Why these diet bars are some of the WORST things you could eat (especially if you want to lose weight)

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Despite having a daughter who constantly nags her and continually informs her of the evils of dieting and the truths of nutrition and good general health and wellbeing, my mum still struggles with her weight and self-esteem. She’s held negative beliefs about herself (and well-developed bad habits) for many years now, so it’s understandably difficult for her to change, but I’m making progress. She’s now only eating wholesome, healthy foods, consumes full-fat everything and is slowly but surely starting not to worry about calories and fat content.

Imagine my horror then when I return home to find a box of diet ‘treat bars’ on the coffee table – open.

Although for obvious reasons I can’t name the manufacturer, these were chocolatey sweet bars made by a popular diet company and only available via their regular meetings. The photograph on the box depicted an artificial-looking slab of cocoa and bright pink marshmallows with a creamy drizzle on top. It certainly didn’t look anything like healthy. Although I’m an advocate of real food, I don’t condone people cutting out conventionally ‘unhealthy’ things from their diets completely – food is all about balance. But what I totally disagree with is diet companies flogging expensive crap filled with additives and sugars which people trying to be healthy then buy, thinking they’re making a positive choice.

Here are just a few reasons why you should never buy these types of diet bars – and what you can eat instead to nourish your body and take care of your mind, too.

 

1 – The FIRST ingredient was sugar

As you may have gathered, I am very strongly against diets and diet foods for a number of reasons (some of which I’ll discuss in this blog). So I grabbed the box and studied the ingredients list, and straight away I confiscated them. The very first ingredient was a type of sugar. And the second, and the third. Then there were chocolate chips – predominantly made of sugar. And mini-marshmallows – predominantly made of sugar. As I went down the list it became clear that these bars had absolutely NO nutritional value whatsoever. And yet they were being marketed as a sensible choice for people who wanted or needed to lose weight or get healthy.

2 – The rest of the ingredients were largely unrecognisable

The ingredients I could make out all involved lots of sugar and little substance. But more frighteningly there were plenty of things on that list that sounded like the type of thing you’d clean your toilet with – totally unrecognisable chemical names which didn’t belong on a list of things contained within something a human being is going to digest. Again these chemical substances will never contribute to weight loss, and are more likely to contribute to weight gain. What’s more they won’t nourish your body in any way.

3 – There was zero nutritional info on the packet

Surprisingly given the nature of the brand there was no clear information explaining the nutritional value of the bars (laughable, since that’s about zero in reality!) Checking packets for nutritional content is not something I agree with at all (all the best foods don’t come in packets and we should eat without anxiety or over-thinking) but I thought it was telling that the actual contents of the bars were omitted, as if they had something to hide. I imagine that’s because one look at the calorie content would probably send serial dieters running for the hills.

You’ll know if you’ve read my books that I don’t believe calories are very helpful, and that they shouldn’t be counted or rationed. However most foods should display nutritional info, and if they don’t I think that’s pretty suspect.

What’s the alternative?

It wouldn’t be fair for me to talk about diet bars and what people ‘shouldn’t’ be doing then not discuss the better alternative. I go into more detail in my books, but after battling an eating disorder then spending years eating crappy diet foods and abusing my body I suffered the consequences and developed IBS. After that I made sure I mostly ate foods with good nutritional value – things which tasted lovely but benefitted my body, too.

I often make quick, easy and cheap cookies, cakes and bars which would perfectly substitute sweet rubbish like the bars my mum brought home this week. These are high in protein, low GI and full of good fats – great all-rounders if you’re peckish or fancy a snack. They’re real food, and you’ll recognise all the ingredients as most of them are in their raw state! If you fancy reading more about how I eat you can take a look at Nutrition in a Nutshell, or pre-order my recipe book here.

If you’re not into making your own food then there are other alternatives. How about mixing almond butter with cocoa and palm sugar and refrigerating for a Nutella-style snack? Boiled eggs with spinach? A slice of wholemeal toast with peanut butter? A little fruit with some cream or yoghurt and pumpkin seeds?

Nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated – in fact I believe getting in right involves keeping it simple.

You can read more about diets and my view on nutrition here.

 

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Why I am against diets and dieting

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It’s a bold step to come out and denounce the diet industry like I do – partly because they are huge and very popular, with lots of money and a hell of a lot of influence. But I genuinely believe that they are damaging us mentally and physically – almost as much as junk food, which has been shown recently to be contributing to early deaths in human beings more than smoking.  

