#75 Disordered Eating, Body Image & Our Personal Journeys
The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast
"Personally, the biggest strategy I used to shift my focus away from my body image was to change the way I exercised to something that was more performance-based. At the time that was CrossFit. CrossFit certainly didn't help in other ways, but it allowed me to step in the direction of 'hey, look at what my body is capable of', as opposed to focusing on what it looks like. I also got swept up in the Paleo movement because it shifted my focus from 'calories in, calories out' to exploring how to nourish my body and what's actually good for my health."
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In Episode 75 of The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast, Natalie Douglas and Kate Callaghan discuss how to treat disordered eating and strategies for disordered eating recovery.
- Nat’s & Kate’s personal journey with disordered eating and body image
- Strategies and practical tips that helped us heal
- Using bandaids as stepping stones for healing emotional and/or binge eating
- “Doing the work” and why this is where the magic happens
- Our thoughts on whether it ever leaves you
- Are you looking for 1-to-1 support and a step-by-step healing process to overcome your chronic gut health issues? Take a look at my signature program, “Gut Rescue” today.
Hello and welcome to The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast, with your hosts Natalie K. Douglas, Thyroid Healer, and Kate Callaghan, The Holistic Nutritionist. Nat and Kate are degree-qualified dietitians and nutritionists, certified fitness instructors, speakers, and authors. If you love unfiltered banter, unedited bloopers, and authentic heart-sharing, then we are your ladies! Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and get ready for our latest tips on living your healthiest life possible.
Natalie K. Douglas 0:43
Hi, guys! Welcome back to another episode. Kate, hola!
Natalie K. Douglas 0:51
Hola, chica! I’ve always, I used to have a Mexican friend at work. And I always used to say, hola chica, in the morning and it was so fun and I miss it. And now I just want another Mexican friend.
Kate Callaghan 1:01
I used to have a Mexican friend. She was cool. Hi, Abby. She’s changed her Instagram handle to I think it’s, Abby the Taco Queen, which makes me laugh every time I see it. I love it.
Natalie K. Douglas 1:14
Oh my God, that is so good. I want to be a taco queen. Hey, are you a soft-shell taco or a hard-shell taco?
Kate Callaghan 1:20
I’m soft-shelled more burritos. I’ve had an issue with this. So like, soft-shelled kind of buritto.
Natalie K. Douglas
Yeah, I agree with you.
Kate Callaghan 1:26
I kind of like both but.
Natalie K. Douglas 1:29
Likely as, why don’t you have both?
Kate Callaghan 1:36
I’ve got my hands going as you can imagine.
Natalie K. Douglas 1:38
Yeah, the same.
Might be random, I think. We really should be getting some of these. They would go off.
Natalie K. Douglas 1:45
Maybe we’d go viral in Mexico.
Kate Callaghan 1:50
Or they just think we were incredibly rude and racist.
Natalie K. Douglas 1:55
I’m like celebrating it. I love it. I love that culture. I love.
I’ve never been to Mexico.
Natalie K. Douglas
I’m going next year because my my best friends just moved there and they’re they’re opening like a yoga studio cafe.
Natalie K. Douglas
Airbnb and I’m like, and they’re like, I love them so much. They’re like, they’re just such beautiful, beautiful people. So I can’t wait to go and visit them.
Kate Callaghan 2:23
It’s meant to be beautiful. A lot of parts.
Natalie K. Douglas 2:27
And then I’m going to go, then we’re going to try and go like up the whatever coast of the of the US is on that side. Yes, I do not do.
Kate Callaghan 2:38
Natalie K. Douglas
Yeah. The West of California.
To the famous California?
Natalie K. Douglas
Kate Callaghan 2:48
We totally nailed that. And just for the record people who are listening, we did not plan to do that.
Natalie K. Douglas 2:54
No, we didn’t. That was really really funny if we did those.
Kate Callaghan 2:57
Let’s sing the OC.
Natalie K. Douglas 3:01
I think it’ll really help people get to know us better then feel comfortable working with us.
Kate Callaghan 3:07
Totally relevant. Oh dear, are we at recording, aren’t we?
Natalie K. Douglas 3:17
Yes, unfortunately. Oh my gosh. Yes. So I don’t know how we got into that but how you are?
Oh, you said hola.
Natalie K. Douglas 3:27
Oh, yeah, I did. Oh, but you didn’t answer the question. Oh you did, you said you like both hard-shell tacos and soft-shell tacos.
What do you like?
Natalie K. Douglas
Hard-shell tacos. I don’t like the soft-shell tacos with burritos. I just think they’re a waste of time.
Kate Callaghan 3:38
Do you know, I think, I probably do like hard shell but.
Natalie K. Douglas 3:41
I like the crunch.
Natalie K. Douglas
Yeah, the same. I had Taco Tuesdays. Taco Tuesdays, that was so good. But I used to eat that was when I was quite young and I ate a lot of food when I was little, like inappropriately a lot. Like I would eat the same as my dad and my brother. My brother is four years older than me by the way, and I used to have I reckon like eight tacos when I was like eight years old. I’m like, oh my God, what a good effort like.
Kate Callaghan 4:10
Speaking of eating a lot of food. Did you ever do the wing bite’s competition?
Natalie K. Douglas 4:14
No, but I probably would have won. I used a quite a lot of those two. How many, did you?
Kate Callaghan 4:17
I did it once with when I was dating a bodybuilder. He won, but only just, I think I think I had 13 wing bites.
Natalie K. Douglas 4:23
Oh my God.
I think he might be had 15.
Natalie K. Douglas
Natalie K. Douglas
Yeah, no, I haven’t eaten that much. Although cereal is so addictive, but not like I bloody love cereal. If I reckon if I could have one food back that didn’t make me feel like I could make it a food that didn’t make me feel unwell and was good for me. It’d be like a really close tie between cereal and milk and like salad dough and butter. Like both of them make me feel very unwell so I can’t have either of them. But why don’t, I don’t feel like the payoff is worth it but if I could make either of them be like the most nutrient-dense food ever and just so good for me and not make me feel sick, I definitely choose those.
Kate Callaghan 5:12
If I can go back same line of thinking.
Natalie K. Douglas
Yes, what would you do?
Kate Callaghan 5:19
Same line of thinking. I would go Turkish bread toasted with butter and Vegemite.
