Understanding The Importance of Eating Habits and How It Played a Role in My Self-Image.

Understanding The Importance of Eating Habits and How It Played a Role in My Self-Image.

We are molded by our experiences and how we are conditioned as children.

Disclaimer: This experience is my own and may not be true for all children/people who are naturally slim or children who were force-fed.

Growing up, my parents ensured that me and my siblings knew how fortunate we were to have food in our bellies, clothing on our back and shelter over our heads.

We learned early on to be grateful for what we had. These values are still a huge part of my life today.

However, my parents’ and other adults concern of how slim we were only grew as time passed.

As a result, our food portions grew also.

As a kid, I struggled to sit and finish my meals. All I wanted to do was play games with my siblings or read or draw or ANYTHING ELSE besides eat.

Between the ages of 6-11, I remember running around and being reminded to “finish your food!!” at every single meal. Even when we were tired and feeling full.

There are a few key emotions I want to address with what is called “psychological blackmail“.

  • Shame: “Look how much bigger your brother/sister/friend is!”
  • Guilt: “So many people are starving in the world! You need to eat!”
  • Fear: “If you don’t finish your food, there will be something to cry about.”

We’d often have to be “force fed” to finish every bite. Even if we fell asleep, we’d slowly be fed until the bowl was empty or my parents couldn’t wake us up!

Although it didn’t seem major, those years resulted in being conditioned to eat large portions of food.

My friends in high school were often shocked and it became a running joke. Growing up, I didn’t see the effect it had until later.

That’s what I’ve been doing?

It wasn’t until I left high school and moved out of home that I realised my habit.

Even today, people would ask, “Where does all that food go?”.

My response is usually along the lines of “I don’t know, it’s just in my genes”. That’s followed by, “You’re so lucky!” or “I just look at a cookie and I gain 2kgs!”.

In my early twenties, I started seeing a guy (now my boyfriend) and he was the opposite when it came to food portions.

He appreciated good food and loved a home-cooked meal but he would not eat anywhere near the same amount as I would.

At first it was funny but as time went on, I realised that these kind of portions were doing more harm to my body than good.

In saying that, we both addressed habits that needed attention: my portions were ridiculous and my guilt of not finishing my food even more so. And Luke’s habit of only eating once or twice a day maximum could not fuel his body for the long hours he worked.

When I realised this habit, I began making a conscious decision to change. I encouraged my boyfriend to try his best to eat 3 meals a day around his night-shift schedule.

How I unlearned these habits.

1. I began eating to satisfaction and practiced mindfulness.

I enjoyed all my favourite foods, but no longer felt the urge to stack my plate.

Being mindful really helped during this ‘transition’. I listened to my body and my tastebuds.

Meals did not need to be a one-person competition of how much I could fit into my digestive system.

It became an act of self-care: feed my body well, and express gratitude throughout the process of cooking, plating and serving.

This has become one of the ways I show people I love them. Cooking can be a labour of love!

2. I trained my mind to let comments slide like water off a swan’s back.

People noticed this change in habit. I’d receive comments like “Oh, you’re not hungry anymore? There are seconds and thirds!” or “You need to eat more! Look at you!” or “I wish I could eat my fave foods and still be as small as you!”.

Now, I was actively changing my perspective each time someone made a comment.

I knew they were just curious or concerned and what people said were usually from a place of love.

During this time, between ages 20-23, I started loving my body instead of ignoring it.

Yes, I loved to dress up and find clothes that fit perfectly but that was a distraction to actually taking the time to APPRECIATE this body that people called “too skinny” or “so boney”.

This was also the time I realised how different bodies, shapes and sizes DESERVED love and appreciation.

Why?

Just because!

No matter what people said, I was going to love my body for all it’s strength, skinniness and stature!

3. Thought patterns: My body may be skinny but it is also strong.

Instead of feeling insecure about me being “too skinny”, I started focusing on strength. Slowly – but surely! – I began working out.

At first, it was just walking around the block. For about a year or so, me and my boyfriend would go for walks around the neighbourhood after work or after dinner.

We got to spend quality time but we also got some light cardio in for the week!

Mentally, I started feeling more confident and comfortable in my own skin.

I practiced positive self-talk and body image weekly.

