Victoria

How to navigate social food & body image anxiety

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“Lockdown” we all know that word all too well by now … but I know from speaking with clients and friends that COVID has brought both anxiety AND comfort.

Anxiety more so to begin up, as everything was different, unknown and scary as the world was in a full-blown pandemic, we were forced to stay at home, isolate, cut off from friends and family, we all know how it was.

But as lockdown became our new “normal”, some were secretly pleased about it… no more having to make up an excuse to turn down unwanted social invites, no more mad rushing around to fit everything in with the kids, work, gym etc. No more wondering what to wear for work or nights out or stressing about how others might perceive your body… long live takeaways, pj’s and top knots! Our comfort zone became even more comfortable!

And recently, in the Uk, (as I write this it’s May 2021) things have started to open up again. Life is getting back to some kind of “normal”. Which is fantastic! But, as I mentioned, some are feeling anxious about the world opening up again. *** There is a pattern here – change and the unknown provokes anxiety ***

Here are some of the concerns that have been shared with me:

“What will friends, family and coworkers think about my “lockdown weight gain”? – because Netflix and takeaways were the “go-to” and comfort eating was real!”

“I have got so used to staying in and taking time for myself, how will I cope when my life is busy again?

“I’m on a diet which I have been able to stick to with no distractions during lockdown, how will I stay on track when I’m going out for meals again?”

“I’ve not stopped binging and emotional eating since lockdown, I can’t bear people to see me looking like this and if I’m faced with more opportunities to eat, how can I manage this?”

I feel each and every one of those concerns ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ which is why I wanted to share 7 tips to help with how to navigate all of that.

What does social anxiety feel like?

I would bank on that fact that you already know what this feels like but I’ll recap so we can establish some common ground…

Let’s role play a scenario together:

Your friend invites you out somewhere, let’s say she wants you to be her plus one at her work party and you immediately say;

“Yeah sure I’d love to!”

but immediately after think;

“Oh sh*t, why did I just say yes?!”

You’re already thinking of what excuse you can use to cancel nearer the time or what diet you need to start tomorrow… All you know is that you absolutely cannot go looking like this! You’re already dreading the (perceived) judgments from others and you remember that guy you liked will be there too. You’re in full on panic mode.

Does the above scenario resonate with you?

I used to be a master at cancelling on people, coming up with the best believable excuses… which, thinking about it, actually just made me into a professional “white lier” ๐Ÿ˜ฑ. If I did ever make it, I would spend the week leading up to the event starving myself (for the flattest tummy possible ๐Ÿ™„) and then most of the night worrying about what my body looked like to onlookers, constantly clock watching and wondering if it was an appropriate time to “disappear” to go home and binge!

I missed out on SO much potential FUN and CONNECTIONS with other humans because I was so absorbed in worrying what others would think about me and using all my willpower to resist the delicious buffet only to go home early to binge on my own.

How sad is that…? ๐Ÿ˜ฅ I feel for my old self and I feel for anyone who is currently experiencing the same thing. Because I’ve been there and I remember how chronic thoughts about food and my body consumed my whole life and stopped me from LIVING…

But there is another way… it is possible to enjoy social occasions for all that they have to offer without giving food and your body a second thought! It is possible to eat what you want without giving a sh*t about whether it’s going to bloat you or not…

Because there is more to life than spending your whole life either on a diet or feeling ashamed of your binging. There is more to life than having a “bangin” body. When all is said and done and you’re on your death bed, are you really going to wish you had “got yourself under control” and dropped 20lbs? Or are you going to wish that you had spent less time worrying about how you looked and lived and experienced more instead…?

I’ll leave that with you as we go into my 7 tips

#1 See the truth about people’s comments

If anyone comments about your body or your weight – no matter that their intention is for doing so – all they are doing is projecting THEIR insecurities onto you…

Our perception is our projection

The deeper the wound, the harsher the judgment

Want another quote…? (Of course you do ๐Ÿ˜‰)

What anyone thinks about you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

If someone feels the need to comment unkindly about your body or your weight, they are only projecting their unresolved issues onto you, my friend. So although it may hurt you emotionally, the more you remind yourself of the universal truth – which is that what people think about you are not facts – the easier it will be to let it go.

A side note on perceptions

Each and every one of us sees the world through our own “filters”. Our own individual filters were developed within us when we were children (through social and parenting conditioning).

These filters are our perceptions of how we see the world. These filters are basically our unconscious minds. And our unconscious minds automatically run 90% of our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and results… AKA it runs our lives unless we consciously decide to change it by becoming aware and then choosing to do so.