Natalie K. Douglas 5:26
Oh God, anything that can carry butter bread. It’s so good, oh my gosh. I used to love like it just really fluffy white bread rolls with butter. Oh, like crunchy on the outside soft on the inside. Good amount of real butter that like my grandpa was a farmer like he used to milk cows and bring home like delicious full-cream milk and just real butter.
Kate Callaghan 5:57
I mean you whack on some shitty bread.
Natalie K. Douglas
Yeah, like wonder why.
Kate Callaghan 6:02
I had this really good quality butter it’s amazing, it’s organic, and then I put it on my processed shit thing.
Natalie K. Douglas 6:08
I could remember that one.
Kate Callaghan 6:12
We’re just really pulling out all the taglines today.
Natalie K. Douglas 6:15
We are, we are, that’s what we do. Anyway, I needed to get some like silliness out of my system because we’re about to talk about more of a serious topic, not serious, but I would say no.
What kind is it?
Natalie K. Douglas
So we should probably start. So today guys, peeps, listening. We will try not to sing anymore, though.
I can’t guarantee that.
Natalie K. Douglas
We’re talking about eating disorders or disordered eating and the question of, I guess, like, I’d really like to share both of our stories with you guys. And also, just the different strategies that helped us to recover and have a bit of a conversation around whether we whether we think in our individual personal experiences, you can overcome an eating disorder like does it kind of stay with you. So that is what we’re talking about. So please know that this is just our personal experience. Our journey with it. And hopefully, it resonates with some of you. And if it brings up any questions, then please let us know. I think where we might start Kate is just sharing our story. So I know that across the podcast, we’ve both shared bits and pieces of our journey. So some of it might not be new news to those of you listening or who have been listening for a while, but just so we have it all in one place. Do you want to talk me through your journey with disordered eating? What, like when did it start for you? And how long did it kind of go on for?
Kate Callaghan 7:57
When did it start? The million-dollar question. Okay, so I will probably if I had to pick a time in my life when it all kind of started falling apart, it was probably when I got my first job when I was one of those people who needed to go and work at 14 and 9 months and if I slack too, all right, I am out. I am an independent woman. Anyway, my first job was in a news agents and news agency, news agent, plus those magazines. Anyway, I was surrounded by all these magazines that were you know, back in the day or even still now. They’ve got these diets promoted, detoxes promoted, lose weight all across all of the covers, basically. And so I was surrounded by this all of the time in my work, and I started to change the change the way that I looked at myself and made me think that I needed to look like something other than I did. When I was working this news agency then I would, I often started dieting under the guides of detox, probably heard that before. I’m detoxing, no, it was a diet and I would not eat much. When I was 15, my dad had a really bad car accident as well. And then I got a little bit more restrictive with eating for a period in there. And I wouldn’t say I had anorexia, but I was quite restrictive in my eating and I think it was a control mechanism in there then I kind of got better out of that and went more into the exercise side of things, and ate better, ate more. But I had this idea in my head that I needed to look a certain way that I needed to be super lean to be accepted. And so I was over-exercising as I’ve spoken about a lot and undereating for the amount of exercise that I was doing and this was going on for a long time. So this went on for over 10 years, over 10 years that I was overexercising and undereating for what my body required and, you know if I say it wasn’t deliberate but if I was to think about it, I wouldn’t have eaten. It was very anti-sugar. You know, I’m always saying it was the white devil basically. It’s not that bad, I mean it’s not a health food but it’s the devil.
Natalie K. Douglas 10:32
Just mutually protesting outside of like some kind of candy shop.
Kate Callaghan 10:36
Yeah, totally, just egging them and throwing red paint on their wall. So, I’ve got that extreme that was quite extreme and quite restrictive in my eating. I would eat a lot but only eat within a certain variety of foods. So the certain foods that I just would not touch with a 10-foot pole. You know, I would go out drinking on the weekends. So that was totally healthy. I don’t understand how I justified that to myself. And then it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea and had to put on weight to restore my period and to get my fertility back that I realized just how messed up my my eating and my orthorexia and, like, focus on perfect eating, and my body image really was and, you know, through that healing process, I really, really came to see how I actually did have body image issues.
Kate Callaghan 11:39
Natalie K. Douglas 11:40
And when you were kind of starting, so when you started working at that news agency at the time, did you like objectively, were you overweight, normal weight, underweight? Like what was your natural body like before starting to go into that dieting, of being influenced by that kind of culture.
Kate Callaghan 12:01
No. No. I’ve never been overweight. Ever. I was already super lean but you know, it’s back in the day. So that was 1998. So it was kind of in their wife period where that really thin within. There was no strong as a new skinny or BoPo or anything. It was like skinny, that’s it. Skinny is the way and I started doing some modeling as well. And it just took me in a downward spiral and I got quite quite thin. I think the thing that actually brought me out of it now that I think back is one of my one of my best friends and she’s still a best friend now. Hi, Jules, love her. She told me I look disgusting, basically. And that might sound harsh, that might sound really harsh, but she like she’s probably one of the only people who could say something like that to me. And I’m like, okay, all right. It’s not the goal.
Natalie K. Douglas 13:01
Yeah. And do you feel like around you, many of your friends or your family or anyone like that was quite conscious around about the way they looked or put a lot of emphasis on it like, will you will you besides the way that you put yourself in, you know, in amongst the the magazines in the modeling industry or that kind of thing, like obviously that’s kind of, you know, what you were exposed to, but it’s like outside of that was, what was your environment like?
Kate Callaghan 13:41
No, not so much. I don’t think. No. When I got to university, yes. I lived in the eastern suburbs of Sydney and anyone who’s been a considerable amount of time around Bondai and Tamarama, or Glamarama would know that. Yeah, that can be a little bit testing on your own self-image, if you don’t have that rock-solid, but no, when I was growing up in Tamworth in the country, it wasn’t such a big thing. I think for me it was more the environmental threat of in with work, probably at home as well. Do you know what I say? I don’t I don’t like to say that because, you know, I love my mom, my family but I think there are some body-image issues potentially there but yeah, later in life, definitely when I was at university and in the depths of the Eastern suburbs of Sydney,
Natalie K. Douglas 14:40
And what like, besides Jules, who brought it to your attention that you looks disgusting. Thanks, Jules.
Natalie K. Douglas
Did any of your other friends, family members, pay any attention or give you any attention, good or bad for the way that your body was changing or the way that you are eating?
