11 books to help you stop binge eating

I’ve always been a big reader. When I get stuck in life, I always turn to books for the answers. They help me feel heard, and they help me to heal.


These ones have helped me in my life — both with binge eating, and with living better in general. That’s why I wanted to share them with you. I hope they help you too.


Maria’s top pick:

  • The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown

If you do nothing else, get the audiobook version of this book. I recommend every single person hear it. Brene Brown is a god of storytelling and authenticity, like no other.


Non-diet strategy book:

  • Thinside Out by Josie Spinardi

I don’t advocate dieting, and neither does Spinardi. The tips and tools in this book are scientifically backed, and incredibly useful on the journey to stop binge eating.



  • Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn

This book changed my life. I literally wouldn’t be alive today without this book. It’s a game-change for anyone with chronic pain or depression.


  • Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

Another beautiful and healing book, though a little on the Buddhist-side, so be aware of that if that’s not your thing. (It’s totally readable either way.)


  • Mindful Eating: Free Yourself from Overeating and Other Unhealthy Relationships with Food by Jan Chosen Hays

This book teaches you the fundamentals of eating more mindfully, so you can really taste your food.


Mental Toughness:


  • Grit by Angela Duckworth

This book will teach you about mental toughness, and how to get more of it.



Poetry is truth. You will find yourself inside.


  • Salt by Nayyirah Waheed
  • The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur


Creating Healthy Habits:

If you want to learn more about how to set things up so you have a lifetime of good habits, James Clear really is your man. He’ll teach you how to live better, no question.


General Self-Help:

  • Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Someone Who’s Been There by Cheryl Strayed

This is a beautiful book. It will make your heart glow with the warmth of acceptance and shared humanity.


Mark Manson is an incredible writer, whose truth bombs smash into you like a punch to the gut. But then things get much better!

I recommend him very highly, but in particular, these articles are very important:



  • The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk.


Many people who binge eat have suffered trauma in their lives, which is why I want to include this book. This is a great book for anyone interested in learning more about trauma and its effects on the body. There are treatments described in the book itself, but if you are suffering from the unaddressed effects trauma, I highly recommend seeking the help of a therapist. Things will get better, I promise, but you need to take the time to address what has happened to you.



  • Come As you Are by Emily Nagoski

The more people I talk to, the more I see that sex comes up as a problem in people’s life, due to body image issues, and other nonsense we’ve been taught over the years. This book digs into the science. It’s an incredibly interesting and reassuring read, no matter what gender or age you are.


I’m getting slightly off-topic now, but I also wanted to mention:


The most powerful TED talk I’ve ever seen:

Our story of rape and reconciliation

In 1996, Thordis Elva shared a teenage romance with Tom Stranger, an exchange student from Australia. After a school dance, Tom raped Thordis, after which they parted ways for many years. In this extraordinary talk, Elva and Stranger move through a years-long chronology of shame and silence, and invite us to discuss the omnipresent global issue of sexual violence in a new, honest way.


I love learning. I love challenging myself to think differently and to be better than I was yesterday.


So now I’m interested – what books, articles or videos have influenced you, or even changed your life? Let me know in the comments, below.




“Help! I don’t diet anymore, but I still binge eat”

Someone recently reached out to me about their number one struggle with binge eating. Since this is such a common problem, I thought I’d share my response here.

Here’s the message I was sent:

My #1 binge eating challenge is mental/emotional restriction.  Though I am slowly letting go of food rules, I sometimes still have an idea in my head of what my day’s food “should” look like or how much of a previously forbidden food I “should” allow myself.  When I cross those imaginary lines in my head between “good” and “bad” eating, I end up in last supper mode.  So while I don’t physically restrict my food as much as I used to, I am still struggling to legalize and allow all foods mentally.

Here’s my response:

I’m really glad to hear that you aren’t physically restricting yourself anymore (here’s why). What you’re experiencing is known as the “diet mentality”, and it’s extremely common! It’s difficult to let go of old thoughts and beliefs around food, when we’re so used to telling ourselves these stories.

Here’s what I’d do.

Firstly, I would always advise self-compassion. No matter what happens, or what thoughts come into your head, forgive yourself. Forgive your actions. Know that you are doing the best you can. It might not be the ideal behaviour you want right now, but you’re doing what you can, given your life experience.

Second, I’m wondering if it’s possible to really start to notice those thoughts that come up. So, say you ate a brownie. What thoughts would come up after you ate it? Is it possible to write those thoughts down on a piece of paper and really look at them?

Once you get them down on paper, you can question if these thoughts are something that you actually believe, or are just leftover thoughts from being on diets for so long.

You can also ask yourself is this thought is helpful?”

Finally, you can label these thoughts, and observe them, non-judgmentally.

Let’s go through an example

Say I just ate a brownie. Previously brownies would have been completely off-limits in my diet. Although I’m no longer restricting them, I’m still in the diet-mentality, so maybe I’m thinking:

“I didn’t need to eat that brownie. It’s like 400kcal. I’m out of control again, and I’m going to start putting on weight if I keep doing this.”

