The History of Women’s Ideal Body Shape

history of body ideals

Body ideals change but your worth never does

 

Throughout history, the ‘ideal body shape’ for women has been constantly and abruptly changing, with new trends around every corner.

Historically, women have been objectified, scrutinised, sexualised, and crucified for what they look like.

Society has continued to construct new ideals to strive for, ideals which, often, cannot even be achieved naturally. Interestingly, these socially constructed standards have been vastly different and polarising over time, meaning the ideal body type has never stayed the same for very long.

This article will take a brief dive into the history books to explore what the ideal body shape for women has looked like throughout the years, and what this looks like today.

 

2400-2200BC: The Paleolithic era

‘The Venus of Willendorf’ was one of the first pieces of art ever discovered, and a primitive symbol of the idealised woman of the time1. “Voluptuous and well-nourished” was the ideal, with this sculpture sporting large breasts, an emphasised stomach, and wide hips.

 

1100BC: Ancient Egypt

The Ancient Egyptians viewed a woman as being fertile and, therefore, more desirable, if she was slender and tall, with narrow shoulders and a high waist.

 

500-300BC: Ancient Greece

Ancient Greek philosopher Plato coined the ‘golden ratio’, a term used to this day for judging how beautiful a face was based on its symmetry. Plump, full bodies with ample bosoms, big backs, and thick thighs and arms were seen as the ultimate symbol of virility in Ancient Greece.

 

1400-1700AD: Italian Renaissance period

Famous Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo, Botticelli and Raphael would paint their ideas of ‘beautiful women’ at the time, whose bodies had rounded features and soft faces.

The Renaissance represented a transition of sorts, from women being seen less as objects of fertility, and more as objects of beauty and lust.

 

1837-1901: Victorian/Edwardian England

Women of the time opted for tight corsets and wide, bell-shaped skirts to emphasise their figures.

Charles Dana Gibson illustrated the ‘Gibson Girl’ of the 1890s, who had a cinched-in waist and a large bust; but was more on the slimmer side to previous eras2. This represented the beauty standards of the time, as women would try their hardest to mirror the curvy figure of the Gibson Girl.

 

1920s: Twenties era boyish figure

The twenties were, in a sense, an act of rebellion against the more feminine figure sought after in previous years. Women wanted slim, small frames with no curves, styling short hair and shorter hemlines.

Due to the invention of bathroom scales in 1917 and the rise of department stores with full-length mirrors, an obsession over women’s body types was ignited and fueled even further.

 

1930-1950s: Hollywood era hourglass

During Great Depression that followed the twenties, people couldn’t afford to worry as much about their figure. However, after this period ended, the hourglass figure made its peak, with bigger breasts, wide hips and a slim waist becoming popular once again.

 

1960-1970s: Swinging Sixties

Thin was officially back in. Women favoured petite, delicate figures and long, slender legs.

 

1980s: Eighties era fitness model body

During the eighties, a new fitness rage was sweeping the globe. The goal was tall, tanned and thin, but slightly athletic looking, with toned bodies, smaller waists and narrower hips popular among women.

This decade also saw a noticeable spike in anorexia, potentially due to the new infatuation with exercise regimes and workout videos. In fact, one publication even pronounced anorexia “the disease of the decade”.3

 

1990s: Heroin chic

A waifish, frail appearance was the look of the decade. The nineties showcased the thinnest female ideal in history, in comparison to most of the previous time periods leaning towards a fuller figure.

Women modelled themselves over skinny, androgynous, almost feeble-looking celebrities of the time, most of whom would’ve been using illicit drugs to maintain their thin frame.

 

2000-2010s: Plastic surgery revolution

The 21st century has seen a massive rise is cosmetic surgeries such as liposuction, Brazilian butt lifts, tummy tucks, face fillers, jawline fat-dissolving injections, breast implants and many others. The ‘ideal body shape’ for women has gradually become more and more artificially augmented, to the point where it is physically impossible to achieve through diet and exercise alone.

Plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures have increased in popularity at an almost exponential rate, with surgical procedures increasing by 54% and non-surgical procedures increasing 44% in 2021 when compared to previous years4.

 

2022: What next?

Beauty standards seem to have become more and more unrealistic, unattainable, and unrepresentative of the average woman as time has gone by. Over the years, the ‘ideal body type’ for women has changed and warped drastically, with new looks becoming the standard and replacing previous physical goals at a rapid rate.

No amount of squatting in the gym will get you a booty the size of Kim Kardashian’s…

(unless you have $30,000 to spend on a Brazilian butt lift!)

This just goes to show that perhaps we should be taking the ever-changing ‘ideal body shape’ with a pinch of salt, and that we shouldn’t be pressuring ourselves into attaining the unattainable.

It’s time to ditch the culturally ingrained standards and learn to love ourselves for who we are – normal, beautiful human beings.

If you’re interested in learning more about intuitive eating and rebuilding a healthy relationship with your body, we can help you out with our tailored 1:1 coaching. Drop us an email at hello@embodyhealthlondon.com to get started on your journey into embodiment, empowerment and embracing eating!

 

EHL Team x

Robin Wileman, EHL Student Dietitian Intern

 

References

1 Weber, G., Lukeneder, A., Harzhauser, M., Mitteroeker, P., Wurm, L., Kainz, S., Haack, F., Antl-Weiser, W., & Kern, A. (2022). The microstructure and the origin of the Venus from Willendorf. Scientific Reports, 12(2926). [online] available at: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-06799-z

2 Yellis, K. A. (1969). Prosperity’s Child: Some Thoughts on the Flapper. American Quarterly, 21(1), 44–64. [online] available at: https://doi.org/10.2307/2710772

3 Tredinnick, D. (2002). The Exercise Book. Meanjin, 61(4), 58–64. [online] available at: https://search.informit.org/doi/abs/10.3316/informit.220099324306013

4 American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. (2021). Procedural Statistics 2020-2021.  [online] available at: https://cdn.theaestheticsociety.org/media/statistics/2021-TheAestheticSocietyStatistics.pdf

Diet culture throughout history

history of diet culture

The history of diets

 

What is diet culture?

