrenalin and cortisol as part of our fight or flight response. The adrenalin temporarily lowers your appetite, but it is fleeting.  The stress-hormone – cortisol lingers and its role being to replenish the body long after the stress has passed. If chronically raised, cortisol drives you to eat more and store body fat in the visceral areas – deep within your abdominal area surrounding your organs.

This in part explains why when you’re really stressed, there’s an urge to have to do something, anything.  And it’s usually something easy and comforting – like eating or drinking. 

In essence, your raised cortisol levels increase your desire for high carbohydrate-rich food– and once you give in to it once – once turns into twice and three times… and your brain learns a shortcut to feel a sense of comfort. A habit is now formed.


How to deal with emotional eating


  1. Identify the reason why you want to eat

Methods such as journaling may be useful to help you notice any patterns of emotional eating as well as help you acknowledge what it is you are feeling. This may be a process that allows you to work on embodiment and listening to internal cues around food – especially in relation to hunger.


  1. Diversify your toolbox to deal with your emotions

Eating releases a rush of our happy hormones, including dopamine and serotonin. So, it makes sense we would want to continue eating if we are feeling down, overwhelmed, or negative. But food is not the sole source of these happy hormones! Dopamine is released in response to sunshine, listening to music, and connecting and socialising with other human beings.


  1. And, breathe!

Breathing exercises and mindfulness can be a great resource to help deal with emotions and cause the body to move away from the fight or flight mode that comes with stress, into a relaxed, calm and present state.

Utilising mindfulness might mean that when you reach for food when anxious you slow down and appreciate all aspects of that food, and how it makes you feel. Are you still using it to soothe your emotions? Maybe! But the difference here is that you are consciously choosing to eat emotionally with awareness2 and attunement.


  1. Tap into your social network or join a support group

This will allow you to feel less alone in your experiences. Equally hanging out with friends and family will allow you to circumvent thinking about food or being bored as a trigger for eating.


  1. Be mindful of what you eat and how food makes you feel

Again, journaling might be helpful here, it will allow you to see how food makes you feel emotionally and physically. Can any associations be found between certain foods and their effect on you, especially any regular bouts of emotional eating after regular occurrences or periods of stress?


  1. Seek professional help

A 2018 study found that participants who ate emotionally believed that it would be impossible stop. Our thoughts create our reality and us human beings have unlimited potential. Most of us are just scraping the surface of our powers. Fear not friends, you inherently possess the wisdom, courage, and tenacity to make powerful changes in your life! It’s NEVER too late. You can achieve food freedom, body confidence, and shape your new reality.

If you are not where you want to be in your food and body freedom journey, think about where you are holding back. You have one shot at this thing called life and you are worth investing in. Want more support? Email us at  [email protected] to discuss group coaching or one-to-one tailored support.


Kacie Shoulders, ANutr

Team EHL



Frayn et al 2018 – Emotional eating and weight regulation: a qualitative study of compensatory behaviours and concerns – https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s40337-018-0210-6

Mindful – A Mindful Approach to Emotional Eating https://www.mindful.org/a-mindful-approach-to-emotional-eating/

Yau and Potenza 2013 – Stress and Eating Behaviours https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4214609/

Reichenberger et al 2019 – Emotional eating in healthy individuals and patients with an eating disorder: evidence from psychometric, experimental and naturalistic studies https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/proceedings-of-the-nutrition-society/article/emotional-eating-in-healthy-individuals-and-patients-with-an-eating-disorder-evidence-from-psychometric-experimental-and-naturalistic-studies/971ADF9FDF616EB6A7CCAACD76F68493

Braden et al 2018 – Eating when depressed, anxious, bored, or happy: Are emotional eating types associated with unique psychological and physical health correlates? https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666317315933

How can I stop the feeling of loneliness?

loneliness mental health awareness

Mental Health Awareness Week 2022


Between October 2020 to February 2021, 7.2% of adults reported often or always feeling lonely1 with the government and Office for National Statistics currently mapping how COVID has affected how lonely people are.

This trend of increasing loneliness may be what led the Mental Health Foundation to declare it the theme of this year’s mental health awareness week.

This article will set out what mental health awareness week is all about, and why, if you’re feeling lonely, you might not be that alone after all.


What is Mental Health Awareness week?

Mental Health Awareness week was created in 20012 and is celebrated worldwide, with a different theme each year around mental health.

This year, Mental Health Awareness week will take place between the 9th and 15th May on the theme of loneliness.

The aim of the week is to encourage conversations around loneliness, as well as steps we can take as individuals to help improve our mental health.


Am I lonely?

Loneliness is described as when we perceive ourselves to be isolated, compared to what we perceive we should be. You may feel lonely even if surrounded by people. It is all about our perception.


How many people are lonely?