Kate Callaghan 15:01
Um, so with, with my way of eating, I tended to eat normally at home, quote-unquote normally that the morning would be cornflakes with skim milk, which is not exactly nutritionally or calorie-dense. And I’d eat a pretty normal-sized dinner but throughout the day, I’d have like lettuce and seeds at school. And I think thinking back some people did pull me up on it a little bit, but not really a lot to the point that they made it a thing.
Natalie K. Douglas
Kate Callaghan 15:38
And I don’t think my parents really said anything until after I put on weight and then they told me that I looked healthier but and then, at that point, when they like you, Kelsey, I’m like, Oh, my God, my God.
Natalie K. Douglas
Oh, I totally. Yeah.
Yeah. Which sounds just ridiculous. You should think that someone telling you you look healthier is a good thing but in your mind you’re like, are they saying I’m fat?
Natalie K. Douglas 16:01
Yeah. I mean, there’s nothing in my opinion, at least in my experience, there’s absolutely nothing that anyone could have said to me that I wouldn’t have twisted to justify staying having an eating disorder. Like when someone told me I looked healthy I’d like, oh my God, they think I’m fat, or if they told me that, Oh, my God, you you know, you’re looking really thin. And I’d be like, yes, it’s working. I need to keep doing this.
Kate Callaghan 16:26
Yeah, let’s go a little bit more into your story. When did that all start because I thought that was some anorexia and bulimia as well.
Natalie K. Douglas 16:33
Sure did. Yeah. So mine started when I was in towards the end of year 7 beginning of year 8, so like 13, 14-ish. And the growing up, I definitely had no issues with the way I look, but I was quite a chubby kid. I was always very active, but I ate like chips like I ate a lot of junk food and I ate a lot of food. And I did get teased a little bit in primary school for being fat like Natalie fatly. Sorry.
That’s not nice.
Natalie K. Douglas 17:07
I know it’s not but I’m just like.
Kate Callaghan 17:09
Kids are nasty.
Natalie K. Douglas 17:11
Yeah. They are. Oh, but anyway, so but when I was being teased, I never thought anything of it like my reaction was I don’t know anymore like, what is wrong with you? I’m not fat like, so I kind of eat like it didn’t at that time, it didn’t really like I didn’t really understand what they were talking about. And then what happened is my grandma passed away and I was really upset because we were quite close like I my parents were separated. And so when I was with my dad, I actually lived with my grandma because he lived with her and so we spent a lot of time together. She actually died of Alzheimer’s. So towards the end that was quite intense. And I was very much like looking after her as best as you could as a 14-year-old but I was the one that was very patient with her when everyone else was quite frustrated and short with her. And so when she passed away, I was really upset and naturally didn’t eat as much like just because I was so upset that I wasn’t hungry. And so I kind of going from eating a shit ton of food to really not much at all. Like just for a few weeks, my weight started to drop quite a lot and people started to comment that I had lost weight. And I think that for me, that was like, oh, you’re you’re doing good at something so you better do better, and at first started off as like oh, I’m just going to try and get really healthy and so I just started eating. I guess what at the time I assumed was healthy food. So instead of using my, instead of eating my usual junk food diet, I would eat you know what was considered healthy at the time like cereal and orange juice and like sandwiches like and low fat, everything. And then as I continue to see my weight change, I got more and more attention for it. And I started to calorie count and restrict. And I think it just kind of just snowballed from there. I just restricted further and further and further to the point where I used to carry around a little like, calorie-counting book with me at school and it was always in my bag and I knew it back to front. And people used to come to me during high school for weight-loss advice, and I just kind of got to the point where I was maybe eating about 400 calories a day like I would just and that’s on top of I did start getting really obsessive with exercise. So I was very much into cardio like I just stayed a lot of cardio on top of all the sport I was playing. And then I kind of like, I think for me, I fell into very much fell into that victim mentality and I liked that I was being looked after. And that people will worried about me and that I felt very much like the little, I guess like a little a little girl even though I was growing up into, you know, getting into my, like mid to late teenage years, I still felt like this little girl that everyone was looking after which I think really, like, there was something about that, that I was addicted to. So it was it was that side of it, as well as just this fear that if I didn’t maintain this super low weight, then why would anyone want to talk to me, love me, you know, respect me because that’s all like the only attention I got from or the only increase in attention I got was from this journey like everyone just admired me for my ability to be quote-unquote disciplined and you know eat really healthy, have all this knowledge about calories at the time and, and exercising and stuff like that but I turned into a completely different person to be honest, like before like pre-anorexia, I was very much this like, free spirited, very happy, very very easygoing, outgoing kind of child or, and then when I got like when I got anorexia as it got worse and worse, I just became really selfish. And it’s like I could see it happening but I couldn’t stop it because I just, I wasn’t able to put anyone and I’m talking anyone ahead of my need to control my food and control my weight. Even though I knew it was hurting people around me, I just I just couldn’t do it. And I, my mom, like and my friends have told me since then, like some horrible things that I’ve said to them, and I can’t even remember them because I was so unwell and undernourished and underweight. And it absolutely changes the way your brain functions that I didn’t I don’t even remember, like, some of the things that I said like one of my best, one of my closest closest friends who’s still one of my best friends now, Holly, she was a really high-level gymnast. And I told her that when she stopped the gym, she would get fat, which is horrendous because she is one of my best friend and I would never ever say that to someone like in but you know, I had said that and I said, apparently I was with my mom in a shopping center once and looked around the food court and I said to her these people are absolutely disgusting how could they? How could they be doing this? And like now I would just, I just cannot even fathom saying that now or saying that before being anorexic. And so it just completely changed the way I, I was as a person. I became very rigid, controlling, and I just lived in this tiny little box because if I stepped outside of it, I would just be riddled with more anxiety than the anxiety I already had. And I think I was I did, I probably maybe a year or two into the anorexia. I started to see a dietitian and a psychologist weekly. But to be honest, like, the only reason I in hindsight, the only reason why I went because I liked the idea that I was sick and that I was needing to be looked after. And then I was getting attention for it. So for me, it wasn’t really about I want to get better, it was oh great, here’s more people that will pay attention to me and keep me in that victim mindset. So I don’t know that it that it served me too much to be honest, but I feel like at least it maybe felt a little like taking the pressure off my mom of being the only one to try and help me out of it because in reality, you can’t help anyone get over it if they don’t want to. And that’s I definitely spent years in, in and out of psychologists