If thoughts are just swirling around in your head, and you aren’t sure what you’re thinking, try just getting a piece of paper and writing down whatever comes up. (If you don’t get concrete about what you’re thinking, you’ll often just find yourself standing over a jar of peanut butter, with no idea how you got there.)

From there, we have three approaches:

#1  Do I really believe these thoughts? Let’s see…

“So, OK, maybe I didn’t NEED to eat the brownie, but eating is about emotional satisfaction as well as physical satisfaction. I enjoyed the brownie. It was delicious. Also, it doesn’t matter how many calories it is, because if I pay attention to my hunger and satisfaction, I’m only going to eat as much as I need (most of the time. We’re all human, and eating past full is totally OK sometimes).”

#2  If you can’t logically talk yourself out of the thoughts, don’t be afraid to just say “OK, I hear you, but is that thought helpful right now?”

If it’s not helpful, then just let it go. No matter how many times it pops into your head, just say “OK, this isn’t a helpful thought, so I’m going to think about something else.”

#3 Labelling thoughts. 

In this case, you can just say to yourself “I’m having the thought that I broke my (non-existent) diet.”   or “I’m having a thought about food“, or “I’m judging myself about eating that brownie”.

By labelling the thoughts you’re having, you can actually create space away from those thoughts. Creating that space means you won’t be drawn into the stories you’re telling yourself, which means you’ll be less emotionally attached to those stories, which means you’ll be less likely to binge!

Let me know in the comments if you found this useful.


If you’re struggling with something in particular, or want a question answered, feel free to email me. I guarantee you’re not alone in your struggle, and these kinds of questions can help everyone.




My Honest Review Of Jessi Kneeland’s Authentic Body Confidence Course

I was lucky enough to be part of the beta group of Jessi Kneeland’s Authentic Body Confidence course, which started over the summer of 2017.

Here’s what’s included in this review:

Let’s get to it!


What Is ABC?

Jessi describes Authentic Body Confidence as

12 weeks to feel safe, free, and sexy AF in your own skin. This 12 week coaching program is the ultimate culmination of everything I know about forgiving, accepting, and befriending your body.

Practically-speaking, it’s a series of coaching calls, tools, and exercises to help you change how you feel about yourself for the better. There were also bonus videos and worksheets from other experts in the industry, and also a private Facebook group which immediately became a safe space for all of us to discuss not just the course, but whatever else came up along the journey.


Why I Joined The Course

I’ve gone through abusive relationships, eating disorders, and fifteen years of depression during my life. I’d come a hell of a long way in accepting myself and healing through all of that. Then, in 2016, I suffered a chronic leg injury. I lost my identity, not just as an athlete, but as an able-bodied person. I was learning deep lessons from this injury, which was slowly healing, but I knew I needed to go further in forgiving myself, and recognizing why I was pushing myself so hard in the first place.

Alongside this, my belly was (slowly) growing, and I couldn’t run off the additional weight. I kept feeling like my stomach was this big block I was carrying. It felt like it was holding me down, holding me back. I was becoming conscious of it every moment of the day, and I knew that I had to explore that deeper. Why was I so focussed on having a six pack? I needed to know.

I had been very impressed with Jessi’s work in the past, so when the opportunity came up to take the course, I signed myself up.


How Is Life Different Now?

As someone who already “had their shit together” (after about seven years of doing this kind of work myself), I was genuinely, and pleasantly, surprised at how much I learnt from this course, and how much depth it went into.

We explored and uncovered things I didn’t even realize needed to be explored and uncovered. So, yes, I now have even more tools to deal with emotional experiences – such as grief – and, yes, I am even kinder, and more in love with my body than ever before. But I also unearthed some old beliefs about myself that I didn’t realize were still there. By becoming aware of these subconscious beliefs, I was able to choose if they still had any value to me. (Whereas, if I’m unaware of them, they are impacting my life without my knowledge.)

Which is all to say that I’m happier and more joyful in my body (and my life) than ever before. And I have more tools for the future, whenever life next punches me in the face. Win.


Results From One Week Of The Course

After just the first few days, I had a deep, and totally unexpected, insight about my body. I even posted this message to the private Facebook group:



So after just a couple of days I could see that what I thought was just “this thing about my belly” was a whole lot more. Needless to say, Jessi knows this already, and this course is about diving deep to find the real, underlying issues of your hangups.

It’s also worth emphasising that one of the brilliant things about the course were the amazing, supportive group of people I got to do the course with. Here’s another message I left the Facebook group in the first week:



Connecting with a group of people who “get you” is invaluable, not just in a course, but in life in general. Jessi’s work attracts the “right crowd”, so I have no doubt if you’re reading this that you’ll definitely feel welcome.