To understand the origins of diet culture, it’s important to first establish what is actually meant by the term “diet culture”.

Diet culture can be understood as a system of socially constructed and conditioned beliefs that thinness is synonymous with health and associated with a sense of moral virtue. It often offers a culturally prescribed body shape – an ideal that preaches an ever-shrinking, “skinny”, and sickly form, often only attainable through restriction and deprivation.

This system advocates weight loss as a method of attaining a higher health-status and sense of virtuosity, and consequently oppresses those who do not meet this thin-ideal. Certain foods and food groups are elevated, while others are demonised.

 

Where did diet culture begin?

Diet culture can be traced back to as early as Ancient Greek times, where moderation and regulation of food intake was promoted to attain “calmness”. It also represented a marker of supreme self-control – one of the highest virtues in Ancient Greece1.

Within Ancient Greek society, controlling food intake was utilized as a means for the individual to attain not only health, but an ‘aesthetically pleasing’ body. A healthy body was, within this historical context, a balanced body.

 

Anorexia mirabilis – holiness and starvation

Following the establishment of Christendom, many early Christians came to regard the body as the enemy of the soul. Founders such as St. Anthony, St. Augustine, the early Desert Fathers, St. Jerome, and St. Basil would engage in excruciatingly long fasts and self-deprivation as a means to attain communion with God and purify the body2.

This act, known as anorexia mirabilis or ‘holy anorexia’, could be understood as the basis for modern day diet culture’s association between virtuosity and dietary choices and the apparent morality of food (i.e. “good foods” vs. “bad foods”).

The idea of living in a larger body as being a sign of immorality and a lack of self-discipline persists in today’s culture.

However, in modern times this takes the form of self-proclaimed fitness gurus judging how “good” or “bad” clients have been based on how vigorously they’ve exercised, and how consistently they’ve stuck to a diet of plain chicken, broccoli, and rice.

 

The first diet book – Discourses on the Sober Life: The Art of Living Long

Despite the cultural revolution sweeping across the world in the 1500s, the idea of obesity and depravity persisted across society, with perceived gluttony still regarded as sinful.

In fact, Venetian nobleman Luigi Cornaro published the first diet book, Discourses on the Sober Life: The Art of Living Long, which was heavily celebrated at the time.

Cornaro began an extremely strict and restrictive diet from his 30s onwards, after previously indulging in a life of excess. It is even reported that he only ate approximately 100g of food per day, with the overall goal of attaining longevity3.

Subsequently, several other diet-related books were published throughout the 1500- 1700s. Therefore, Cornaro’s book, among many others, paved the way for 19th century dietary practices and the emergence of modern-day diet culture.

 

1800s – the emergence of modern diet culture and dieting

Throughout the mid to late 1800s, the ideal frame for both men and women was thin and determined to be romantic in a sickly way.

Clothing became very form fitting across both sexes – women were laced into bone-crushingly tight corsets, while men were trussed up in breaches, resulting in radical diets to try and maintain this silhouette.

For example, famous poet Lord Byron’s vinegar diet, in which he’d drink vinegar several times a day with water (does it remind you of the apple cider vinegar diet of today at all?).  Several Victorian women were reported to have died from imitating their romantic idol4.

Around 1850, the idea of “Victorian Anorexia” developed, where women would undergo self-imposed starvation to look as thin and frail as possible. As a result, it was during this period that the first real diet-retreats, calorie counting books and low-carb diets were produced and promoted to the masses as a means of weight-management.

This concept has even perpetuated throughout more recent years, with diet culture of the 1990s romanticising a ‘heroin chic’ physique, an extremely slender and feeble body type.

 

2022 – quick fixes & fad diet crazes

Fast forward to 2022: we’ve heard of, read about, tried (and probably ‘failed’ at) the Cabbage Soup diet, or the Grapefruit diet, Intermittent Fasting, the One-day diet, the Atkins, the MIND diet, the Russian Air Force diet, going Paleo, detox diets, the magic-bullet diets, keto, the 5:2 diet4, and many other flawed, quick-fix dietary protocols.

However, all these fad diets require some form of restriction, deprivation, and the demonisation of one or more food groups.

This dieting mindset is extremely toxic and harmful, especially when it is being advertised to an increasingly young audience.

Diet culture has been further amplified by advancements in technology over recent years, with apps such as MyFitnessPal to keep track of your activity levels and micromanage your calorie intake. It enables you to set yourself goals founded on a conditioned ideal, one that society has ingrained into us as being the ultimate achievement.

We can constantly engage in this endless cycle of self-surveillance digitally, in culmination with the little stomach pinches, prods, and body checks. However, it is vital to remember that weight loss is not the panacea to all mental and physical ailments.

 

How can we dismantle decades of disembodiment?

If we are to learn anything from history, it is that unrealistic body goals are always going to be unattainable, and that diets fundamentally do not work. If they truly did, why would we have been stuck in this timeline of ever-changing diet culture since the 9th century BC?

In a society fuelled by diet culture, there will always be a new goal or fad with the same harmful, unsatisfactory result – eroded trust with your body, slowed metabolism and inadequate nutrition, among many others.

Diet culture is a belief system, one which you can chose to stop believing in.

 Instead, re-direct all that wasted energy into believing in yourself instead: choose to believe that you are more than just a body or a number on a scale.

You always have the option to lead a life beyond the confines of counting calories and pondering portions.

If you’re ready to reclaim your body, dismantle diet culture, and practice a more intuitive approach to eating, email us today at hello@embodyhealthlondon.com.

We’d love to help you nurture and build a healthier relationship with food and your body. This is your birthright.

 

EHL Team x

 

 

References

1 Yanis, T (2009), ‘The historical origins of the basic concepts of health promotion and education: the role of ancient Greek philosophy and medicine’, Health Promotion International, 24(2), pp.185-192. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/heapro/dap006

2 Griggin, J and Berry, E.M (2003), ‘A modern day holy anorexia? Religious language in advertising and anorexia nervosa in the West, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 57, pp. 43-51.