offices and dietitians offices with nothing much. There was multiple times where I, they were wanted to put me in hospital, but I refused and my mom is a very, like, soft mom. And I just don’t think she she could do that. Like she just didn’t she just couldn’t and I would just beg her not to let that happen. And so we didn’t but the turning point for me was there was this one time in I’d come out of the was even at little dietitians office or the psychologist’s office I can’t remember which one. I’m pretty sure it was the dietitian and I had lost more weight again. Oh, this was one of the times where they were ready to put me in hospital. And my mom for the very first time just absolutely broke down in tears and was just begging me like she was like, Natalie, you’re not just killing me, you’re killing, but you’re not just killing yourself you’re killing me, please, please don’t do this to me. And I can remember the conversation how I felt everything so vividly about that moment. And and me and my mom are incredibly close, like just we’ve spent our life in each other’s pockets and very much. Yeah, like very, very close. Like, I don’t have a relationship with my dad anymore. And my mom’s definitely always been the one that’s just there. And for me, at that moment, I was like, I still don’t want to get better, but the like the heartbreak of seeing her so broken and destroyed was more painful than, than anything else. So in that moment, I decided, all right, I’m going to try and get better for her because I can’t get better for myself yet because I don’t, I don’t actually want to get better. And then it started there and I feel like it was a few steps forward a few steps back, I kind of would make some traction and then freak-out and go backwards. In my healing journey, I went through bouts of bulimia, binge eating, I kind of put on a lot of weight and then lost it again, put on, lost it. And I think that physically I ended up in a healthy weight range, but mentally I was still very much in a disordered eating state and then definitely started moving more into the obsessiveness with types of foods, like you were kind of saying Kate like more being very, very particular about that. And I think I used it as a bit of a cover to keep control over my food in a different way. And same with exercise. My exercise obsession continued for years after that, and I’d say probably only really has healed in the last maybe four to five years but before that, it was still absolutely present. And I was very, very much controlled by it. So it was kind of like a really long journey for me. And then I had a lot of health stuff happen in that whole process. And it was, I ended up with kind of like, I woke up one day I was kind of I was eating paleo and I was really into that and feeling really inspired by that and I think that doing that and and focusing more on food quality definitely did help me step in the right direction a little bit. But it was still a way of feeling like I had control and that I was above everyone else because I was doing this thing or you know. And so, although it helped me physically heal, from like a weight perspective, I still wasn’t well and I was still undereating for the amount of exercise I was doing at the time. And then one day, I woke up and I had all this pain in my neck and down my spine, and I thought maybe I’d gotten injured. And I freaked out because at that time, I was still exercising seven days a week, and I absolutely had to otherwise I would feel just riddled with anxiety, but I couldn’t. So I went to the physio, and they kind of couldn’t find anything that was really wrong. They just said to rest for a bit which gave me anxiety, but I thought, okay, I’ll just try and rest and then, like, long story short, I ended up not being able to exercise for about nine months and that really and no one, I went around to like spinal surgeons, chiros, physios, like everyone you can imagine trying to like I got scans everything. No one could find anything physically structurally wrong with my body but I had just all this pain and I was sleeping in like a neck brace. I couldn’t walk more than maybe like 15 meters like I couldn’t walk down the end of the shop and end of the street and then come back but I just be riddled with pain. I had no idea what was going on. And it really forced me into like, I definitely experienced depression for the first time in my life then because everything that I had built my self worth on had completely just been taken away literally overnight like this. Seeing like myself as this very fit, very active, very in control person and then all of a sudden I couldn’t exercise so I had no way to manage my anxiety and feel in control. I could still manage my food to an extent but that still created more anxiety and no one that I saw in the medical profession knew what was going on. And so I felt really, really lost and really unsure of well, what like, just it was just horrible. So I but I’m saying that it’s probably the best thing that ever happened to me because it really forced me to go back to looking at well, why am I, like why do people love me? Why these people around? Why my friends still here? Why are my family still, why do my family still care about me when all of this other external stuff is now not there? And so it absolutely took me a really long time to work on that and I really, really have to work on self-worth, and my health recovered eventually, though, I would say that there was a lot of damage done like a lot of, you know, all the stuff we talked about in the HA episode, which people can go back and listen to because this is more about the, I guess the journey of, of the eating disorder itself and healing but lots of lots of damage done and but mentally I think I’ve had to do a lot of work and I’d say I’m still doing a lot of the work, but I definitely don’t have disordered eating anymore. But, you know, the eating disorders are very rarely about food. It’s it’s always about something deeper than that. So, my journey has been quite long. So that’s kind of that’s the long version.
Do you think, question.
Natalie K. Douglas
Do you think studying nutrition and dietetics at university, do you think that made things better or worse for you?
Natalie K. Douglas
Yes, such an interesting question because I’ve asked myself this a lot. And I go back and forth on the answer because I feel like I feel like it helped in a way because I feel like I learned more about how the body works. And I felt more compelled to I guess, nourishing my body in a way but I’m saying that I feel like it’s really hard for me to separate it because at the same time, I was really getting into this quality-food paleo type movement. And dietetics wasn’t like that. It wasn’t about that. And so I feel like it was a it was a bit of back and forth like, sometimes I felt like it helped because I felt like I was trying to, I guess make my body healthier in some ways but then part of me thinks it just fed into this obsession. So it’s really, really hard question for me to answer but what what about you? What do you think? What was it like for you?
Kate Callaghan 33:02
Um, I think it, I don’t think it made anything worse for me. I was never much of a calorie counter and I think when we did have to count our calories at university that was kind of a good wake up call for me like, oh shit, I’m actually eating not much at all when I thought I was eating a lot, so it’s probably a good thing for me to do that exercise. But as you know, I was quite, quite against most of what made for.
Natalie K. Douglas 33:36
Natalie K. Douglas 33:39
You’re so quiet in lectures.
Kate Callaghan 33:41
It wasn’t exactly the lectures favorite.
Natalie K. Douglas 33:44
Definitely not. Look, I was quietly cheering you from the sidelines. I was like, yes, you gotta go but I was a bit too shy at that point.
Kate Callaghan 33:55
Lyn was like oh, fuck here she goes again. Sorry, Lyn. Sorry. Sorry, Katelyn. Anyway, let’s move on to strategy. So what were some of the main strategies that you use that really helped you?