In fact, one of the first things Jessi said to us was, “You couldn’t put too much on this table.” As in, no matter what, don’t be afraid to be yourself. You are not “too much”, and none of your “issues and problems” are “too much”. This community has got your back, big time.


Results From Two Weeks

Two weeks in and two things were on my mind.

My body, and the word “sensual”.

Language is a funny thing. I hadn’t really thought about the word “sensual” for years, but I realized — even after doing lots of mindfulness, and practicing being more in touch with my sight, taste, touch, smell, and hearing every day — that the actual word “sensual” was still a loaded term for me.



I began to consciously realize that being sensual wasn’t “dirty”. That’s just a label I put on the word when I was kid. Sensual means being in tune with your senses, it’s what it means to be a human being; it is life itself.

Alongside this insight, during week two, I also had an extremely powerful, liberating experience with “tapping” my body. (The idea of tapping is basically to get back in touch with your body by physically tapping it with your hands. We also did the additional step of “reclaiming” your body parts as your own, see the FB post below.) For someone like me, who has previously been in an abusive relationship, this was an incredibly powerful moment.



So in just two weeks, I knew this course was going to be life-changing. Again, I was surprised by this because I had already changed my life so much from the person I was. But I was seeing that this course would challenge me and make me dig even deeper. I was game.


Results From Six Weeks

Half way!

I was beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed with all the information we’d been given, even with an additional week in between to catch up. But I realised that I didn’t need to be doing every single thing right now. I could pick and choose my own way through this course, and I could also leave stuff now and do it once the course was over.

We have this material for life, so even if I don’t quite get it all now, I can look over it in the future. It’s not going anywhere.

During this time, we were taught about grief, and how to grieve “consciously”. Again, I had another very powerful experience with this one, and it’s also a tool I’ll have for when I need to grieve in the future.

Here’s the Facebook message I posted to the group:



We were also learning to really tune into how desires and emotions manifest in our body, on a deep level.



I was struggling a bit with feeling exactly how my emotions manifest in my own body. This is something I intend to do more of; in fact I believe tuning into your body like this is something people should practice every day.



Results From Twelve Weeks

As I’ve already said, I was impressed with the course, and I’d had a lot of powerful experiences, but I was still hung up on my belly for quite a long time throughout the course.

Together Jessi and I cracked that I was identifying very, very strongly as an athlete. And I had the belief that, as an athlete, I needed a six pack. I decided to do a little writing exercise that I knew of:



Once I identified this, things started to shift, and eventually my belly felt lighter. Physically it was the same, but I was more at peace because I had internalized that our bodies change as we live life. They mirror our internal and external experiences, both of which are in constant flux. So it is natural and normal to expect our bodies to change every moment of the day (and totally unrealistic to expect them to look like a fitness photoshoot).

This sounds like a simple thing to say on paper, but truly internalizing this — especially with the constant bombardment of images we see in the media, and when we’ve had leaner bodies in the past — is more difficult.

And, of course, some days are not as good as others. Some days it’s more difficult to accept how your body looks and feels. That is just the way life goes, and that is what Jessi teaches.


A cool experience I had while taking the course

Lastly, I also want to mention that I had a really cool experience in the gym, which wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been doing the course:



Is ABC right for you?

I truly believe this is a life-changing course, no matter what stage you’re at. Whether you’re already a fairly confident person, who isn’t afraid to be authentic, or not. Whether you’re pretty much OK with your body, except for a few body parts, or if you dislike or hate your entire self.

I believe there are huge lessons to be learnt here, and Jessi is a knowledgeable, compassionate guide on the journey.

Personally, I’ve already revisited some of the material, and I intend to revisit this material again as problems in my life arise. I’ve come to think of Jessi’s ABC course as a toolbox for life.


Authentic Body Confidence is NOT right for you if…


  • You want a super structured course, which micro-manages every action step. In Jessi’s own words, this is more of a “choose your own adventure” course. There is a lot of information, and a lot of tools. Some of them will work for you, some of them won’t. You have to find, pick and choose what works for you. So, if this style doesn’t suit you, then this may not be the course for you.


  • You’re looking for a quick fix. This isn’t a “30-day ab blast”. This is real, emotional work, which is often more difficult and can take more time (but the results will definitely last longer).


  • You’re taking lots of other online courses. You’re going to need some time and emotional energy to deal with this course. Now, everyone is always super busy all the time, and I was no different, but do be aware that this is a deep-ass emotional shit you’ll be diving into. If you’re super swamped, or not ready for change just yet, then it might be worth waiting until you have at least a bit of space to deal with this.


Authentic Body Confidence IS right for you if…


  • You don’t like certain parts, or all of, your body. Or if you’ve ever wondered what “listen to your body” really means, and how that can guide you into making positive decisions in your life.


  • You feel you have to act a certain way around others – that you’re covering up something, for someone. That you aren’t being true to your real self.


  • You aren’t afraid of doing the emotional work now, so you can reap the benefits later. This course does require you to dive in deep, which can be hard, but it’s always worth it to uncover the layers.