I reminded myself that my legs have taken me through endless hours of work.

My arms have comforted my loved ones.

My eyes have seen so many kind and inspiring people.

Continuing on!

The journey to shifting my mindset felt like an uphill battle. It was difficult to find the balance.

Some days I couldn’t stomach enough food and other days I could snack constantly.

Some days I hated everything I wore and had that classic problem of “I have nothing to wear!”

In reality, I had loads to wear but I did not have the confidence or positive body image to match.

Through the years of being told my body wasn’t good enough or ‘not the norm’ whether it was from:

  • Concern: “Do your parents feed you?” (Yes, an extended family member asked me this in private.)
  • Envy: “Ugh, I wish my body was like yours!” (From a complete stranger in a fitting room.)
  • Curiosity: “How do you stay so slim?” (From work colleagues to family friends.)

Years of comments like these eventually wear a person down.

Regardless, I did not give up on this self-project because I knew that this would prove to be beneficial not just mentally, but emotionally and physically.

I hope these ‘unlearning’ lessons gave you an insight that it is possible to change thought patterns concerning food and self-image.

Today, I enjoy food and everything that comes with it! From the flavours around the world to the comfort it brings when cooking and sharing it with loved ones.

Love the body you’re in. Regardless of what people say. If you are healthy and happy, you’re doing amazing and I see you!

What are habits that you need to “unlearn”? What is the first step that you can take today?

4 Things to Consider When Looking for a Counsellor.

4 Things to Consider When Looking for a Counsellor.

Before I started my journey, I didn’t know where to begin. I only knew that I needed help. In this post, I’ll be listing several things to consider when looking for a counsellor. In case you or someone you love is seeking guidance, I hope this post will help.

Please note that when I mention counsellor, I’m referring to both a clinical psychologist and a diploma-certified counsellor in Australia.

1. Qualifications.

In my experience, knowing that the professional you’re going to be seeing has the qualifications to practice is a high priority.

Check their LinkedIn profile or even their business website if they have one. It could help with nerves once you know where the counsellor got their accreditation and organisations they’ve practiced at over the years.

You may be able to find client reviews too, which can be really helpful.

Websites and profiles can also clarify a list of industries and expertise the counsellor is passionate about including: working in hospitals, in a clinic helping people with eating disorders or in private-practice helping clients overcome depression, manage PTSD, family counselling and so forth.

Does their qualification and experience line up with what you’ve been struggling with? Do you think they could help you manage what you’re going through? If yes, that’s great! If you’re unsure, you can send an enquiry, call them or keep looking for other counsellors in the area.

2. Fees & affordability

Our mental health is important of course, but so is affordability.

Let’s not pretend this isn’t a topic to discuss. When I was looking for a professional to see, no one would mention or bring up the cost. At the time, I don’t think people around me knew or considered it to be a hindering factor.

Sometimes the counsellor’s website will have a fee section. In the instances where there is no mention, don’t be afraid to reach out either through email or phone to enquire. I know, enquiring can be daunting, but if you don’t ask, you will never know!

You may be able to find ball-park figures in Australian-based forums or on government/health/psychological websites.

Can appointments be factored in your budget? If not, are there ways to strategically shift your finances to put your mental health first and not break the bank? Would the Medicare rebate assist you at all?

I am a huge believer of compromise and doing my best to make the “impossible” work. So yes, I am biased in this way of thinking, but I do believe in the human ability to balance responsibilities for a healthier, happier life!

Once you have found a counsellor that is within your budget, you can look at other factors like where they’re located to prepare for a consultation.

3. Accessibility.

Is there a car park? Is the distance a hindering factor for your budget? Do they have wheelchair access? Can you take public transport if you don’t have a car? Is getting to-and-from the practice safe and sustainable long-term if sessions continued? Another thing to think about, is when their next available session is – if it is in 2 weeks, would that be viable? If it is in 3 months, will you need to consider other options before then?

Take all of these questions into consideration. If you have any other queries and can’t find the answer online, give the practice a call, send a text message (if their mobile number is provided) or email the counsellor directly for clarification.

Now that you know the counsellor, what their fees are and where they’re located, it’s time to attend your first consult!