Natalie K. Douglas 34:11
Yeah. So I think one of the biggest ones for me was removing myself from a traditional gym environment where I had a lot of tension, a lot of attention for being, you know, the one that goes to so many classes and knew a lot of people there. I feel like not because they were doing anything, but because I was projecting onto them that they’re watching me and they’re going to watch my weight change, and they think I’m fat. And there’s mirrors everywhere. So for me changing the way I exercise to something that was more performance-based. And at the time, that was CrossFit. And CrossFit certainly did a number on me in some ways, but it absolutely helped me step in the direction of, hey, look at what my body is capable of, as opposed to what it looks like. So I feel like that was part of it. I definitely think doing a lot of like I don’t regret getting swept up in the Paleo movement because again, I feel like it at least shifted my focus from one of just calories in calories out and seeing at that way to how do I nourish my body and what’s good for me and it did help me step in the direction of wanting to put good food in my body even though it it had its own troubles in my obsession with it. I feel like it was coming from a little bit better but right place than just the weight side of things. I also stopped hanging out with any friends that made me feel like that were very focused on their own body image or that I just felt quite observed or judged by I guess, like you know, those friends that are always commenting on anything that changes in your looks like that’s the first thing they noticed. I just, it’s not that they were horrible people. It’s just that, that that was just the way they were. And it wasn’t healthy for me. So I stopped that. And I definitely actively tried to spend more time with the friends that absolutely had no, like, no body image issues. I knew that they loved me for me. We never really spoke about the way things looked or the way I looked. And they were just amazing. And I’m still friends with pretty much all of those people today and they were just so good for me. Holly being one of them. The friend I’d told she was going to get fat actually quit gymnastics, which by the way, she’s beautiful. What did you do to get fat? but I’m just like, so I like spent time with those kind of people. I also, like other strategies that worked where this is just speaking to the anorexia side of things, there was separate things that worked for getting over the binge eating. Definitely seeing a psychologist but I didn’t find the right one to start with. And I wasn’t going for the right reasons but eventually different psychologists, mindset coaches, those kind of things did really help me. And Kate, you helped me like, like, I found you really inspiring, I think because it was at a time when I needed to be doing what you were doing. And I didn’t really have the like the strength to do it. And I think seeing you do it just observing you do it, especially when we’re on placement together for it was quite, it was like eight weeks or something or some significant amount of time. Anyway, I felt like that was really helpful for me to see. And that’s probably the the anorexia side of things. The binge eating and the bulimia is a bit different, but let’s just leave it at the anorexia side of things. What about you what strategies helped you?
Kate Callaghan 37:58
Um, so, I’ve had a lot of strategies but I’ll just cover a few of them. I think the first most important one is having a solid why of why you need to change and want to change. And because it’s really important, so you acknowledge that you need to change and you need to improve your body image. But why? So for me, it was, you know, restoring my fertility and getting back to that optimal health and well being. That body that I had at that moment wasn’t really serving me, or that it wasn’t helping my hormones flourish. It wasn’t helping my body work as it should be. So having that solid why, because you will have time to come off the healing journey and you need to come back to your why of why you want to heal your body. So a few things I as you said, so coming back to what your friends love you for and realizing that your friends love you, for you. And I think a nice way to approach that is to think about the people that you love most in your life, your best friends, write them down, and then write all the things that you love most about them. And I can guarantee you that well, I can, I can’t guarantee actually. I could probably sit like. You’ve most likely won’t say. I love Shazza because she’s skinny. I love Shazza because she’s funny. She makes me laugh, or I love Mary because she was very caring and she listened.
Natalie K. Douglas 39:36
Can I just? Shazza like, it’s the most random name ever. Do you got a friend called Shaza?
Natalie K. Douglas
Okay, was the name Sharon?
Natalie K. Douglas 39:43
Kate Callaghan 39:46
For those of you listening in the UK, we, that’s how we abbreviate names like Sharon becomes Shazza, Barry becomes Bazza, Aaron becomes Aazza. That’s what we do. Shaza. Bazza. Aazza.
Natalie K. Douglas 40:04
So good. Yes, sorry.
Kate Callaghan 40:12
So writing down all of the things that you love about your friend and acknowledging that, but you see that you love them for all of these other qualities, and so they’re probably going to be thinking about the same with you. They’re not going to be, they wouldn’t love you for the way you look and I think we spoke about this in the HA episode as well that I thought that my friends would unfriend me because I was changing the way I looked and they were very very offended, very offended, rightly so. So acknowledging that, one thing that I like to get my clients to do when they’re struggling with body image is to write down five things that are good about them, that are non-aesthetic things. And if they, some people will struggle with this, so it could be I am kind, I am funny, I am caring, I listened well, I help others. Many will struggle with it. And so I’d say ask someone close to you, you know, ask your sister, ask your partner, ask your best friend, right each one of these out and then we’ll post it and stick those post it up around the house so you can see them all the time that will remind you of all of these wonderful qualities that you have, that have absolutely nothing to do with the way you look. Don’t just write them down or think about them and then hide them away. You need to actually write them out everywhere, get your lipstick out, and put it all over the mirror.
Natalie K. Douglas
I love that.
Kate Callaghan 41:33
I encourage people to not weigh themselves and this is a big thing for me as well.
Natalie K. Douglas
I’m no longer weighing myself. Get rid of the scales, they are not serving you at all, they’re not telling you anything. Really.
Natalie K. Douglas 41:46
And no matter how much you tell yourself. No, it doesn’t matter. I’ll just check but I won’t be affected by it like bullshit. I have not met one female yet that is not affected by the scales because it’s been like drilled into us that, you know, it’s even though we sometimes logically know because other people like practitioners like you and I Kate has said, it’s really not that much of an accurate way of measuring things. Even if you are, even if you do need to lose weight, it’s not the most accurate why people still step on those. And if you know that you step on those and if it’s, you know, somewhere near the number you want, and you and that means you have a good day or you step on it and it changes your day to being a bad day and decreases your self-worth then you do not have a good relationship with the scales and they’re useless and honestly just chuck them out. Don’t save them, like just in case, chuck them out, or at least put them somewhere absolutely ridiculously difficult to get down if you need them for some other purpose like I don’t know, weighing suitcases, but I would say don’t, don’t keep the temptation there because, you know, it’s you got to be on your own side.