If you’re binge eating, I can help you.

I know what it’s like to use binge eating to cope with difficult emotions. To hate your own body. To feel like you can’t trust yourself.

That’s why I wrote the 65-page, illustrated Ultimate Guide To Stop Binge Eating.

Jessi’s Authentic Body Confidence course is comprehensive, but I want to give you this guide FREE, so you can learn to trust yourself, and your body, even faster.

Just put your details in the box below, and I’ll send the guide straight over.



Three steps to survive the holiday season

Well, it’s officially December, which means turkey and roast potatoes are already coming out of your ears, and if you see one more mince pie, you might cry from the indecision… to eat or not to eat.


But at least you get to spend time with your family, right?


Whether you hate your family or not, Christmas can be a stressful time.


And if you’ve been binge eating recently, it can mean full-blown anxiety and panic.


So how the hell do you survive all the parties, meals out, and full-on gluttony that is December?


Here’s three steps to help you:



Step 1: Focus on habits rather than negative thoughts about your body


Right now you’re focused on how your body looks. Since you don’t like how it looks now, you’re wondering how you’re going to cope when comes to the end of December.


This is causing you anxiety and worry. And what do you do when you’re anxious and worried? You eat.


So let’s shift the mindset.


Rather than being judgemental of yourself, rather than focusing on how your body looks (and thinking about an increasing waistline), focus instead on habits; on the actions and behaviors you have a choice over.


Which brings us to:

Step 2: Pick ONE of these habits to practice


These are great habits to practice at any time of the year, but particularly when you’re being bombarded with lots of rich food.


1. Eat mindfully. Let all your senses really awaken each time you eat. Take a good look at the food before you eat it. Does it smell good? How does it taste? How does it feel on your tongue and in your mouth? How does it sound? Be with the experience as much as you can. Not only will you enjoy it much more while you’re eating, but later on you’ll actually remember that you ate it, which means you’ll be more satisfied and less likely to snack later.


Remember that it’s totally OK to eat for purely emotional reasons. It’s OK to eat your favourite Christmas dessert / baked treat for no other reason than you want to. Give yourself permission. Enjoy it. Eat it mindfully. Then move on with your life.


If eating mindfully for a whole meal feels like too much, try to do just one mindful bite per meal, or just one mindful bite per day. Shrink it down to whatever feels manageable to you.


2. Eat / drink more slowly. Eating slowly means you’ll enjoy your food more, and you’ll probably find you need to eat less, too. Put your knife and fork down between bites. Take a sip of water and a deep breath. Enjoy the conversation around you. Just don’t eat so slowly that it feels restrictive. That’s the opposite of what we want to achieve here.


3. Find some quiet time. Find a quiet time every day, to get away from the Christmas mayhem, focus on your breathing, and try to tune into sensations in your body.


This could be taking a breathing space throughout the day, or trying to be with the sensations in your body first thing in the morning, or last thing at night.

Pick one habit to practice; don’t be an overachiever and overwhelm yourself. Less is more.


Step 3: Get on top of your thoughts



The biggest problem people binge eating face is dealing with all or nothing thinking, such as:


  • I’ve blown it.
  • Screw it, I’ll start my diet again tomorrow/in January.
  • I ate something naughty/bad.
  • I’m a failure.


It’s normal to have those thoughts. We’ve been conditioned by the media and the diet-obsessed culture we live in to think those thoughts. But you don’t need to act on them.


You see, most people let their thoughts and emotions run their lives. They’re on autopilot. But when you can bring awareness to your thoughts, you become free to choose how to act.


So when you notice a thought arise, one of the best things to do is to turn that thought into a factual statement.


For example:


  • I’m having the thought that I’m fat.
  • I’m having the thought that I need to restrict.
  • That was a judgemental thought.
  • I’m having the thought that I want to eat, even though I’m not hungry.


By labelling your thoughts and creating factual statements about the thought itself, you create space from the emotionally-charged part of the thought. And once you create space, you realise you don’t have to interact or get involved with any of the thoughts that arise.


You see, thoughts are like clouds in the sky. They arise, and they take certain shapes. When we get caught up in a cloud, everything becomes a kind of fog. We can’t see clearly, so we don’t act in the way we’d ideally want to.


But we can also take a step back. We can feel our feet on the ground, look at the cloud, and say “hey, that cloud looks like a hamburger!”, or “that cloud looks like a worry about the future”.


Then we can just watch the cloud go by.


(This amazing painting is by Rhads)


Because thoughts — just like the urge to binge — will always pass, as long as we don’t try to cling to them; as long as we keep our eyes focused, not on the cloud, but on the blue sky as a whole.


Think about it: a binge never happened when you felt calm and at peace. So removing the emotional charge of your thoughts is going to help you keep on top of those urges.


So take the perspective that, yes, it’s normal and totally OK to have these thoughts, but you can choose to let them rule you, or you can choose to take actions in line with your values, no matter what you’re thinking or feeling.