4. Are you comfortable?

Now that you have made a decision to attend a consultation, are you comfortable sitting in the room? Do you feel heard? How does the dynamic make you feel when you talk?

Note: A 21 year old female was having her first consult with a male psychologist. During the consult, she explained how childhood abuse from her father affected her in adulthood. The psychologist listened and enquired whether him being a male psychologist might hinder progress and perhaps cause discomfort (considering the therapist-client relationship).

It is the responsibility of a mental health professional to have the best interests in mind for each person.

It is also important for us to be mindful of our own role in noticing how we feel during and after a counselling session and take action if things aren’t working.

Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.

Albus Dumbledore

A lot of people tend to talk about how important looking after our mental-health is, but not many people talk about the small steps it takes before you begin healing.

Here is a list of organisations that are here to help you:

  • healthengine – Find a psychologist in Australia
  • healthengine – Find a counsellor in Australia
  • blueknot helpline 1300 657 380 – complex trauma
  • beyondblue.org.au 1300 22 4636 – depression/anxiety awareness
  • kidshelpline.com.au 1800 55 1800 – private, confidential counselling
  • lifeline.org.au 13 11 14 – crisis support, suicide prevention
  • qlife.org.au 1800 184 527 – LGBTI support site
  • vvcs.gov.au 1800 011 046 – veteran, war-related support
  • ReachOut – youth mental health and community forums

If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to visit the above organisations, email me or leave a comment below!

Image by Joshua Ness.

Part 2: Why You Should Write Letters to Yourself.

Part 2: Why You Should Write Letters to Yourself.

If you’re here from my previous post, welcome back! Today I wanted to share a few more tips when writing letters to your future self. I also share excerpts of letters I’ve received over the years!

Tip 1: Stop over-thinking.

When I first started writing these letters, I’d worry about whether it was structured correctly. I picked apart what I wrote, deleted and re-typed.

Don’t be like me when I started. Stop over-thinking!

The aim of the game is to express yourself and your emotions without a filter!

Tip 2: Don’t stop at your own inbox.

Send a letter to a loved one. I haven’t tried this yet, but it could be a great way to connect with others.

Whether the person lives abroad, interstate or in the same city, it could be an interesting way to delve into memories, conflicts and joyful moments.

You could even find a writing buddy! I have seen this across platforms and it could be a new “pen pal” set-up!

Tip 3: Celebrate the wins in life.

Venting can be cathartic for many of us. However, if we focus too much on negativity and pain, it can create an unpleasant atmosphere both in our minds and when in community with others.

Remember to celebrate the good stuff! Even if it doesn’t seem super important, mention it in your letter. You’d be surprised how much that can boost your mood!

Tip 4: Learn to let go.

One of the benefits of sending a letter to the future was to practice the art of letting go.

I noticed in my behaviour that I could easily hold-on to bad memories, and replay scenarios in my head. I knew it wasn’t healthy but the habit was hard to break.

I made a conscious effort to say what needed to be said, took a deep breath and released the emotion.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.

Below are excerpts of letters I’ve received over the years. A little vulnerability might help others take the next step in either writing or finally being honest about their emotions. Either way, if it helps just ONE person, then I know it was worth it!

 “I really hope you’ve found purpose in the small, slow, tedious moments. and if you’re still trying, then good! keep trying! 🙂” – July 2015

My impatience is real. If I weren’t working then it’d be the bomb.com. I don’t know how to cope with study and work… anyway I hope you are well, Angela. Keep your head high. Reach out if you need to.” – August 2015

Look after yourself. Remember those that matter. We all have a place in this world! And change is constant. Be open to life’s challenges and welcome love in. Here’s to you; for strength, courage, laughter and light. – August 2015

All of a sudden I would feel detached. Not there, not feeling anything. Numb. I’m so so angry. I’m hurting. I don’t know how to release it or what to do. I shouldn’t dwell but right now I’m still trying to process everything. I don’t know if I/we can overcome this.” – October 2015

Oh gosh this bed it feels so cold,
My head was led by the lies you told.
But to this day my heart you stole,
In a bind left behind waiting for your call
.” (Pour Me Out, He Is We) November 2015 I sent myself lyrics.