Imagine being born into a world where the moment you opened your eyes for the first time, you were fitted with brown coloured contact lenses. Everyone wears these brown coloured lenses because many years ago someone in power decided that that’s just what should happen. Having these brown lenses on your eyes since birth would cause you to see everything with a brown tinge to it, without even realising it.

Imagine taking out those lenses for the first time, you would see the world in a completely different way, wouldn’t you…?

Now let me get to the point of what I’m trying to make here ๐Ÿ˜†

Now imagine that those brown coloured lenses are today’s social judgments and opinions around weight, fat and women’s bodies. You would see the world and everyone in it (including yourself, especially yourself) through the filter of what is and what isn’t acceptable for women’s bodies to look like. You would believe it to be true because that’s all you’ve ever known and everyone around you thinks the same way too.

When you enter the world of body positivity, body neutrality and self-love, you slowly take off those brown coloured contact lenses and see the world and everyone in it as the beautiful, vibrant and individualised miracles that we each are.

So my point is, it’s ok if others haven’t removed their brown coloured contact lenses yet. It’s ok if YOU haven’t yet. But when you do, other people’s opinions on your body won’t matter to you in the slightest. Because you’ll know the truth of who you really are… a child of God who was created to be the person you are today… and in every moment of your life.

#2 Learn to detach yourself from your thoughts & emotions

Ok so there are a few different steps to do this:

  • Acknowledge that you’re feeling anxious (about your body or food)

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  • Know that you are not the anxiety, you are only feeling it. So avoid saying things to yourself like “I am so anxious right now” or “I am a binge / emotional eater.” You are not the feeling, you are just experiencing it.

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  • Be the watcher. By taking a back seat and observing/noticing the emotion that you’re feeling, you become the watcher of it. You don’t become consumed by it.

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  • Stay present. Resist the urge to escape what you feel. Don’t try to avoid or numb the anxiety that you feel by either attempting to stuff your emotions down with food, alcohol or scrolling on your phone. Allow the feeling to be there and let it be felt and passed through you. It’s like someone knocking at your door that refuses to go away until you’ve invited them in and asked them what they want. You may as well let them in at the first knock otherwise they will just keep knocking louder and louder until you can’t take it anymore and you will have to let them in any way… so let your anxiety in!

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  • This one may sound a bit strange but thank the anxiety that you have just felt or are feeling. The anxiety is only trying to protect you in a roundabout way from potential perceived harm. (Eg- judgments from others).

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  • Pour compassion into yourself, don’t be annoyed that you feel anxious about your body or around food. Nothing good will come from self-punishment. Everything good comes from self-compassion.

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  • Ask yourself “What do I need right now?” It may be going to the bathroom and taking a few deep breaths. It may be sharing how you are feeling with someone you trust. It may be giving yourself a little pep talk and some love. It may be moving your body by walking or dancing for a few minutes to shift your state.

#3 Don’t abandon yourself

If you’re anything like I used to be, the anxiety you feel about an upcoming event may cause you to skip meals and do everything possible to “get yourself and your body under control” before the event. This is abandoning yourself!

If it was your responsibility to look after a dependant child for the week or so leading up to the event, would you treat the child the same way that you treat yourself? If the answer is no, why do you think you deserve to be treated in any way that’s not loving, caring or kind?

If your body doesn’t look the way you want her to look, is it fair of you to deprive her of nourishment, self-care, positive self-talk and kindness? Just so that you can attempt to control other’s opinions of you – that we will NEVER be able to control anyway?

I get that the anxiety you may feel leading up to the event, whatever it may be – whether it’s meeting up with friends for a walk after months in lockdown – going to a party or on a night out – can be overwhelming… but abandoning yourself by speaking to yourself like shit, starving yourself to get your stomach as flat as possible and anything else you might do in an attempt to be “good enough” will only set yourself up for failure.

If you arrive somewhere starving you’re only going to be fighting with yourself not to binge when you come into contact with food.

So take care of yourself! ๐Ÿค— Nourish yourself with food, self-care and positive self talk. Leading up to the event, on the day of the event and always!

#4 Give yourself permission to eat what you want

Whether it’s a set menu or you get to choose what you want when you’re there, give yourself 100% permission to eat exactly what it is that you want.

Don’t be anxiously looking at the menu trying to find the smallest possible dish with the least amount of calories.

Also, don’t just eat everything just because you’ve “allowed” yourself as it’s a “cheat day” either.