When you keep your eyes on the sky and your feet on the ground, when you focus not on negative thoughts about your body, but on actions that are in your control, that’s how you can craft a holiday season — how you can craft a life — that you will truly enjoy.




My trip to Rome (and why I used to be scared to go to Italy)

I feel a bit silly saying this, but I just know you’ll understand.


I used to be kinda scared to go to Italy because I knew the food was really good.


And if the food was really good, then I wouldn’t be able to stop eating it.


And if I couldn’t stop eating it, then I’d gain weight.


And that TERRIFIED me.


I had a real love-hate relationship with food. I couldn’t physically live without eating, but I didn’t seem to have any control over it. It was so delicious and yet so disgusting, scary and awful, all at once.


A couple of years ago — when I realized this fear had been holding me back from visiting an entire country — I went to Venice. And last weekend, I went again to Rome:

Rome was stunning. I went with a great friend of mine (the perfect travel partner) and yes — the food was incredible.


But you know what? I’m actually not going to talk about the food. In fact, have you noticed that I never post pictures of food?


That’s because (a) food porn can trigger binges, and (b) binge eating isn’t even about food.


It’s about not truly listening to what your body needs.


When you learn to get in touch with your body, not only do you stop binge eating, but other cool things happen too. You begin to trust yourself. You create healthy boundaries for yourself, which you — and other people — respect. You become more confident and at ease in your own skin.


This is definitely what happened to me. Just look at this photo my friend took of me outside the Colosseum in Rome (without me even noticing):

Look how relaxed, confident and at ease I am. I’m in a foreign city, talking to strangers on the table next to us, totally comfortable in my own skin.


I didn’t pose for this photo.


But when I was binge eating, I couldn’t be confident, because I wasn’t comfortable in myself. I continually ignored what my body was trying to tell me because I wanted it to look and perform a certain way.


After a LOT of reflection, I realized that’s because I was scared — on a deep level — that I wasn’t enough.


I wasn’t lean, strong, intelligent, fearless or badass enough.


So no matter what I achieved, I wasn’t happy and I was never proud. Instead, I was always striving for more.


It was a never ending scale of inadequacy.


Now — to be clear — I think it’s great to want to achieve things and make the most of your life. But the shit hits the fan when this motivation — this drive — comes solely from a place of fear.


So these days, I don’t smash my body and mind into the ground to prove my self-worth. I don’t obsess over food. I try to listen to when my body needs rest. I try to listen to sensations of hunger and satiety. I try to be kind to myself.


And you know what? This means I actually perform better, because I know when to stop working, and how to de-stress without using food. It means I can actually go on holiday, with zero anxiety about what to eat, all the while knowing that I don’t need to “be strict” when I get home.


The thing is: eating ice cream and spaghetti is part of life. The diet doesn’t start when you get home from holiday. It doesn’t start on Monday, or tomorrow. What you eat — and how you treat your body — is a continuum.


Continually dieting and beating yourself up because you think you need to look or be certain way means you’re continually restricting your experience of life.


This mindset — which I was stuck in for years — is a life thief. It can stop you from being able to just sit and enjoy quality time with your family, it can stop you going to nice restaurants with your friends, and it can stop you visiting entire, beautiful countries, like Italy.


But when you can listen to your body; when you can put your self-worth into more than how you look, and how you perform; when you make room in your belly for laughter, there is less room for vast quantities of food, consumed in secret.


The fact is that freedom — like Italy — is there, waiting for you.



But you have to be willing to open your heart, to let it in.





What To Do If You Think About Food All The Time

As I said in my ultimate guide to stop binge eating, I used to be obsessed with food.

I’d think about it all the time. I’d sit at my desk and drool over what I could eat now, what I would eat next, what I could eat later. Whether I was out catching up with friends, sitting in the cinema, or lying in bed, it didn’t matter — food would constantly call to me.

It turns out dieting and deprivation is the reason you’re obsessing over food. If you never deprived yourself, or had a diet mentality, you’d never feel like you can’t go on living another second unless the entire bag of M&Ms are in your mouth. That just wouldn’t be a thing.

And why did we all diet in the first place? Well, duh… because we’re unhappy with how we look.

Personally, I wanted a six pack. I wanted to look, feel and therefore be, a strong motherfucking badass.


What started as a project of self improvement became a full blown obsession, of orthorexia, anorexia and then binge eating. My entire self-worth was put into an image of myself I could never attain.

When you spend this much time fantasizing, planning out exactly what you’re going to eat and at what time, constantly exercising purely to try to change your size and shape, checking the mirror to itemize everything that’s wrong with your body… when your mind is focused only on these things, you lose so many other things:

  • You lose the mental resources to focus on productive and creative ideas.
  • You waste a tonne of time.
  • You waste a tonne of energy (emotional or otherwise).
  • You can’t be fully present with your family, friends, the cheerful barista pouring you the most amazing cup of coffee, or the view from your AirBnB holiday rental.