“Loneliness is increasingly recognised as the next critical public health issue” – Lim et al 20204

A survey of UK adults during the implementation of COVID-19 restrictions found that 24% reported experiencing loneliness7.

It’s important to note this is self-reported, and whether loneliness is reported is a concern for researchers. It might be hard to know how many people are lonely if they are socially isolated or don’t have access to such surveys.

According to the Office for National Statistics3 you may be more likely to experience loneliness if you are in poor health, single or widowed, between the ages of 16 and 24 and renting rather than owning your home.

However, loneliness can affect anyone, independent of your age, sex, education level and ethnicity6 – it is a condition that can affect any of us at any point.

Loneliness can be triggered by many ‘normal’ life events such as moving house, starting a new job, illness, becoming a parent – it may even occur as more than one of these happen at one time such as starting a new job while moving house4.

These events may even seem to be positive to the person experiencing them, but they require a period of adjustment socially and so can cause loneliness. If you are feeling lonely despite moving for a promotion, or after becoming a parent, know that this may be more common than you think.


How does loneliness impact physical and mental wellbeing?

We should always be careful saying one thing causes another, as our physical and mental health are affected by so many things.

Research has found associations between loneliness and disruption of sleep, cognitive ability, depression, anxiety and even non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s4,5.

We recently wrote an article on human connectedness and eating disorders, in which we shared studies finding that better social connectedness was associated with reduced eating disorder symptoms.

Recovery is also influenced by how much support someone feels they have within their family and friend groups, alongside their health professional.

Loneliness can be both a product and cause of poor mental and physical health, creating a cycle that can be hard to get out of. But fear not, there is hope!


What can I do if I am lonely?

Firstly, remember even if you feel lonely, you’re not alone – most of us experience loneliness at some point or another in our life. It can feel hard to take steps to combat loneliness, so read on for our top tips for loneliness: 

  1. Find a friend or family member that you feel you can trust and talk to about how you are feeling. A problem shared is a problem halved!
  1. Strengthen friendships that you currently have. Remember, it is our responsibility to nurture our relationships. Make time to connect with old friends or schedule a walk or coffee date. There’s nothing better than reminiscing on past experiences and sharing a funny story with a friend you have known forever. 
  1. Look into peer support groups that allow you to share your experience and connect with other like-minded folks.
  1. Join a class or group in your local area such as a book club, sports club, rock climbing centre, tennis club, the list goes on! Find a hobby you love and nurture that part of you. Other people will love that hobby too and you may even make new friends through shared experiences.
  1. Spend time in nature to boost your mood – this was the theme of last year’s mental health awareness week and has been shown that people who are more connected to nature are usually happier in life. Why not connect this with tip with tip number four and find a hobby outside such as gardening, cycling or rollerblading. Your inner child will be bursting at the seams!
  1. Detox from social media if you find yourself comparing to others frequently. Social media can be used a wonderful tool for connection and meeting people you wouldn’t otherwise, however excessive social media use can exacerbate negative body image and feelings of inadequacy and loneliness.
  1. Make time for self-reflection, journaling, and mindfulness in your life. Is there a local yoga studio or church can join in your area?
  1. If loneliness is significantly impacting your quality of life in a negative way, consider seeking professional support from a health care professional or helpline.


How can I access support?

There are a range of health professionals and forums available to you online. If you are struggling with loneliness, secret eating, and body shame, we are here to help!

Join us in THRIVE – the missing puzzle piece of food and body freedom – A practical and supportive step-by-step framework to heal your relationship with food in 12-weeks, without the fear, guilt or overwhelm. In THRIVE we deliver weekly live support groups to help you nurture a healthy relationship with food and connect with other courageous people who will support you along the way. Because you can never have too many cheerleaders in your life!

Kacie Shoulders, ANutr

Team EHL x


  • Cacioppo and Cacioppo 2018 – The growing problem of loneliness


  • The Mental Health Foundation – Loneliness during the Coronavirus Pandemic


Four mindset-blocks holding you back from recovery and how to overcome them

mindset for eating disorder recovery

How fear is getting in the way of your recovery


In recent articles, we unpacked some of the key 3 signs you are ready to recover and how to stay motivated in eating disorder recovery. Today, we will explore some of the barriers that may be holding you back from choosing recovery and some shifts we can make to let go of these potentially destructive barriers to our healing.


ONE: Fear of failure

When it comes to eating disorders, pressure often exists to get things perfect when living with or recovering from one. 

It can be challenging to break the cycle of intense exercise or restrictive eating patterns, making us feel unprepared to recover, with a high potential failure rate. In addition, we may have tried and failed to heal entirely in the past, which can often play in our minds and hold us back from believing we have the power to recover.