3 Le Conteur, D and Simpron, S (2018), ‘90th Anniversary Commentary: Caloric Restriction Effects on Aging’, The Journal of Nutrition, 148(10), pp. 1656 – 1659. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxy146

4 Foxcroft, Louise (2011) Calories and Corsets: A History of Dieting over 2000 Years, Londone: Pinecroft Books.

Why am I still binge eating if I am eating enough?

why am I binge eating?

 

What is binge eating?

Contrary to what you might think, binge eating is not the same thing as overeating.

Binge eating consists of episodes involving eating large quantities of food in a short space of time, until you feel uncomfortably full or even sick. Those who binge eat usually do so alone, and will often experience feelings of shame, embarrassment, and guilt after an episode.

According to statistics, binge eating disorder affects up to 2.8 million adults across the USA, making it more prevalent than both anorexia and bulimia1.

 

What causes binge eating?

A mixture of several different factors can contribute towards binge eating behaviours – unfortunately, there is no single cause that can be easily addressed.

Binge eating is often linked with psychological factors such as stress, depression and anxiety. Several studies have found that stress and anxiety can significantly increase the risk for a binge eating episode2, evidencing the relationship between mood and food.

Dietary restriction is also a big factor that can lead to binge eating episodes.

Restricting your food intake makes these foods seem more desirable and rewarding, causing you to crave them more. Continued restriction will also make you hungrier, increasing the chance of binge eating.

 

But I’m eating enough – so why am I still binge eating?

As mentioned, binge eating does not always stem from biological hunger or cravings – a lot of the time, the root cause is more psychological.

You may be using food as a coping mechanism to try and deal with negative emotions such as stress or anxiety, even if you’re not biologically hungry.

When we eat foods we enjoy, our brains release a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This chemical is associated with pleasure and motivation, making us more likely to seek out whatever it is causing the dopamine release – in this case, food3.

Therefore, if you find yourself binge eating even when not physically hungry, it may be because your body is seeking a dopamine rush to negate negative emotions.

 

Our top THREE tips for avoiding binge eating 

 

1. Say goodbye to dieting and restriction

The key to breaking the cycle of binge eating is to let go of holding yourself back. Not only is constant restriction going to affect your physical wellbeing, but it will also take a toll on your mental health.

Even if you do feel like you are eating enough, you may still be stuck in the restricting mentality, which can be physically and emotionally draining. Shaming and guilt-tripping yourself for eating certain foods is not healthy – there is no such things as a ‘bad’ food!

Through allowing yourself to find food freedom, you can make the first steps in overcoming binge eating once and for all.

 

2. Tune in to your body and your mind

Becoming more in touch with your thoughts and feelings will allow you to get know yourself better, making you more adept at understanding what your body needs.

If you feel hungry, listen to those hunger cues, and allow yourself to eat. If you’re craving a specific food, tune in to those signals and let yourself have it. After all, your body knows you better than anyone else!

Similarly, if you’re experiencing a lot of negative emotions, try to understand why this might be, and whether you might need some extra support in dealing with them. Which brings us on to tip number three…

 

3. Seek out professional help

Recovery does not have to be a journey you embark on alone. If you are experiencing binge eating and feel that it may be stemming from a place of unmet emotional needs, there is no shame in reaching out for help. In fact, sometimes this is one of the most helpful things you can do!

Here at EHL, we provide tailored, 1:1 coaching to help you improve your relationship with food. For specialised support in your recovery from qualified healthcare professionals, get in touch with us today at hello@embodyhealthlondon.com

 

 

References

1 Hull, M. (2022, May 26). Binge Eating Disorder Facts and Statistics. The Recovery Village. https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/binge-eating/binge-eating-statistics/

2 Rosenbaum, D. L., & White, K. S. (2015). The relation of anxiety, depression, and stress to binge eating behavior. Journal of Health Psychology, 20(6), 887–898. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105315580212 

3 Bello, N. T., & Hajnal, A. (2010). Dopamine and binge eating behaviors. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 97(1), 25–33. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pbb.2010.04.016

Why am I secret eating and how do I stop?

how to stop secret eating

Feel more in control around food

 

What is secret eating?

As you may have already guessed, secret eating is a form of disordered eating where someone will deliberately hide what they are eating, or how much they are eating, from other people.

This may involve finding a place to eat where they know nobody will see them, or only eating at times where nobody is likely to be around – for example, staying up late to eat after everybody else has gone to bed.

Secret eating behaviours can begin in childhood and continue long into adulthood, forming a vicious cycle that may seem impossible to break. In fact, one study found that 27.2% of children reported sneaking, hiding, or hoarding food1, while another study demonstrated how this figure may be as high as 34% in adolescents2.

In a further study, 54% of adult participants with diagnosed binge eating disorder admitted to secretive eating, separate to their binge eating behaviour3.

 

Why am I eating in secret?

Secret eating is often driven by psychological factors such as stress, guilt, shame, or feeling like you are out of control. Eating by yourself, on your own terms, is one way of regaining this control and avoiding perceived judgment from others surrounding your eating habits.

This behaviour can stem from early on in development, especially if you have been raised with a lot of negative associations surrounding food. This may be from your peers, diet culture in the media, societal standards or even from your own family.

In fact, the same study that found 27.2% of children engaged in secret eating also discovered that 57.5% of parents involved endorsed parental control of feeding.

If you have developed secret eating behaviours through guilt, fear, shame, embarrassment or simply wanting to be in control, this can be a tough habit to break. Luckily, we have a few pieces of advice that may help you get on top of your secret eating once and for all.

 

Our top 3 tips for stopping secret eating:

 

  1. Be compassionate and accepting towards yourself

The first step in overcoming secret eating is to show yourself compassion. Eating should never be something to be ashamed of or hidden – it is something that should be enjoyed and shared with others!

Being accepting of your eating habits and being kinder towards yourself about those habits is key to developing a healthier relationship with food. Diet culture has taught us to feel guilt and shame surrounding certain foods, but this mindset is extremely damaging and will only help contribute to the cycle of secret eating.

It’s important to remember that no food is inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – food is nutrients, nourishment, and enjoyment!

 

2. Find alternative ways of regaining control

Eating in secret is not the only way of feeling in control – there are many other methods you can use which are not only more productive, but more empowering.