In all of my books, I talk about my hatred of diets. So for the benefit of anybody who hasn’t read them yet, I wanted to write a short post to explain why it is never a good idea to tell me you are on a diet!

Why do I disagree with diets?

When I was at secondary school, I was carrying a lot of ‘puppy fat’ (and some extra fat, too). I was small and round and podgy with greasy mousy brown hair, a blazer that was too big for me and a skirt hoisted up to my chest. It’s hardly surprising that I was bullied relentlessly – because even though it wasn’t deserved, I was undoubtedly an easy target.  So I started to think of ways to be liked. I tried everything. Eventually, I came to the conclusion (forgivably) that I was mainly disliked because I was fat – after all, this was one of the bullies’ favourite jibes. So I started to consume dieting advice like a sponge – absorbing information rapidly and soaking up every last little nugget of crappy information until I thought I had it right. Of course, I didn’t.

I went on a popular diet which involves counting points. I calculated my ‘daily allowance’ and vowed to undercut it consistently so that I would lose weight more quickly. I combined this with all the ‘useful’ information I’d gathered from celeb magazines, and my OCD 12 year old self soon became obsessed with counting points and calories – and more to the point, reducing them. It became addictive – feeling hungry, seeing the numbers reduced. I’d never liked maths, and I’d never been good at it – but suddenly adding and subtracting wasn’t a problem for me if it involved points and food. It wasn’t long before I developed anorexia – which nearly killed me. So you see, I have a very good reason for loathing diets – and a unique perspective when I talk to others about diets and their concerning motives.

A ruined relationship with food

As human beings, we’re not programmed to calculate our food intake to the nth degree. In actual fact, our bodies are designed to live in the wild, to hunt, gather and eat as and when we were able to. They are complex and intricate machines hosting a great number of processes every millisecond. And when you go on a diet, you fuck that up.

Diet companies encourage us to have a poor relationship with food by nature. It is the enemy to be controlled, monitored and reduced – with an end goal of being ‘slim’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘happy’. Of course we all know that this rarely follows – but we are so compelled by clever marketing (brainwashed, almost) to believe that by dieting, we are doing the right thing.

Healthy eating should be for life

Diets are not sustainable. Your body is not designed to live on sugary skimmed milk shake food replacements. Your body is not designed to be starved for hours on end. Your body is not designed to live on paltry offerings of dry toast and crackers to then be doused in alcohol at the weekend. Dieting for a short period of time damages your body in the long-term – especially if you go to the extreme. Adopting a healthy lifestyle for life however is different. And by healthy, I don’t mean eating diet food and living off low-calorie meals! I mean eating proper, wholesome food regularly when your body requires it. Plenty of fruit and veg, plenty of water, carbs, fat, the works.

It’s often too late that we realise we have forsaken what’s on the inside for how we look on the outside. I will always live with the consequences of anorexia – and whilst I don’t lay the blame solely at the door of diet companies and magazines, they played a huge part. I don’t want to see anybody else develop an eating disorder as a consequence of this misinformation – because I know I am lucky to have survived.

So please if you are unhappy with your weight, on a constant diet, have children or family members who care about you and depend on you – please take this post seriously and don’t diet. If you need any more convincing or would like to learn more about my story and how I eat now, you can read more about diets in my books, Tough Cookie, Tough Love, Nutrition in a Nutshell and Recipes for Recovery. 

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Foods For Recovery: Avocado

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I have to admit I don’t eat lots of fruit – but avocado is one of my favourite fruits. Embarrassingly I thought it was a vegetable until not that long ago (oops!) I often have avocado with smoked salmon or in salads – it’s really versatile and some people even make desserts with avocado!

For me it’s a great recovery food because it’s really nutritious and dense in good things for the body. Even a small serving provides good amounts of vitamins K, C, B5, B6 and E – PLUS Magnesium, Iron, Potassium Zinc, Thiamin, Riboflavin and Niacin. Phew! That’s without mentioning that avocadoes are full of healthy fats which are good for the body as a whole but especially the heart, in addition to high amounts of fibre which make it easily digestible.

You can make a really easy guacamole simply by mashing an avocado with chopped tomatoes and paprika – or simply slice it up and enjoy it with cheese, steak or fish. If you’re not a fan (it is a little slimy which isn’t to everyone’s taste!) then how about popping it in a smoothie?

Are you trying avocado?

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Pro-Ana becomes illegal in France

Despite controversy, this news earlier this week was so encouraging for me.