Kate Callaghan 43:06
Totally. Turn your scales. I own a kitchen scales to weigh my food.
Natalie K. Douglas
Oh, no, I mean for my own sanity, I don’t have scales, but I also have a daughter, and I don’t want to be doing that shit in front of her and teaching her these habits. Like, I mean, I grew up watching my mom by herself and I guess that had an impact on me. I would be in denial if I didn’t.
Natalie K. Douglas
Something else would be to think about the negative things that you are saying to yourself throughout the day. Write them down and reflect on that list at the end of the day, so you could be surprised on how many horrible things that you would say to yourself in your head like my thighs are fat, my belly pokes out. I’ve got cellulite, yada, yada, yada, yada, actually I’ll tell you that’s not necessarily a negative thing. It’s just a statement. Fact of it.
Natalie K. Douglas
Yeah, that’s. Yeah.
But write those down and then at the end of the day, write a number of counter comments to that. So if you’re thinking, my thighs are fat, you might say my legs are so strong. I’m grateful that I have them to get me from A to B because lots people in the world who don’t have legs, that we should be grateful for our cellulite within legs, they’re fabulous. This didn’t happen overnight these things, I mean, it took time.
Natalie K. Douglas
And another big thing for me was not focusing too much on old photos and getting doing a social media account as well.
Natalie K. Douglas
So going through all of the accounts that I was following, and if there were any that made me feel like I should be leaner, or that I should be eating less food, or exercising more, or made me feel that I should be different to who I was in that moment then and there, I would just hit unfollow. I mean, we have that power to just hit unfollow. You can perfectly curate your Instagram and your social media accounts to make you feel amazing, and why wouldn’t you do that?
Natalie K. Douglas 45:07
I love that Kate and like I, I think everyone right now while listening to our podcast should go and unfollow five people. I used to do this when I would do workshops around body image and people, like everyone in the room is like, oh, yeah, I can definitely think of a few accounts. And it doesn’t have to be like that they’re intentionally making you feel less than. If that you even just have someone that is that you’re following that’s just triggering for you because, like, for some particular reason, just unfollow. It’s, it doesn’t need to be something personal. It’s just, if it’s someone that triggers you, like, even if it’s one of your best friends who’s on a weight-loss journey, and they’re doing really well and you see that and you feel like, oh my God, I should be doing that. It’s okay to unfollow. It doesn’t mean you’re following them as your friend in real life. It’s just hey, at the moment like you’re a trigger for me, it doesn’t mean that yeah, I just think it’s it’s so powerful. I love how you said we have the power to, you know, make social media essentially work for us instead of against us. And I think we forget that sometimes.
Kate Callaghan 46:15
It can be incredibly inspiring. There are some amazing people out there.
Natalie K. Douglas
Amazing, amazing, amazing. So, moving on from that, can you talk to us about the concept of using band-aids in the healing process?
Natalie K. Douglas 46:29
Yeah. So what I kind of mean by this is more in relation to healing from bulimia or binging, like when so when I was going through that, and trying to get past that, I used a few band-aids. And what I mean by band-aid is like, kind of like short term strategies, while I gave myself space and time to do the underlying work. So I don’t think that they’re a bad thing to do, but it doesn’t take away from needing to actually address well, why am I using food to essentially mask, manage, hide, whatever my emotions? So for me, I would not keep, like foods that I found particularly triggering in the cupboard. So if anyone who’s listening who’s had bulimia or binge eating, you’ll know what I’m talking about. There are just certain foods that once you start, you can’t stop. So I wouldn’t keep those in the cupboard. I would also which isn’t particularly environmentally friendly, but I just wasn’t you know there yet back then, is I’d buy smaller packets of things instead of one big packet because if I’d opened a big packet, I would freak out and then just have to finish it all. I also didn’t bake because for me, when I used to bake, I couldn’t have one thing. I would end up eating the whole lot and then going and making myself throw up so I didn’t, I stopped baking or making things like that that I knew I’d binge on. I also would brush my teeth after I’ve eaten to try and help signal. Okay, like, this is the end, this is okay. I did also find preparing food ahead of time helpful like so that I didn’t get into the kitchen without a plan and I still tell people that to these days, don’t walk into the kitchen without a clear intention of what you’re going to eat, particularly if you are hungry or feeling a little bit. Just just not grounded as usual because what can happen is at least what used to happen for me, I’d be like, oh, well, I’ll just try one of these things and see if I like it. And by the end of trying a few different foods in the fridge to see what I felt like I’d end up already eating a whole meal and it gets to a point where you get flooded with anxiety, and guilt, and shame, and it turns into a binge, and then the binge continues because essentially you don’t want to face what you’ve just done A and B, the underlying emotion that caused you to do that in the first place. So, I think going into the kitchen with a plan. I think also, for me personally, I did find having some kind of loose plan to follow for my food, a step in the direction because I felt like there was still an element of guidance or control, but I wouldn’t do it to the extent of like, I have to have 10 grams of avocado, it was more like, you know, my plate needs to look like half veggies, a handful of protein, and a handful of starchy carbs. For example, like I kind of had a loose structure in my mind that helped me feel like I still had some form of control or plan in relation to food. And then I also tried not to be alone at home if I was feeling super anxious because those are the times when I would feel like oh I need to like hide this eating and do it that way. And I also tried to make an intention to have my kind of more treat foods or like foods that might not be like healthy to have every day like say if I was going to have ice cream, or like a cake, or something like that, instead of having it at home and by myself I would try and make an eat an experience shared. So that A it wasn’t still in my house for me to just for it to be just calling my name from the fridge and B I was taking away the element of I need to hide this quote-unquote bad through which is I’m just speaking from how I was thinking at the time. I don’t I’m not saying that you know, it’s bad now I’m just saying, this is how I was thinking. And for me, being able to actively have it in front of someone helped me get rid of this idea that I was projecting onto other people that they judge me for it. So they’re the kind of, I guess, band-aids that I use. But, Kate, did you, I don’t know. Did you have any band-aids that you used or not really anything to add there?
Kate Callaghan 51:32
I don’t think so. No.
Natalie K. Douglas 51:35
Well, then what about doing the work because this is what I wanted to talk about. And when I say doing the work, I very much mean addressing the underlying causes of why there’s like, why this is unhealthy relationship with food in our body in the first place. So, like, what do you like? Do you know in hindsight, what it was for you that drove the the disordered eating like, what underlying core belief was there that drove you to it?