Finding something you enjoy doing can enable you to distract yourself from any negative emotions you may be experiencing, especially those which may make you feel driven to secret eating.

For example, many people find they get a lot of enjoyment from things like creating art, listening to their favourite music or engaging in physical activity. This might also help you to get that sense of control from something other than secret eating.

 

3. Speak to a qualified professional

One of the best things you can do to help heal your relationship with food is to talk to a healthcare specialist, such as a dietitian. They will be able to give you the support you need to break the cycle of secret eating once and for all, so you can finally find food freedom.

At EHL, that’s exactly what we’re here for!

If you’re struggling with secret eating and would like expert advice on how to escape this habit, we can help. Our team of registered dietitians are here to provide you with tailored, 1:1 coaching that will enable you to rebuild a healthy relationship with food and feel empowered, not ashamed of your eating habits.

 

Contact us now at hello@embodyhealthlondon.com for more information!

 

EHL Team x

 Robin Wileman, EHL student dietitian intern

 

References

1 Sonneville, K. R., Rifas-Shiman, S. L., Haines, J., Gortmaker, S., Mitchell, K. F., Gillman, M. W., & Taveras, E. M. (2013). Associations of Parental Control of Feeding with Eating in the Absence of Hunger and Food Sneaking, Hiding, and Hoarding. Childhood Obesity, 9(4), 346–349. https://doi.org/10.1089/chi.2012.0149

2 Knatz, S., Maginot, T., Story, M., Neumark-Sztainer, D., & Boutelle, K. (2011). Prevalence Rates and Psychological Predictors of Secretive Eating in Overweight and Obese Adolescents. Childhood Obesity, 7(1), 30–35. https://doi.org/10.1089/chi.2011.0515.knatz

3 Lydecker, J. A., & Grilo, C. M. (2019). I didn’t want them to see: Secretive eating among adults with binge-eating disorder. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 52(2), 153–158. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.23002

 

 

Why can’t I stop thinking about food?

why am I always hungry?

Feeling out of control?

 

Do you feel like you are thinking about food non-stop? Are you constantly distracted by fantasies of which snack you might want to grab next? Or do you seem to spend hours daydreaming about what your meal later may consist of?

If you feel like this describes you, then keep on reading to discover some potential reasons which might explain why you can’t stop thinking about food.

 

Are you eating frequently enough?

This may sound incredibly obvious – but when we think about food, it’s usually just because we’re hungry!

When our bodies go for long periods of time without food, hormones such as ghrelin are released to stimulate our appetite in response1. This is a natural survival mechanism, ensuring that we get regular nutrition and don’t starve.

If you find yourself bombarded by thoughts about food, try incorporating more snacks in between meals to help keep you going throughout the day.

 

Are your portion sizes big enough?

Another reason you might not be able to stop thinking about food is because your portion sizes are too small. Restricting your portion sizes to smaller amounts will make you feel hungrier throughout the day and may even increase your cravings.

In fact, one study found that people who went on short-term crash diets experienced significantly more cravings than those who didn’t diet2. So, if you’re not feeling full enough after a meal, this is your sign to increase your portion sizes.

 

Are you getting enough balance?

Sometimes, cravings for foods are your body’s way of telling you that you need more of something in your diet.

A balanced meal consists of a variety of different food groups, including carbohydrates, proteins, vegetables, fats, and dairy (or dairy alternatives). If you’re frequently missing out any of these key nutrients, it’s important to try and incorporate foods into your diet that can provide them.

It’s also vital to get a balance of essential micronutrients so that you don’t become deficient in specific vitamins and minerals.

 

Are you emotionally eating?

Sometimes, eating can be used as a coping mechanism to deal with unpleasant and unwanted emotions. This is known as emotional eating, and is much more common than you think, with about 40% of people worldwide reporting eating more when stressed3.

If you think your food habits may be more of a psychological response than a physical one, it may be a good idea to talk to a professional about your concerns.

 

Our top three tips for when you can’t stop thinking about food

  • One: consider what the reason might be

Thinking about the root cause of your food fantasies can help you to identify the deeper meaning behind them. You might realise you’re feeling hungry because you haven’t eaten in a little while, or because the last meal you ate simply wasn’t fulfilling enough.

If you’re worried that the cause may be something more serious than this, such as an underlying condition, it may be worth speaking to a healthcare professional such as a doctor or book and speak with one of our specialist registered dietitians.

 

  • Two: acknowledge your body’s needs

Your body is much cleverer than you give it credit for – it will let you know when it needs nutrients! If you’re constantly thinking about food 24/7, allow yourself the freedom to eat.

Restriction will only lead to an unhealthy relationship with eating, causing you to develop unnecessary fears and anxieties around food.

 

  • Three: practice mindful eating

Mindfulness is defined by being present, in the moment, with non-judgmental awareness. Mindfulness practices can help you become more in tune with your body and your mind, enabling you to experience food freedom once and for all.

When you start to practice mindfulness in other areas of your life, you might find that you’re thinking about food less than you were before, focusing on other aspects of your life that also bring you joy.

However, it’s still important to note that thinking about food is not a bad thing, or something to be ashamed of! Food is something that brings joy to everyone and this should be celebrated!

Here at EHL, we specialise in intuitive eating, mindfulness and embodiment, providing one-to-one coaching tailored to your needs. To learn more about this approach and exactly how we can help you, email us now at hello@embodyhealthlondon.com

 

EHL Team x

Robin Wileman, EHL student dietitian intern

 

References

1 Stensel, D. (2010). Exercise, Appetite and Appetite-Regulating Hormones: Implications for Food Intake and Weight Control. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 57(Suppl. 2), 36–42. [Online] Available at: https://doi.org/10.1159/000322702

 

 

2 Meule, A. (2020). The Psychology of Food Cravings: the Role of Food Deprivation. Current Nutrition Reports, 9(3), 251–257. [Online] Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13668-020-00326-0

 

 

3 Emotional Eating Definition, Treatment & Causes. (2020, September 30).  MedicineNet. [Online] Available at: https://www.medicinenet.com/emotional_eating/article.htm

 

What are the best foods to improve my sleep?

foods to improve sleep

Nutrition as one of the keys to a good night sleep

 

We all know that sleep is crucial, not only for our physical health but also for our mental wellbeing. Getting adequate amounts of sleep at night helps our body to rest and repair, getting us ready for the day head.