What scares me though, is the future. What if I wake up and feel different about everything? What if this course isn’t what I want? What if I don’t get this new job? Nothing I can change at this moment or exactly ‘work towards’ so I will quieten these thoughts.” – June 2016

Practice thankfulness. Even if it’s one thing. Fight through the darkness. You are strong. Your body is strong. Your legs carry you wherever you need to go. Your voice is loud to be open and honest to those around you. Your heart is big and beats sure. There is beauty in everything. Always seek the beauty. – May 2017

I hope these tips were helpful and reading a few excerpts gave you an idea of what you might write about! It doesn’t have to be perfect – just honest!

You can stay connected for updates, quotes and general life-happenings on my Facebook pageInstagramDepop and Twitter!

Image is by STIL.

How To: Save Money Living Paycheck to Paycheck.

How To: Save Money Living Paycheck to Paycheck.

The last 10 years (9 considering the unstable hours), I have worked mostly casual positions in hospitality and retail. I became inspired by these motivational speakers and YouTubers when they’d share their experiences. How they would save and what that would afford them – e.g. freedom, travel, security. Could I have this life? If I had this life, what would it mean?

Saving money would address two important needs for me: financial security and personal accomplishment. This would be my “why”.

Below, I share some tips I learned over the years to save money, no matter what income you’re earning.

Find your “why”, goal setting & approximate earnings.

What’s your reason to save? University payments? Buying a house? Attending a concert?Travelling? It could be similar to my goal of personal accomplishment and financial freedom. No matter what your “why” is, write it down somewhere or repeat it to yourself each day from here on out. When things get difficult – and it will – your “why” can serve as a reminder.

I set myself a goal of $5,000 over 12 months. This may seem like too much time to save this amount, but with my earnings (usually minimum wage or less = AUD $18-$20 or less per hour) it would be an accomplishment.

Discussing my goals with my boyfriend, we agreed that I would deposit savings into his account. That way, I wouldn’t have access to it. It would be like a slow-cooker — set it and forget it, except with money!

I spent a few months collating my approximate earnings over time. I made sure that working my minimum shifts, I could afford necessities of life: rent, phone bill, car payments, groceries. If all went south, I knew I could sell my car or phone and still survive on a skeleton wage.

Rent Assistance.

Disclaimer: I understand that not everyone has access to this or that everyone has the same benefits within and outside of Australia. 

Being on minimum wage and paying the amount of rent I was paying back then, meant that I qualified for Rent Assistance. If you’ve never heard of that, it is a small payment you can receive from the Australian government to help with rent. You must be eligible, apply and await approval before receiving this payment. For me, this made a huge difference.

Click the link below if you’d like more information.

Rent Assistance.

Expect the unexpected. 

During this time, things came up that I didn’t account for: family events, special holidays, not to mention winter and the dreaded flu… there were times where I’d put little to no savings away. I struggled to accept these normal occurrences like illness, drop in business at work and general life hiccups. Every second I wasn’t working, meant I wasn’t working toward my goals.

I needed to start expecting the unexpected – go back to basics: one of the reasons I started saving was for financial security. And when I got sick or if a family event came up, I could afford to pay for it.

And just like that, slowly but surely, financial security = check!

Stay consistent.

Every week, as soon as I got paid, I’d pay my rent and my bills. Without question. I’d then transfer money to my boyfriends’ account. This kept me accountable. If I asked for money, it would need to be under either of these conditions:

  1. Would not put my savings into a 50% deficit.
  2. Emergencies only! Meaning, illness, unexpected bill or special occasion.

Staying consistent was the biggest lesson for me. I was used to spending money without a care. Now I had this responsibility and accountability on my shoulders. I began to think about money differently. If I could achieve my goals, it would mean being a step closer to a future of financial stability.

Celebrate, track & automate.

Each month, I would ask Luke where I was at with my savings. These conversations were sometimes difficult to have because I’d be so disappointed in myself if I missed a payment or was $100-200 off my progress mark. Looking back, I wished I remembered that progress no matter how small, was still progress!

To track and plan expenses, you can draw up a monthly table, use an Excel spreadsheet or even create a table in Word. Predicting upcoming expenses including medical bills, birthdays, sentimental anniversaries or family holidays can really help you to achieve your goals.