Kate Callaghan 52:09
That I had to look a certain way. That I had to have these abs I think because I was defined by this body that I had and I literally was like people called me, Abs, that was my nickname. It wasn’t just in my head.
Natalie K. Douglas
And I can laugh about it now.
Natalie K. Douglas
But it was, it was yeah, just being surrounded by that and embodying that for so long like being a gymnast when I was younger and then going into a hockey and then going into a lot of group fit and always being lean that that drove this, made I guess to always maintain this the way I look, because if I lost that, then I lost me.
Natalie K. Douglas 52:46
Yeah, hundred percent. I saw you and that was pretty much similar to to me. I felt like I’m not loved or valued or respected or worthy if I don’t look a certain way. And I think also being a nutritionist or dietitian, there’s also a story that can creep in for me of, if I don’t look the way that other people might want to look, then why would people value what I have to say? I have to be completely honest with you that thought still pops into my, into my mind every now and again because I’m not, you know, lean, I’m not skinny. And I think sometimes if I if my self-worth is just feeling low because of other things that have happened, it’s easy for me to kind of get dragged back into old thought patterns of oh well, I can’t, I can’t like post that because you know, I don’t look the way that people might want to look and so why they going to value my advice, which is complete bullshit, and I can pull myself up on it, but it’s definitely there’s a lot of pressure I feel in the wellness industry to look a certain way and we are like as as humans, we are, you know, we like pretty things like that’s just biologically like that’s just enough to you know like that and we are very much conditioned. And so, I really have to be in a good place with my self-worth to make sure that that I don’t let that story creep in because as I’ve said, I know that it’s complete bullshit and if anyone of my friends who are nutritionist who felt like they didn’t fit some kind of perfect body mold, said that to me, which that definitely have in the past, there are multiple people I can think of that have said that to me. I would be like, that’s absolute bullshit. Like, I think you’re so intelligent and I love your advice, and it’s just coming back to that same thing for me. So I feel like the underlying work is just on on self-worth on self-love. And and that’s definitely an ongoing thing for me. Yeah.
Kate Callaghan 55:09
Yeah, it’s interesting that the whole sharing your current body on social media. I know, I think there’s two sides to that of feeling like you’re not necessarily lean enough to fit the wellness space but then sometimes, well for me, sometimes I think I’m not. How am I going to say this, I’m too lean to fit the body positive movement.
Natalie K. Douglas 55:40
Yeah, no, you can’t win. Hey, like.
Kate Callaghan 55:42
Which again, silly but you know, but that’s why I don’t really post pictures of my body much.
Natalie K. Douglas
Because I don’t. I, well, I don’t want to trigger people and I don’t know. I don’t feel that I am obviously very body positive, but then at the same time, I like I don’t. Sorry. Sorry. Go. Go. Go. Go. Interrupting my train of thought. I don’t know how to stop things coming through my computer. Sorry.
Natalie K. Douglas
It went. It went.
That’s always. Yeah. And so I guess, it’s a tricky one of where do you fit?
Natalie K. Douglas 56:15
Yeah, totally. And I think it’s, it is really hard and I and also, I think with the body image movement, we’ve spoken about this before, like, there’s such a fine line between, like, like, I feel like it’s just too black and white. It’s either like, you love your body completely and you never want to change anything about it, or it’s the flip side and you all you want to do is change your body, and it’s like there’s no in-between and that frustrates me because as someone who’s done a shit ton of work on self-worth, and body acceptance, and body love. I still think that I could want to change my body for a reason that isn’t linked to a lack of self-worth. And I think that’s okay. And I think sometimes women are made to feel like crap if that’s their goal, especially if they have a history of once upon a time, quote-unquote, dieting for a reason. That wasn’t coming from the right place, but you’re the only one that could ever answer that. And so I think it’s just, yeah, the whole like there’s there’s been so many positive, so many positives to the body image, like body-positivity movement, but it still sometimes can turn into this feeling of like, I need to fit into a box or a certain like you were saying, Kate, I have to, maybe I’m not, maybe I’m too lean to fit into this body-positivity box, but you know, you are someone who has done a lot of work on accepting your body as it is, and you happen to have a body that is naturally more lean at it’s healthiest than someone else like for me, my body naturally carries a little bit more fat, body fat, or bodyweight, or muscle, and that is what is normal for me. But both of us, although we look different are like, still healthy, still have a good relationship without body and food. The majority I mean I can’t speak for you, but I would say the majority of time I do I certainly still have my moments because I’m human. But yeah, I think that’s what I would say on that.
Kate Callaghan 58:33
Hmm, agreed. Agreed.
Natalie K. Douglas 58:35
So, I think the last question that I wanted to ask is, from your personal experience, do you feel like disordered eating or an eating disorder ever leaves you?
Kate Callaghan 58:48
I think you can. I posted on my social media a little while ago that I had this interesting moment of when I was in, I just I’ve been at the pool swimming and so they might like my togs? As they call them over here on New Zealand.
Natalie K. Douglas
My togs. And as I was going to the toilet I kind of looked behind me and caught a glimpse of my, my butt in the mirror and I’ve seen stretch marks and cellulite and all of the things. And it was just a period a moment of nothing. Like I didn’t, I didn’t have a negative thought, I didn’t have a positive thought, it was just definitely, there’s my butt. And I think for me, that was a big moment of this is I’m at peace like I’m not going yes, I love my body so much and I’m not like I need to change my body. I’m like this is my body. It serves me. It’s awesome. I’m loving my body for what it does for me rather than how it looks at the moment.
Natalie K. Douglas 59:51
I love that. What a great moment and what a reflection of all the hard work that you’ve done to, to come to that like it’s kind of like, you don’t realize how far you’ve come until you get to a place and you go through an experience that would usually be triggering. And it’s not there anymore. That’s awesome.
Kate Callaghan 1:00:12
Yeah, and you?