However, sometimes falling asleep isn’t all that easy – in fact, around 10-30% of adults across the globe report experiencing insomnia, with this figure being as high as 50-60% in some parts of the world1.

In this blog post, we will discuss some of the best foods for improving your sleep, as well as some other helpful tips on getting a good night’s rest.

 

Which foods should I eat for better sleep?

Unfortunately, there is no one food that is guaranteed to give you a good night’s sleep. However, there are a few foods that could potentially help you get better sleep when consumed as part of a balanced diet.

Research shows that, among other health benefits, oily fish can help increase our quality of sleep and improve our daily functioning.2 Consuming at least one portion of oily fish per week can also have cardio-protective effects and is highly beneficial for our brain health!

You may also find that nuts help you with your sleep – they contain melatonin, a chemical which regulates our day and night cycles. As well as this, they are packed full of essential minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and calcium.

Interestingly, kiwi fruit could also be beneficial. Kiwis not only contain plenty of vitamins, which reduce oxidative stress in the body, but additionally contain serotonin, melatonin, and folate, all of which have been shown to boost sleep onset and length.

Some other foods that contain a lot of sleep-friendly melatonin include tart cherries, milk, and mushrooms.

That is not to say that consuming any of these foods will guarantee you good sleep – if you think you are having serious problems with insomnia, it’s probably worth talking to your doctor about.

Overall, the best way to eat to help you sleep is to consume a varied, balanced diet containing all the essential nutrients we need to function. This includes plenty of protein, wholegrain carbohydrates, dietary fats, fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, pulses, and dairy or dairy alternatives. Plus, of course, adequate hydration is vital!

 

Is there anything I need to avoid?

Eating anything too spicy or acidic in the evening could impact your sleep by causing indigestion or acid reflux. This is definitely the cause for some people and tends to lead to a lot of discomfort, making it more difficult for you to get to sleep at night.

 

Our top 3 tips for a good night’s sleep:

 
One – cut down on caffeine

Drinking large amounts of caffeine will make it much harder to fall asleep at night due to its effects on the body as a stimulant. It can also disrupt our natural circadian rhythms, as evidenced by recent studies3.

Next time you find yourself reaching for that last cup of tea before bed, try sticking to decaf – your body will thank you for it!

 

Two – don’t eat too late in the evening

Eating late at night has been shown to have a disruptive effect on sleep4. Having food in the evening will force your gut to remain active during the night, when it would normally not be digesting anything.

Late-night eating can also lead to potential health problems such as impaired metabolism, glucose intolerance and even cardiovascular illness.

If you’re finding yourself hungry in the evening, it might be a sign that you’re not eating enough during the day! Getting adequate nutrition from your food will make you less likely to turn to midnight snacking, helping you get a more replenishing sleep.

 

Three – respect your body and relax your mind

The most important factor when it comes to sleep is looking after yourself. Prioritising self-compassion, practicing mindfulness, and allowing yourself freedom around food will help you to have much more restful nights.

Stress can also negatively impact the amount of sleep we get, so it’s important to make sure you are taking care of yourself! 

Here at EHL, we can help you to nourish your body and nurture your relationship with food. Get in touch with us today at hello@embodyhealthlondon.com for more information.

 

EHL Team x

Robin Wileman, EHL student dietitian intern

 

References

1 Suni, E., & Truong, K. (2022, May 13). Sleep Statistics. Sleep Foundation. Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/sleep-facts-statistics

2 Hansen, A. L., Dahl, L., Olson, G., Thornton, D., Graff, I. E., Frøyland, L., Thayer, J. F., & Pallesen, S. (2014). Fish Consumption, Sleep, Daily Functioning, and Heart Rate Variability. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 10(05), 567–575. Available at: https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.3714

3 Burke, T. M., Markwald, R. R., McHill, A. W., Chinoy, E. D., Snider, J. A., Bessman, S. C., Jung, C. M., O’Neill, J. S., & Wright, K. P. (2015). Effects of caffeine on the human circadian clock in vivo and in vitro. Science Translational Medicine, 7(305). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.aac5125

4 Uçar, C., Özgöçer, T., & Yıldız, S. (2021). Effects of late‐night eating of easily—or slowly—digestible meals on sleep, hypothalamo‐pituitary‐adrenal axis, and autonomic nervous system in healthy young males. Stress and Health, 37(4), 640–649. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/smi.3025

How to repair my metabolism

how to repair your metabolism

How to undo the damages of dieting

 

What is metabolism?

Metabolism refers to the collection of complex chemical reactions that occur in our bodies 24/7 in order to keep us going. At rest, we need a baseline level of energy to maintain the normal functioning of our organs – this is known as resting metabolic rate.

Your metabolism is more dynamic than you think – it can be affected by a range of factors, from your physical activity level to the functioning of your hormones.

In this article, we’ll discuss the ways in which metabolism can be affected by dieting, and subsequent methods to help your metabolism return to a healthier level.

 

How is our metabolism impacted when we are in a calorie deficit?

Various studies demonstrate that when you start to restrict the number of calories you are putting into your body, your metabolism will begin to slow down over time1.

For example, imagine you are restricting your calorie intake to an amount that is smaller than your resting metabolic rate. Gradually, your body’s metabolism will begin to drop to below the number of calories you are taking in.

This is because our bodies don’t want to be burning up more energy than what we are putting in – that just wouldn’t be sustainable! Slowing down our metabolic rate means we will be able to complete the same basic functions but using less energy.

 

What are the long-term consequences of dieting for our metabolism?

Long-term dieting can have serious impacts on metabolism: your resting metabolic rate may remain low for up to months or even years, depending on how long you remain in a calorie deficit.

In severe calorie deficits, resting metabolic rate can become extremely low. This can put the body at risk of muscle mass depletion and even damage to organs, as it tries to break down its own tissues for energy.

It has also been found that dieting can slow gastrointestinal function, which in turn can affect the hunger signals we receive when we’ve not eaten enough, as well as causing other gut problems2.

 

How can I heal my metabolism?