You exist, but you don’t truly live.

But here’s the thing:

  • 90% of women and 80% of men are unhappy in their bodies (obviously the stats depend on exactly where you look, but it’s not good).
  • 95% of diets don’t work. (With people usually regaining more weight than they lost. And the people who restrict hardest and longest are often the ones who go onto binge eating. We’re too busy trying to crush it to be the best version of ourselves that it completely backfires.)

When statistics are this high, this isn’t about individuals anymore. This is about society (a) making everyone feel — at best — inadequate and — at worst — entirely worthless in the body they were given the gift of life with; and (b) the diet industry knowing this, and therefore getting repeat customers, time and again.

Think about it: it’s the perfect business model:

Step 1. I’m going to make you believe have a problem (since you’re not white with 3% body fat, and therefore don’t look the way only 4% of the population could ever look),

Step 2. I’m going to sell you something that will work for a bit, (so you trust me enough to come back when it inevitably fucks you up).

Step 3. When it does fuck you, I’m going to cash in on the fact that you’ve blamed yourself… You failed because you’re a lazy piece of shit, right?


Mmm, I’m gonna sleep well tonight.


It’s not ethical, but apparently it works, because according to Brene Brown’s (highly recommended) book, there’s a:

  • $38 billion hair industry
  • $33 billion diet industry
  • $24 billion skincare industry
  • $18 billion makeup industry
  • $15 billion perfume industry
  • $13 billion cosmetic surgery industry

While I know a lot of people get into the fitness industry because they want to help others feel and perform better, it would be naïve to not realise there’s a shit ton of people getting rich out of making you feel bad about yourself.

But Maria, I still need to fit in. Even if it’s wrong, I need to live in this society!

So what can we all do about this?

You can be aware of where this pressure is coming from. Ask yourself: who benefits from me feeling this way about myself?

You can acknowledge that loving yourself doesn’t make you fat (and hating yourself doesn’t make you thin).

You can realize that your feelings about your weight actually have zero impact on how other people feel about you (but your feelings about your body may have an impact on how pleasant you are to be around in general, because it turns out people actually like us a shit tonne more if we’re actually focused, friendly, and feel comfortable in our own skin, no matter what we look like).

Realize that feeling utter despair over eating a Mars bar is going to make you eat more Mars bars because of the emotional pain you’re in. Whereas eating a Mars bar because you were feeling a bit sad, then moving on with your life is totally fine and human. The strict diet mentality — that level of perfectionism — is actually holding you back. Try instead, to be compassionate towards yourself, no matter what you eat, do, or don’t do.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve and change yourself (which is presumably why you dieted in the first place), but when you take this too far, when you’re putting all your self-worth into what the scale says, or how you didn’t eat “perfectly”, maybe it’s time to diversify your identity. Maybe it’s time to go to that painting class you always wanted to go to, learn how to play the piano, or just take your friend out for coffee.

Because, I don’t know about you, but when I’m on my death bed, I don’t want to say “I obsessed over food for every second I was alive, but at least I had a six pack”.


How do food thoughts hold you back? Let me know in the comments or contact me with all the amazing things you want to do instead of thinking about food all day.





Face The Unknown

I hung from a cliff face, all alone, in a foreign country. No one knew where I was. I had no ropes, only the strength of my fingertips against the rocks. The sun was beaming down. I’d finished my water 3 hours ago, and the rucksack on my back was full of books.

I call this: facing the unknown.

It was January 2014, I was living in Exeter, UK, and it kept getting flooded. I’d just finished my PhD, and was renting a room in a terrace with no insulation, and no heating. There was also this massive hole in the window of my bedroom. Sometimes I’d lay on my bed and just watch leaves blowing around in circles on the floor. Each night I wore 3 layers of clothes under a duvet, and still I shivered and barely slept.

Now, I’m not an umbrella person. I’m a hood-up-and-get-on-with-it kind of person. So each day I was soaked through from the day before. My shoes started to smell. I started wearing baggy, old clothes. I looked a bit like a homeless person, but I didn’t even care.

It’s no surprise I got fired from my waitressing job.

I went to London for a few days, and on the train back to Exeter, I got an email saying the final part of my PhD (the viva) would be happening in 3 months’ time.

Three months to wait around in the cold? No way.

I stepped off the train in Exeter, walked straight into a travel agent and said, “what’s the cheapest flight to New Zealand, leaving as soon as you can?”

The flights cost exactly the amount I’d made waitressing. I left one week later.

And it was amazing.

I jumped out of a plane, I bungeed off a bridge. I did all the things I’ve always wanted to do, ever since I was a kid. I hired a car, and I drove fast. When I got pulled over by the cops for speeding, I talked myself out of the ticket.

I was having the time of my life.

In the southern part of the North Island, I rocked up at a youth hostel. I’d had a hectic few days, so I decided to have an easy one. I packed my bag full of books, and a small bottle of water, and asked the owner of the hostel for directions to the beach.