Now anyone found to be running vile Pro-Ana or ‘Thinspiration’ websites in France may be landed with a prison sentence (of up to one year) or at best a hefty fine of up to ten thousand euros. I’m really pleased that it is now being recognised that eating disorders can be influenced and started online, and I’m hoping that the threat of punishment may deter some sites from operating as they do.

Although this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, I’ve got a couple of concerns. Why can’t we do something like this in the UK? And perhaps more importantly why aren’t internet providers (Google and Social Media sites) taking any responsibility in this globally? When I spoke to my MP he told me he had campaigned relentlessly in parliament to legislate against the internet providers themselves allowing harmful content to be seen online – but to no avail.

Charity Beat rightly said that really what we want to do is encourage people to pro-recovery sites (well, you’re already here!!) to feel understood and listened to rather than turning to sites and forums full of people who are poorly and may make you poorly (or worse) as a consequence. An eating disorder often thrives on tips and validation from others – both things which these sites provide.  “We want people to be influenced by pro-recovery sites instead” said Mary George. Of course I agree – that’s why I do what I do.

Another concern the charity raised is that many ‘Pro-Ana’ sites are run by people who are suffering themselves. Or rather they are run BY an eating disorder – which from experience I know can encourage you to try and enforce your way of living on others and look at people who are ‘normal’ as ‘fat’ and ‘weak’ for not ‘achieving’ what you have. It’s difficult for others (and probably for the law) to separate a person and their actions from their mental illness.

The thing is, I would NEVER have gone that far. I might have preached about calories and looked upon anyone eating a healthy-sized meal with disdain, but I wouldn’t have wanted people to be ill. Clearly there are other mental health issues to be addressed when it comes to people who run these sites – and there certainly has to be some malice recognised in the practise of making others poorly. Additionally (and more frighteningly) some sites are run by people who don’t have eating disorders. These people in my opinion are actually responsible for manslaughter – so this law does cover them in some way.

Whatever your opinion on this law, I think it’s important to be positive about the fact that action is finally being taken in some form. It’s a step in the right direction, even if you think that France hasn’t made exactly the right choice in what they are doing.

What I’d like to see is the UK (and other countries) taking Pro-Ana and Thinspo sites much more seriously – and recognising in the process that prevention is much better than cure. I’d also like to see Google, Twitter, Facebook and the like take responsibility and start removing harmful content – because whilst I’ve never been on a Pro-Ana website (and would never, ever go on one) all the time I’m bombarded with images on social media and in the news which make me feel bad.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinions on this.

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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How to eat well – frugally

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In my post on 13th January, I discuss the expense of living and eating well.

Here are my top tips on eating ‘clean’ and nutritiously on a tighter budget:

  1. Shop Local. I’m not talking about these fancy ‘farm shops’ where a raspberry meringue sets you back £3 (although I do LOVE wasting money in those places). Most people think that going to your local grocer, butcher or fishmonger is expensive in comparison to the supermarket but often they are surprisingly competitive – don’t forget they now have to compete with the price wars going on at top level to keep local custom. You also have the added advantage of the produce being locally sourced and often organic, even if it is not advertised as such. Delicatessens stocking local cold meats and cheeses are also fab – there’s a lot of fairly-priced artisan food out there nowadays which is sourced right here in the UK.
  2. Look Online. Brands stocked in Holland and Barrett, Tesco and Win Naturally are mostly available online for a reduced price or in wholesale packs (ebay is good for this). Often if you place a large order you also get free delivery, so it’s win-win. The internet is also fab for buying dried fruit and raw nuts, which are frankly extortionate at the supermarket and only ever come in tiny bags! Specialist foods such as gluten free flours, oils and natural sugar alternatives are also more readily available.
  3. Buy in Bulk. Whether that’s through a mail order meat site such as Muscle Food or through your local butcher, as I say in my post about prep if you are lucky enough to have the freezer space, it’s easier (and cheaper) to think ahead and stock up with a lot of food at once. It will keep fresh and you can get excellent quality meat and fish at much lower prices when you buy a lot of it.
  4. Don’t discount Aldi and Lidl. So many more people are latching on to the Aldi and Lidl frenzy now but there are still many who are slightly sceptical when it comes to buying produce. I buy loads of basics (such as oats, unsalted butter, whole milk) from Aldi; but it’s also great for genuine specialist continental foods such as big juicy olives, rich cheeses and spicy meats. The fruit and veg is cheap as chips and they’ve even started an organic range now which unsurprisingly is also perfectly priced. Both Lidl and Aldi also do a great range of raw nuts – Lidl even has a ‘pick n mix nut bar’ where you can choose your own.