Healing your metabolism starts from the inside out. Improving your metabolism might mean gaining weight in the process, but it’s important to know that this is okay!

We often hold on to a lot of internalised beliefs about weight and body size, mainly due to the overwhelming shame and stigma that still exists in society surrounding weight gain.

However, regardless of how many calories we supposedly ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be having, our bodies still need energy to function. Here are just a few ways you can help get your metabolism back to what it was pre-diet.

 

Our 3 top tips for maintaining a healthy metabolism:

 
One: Nourish your body with adequate nutrition

Getting your metabolism back on track means trusting your body’s natural hunger cues and honouring your own needs.

Research shows that consuming regular, balanced meals is associated with weight management and metabolic health3. To maintain an energy-efficient metabolism, your body needs an adequate supply of nutrition throughout the day.

 

Two: Let your body rest

Although physical activity is great for your body and your mind, overworking yourself will negatively impact on your metabolism if you are already in a calorie deficit.

Taking rest is imperative for long term health and is an important sign of a healthy relationship with exercise.

 

Three: Say goodbye to the dieting mindset

For centuries, diet culture has told us that in order to be ‘healthy’, we must eat certain things so we that can look a certain way. Well, we’re here to tell you this isn’t true in the slightest.

Our bodies are all beautifully unique and complex, and health doesn’t come in one shape or size. Calorie restriction holds a lot more risks than it does benefits, especially when it comes to our metabolism.

If you’re looking to ditch diet culture once and for all, you’ve come to the right place. Here at EHL we can help you to cultivate a healthier relationship with food and your body, guiding you with one-to-one coaching from our specialist dietitians. Get in touch with us today at hello@embodyhealthlondon.com

 

EHL Team x

 Robin Wileman, EHL Dietitian Student Intern

 

 

References

1 Dayan, P. H., Sforzo, G., Boisseau, N., Pereira-Lancha, L. O., & Lancha, A. H. (2019). A new clinical perspective: Treating obesity with nutritional coaching versus energy-restricted diets. Nutrition, 60, 147–151. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2018.09.027

 

2 Seimon, R. V., Taylor, P., Little, T. J., Noakes, M., Standfield, S., Clifton, P. M., Horowitz, M., & Feinle-Bisset, C. (2013). Effects of acute and longer-term dietary restriction on upper gut motility, hormone, appetite, and energy-intake responses to duodenal lipid in lean and obese men. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 99(1), 24–34. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.113.067090

 

3 Alhussain, M. H., Macdonald, I. A., & Taylor, M. A. (2016). Irregular meal-pattern effects on energy expenditure, metabolism, and appetite regulation: a randomized controlled trial in healthy normal-weight women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 104(1), 21–32. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.115.125401

 

An introduction to intuitive eating

intuitive eating an introduction

Intuitive eating: Getting started

 

Intuitive eating is a relatively new term that you may have heard floating around on the internet, or maybe someone you know mentioned it in a conversation and you weren’t quite sure what it meant.

Here at Embody Health London, we describe intuitive eating as an evidence-based self-care eating framework that combines our emotions, our thoughts and instinct. It involves rejecting the harmful mindset of dieting and restriction and instead tuning in to your body’s own signals to nurture balanced eating patterns.

This lifestyle encourages you to grow and become connected with your emotional and biological needs on a much deeper level.

New research supporting intuitive eating is emerging constantly, with many studies showing that intuitive eating has a positive impact on people’s relationship with food, improving body satisfaction and decreasing eating disorder symptomology1.

 

The ten principles of intuitive eating

  • One: Getting out of the diet mentality

Let’s be honest: diet culture is harmful and can have negative effects on both our mental and physical health! Crash dieting has been known to increase the risk of overeating, binge eating and even disordered eating2.

That’s why intuitive eating encourages you to ditch dieting and rediscover the joys of eating, creating positive associations with food rather than negative ones.

 

  • Two: Honouring your hunger

Hunger is our body’s way of telling us what we need. These hunger cues shouldn’t be suppressed or ignored, because ultimately this is what leads to becoming trapped in the cycle of restricting and overeating.

Listen to what your body is telling you: food is fuel!

 

  • Three: Making peace with food

Food is NOT the enemy! When we think about foods as being “good” or “bad”, we promote fear and stress around eating. Food should be something that brings us happiness and joy, not something that holds us back.

 

  • Four: Challenging food “rules”

Intuitive eating means pushing aside the unhelpful, often inaccurate, messages that diet culture tries to feed us. The sooner you learn to deconstruct these concepts, the happier you will be in your relationship with eating.

 

  • Five: Appreciating when you’re full

Just like when we’re hungry, our bodies will tell us when we’re full! A positive relationship with food and our body includes tuning in with your feelings of fullness and satiety; learning to recognise your natural bodily cues and responding appropriately.

 

  • Six: Exploring the satisfaction in eating

Eating should not only satisfy your taste buds, but it should satisfy your appetite as well! We need to make sure that not only are we enjoying our food, but that it fills us up and nourishes us too.

If you’re still feeling hungry after finishing a meal, think to yourself – what could I add to make this more satisfying and fulfilling?

 

  • Seven: Honouring your own emotions

Your emotions are valid and need to be acknowledged to build a healthy relationship with food. After all, eating is an emotional process and can stem from a place of unmet emotional needs.

Eating as a way of coping with your emotions most of the time is probably not going to make you feel any better in the long run – it’s important to find healthier ways of dealing with these emotions so that you can feel better in yourself and diversify your toolbox.

 

  • Eight: Respecting your body

Our bodies are truly amazing, and they deserve to be respected. After all, they do a lot for us! How can we expect to have a good relationship with food if we don’t have a good relationship with our bodies first?

If loving your body feels too far away now, intuitive eating will help you to accept your body as it is and appreciate everything it does for you.

 

  • Nine: Exercising because you enjoy it

We all know physical activity is good for us, but NOT when it becomes a regimen you feel trapped in and no longer enjoy.

Exercise should be something that brings you pleasure, not something you feel compelled to do to burn calories, or because that’s what diet culture has told you. Movement should be joyful, not punishing.