He gave me a leaflet, which had this tiny, cartoony map on it. I started walking and there wasn’t a soul in sight. I loved it. I looked at the leaflet again. It said I could walk along the coast in 4.5 hours and get the train back from the next town. Since the route was along the coast, I figured I couldn’t possibly get lost.

The “beach” was mostly shingle, with these huge pieces of driftwood. It was pretty difficult terrain to walk on. I was wearing a pair of Converse, that had so many holes in that most people would have thrown them out by now. The more I walked, the more this “beach” was getting sketchier and sketchier.

I took a wrong turn somewhere, and it became impassable. I had to turn back and get to the beach. But I realized… there was no beach.

The tide had been high this whole time.

The leaflet said if the tide was high, I’d have to step over a few rocks at Wairaka Point. No worries.

So I kept walking.

I was 3.5 hours in when I got to the point, and there was no path. There were just huge rocks sticking out of the water — giant, jagged, monstrous things — not small ones I could hop over.

On top of the only rock it might be possible to scale, there was this huge seal, sitting there, mocking me.

Now, I’m a terrible swimmer, but even I considered it for a microsecond, and then a massive wave crashed over the rocks and washed over the seal.

“Hell, no,” I said, “I will definitely die if I go into the sea.”

So I sat on the beach for a minute and looked at the cliff face behind me.

I had no drinking water left. I had no supplies. I was not prepared for this at all.

But I had a decision in front of me: go back the way I came, or face the unknown.

Now, at this point in my life, I’d overcome years of eating disorders. I’d moved past abusive relationships from both my mother and a lover. I’d recovered from 15 years of chronic depression. I worked hard to get over all of these issues while I did a PhD in Mathematics.

I’d got myself out of the rain and I knew I couldn’t go back.

I refuse to go back the way I came.

I stood up. I told myself I had to be confident. “If you hesitate, you die. If you fall, sprain an ankle, break a leg, you die.”

I started climbing the cliff, knowing I couldn’t afford to be scared.

I realized, after so many years of wanting to kill myself, that I wasn’t done yet. It was the first time there was a threat to my life since I’d overcome depression and I realized I wanted to live.

I kept climbing. Telling myself, “don’t be on the news. Don’t be that idiot tourist on the news!”

I reached the top and looked out at the view. It was awesome because I knew not many people had seen it. It was just me and the seal, watching two vast bodies of blue meet at the horizon.

But I didn’t stay for long. I was scared, had no idea of I’d have to climb back down the other side, and I needed to find water.

I kept moving forwards.

After another hour of nothing, eventually I found a fence.

I have never — before or since — been so happy to see a piece of metal wire.

I followed the fence for a good while, and then I saw cows. Cows meant humanity! Way down the bottom, a farmer mowing his lawn. When I got there, his gate had 4 different padlocks on it. I hid behind a bush and timed it perfectly: vaulted the gate while he wasn’t looking.

In town finally, I hopped on the train back to the hostel. Ate a glorious portion of fish and chips. I cannot even describe what colour my Converse had become. That night, I threw them in the bin, went to bed and listened as a storm raged outside, feeling immensely grateful that I wasn’t still out there.

And the day after the next? I did the Tongariro National Alpine Crossing, and it was fine, but you know what? There were too many people. There was too much certainty.

Because, look: at any given moment you can step forward into growth, or step back into safety.

Pioneers and explorers know this. That’s why they step forward and face their fears.

Now I’m not saying I’m the greatest or bravest explorer, but I do know that sometimes in life you have to face the unknown. And I’ve learnt that when you do that enough, an amazing thing happens.

You begin to trust yourself.

And when you trust yourself, that voice in your head that tells you you can’t — that fear — it becomes a little quieter.

That’s when you know, even in the toughest moments, that you will always find a way.

Because when you face the unknown, when you confront it head on, over and over again, you develop the strength and resilience to face anything.




Why Idealizing The Body You Used To Have Could Be Preventing You From Moving Forwards

Jessi Kneeland is back this week to discuss your questions on binge eating, losing weight, and idealizing the body you used to have.

If you missed part 1 of this podcast, go check it out here.

[Download MP3 here]


[0:27] — I can see why it’s easy to love and accept yourself if someone already loves you, but what if I’m trying to find my man/woman?

[6:19] — I still identify as the “big guy”/”big girl”

[10:01] — The Blind Man method to describe body parts in a neutral way

[15:00] — How the Tapping Technique can take you towards neutral

[16:25] — I feel self-conscious unless I wear baggy clothes. Other clothes show my shape too much.

[19: 08] — Using a “body-part inventory” to dig deeper

[21:47] — I idealize the body I used to have…

[27:15] — One action step you can take right now to move you away from binge eating and towards health and wellbeing.


Because You’re Fed Up Of Being Told To Love Your Body

Jessi Kneeland is a coach, teacher, speaker and writer dedicated to helping break free from the fear, shame and armour that holds them back.