All in all, eating naturally will always cost you a little more than if you relied on processed foods. However if you can afford it, the benefits are incredible. Your body is your most precious asset!! I hope that this post demonstrates that it can be done on a budget.

Any more ideas I have missed on how to live and eat well frugally? Share them here!

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Why BMI and Weight mean absolutely nothing

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The massive importance of BMI and Weight – one of the biggest myths of our time.

As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, weight is a number on a scale which essentially tells you what your relationship with gravity is. It doesn’t tell you anything else; it doesn’t take into account other physical or personal qualities. I wanted to expand a little bit on this though because I get a lot of people talking to me about ‘weight loss’ and when I explain why I disagree with that so much I’m often met with a lot of confusion and questions!

I think the main reason for this confusion is the conditioning we have all been subject to over the last 30 plus years, which has seen the idea of ‘weight loss’ painted as a positive and ‘fat’ as a negative.

Of course in the 40’s, there was an influx of adverts promising ‘curviness’ for ‘skinny’ girls, who were ostracised just as bigger women are nowadays for their ‘undesirable’ size. Doesn’t that just go to show the power of the media, and the consequent effect it has on society? Someone, somewhere decides what is ‘normal’ or ‘good’ and we all follow blindly as we are told to do. At the moment, ‘skinny’ is in, and as a consequence we have all become obsessed with how much we weigh, with fat as a rule avoided like the plague.

BMI has long been painted by health professionals as an accurate and reliable gauge of a person’s health, based on the correlation between their height and weight. Contrary to this, many will now tell you that it in fact does the opposite and tells us very little about a person’s physical make up and overall health. Here’s an example: take a body builder who is very lean but has a heck of a lot of muscle. Muscle is more dense than fat, so they weigh quite a lot. They are however lacking in height – meaning their BMI indicates that they are clinically obese. Yet this person does not have a scrap of fat on them – so how can they possibly be obese?

This outdated system lumps people into categories of ‘healthy’, ‘unhealthy’ and ‘really unhealthy’ on opposite ends of the scale.  Another example is a naturally slim, tall person whose height and weight indicate that they are drastically underweight and dangerously so. Yet this is simply how they are made up naturally – it’s impossible for them to put on any weight.

What concerns me about this reliance on BMI is that many people are being told they are ‘clinically obese’ when that simply is not true. It focuses us even more keenly on a number on a scale, and not the health of our bodies as a whole. More recently, worrying stories of children and young adults being berated for the product of their BMI results have emerged in the press, which of course is unhelpful to say the least at such a formative stage both mentally and physically.

 

This brings me back to ‘weight’ as a whole. I admit I weigh myself once a week, same time, same day, so I absolutely cannot sit here and tell anybody not to weigh themselves at all, even though in all honesty that would be the ideal alternative. I know people who weigh themselves incessantly; sometimes twice in a day. When you have body dysmorphia or an eating disorder, gaining one pound can alter your whole perception of yourself and how you feel for the rest of that day. Clothes feel tighter, imaginary rolls of fat appear in the mirror. ‘Weight’ means nothing. The weight of our bodies depends on many different factors and varies from hour to hour, day to day, week to week. Women especially are subject to daily hormonal changes and don’t forget the contribution of our digestive systems to how much (or little) we weigh.

So what’s the alternative? Whilst I don’t suggest that this is widely used and suitable for everybody, I think it’s better to look to more accurate techniques such as fat calliper testing to get a clear indication of someone’s overall health. This coupled with other investigations can really give a true picture of how a person is made up, and where. If you are carrying excess fat, where it is on your body is important, as this often determines whether it poses a risk to your health and also the cause of its presence. Not everyone who carries excess fat eats cake for breakfast!

Next time you find yourself at the doctor’s and they insist on working out your BMI, please don’t lose heart if it isn’t favourable. It is a vague indication, if that, of your health and physical components. Not only that, there is more to you than a number on a scale. You are a wonderful person on the inside, and as long as you are also healthy, that is all that matters.

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Should we have nutrition advice in our schools?

 

I talk about this in the book and include a section on basic nutrition – that’s how important I think this is! Largely because I lacked this rather simple education when I was younger and instead my head became filled with ridiculous harmful advice peddled by diet companies and magazines. In light of the recent funding which is being pumped into the NHS to help tackle Eating Disorders, I wanted to see if anybody else agrees with me when I say I feel that some of the money should go into prevention as well as treatment.