 

  • Ten: Incorporating gentle nutrition

Eating should of course be an enjoyable experience, but it should also nourish you and provide you with all the nutrition you need.

Once you have fully understood and appreciated all these key principles, then you can work on incorporating intuitive eating into your life with the right skills and knowledge to feed your body and your brain. Gentle nutrition is a dynamic integration between your internal body wisdom and external health guidelines.

 

Will intuitive eating help me lose weight?

When you begin your intuitive eating journey, it’s important to be in the right mindset and to do it for the right reasons – not because that’s what diet culture says you should be doing to lose weight.

During the process of intuitive eating, our bodies will often return to their natural set points and stop fluctuating above or below: recent research supports this idea and shows that intuitive eating has been associated with weight stability3.

Intuitive eating will help you nurture a positive relationship with food, improve your body image, enable you to make more informed food choices, and empower you as a person – you may not lose weight if this is where your body wants to happily sit, but you will gain so much more!

Here at Embody Health London, we can support you on your intuitive eating journey. Get in touch with us now at hello@embodyhealthlondon.com to find out more!

 

Robin Wileman, EHL Dietitian Student Intern

 

 

 

References

1 Stewart, T., Martin, C. and Williamson, D., 2022. The Complicated Relationship between Dieting, Dietary Restraint, Caloric Restriction, and Eating Disorders: Is a Shift in Public Health Messaging Warranted?. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, [online] 19(1), p.491. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/19/1/491/htm

2 Tylka, T., Calogero, R. and Daníelsdóttir, S., 2019. Intuitive eating is connected to self-reported weight stability in community women and men. Eating Disorders, [online] 28(3), pp.256-264. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10640266.2019.1580126?casa_token=7sKlFqZGIUIAAAAA%3ADC9GVtPp3R2itQ_94bTORKBW6SLn2FOh-0ci265DXBohFLP5zO9ovhxshExN62m-PITKhssEJDNk

3 Warren, J., Smith, N. and Ashwell, M., 2017. A structured literature review on the role of mindfulness, mindful eating and intuitive eating in changing eating behaviours: effectiveness and associated potential mechanisms. Nutrition Research Reviews, [online] 30(2), pp.272-283. Available at: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/nutrition-research-reviews/article/structured-literature-review-on-the-role-of-mindfulness-mindful-eating-and-intuitive-eating-in-changing-eating-behaviours-effectiveness-and-associated-potential-mechanisms/351A3D01E43F49CC9794756BC950EFFC

 

What is emotional eating therapy and how does it work?

emotional eating

Emotional eating is normal and okay until it interferes with your quality of life

 

Emotional eating is a common ‘problem’ that affects millions of people worldwide. It is often triggered by stress and other negative emotions such as guilt, shame, anger, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, fear, and depression.

In fact, over 40% of people reported eating more when stressed1.

Emotional eating therapy is a form of psychotherapy that can help clients identify their own triggers and develop coping mechanisms to manage them. It teaches clients skills in recognising and challenging thoughts and behaviours associated with emotional eating.

This article will discuss everything you need to know about emotional eating therapy and what you can do to help overcome emotional eating.

 

What is emotional eating?

Emotional eating is a way of coping with emotions that might be hard to deal with. It can involve eating foods that seem to make you feel temporarily better, even if they don’t satisfy your hunger.

Unfortunately, this can lead to weight gain body distrust over time.

 

What is the root of emotional eating?

Emotional eating often stems from stress, boredom, or unpleasant feelings. If food becomes our primary coping mechanism, a habit is quickly formed. When we are stressed, our body releases chemicals such as cortisol, a hormone which has been shown to make us crave certain foods – particularly sugar, carbs, and fatty foods2.

So, when we’re feeling stressed, we tend to reach for these so-called comfort foods. When we eat emotionally, we are seeking to satisfy or deal with an emotion, not physical hunger.

 

What is emotional eating therapy?

Emotional eating therapy is a form of treatment that teaches people how to deal with their negative emotions in healthier ways. It’s targeted at people who struggle to control their food intake and eating habits and is based on this idea that emotional factors play a role in why people eat what they deem to be too much.

This approach focuses on helping clients learn to identify and understand their emotions, then develop the skills needed to manage them in ways that won’t lead to overeating or feeling uncomfortable in their body.

Emotional eating therapy aims to help patients live healthier lives by not only regulating their food intake but improving their overall mood and mental wellbeing.

 

So, how does it work?

Emotional eating therapy typically involves working with a therapist or specialist dietitian to identify which emotions trigger food cravings and why. Once your thoughts and feelings surrounding food have been addressed, the therapist or dietitian can help you develop personalised strategies for managing those emotions.

This might include mindfulness exercises, learning how to cope with cravings, letting go of binge guilt, group therapy, and practising methods for regulating food intake.

It’s based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT, a well-established method used by health professionals worldwide. CBT focuses on changing unhealthy thinking patterns and replacing them with more productive ones, teaching people to think differently about themselves and their bodies.

Studies have demonstrated that emotional eating therapy is an effective treatment option3 and could help you break the cycle of emotional eating once and for all.

 

Top three tips for tackling emotional eating

 
Tip one

We know it’s tempting but don’t restrict your food intake. This often backfires (not that you need us telling you that!). Instead of skipping meals or trying to cut down on what you’re having, aim to eat balanced meals and snacks more frequently throughout the day.

 

Tip two

Be mindful of your feelings and practice not reacting. Remember, we are aiming to change your habits so the next time you feel like you’re about to binge or eat for emotional reasons, set a timer for 10 minutes, close your eyes and breathe.  If you still end up bingeing or eating for emotional reasons once the timer goes off, that’s okay!

The aim here is to build in a pause so you can give yourself the opportunity to slow down, do a mindful check-in and ask yourself “is food what I really need, or do I need something else?”

 

Tip three

If you choose to eat for emotional reasons, then let the food soothe you. Food is innately comforting, and you have permission to eat for emotional reasons. The trick here is to give yourself permission to eat for comfort and then allow the food to soothe you. This is a game changer for most of our clients so let us know how you go with this one by sending us a message on Instagram. Our handle is @embodyhealthlondon_

Would you like more support from a specialist dietitian who gets it? Here at EHL, we work with clients every single day to help them reclaim their power around food and to nurture a healthy relationship with their body. 