Eat what it is you really want. Tune into your body, imagine eating a few different things on the menu and choose what feels best for you emotionally and physically.

Relax into your desires, be present and enjoy the whole experience. When you find yourself focusing on what your body looks like or how much you’ve eaten, come back into the present moment… what can you see, hear, smell and sense around you. Let it go.

#5 Set healthy boundaries

If the people that you hang around with or speak to often in your life are always talking about what diet they’re on, how much weight they’ve lost or gained and judging others on their bodies etc, set healthy boundaries for yourself around them.

Skillfully change the conversation or ask them politely outright if they would mind talking about something else. Explain that you’re practising body acceptance and working on healing your relationship with food and these type of conversations can be triggering for you. They might look at you a bit strangely to begin with because it’s the norm to talk about these things (remember the brown contact lenses analogy) but if they love and care about you then it won’t be a problem, you might even strike someone’s interest in what you’re learning.

If they don’t respect your request and continue to talk about it then you can remove yourself from the situation by going to talk to someone else or going to the toilet or even looking at your phone. You, more than anyone else, deserve your love and kindness and it’s important to keep choosing yourself and putting yourself and your needs first.

#6 Do the inner work to heal your core wound

You knew this one was coming didn’t you… ๐Ÿ˜‰

By getting to the root cause, the core wound of your food and body image anxiety, you will be able to heal this and therefore the anxiety will naturally melt away.

If you only focus on navigating the side effects of the root cause – the side effects being:

  • disordered eating
  • body image anxiety
  • binge eating
  • chronic dieting
  • preoccupation with how your body looks
  • low self-esteem and self-confidence

You’re going to have to continue navigating these for the rest of your life unless you heal your core wound – which is usually one of, a mixture of, or all of the following:

  • Not feeling “good enough” at your core
  • Self-worth is dependant on how the body looks
  • Lack of self-love
  • Lack of self-worth

When your beliefs are self-limiting eg:

“I’m not lovable unless I’m a size ___”

“I won’t be accepted if I look like this.”

“Everyone is going to judge me”

“I want to be healthy and health means having to lose weight.”

“Weight gain is the worst thing that can happen to me”

ETC…

They will keep you stuck in the never-ending cycle of dieting and binging. Losing weight and gaining it again. You know exactly how that feels, which is precisley why you’re reading this now!

Giving up your pursuit of chasing weight loss and working on healing your relationship with food and loving yourself doesn’t mean that you will stay forever in the body you have now. Or that you’ll forever keep putting on weight until you pop.

What it does mean is that you are able to pursuit – and actually achieve – health and wellness from a non diet perspective and love yourself unconditionally.

This is exactly why I do what I do,… to show women how to become the healthiest version of themselves – physically, mentally and emotionally. – It’s the best “work” ever!

#7 Embody your dream

Do this little exercise with me now…

Close your eyes and visualize yourself at a social event that usually brings you anxiety. Whether the anxiety comes from the way you think your body looks, having to restrain yourself around food or not being able to stop yourself from binging, or all 3, just tune into how that feels…

Now, I want you to replace that version of you with the version of you that has done the inner work, worked on healing her relationship with food, is comfortable in her body and loves herself unconditionally… Avoid purposefully visualizing yourself at your “goal weight” – if your envisioned self IS at your goal weight without consciously choosing her to be so then this is ok, just allow whatever to come up, come up…

Tune into that now… how does she feel at this event? What is she thinking? How is she talking to herself? How is she choosing to eat? How is she interacting with others? How is she confidently and comfortably standing or sitting?

How does it feel to be her?

Next time you notice that you’re feeling anxious, I want you to practice “being” that version of yourself. The free, self-loving version of you that is 100000% possible and available for you.

Ask yourself “What would that free, self-loving version of me do?” and then do that!

Even if you can only manage being her for 1 minute in a 3 hour social event, a minute of freedom is better than none. Then keep on practicing “being” her for as long as you can.

When you keep practicing that, you are embodying that version of you and eventually, with the right knowledge and support, you will become her! It won’t be a practice anymore, you will be living as the free, self-loving version of yourself and you won’t want to ever go back…!

If you’d like a proven step by step method to live in true food and body freedom and love yourself unconditionally, then consider working 1:1 with me or joining my group coaching program. I will block out 2 hours for our call so that I can get to know more about you without having to rush and we can discuss whether coaching is right for you.

Sending you all my love as always,

Victoria x

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“You either get what you want or get what you need” Rebekah Kiger (aka my soul sister, cosmic co-pilot & bestieeee) Before

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