To help find some motivation and affirmation on why you have what it takes to recover, why not try making a list of all the things you have succeeded in during your life so far? 

Maybe you won or outperformed others in a competition that was important to you, or you were offered a place with your dream job or university. Perhaps you picked up a new skill or hobby recently and are starting to feel confident and empowered in your abilities. 

No matter how small or how long ago these may have been – celebrate your achievements and use them as a reminder that you are capable and worthy of meaningful change when it comes to your relationship with food, too. Positive reinforcement is essential to appreciating our bodies and minds in recovery. (1)


TWO: Fear of change

When we have lived with an eating disorder for a proportion of our lives, of course, there is a level of unfamiliarity when it comes to recovery and healing. 

The idea of recognising and listening to our hunger cues may be a foreign one, and we may be so distant from them that the idea of even beginning to reconnect with our bodily intuition may seem almost impossible.

To help shed a more positive light on the prospect of change, think about a time when you have had to adapt to a change. Perhaps it was moving to a new home, town, or country, losing a loved one, a changing relationship dynamic, or a bold career move. 

The fact that you are still living through it all now is a sign that you are brave, strong, and resilient.

Sometimes change benefits us – moving home allows us to branch out, meet new people and become more independent as adults. Ending a toxic relationship or friendship can enable us to invite more high-value connections into our life. 

Choosing recovery teaches us to show up for ourselves and accept our bodies for what they are. We can appreciate all the fantastic ways they serve us and enable us to live our everyday lives.

Achieving meaningful change concerning recovery will shift our mindset to focus on more than just food and exercise, holding space for all of the other beautiful facet’s life has to offer us.


THREE: Fear of success

The fear of success can be another critical mindset holding us back from recovery, such as the fear of things working out and milestones being achieved on the road to recovery. 

We may be concerned with what our next step might look like and whether we will still feel like ‘us’. For example, we might have a fear of not liking our bodies if we restore our weight. 

Will we look or feel any different? Will others around us still accept us and give us the same compassion that they may have offered during our ED?

Will we be accepted in society if we look different, and how connected will we feel to our identity?

These questions are all perfectly normal and valid – recovery can certainly feel like an unfamiliar environment to be in, especially when we may have been consumed by our eating disorder and our bodily cues and regular eating habits need to be re-established.

Alternatively, you may have achieved some degree of success in the past in recovery, but this may not have been enough to achieve total recovery and food freedom. This may make us believe that we are incapable of reaching a point of full recovery where we feel healed.

Start by defining what a successful endpoint may look like for you. Work backwards to see what baby steps you can take daily and incrementally to achieve this larger goal. 

Any journey we make is sprinkled with flaws and mishaps, so it’s important to plan for these and recognise them when they arise, showing ourselves compassion and understanding to overcome and continue forwards regardless of the obstacles in our way.


FOUR: There will never be a perfect time. 

When it comes to any goal, it’s perfectly normal to have barriers and roadblocks in our minds that prevent us from taking the steps towards it. 

Maybe it’s that we are too busy, or we have an upcoming wedding or event we want to look our best for, or perhaps arguably the most powerful barrier of all – our mental health – may prevent us from seeking and achieving recovery. It can be helpful to look inwards and identify these roadblocks and how we might overcome them. 

We also may have this idealised narrative of being totally ‘healed’ – when the reality is imperfections are a part of the human experience. We will constantly be faced with ongoing challenges and experiences regardless of whether we are in recovery or not, so it’s important to think about what healing means to you individually. 

Studies show that participants with an eating disorder find that a looser definition of the endpoint in recovery can be more beneficial than a rigid number on a scale or other marker. (2) As we know, recovery isn’t solely about weight restoration, either. 

Consider what a good relationship with food may look like for you and use this as a starting point to navigate your recovery. The ‘perfect’ time may never be clear – so fuelling yourself with a drive to consistently work on your journey with food and choose a path of healing is sensible and sustainable.

Remember, recovery is not about creating the “perfect” life, rather developing the tools and building emotional resilience when life feels hard.


Ready to get started with us? Book in a free discovery call today or read more about how we have helped previous participants like Anastasiia.


Priya Chotai, BSc ANutr

EHL Team x 



Koller KA, Thompson KA, Miller AJ, Walsh EC, Bardone-Cone AM. Body appreciation and intuitive eating in eating disorder recovery. Int J Eat Disord. 2020 Aug;53(8):1261-1269. doi: 10.1002/eat.23238. Epub 2020 Feb 5. PMID: 32020677.

LaMarre A, Rice C. Recovering Uncertainty: Exploring Eating Disorder Recovery in Context. Cult Med Psychiatry. 2021 Dec;45(4):706-726. doi: 10.1007/s11013-020-09700-7. Epub 2021 Jan 2. PMID: 33389444.