Automation was new to me, but I utilised it without realising! I used my iPhone calendar to plan expenses every week, no matter what the event. I set my rent/bills on “recurring” for so I didn’t need to re-type it. I also automated my phone bill each month. Without lifting a finger, one of my bills were always paid. I no longer needed to worry about whether I missed a payment or think about when it was due.

If you’re able to, automate one or all necessary payments. Even if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, knowing that one of your bills will never be pending can ease one stress off your shoulders. If you can’t automate payments, automate the organisation of your expenses. Set reminders on “recurring” so eventually it won’t be a surprise when a bill comes up and it’ll become a habit. We all have responsibilities, it just depends how we carry them out!

Save within your means.

A famous phrase is to “live within your means” and that’s good advice but I think it frames your mindset to be rigid. You may have to see the doctor and pay for medication — which could mean you can only put away $50 or less into savings. So what? You’re still making the best effort. Save within your means.

Here’s an Example of My Weekly Expenses*: 

Screen Shot 2019-08-31 at 1.09.57 pm.png

**Job 1 and 3 were my main sources of income. It also fluctuated depending on whether we were low on staff, if there was a function/birthday on or if there was a live act that weekend.

Snapshot of my crazy life: I worked days, nights, weekends… I’m actually surprised how many jobs I took on just to get through at times. 7:30am start at the first job, 1-5pm at another job and then 9pm-4am at the third job. Being young, I had the energy and the motivation – that worked for me!

Please remember that if you’re spreading yourself too thin and become stressed, irritated or start losing sleep — STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND RE-EVALUATE. There’s no point in suffering and negatively affecting your mental or physical health.

Some people benefit in pushing through self-imposed, rigid rules. Some don’t. Find what works for you and stick to it!

Fight the boredom.

Another thing I struggled with was the feeling of boredom. After a few months of saving, the feeling of doing something new had worn off. I wanted to go back to my old life of shopping and going out until the early hours of the morning.

If your budget is tight, find free things to do – go for walks in a new neighbourhood, find a new trail, re-watch old movies, play board games, visit friends or have them visit you. If you have access to internet, there are so many platforms for expression, and passing the time: YouTube, Twitter, Blogger, WordPress, Quora, Tumblr and so forth.

This journey was not glamorous by any means! Although you better believe that if I happened to work 28-30 hour weeks, I would live it up! It’s all about balance. You can’t keep yourself cooped up at home with a mindset of “I can’t”. You can, it’s about finding a new way of doing the things you love and enjoy whilst on a budget.

Create extra income. 

As you know,  a job that is casual in nature means it’s mind-numbing to predict how much income you’ll earn the following week.

However! It doesn’t make your goal impossible.

I would pick up extra shifts by scrolling through a local Facebook group where employers/managers were looking for staff to fill hours with last minute notice.

Another way I’d pick up shifts was to build rapport with other stores in the same company. In many instances, I was able to work at multiple locations to make up my hours. It did require travel whether it be public transport or paying for my car expenses but it was worth it for the extra dollars in my pocket! I would often take public transport to save on petrol. I figured that if I had the spare time, I’d rather spend it travelling to my next shift!

Lastly, I would flip items online. Whether it be clothes, furniture or luggage – I was selling it for extra income. I would warn that it can be slow, so it requires patience!

In this day and age, income possibilities are vast.

Remember that you’re doing the best you can.

Throughout this time of saving, I often felt like I wasn’t doing enough. But looking back, I know I was just being hard on myself.

A year later, I managed to save approximately $4,400. I predicted with the hours I was getting from two jobs, I’d at least reach $5,000 by the end of the month. Unfortunately, my hours were cut by 70% due to the decline in business (perks of a casual job, amirite?). Nevertheless, I saved a decent amount!

I was so proud of myself for getting to that point.

It can take time for us to reach the next step in our career, land a job with stable hours or find a place that pays us the equivalent for the work we do. So don’t give up. Give it your focus, patience and dedication!

I hope these tips have helped motivate you to save for your next trip or for a rainy day.

If you can save on minimum/below minimum wage, you will always have the ability, discipline and patience to work towards financial freedom as you move into higher income.

What tips have you found helpful when living paycheck to paycheck?

thanku2
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