 

Robin Wileman, EHL Dietitian Student Intern

 

References

1 Emotional Eating Definition, Treatment & Causes. (2020, September 30). MedicineNet.

2 Geiker, N. R. W., Astrup, A., Hjorth, M. F., Sjödin, A., Pijls, L., & Markus, C. R. (2017). Does stress influence sleep patterns, food intake, weight gain, abdominal obesity and weight loss interventions and vice versa? Obesity Reviews, 19(1), 81–97. 

3 Carroll, E. A., Czerwinski, M., Roseway, A., Kapoor, A., Johns, P., Rowan, K., & Schraefel, M. C. (2013). Food and Mood: Just-in-Time Support for Emotional Eating. 2013 Humaine Association Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction, 252–257. 

 

 

7 causes of unexplained weight gain

weight gain

Top tips on how to cope with unexplained weight gain

 

Weight gain can happen for a variety of different reasons – some of them more obvious than others. However, it’s important to note that despite what you might think, this isn’t always a bad thing!

Although society will often try to tell us that weight gain should be avoided at all costs, it’s often a completely normal, natural process. Gaining weight doesn’t mean that you should jump onto a crash diet or run to the gym immediately – sometimes there are other factors at play that you may want to consider.

This article will discuss some of the potential causes for unexplained weight gain, and why our health is not defined by the number on the scales.

 

Why am I gaining weight?

  1. Emotional factors

Emotional factors such as stress, anxiety or depression can play a role in weight gain. When people are experiencing these unpleasant emotions, they may use food as a coping mechanism: this is known as emotional eating and is much more common than you might think.

  1. Hormonal imbalances

Hormones are chemicals which regulate many aspects of our daily lives, including weight. When our hormones are out of balance, it can trigger physiological changes within the body such as an increased appetite and decreased energy levels.

  1. Low thyroid function

If the thyroid isn’t working correctly, the body will struggle to burn calories and may be inclined to store them instead. This can manifest itself as around 5-10lb of weight gain1, or more depending on the severity of the hypothyroidism.

  1. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a condition affecting the hormones that control ovulation, but it can also impact insulin and androgen, both of which can lead to weight gain. Up to 80% of women with PCOS reported being overweight2, making it an extremely common side effect of PCOS.

  1. Insulin resistance

One potential cause of unexplained weight gain is insulin resistance, where the body’s cells become resistant to the hormone insulin. Insulin is an essential part of glucose metabolism, so if your body can no longer respond to insulin effectively then you may begin to gain weight.

  1. Physical activity levels

If you have been less physically active than usual, your body is not going to be using up as much energy as normal, meaning more of the nutrients you take in will be stored instead. Alternatively, if you’ve been doing a lot of resistance training, you’ll be building up muscle mass, which is around 15% denser than fat mass3!

  1. Other lifestyle factors such as drinking or smoking

Drinking and smoking can contribute towards weight gain over time. More specifically, drinking in excess can lead to weight gain, whilst stopping smoking has the same effect – this is because smoking is an appetite suppressant.

 

When should I see a doctor or health care professional?

If you start to notice an increase in your weight despite your nutritional intake and physical activity level staying the same, it may be the case that you have an underlying medical condition causing you to gain weight.

If you are experiencing any other unusual symptoms alongside this weight gain, you may want to consider seeing a doctor for further investigations.

For example, changes in mood, appetite or energy levels, difficulty concentrating and making decisions, increased thirst or more frequent urination may indicate that there is something else going on.

 

What should I do if I start to gain weight unexpectedly?

 

TIP ONE

Don’t panic! Weight gain is completely normal, and this doesn’t mean you should be trying to lose it.

Weight gain might be a sign that you are becoming more comfortable in your body, or that your muscles are growing to keep you fit and strong.

Maybe you’re going through a big life change, such as pregnancy or menopause, and this is causing natural fluctuations to your weight.

Whatever the reason, you don’t need to worry unless you are experiencing other symptoms that might indicate an underlying condition. If you are truly concerned and are feeling uncomfortable in your body, we urge you to book a free discovery call with a member of our team to investigate this further.

 

TIP TWO

Consider what might be causing you to gain weight. If you think you may have a medical problem that is causing your weight gain, it might be worth checking in with your doctor to get to the bottom of it.

Weight gain can also be a side-effect of many different types of medication.

For example, individuals taking long-terms antidepressants are up to 85% likely to gain weight secondary to this4.

If you think you might be gaining weight because of a prescription medication, it could be a good idea to discuss with your GP whether this needs to be altered to discuss your concerns and expectations.

 

TIP THREE

Embrace and accept your changing body. We are all human beings, after all – we’re not designed to say the same weight throughout our entire lifetime!

Sadly, weight stigma is still prevalent even currently, but the key thing to remember is this: you don’t need to be on a diet to be healthy.

Health comes in all shapes and sizes – gaining weight doesn’t change or define who you are as a person. Your weight is the least interesting thing about you!

Here at EHL, we’re here to smash diet culture and help you see your worth as more than a body! Our team of specialist dietitians can help you to build a healthy relationship with food and your body and guide you to becoming embodied.

Contact us now at hello@embodyhealthlondon.com to start you journey towards food freedom!

 

Team EHL x

Robin Wileman, Student dietitian & EHL intern

 

 

 

References

1 American Thyroid Association (2019). Thyroid & Weight.

2 Sam, S. (2007). Obesity and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Obesity Management, 3(2), 69–73. 

3 Norman, J. (2018, August 24). But muscle is heavier than fat, right? – LifestylesFitness. Medium. https://medium.com/lifestylesfitness/but-muscle-is-heavier-than-fat-right-a50aece8c5db#:%7E:text=The%20principal%20factor%20responsible%20lies%20in%20both%20tissues,whereas%20fat%20tissue%20is%20just%200.92%20kg%2F%20litre

4 Uguz, F., Sahingoz, M., Gungor, B., Aksoy, F., & Askin, R. (2015). Weight gain and associated factors in patients using newer antidepressant drugs. General Hospital Psychiatry, 37(1), 46–48.