She has spoken at TEDx (twice), and has joined me today to talk about how all of this nonsense about loving your body relates to binge eating.

[Download MP3 here]


[1:08] – “I’m fed up of being told to love my body.”

[5:30] – Can you even accept yourself when you want to make a change?

[10:04] — The Netflix and Chill problem: how to identify why you’re numbing (with food, or TV)

[11:38] — One of the best ways to free yourself from “feeling trapped”.

[15:48] — Jessi uses the “Bubble Technique” to deal with overwhelming feelings.

[16:53] — Because I look in the mirror and hate what I see.

[20:44] — Why the “drill sergeant mentality” isn’t keeping you in line.

[28:00] — How to get out of “the fear”.

[30:00] – “I don’t feel myself without makeup on”. “I can’t leave my house because I am so ashamed of my body”.

[32:00] — This just in: no one will notice if you cut all your hair off.

[34:48] — Why we don’t need the beliefs we feed to feel worthy, or “enough”.

[36:00] — How strangers always accept you, no matter what.

[37:53] — “Being lean is important to me… am I a bad person?”

[42:20] — How to compliment someone without becoming “part of the problem”.

[44:35] — “I want a six pack, even though I know the fitness industry lies to us.”

[46:00] — Getting out of the “I was doing so well but then I went to a wedding…” mindset

[49:15] — Your six-pack, your armour.

[51:10] — Jessi drops a truth bomb that leaves me speechless!

[54:04] — One exercise to switch your mindset about your most hated body part.


Why Diets Are The Cause Of Your Binge Eating

There’s a ton of studies showing that dieting is highly correlated to binge eating, but today I wanted to share with you a quick overview of just one of those studies.

Minnesota Semi-Starvation Experiment (Keys, 1950)


  • The top 36 mentally and physically fit, strong men were hand-picked from 400 Civilian Public Service members (Yeah, I didn’t know either: the CPS was an alternative to military service in the USA during WWII).

  • These guys were followed for 3 months before the experiment started to make sure they were definitely awesome.

  • Each man was put on a strict, 1,540kcal diet for 24 weeks.


Physical problems

At first, the men noticed some physical changes, before constantly complaining that they felt cold, tired, and hungry. They began to have trouble concentrating. They felt dizzy, and had headaches.

Increased preoccupation with food

The men became obsessed with food. They talked about it, daydreamed about it. They spent a lot of time planning what they would eat and how they would distribute their calories throughout the day. Food was very quickly the most important thing in their lives. Some started collecting cookbooks. They began hoarding and sneaking, bringing food to their beds at night.

Severe emotional distress

As the study continued, these guys became tired and irritable. They lost their sense of humour, lost their ambition, lost interest in their work, their friends. They became anxious, apathetic, withdrawn; experienced depression, hysteria, hypochondria, a decrease in sex drive, an inability to concentrate. Two of the men had to spend time in a mental hospital, and one began to physically harm himself.

Bingeing and self-reproach

Several participants found themselves bingeing on vast quantities of food, followed by severe episodes of self-reproach. One man reported eating multiple ice cream sundaes and chocolate malts. Then he stole some candy. He finished off the binging episode by eating several raw swedes (the root vegetable, not the people from Sweden… though it’s fairly grim either way!) He immediately confessed to the experimenters that he had broken the rules, and began to verbally beat himself up in front of them.

Other men admitted stealing scraps of food from the trash. Some of the men quit the study because the bingeing became so frequent they were unable to continue their restricted diets and remain within the confines of the study. They all grew self-critical, and even began to experience distorted body images. These deprived men actually reported feeling overweight.

When the experiment ended 24 weeks later, the men were allowed to go back to eating normally. Except, most of them couldn’t. Many of them had lost total control of their hunger signals, and “ate more or less continuously”. One reported eating massive five-or-six-thousand calorie meals, and then snacking only an hour later. Another man ate so much the first day after the study, he had to be taken to hospital to get his stomach pumped. They reported not being able to satisfy their psychological hunger, no matter how much they ate.

One went on a year-long binge, putting on substantial weight. Just months earlier, this man had a healthy relationship with food. He was hand-chosen for being exemplary, and yet in 24 weeks, he had been completely changed.

This kind of study would not be allowed to take place today, for the “unethical, inhumane treatment of subjects”, and yet many of us do this to ourselves, year after year.

To Sum It Up:

Diets don’t work because they:

  • Intensify cravings

  • Make you preoccupied with food

  • Disconnect you with your natural hunger cues (making you eat when you’re not hungry, and eat more than you need)

  • Increase emotional and psychological distress, and the likelihood that you’ll eat in response to that stress.

What To Do Next:

Give yourself permission to eat any food you want. Give yourself permission to eat any time you want. Don’t bother counting calories.

I know this sounds like a scary step, especially for those of us who have spent many years dieting, but it is the best — and fastest — way to end binge eating for good.