Natalie K. Douglas 1:00:16
Yeah. I like, I think for me personally, so far I don’t feel like it’s something that has left me completely. I think that I can still have moments of triggering, but my awareness and my, and my voice that is in there that is full of self-love, and acceptance, and compassion to myself is much much stronger. So I feel like I can still be triggered, but the trigger doesn’t snowball. In fact, it’ll be you know, maybe I’m at the gym and I catch like catch a glimpse of my body in the mirror. And for me, I might like be a little bit I don’t know, disappointed or shocked or embarrassed for a moment and that will come up in in me quite strongly still. But there’s this other such like, beautiful voice in my mind that I’ve worked really hard to strengthen over the years that just says, you know, like, it’s okay, like, I love you, I accept you, you’re beautiful, and how amazing that you can you can move your body after all that it’s been through. And so I feel like for me, it’s like it’s still a little bit of like a devil on my shoulder occasionally, but it’s, it’s it doesn’t drive my my decisions. It doesn’t drive my life. It weren’t necessarily stop me, I find that if I am looking after myself, those triggers are far less. It’s when I’m quite overwhelmed or run down, or I’m just not in a really good place mentally or emotionally that I find it harder to overcome those thoughts. So I think it’s a bit of like it’s, it’s there but it’s not controlling anymore whereas once upon a time, it had absolute an absolute complete hold over me. And there was absolutely no voice in me that was like, what the fuck is this chick talking about? Like you’re amazing, like, they were just, there was just it just did not exist. So now that’s very much the opposite. So that, you know, not so great voices like a little whisper, and the cheerleader in me is like, so much stronger, which is very, very liberating. I have to say because it feels so much more like freeing instead of feeling like I just live in this tiny, tiny little box and I have to stay in there in order to feel worthy, in control, and capable of the existing in the world, and putting myself out there. I now feel like I’m much more expanded and free, but I still have to do the work on self-love and self-worth because I think it being such a big thing in my life for such a very very long time since I was you know, 12 and a half 13-ish for over a decade, and now I’m only 28 now so it’s I was almost more like spent more time with disordered eating than I have without it. So for me, it’s like, it’s still still like in the background. But yeah, just not as present is what I’d say.
Kate Callaghan 1:03:51
Are you working on it?
Natalie K. Douglas 1:03:53
Absolutely. Yeah. And I think that it’s, it’s something that I will continue working on and as I said, I don’t feel like it has, it has a hold over me or control over me but, you know, I’d be lying if I said I was never triggered because that’s just not not true at this point in time but you know, hopefully, one day in the future that is the case but I’m just really proud that now I might be triggered and within you know, two or three minutes it’s I have the ability to like, let that subside like feel it, let it go, as opposed to letting it control my whole day, my whole week, my whole month, my whole year.
Kate Callaghan 1:04:35
Awesome. Got you.
Natalie K. Douglas
Go us. So Kate, before we wrap up because it’s I know we’ve been talking for a while which we just do. I wanted to I feel like this is a really good time to remind people of your Healing Hypothalamic Amenorrhea course, 8-week course because it is launching in well, enrollments are open now I believe.
Natalie K. Douglas
So do you want to quickly tell people where they can find out more information?
Kate Callaghan 1:05:11
Yeah, so if they go to bit.ly/.healthP everything else is lowercase, or just go to my website and navigate to the shop button and you’ll see the course in there, or if you’re on Instagram hit the link in the profile, and you can find in there. All the ways if you can please, just send me a message and I can send you the link but we are starting on the sixth of October, there are limited spaces available. So if you don’t have your period, if you’ve lost it, and you don’t and you’re not pregnant, and you haven’t lost it for another reason such as PCOS, then this is definitely the course for you. It’s an 8-week E-course and we’re going to be addressing all areas of your life and of your health and well being including a body image. So definitely get in touch with me if you want to get involved with that because there are limited spaces to be involved.
Natalie K. Douglas 1:06:03
So good, and we did a whole podcast on hypothalamic amenorrhea and Kate also went into more detail about the course there. So make sure you have a listen to that. And definitely, if you are on the fence, this is your sign to sign up because it will absolutely change things for you. So we will let you navigate to that but yeah, have a listened to the other episode. Kate, thank you so much for sharing your story with me and everyone else, and hopefully, someone besides us have got something out of it. And if you guys have any questions that have popped up from hearing either of our stories or comments or you want to share your experience, please feel free to do so either in a comment below the post on Instagram for this podcast, or DM us if it’s something that you don’t want to share publicly, but just know that you know we are all in this together. Like neither, Kate, nor myself are on any kind of pedestal or have any kind of an exception to, you know, the struggles that you guys have to just because we know what we know it doesn’t mean that implementing changes any easier. So you are absolutely not alone and I truly believe that it it is possible to to heal from disordered eating and eating disorders. I think you just have to do the underlying work and you have to be consistent with it.
Kate Callaghan 1:07:31
Absolutely. If nothing changes, nothing changes.
Natalie K. Douglas 1:07:34
That’s it. What a good note to end on. I love that.
Kate Callaghan 1:07:39
Started singing. Started with singing the OZ and.
Natalie K. Douglas 1:07:43
And end it on an inspirational quote. Perfect balance.
Kate Callaghan 1:07:44
Natalie K. Douglas 1:07:48
I love it. All right. Well, I will talk to you soon.
Thanks for tuning in to The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast. Remember, we love to make the show relevant to you. If you have any questions or topics you’d like us to discuss, just submit them to [email protected] and we’ll get them answered for you. Also, don’t forget to subscribe, rate, and review the podcast on iTunes and share it with your friend. And if you’re looking for more info about how we can accelerate your journey to your optimal health, you can find me, Nat, over at NatalieKDouglas.com, and Kate, at TheHolisticNutritionist.com. See you next time!
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Natalie K. Douglas | Thyroid Healer
Natalie K. Douglas ("Nat") is a Holistic Dietitian and Nutritionist dedicated to Thyroid, gut and hormone healing.
Nat shows stressed, burnt out, overwhelmed women how to value their worth again, change their mindset habits, prioritize healing, and reclaim their vitality. Guaranteed.
Her clients say she’s the right girl to see if you’ve tried the conventional approach and nothing has worked.
Kate Callaghan | The Holistic Nutritionist
Kate Callaghan is a Holistic Nutritionist, Personal Trainer and Lifestyle Coach who specializes in women's hormone healing.
She recognizes that there is no “one size fits all” diet or “magic bullet” which is going to cure all illnesses.
She focuses on having a thorough understanding of your personal goals, needs, likes/dislikes, support networks and lifestyle in order to create a food and lifestyle approach that suits YOU.