Perhaps the budget is so tight that it cannot afford for any portion of it to be siphoned off for preventative causes like nutrition advice, but in an ideal world where we had plenty of money to spare I’m certain that at least a quarter of it should be invested into better education and preventative measures to bring the number of actual cases down before they get to a critical point in an already strung-out NHS, not to mention a massively under pressure mental health structure.

The NHS has been investing in preventative medicine and preventative education for some time; campaigns and adverts in newspapers or on television you see such as Stop Smoking, Dry January and Change 4 Life are examples of this. They’re usually educative or encouraging people to make positive choices in their lives which should mean that the NHS has to spend less later because people are generally healthier than they would have been had they not been given that advice.

With the NHS budget under massive strain, I think it would be intelligent and financially sensible to look to schools to administer education to young people at grassroots level, when so many of them are developing important ideas about themselves, about life and about food.

A lot of Eating Disorders tend to manifest themselves in these early years of our lives and that was especially true in my case. When I speak to others who are going through an Eating Disorder or who have poor body image many also talk of being bullied at school for being fat or ugly or not fitting in, and as a consequence turning to fad diets to improve the way they looked and developing an Eating Disorder further down the line.

I’m certainly not saying that diets and the media are wholly responsible for Eating Disorders. They’re complex mental illnesses with their roots in many facets of our lives and personalities. Many sufferers know that what they think and feel about food isn’t fact but they of course are compelled to continue anyway. I know this more than anyone.

However cases seem to be emerging at younger and younger ages. These children cannot have a proper understanding of food and how it works in our bodies; and any education they do have tends to be confusing and incorrect because it comes from their exposure to the diet industry, who as you know I think are a pretty irresponsible bunch.

I’m not saying that education of this kind would stop all cases, but certainly a few might be halted by a better understanding of our bodies, coupled with advice on self-confidence and self-care.

What do you think? Should we look at introducing nutrition education into schools at Secondary level to help them to understand their bodies and make more informed choices?

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Proof that anxiety is a state of mind

A friend shared this post with me the other day and I had to share it with you on the blog.

This inspiring, refreshingly candid, and fairly blunt, article written by Clare Atkinson was featured on the Guardian this week.

Having Generalised Anxiety Disorder myself, I can relate massively to the ‘previous life’ described by Clare. The irrational worry over the tiniest thing; the terrible panic attacks, feelings of acute inadequacy, the need for control over every aspect of my life.

However all that paled into insignificance with the diagnosis of terminal cancer. All the things she had wanted to do, places she had wanted to see; her best-laid plans, were now out of reach, ruined. She talks of the emotions and physical issues she had experienced having been instantly replaced by fear, anger, depression; all understandable given her recent news. With this came the realisation that she had been wasting her time and emotion on trivial things which had prevented her from doing what she truly wanted to do. And now, the crushing reality that it was too late to go back and do it all again differently.

Controversially, I’ve always said that in some ways those who face death (and come through the other side) are afforded an invaluable shaking up which changes their perspective forever. Whilst we all know what really matters (family, friends, love, food and water and a roof over our heads) as opposed to what doesn’t (material things, money, fame, looks), few of us believe that enough to change how we live our lives. To live them with some urgency; to do the things we genuinely want to do instead of simply doing what we feel is expected of us.

In the blog and in my book I talk a lot about this and how it is difficult to do. How unfortunate and horrifically sad that for most of us, like Clare, we are only given that sort of insight when it is regrettably too late.

Please read this; it will move you, and may make a difference to how you currently think or feel, especially at a time when we are busy comparing ourselves to others.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/22/after-my-cancer-diagnosis-my-anxiety-disappeared-now-ill-do-anything-to-keep-this-body

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An interesting admittance – It’s never too late to say sorry

You might have seen this story in the news recently. On the surface, it’s ‘one in the eye’ for the diet industry, the huge corporate congolmerate that makes money out of people feeling miserable about themselves and aesthetically inadequate, peddling questionable ‘health regimes’ with dubious claims. However I think it’s much, much deeper than that.

Iris Higgins, a psychologist with a Masters from New York University, is an expert in hypnotherapy and coaching to overcome disordered eating, and a woman championing healthy eating and self-esteem. Her blog, Your Fairy Angel, aims to instill confidence in women and also offer tips, tricks and recipes to enrich life and restore a focus onto overall health and vitality and away from harmful fads and destructive diets. Last week, she published a remarkable post on her blog, entitled ‘An Open Apology to All My Weight Loss Clients’. Almost unbelievably, her former employment was in fact under popular American diet company Jenny Craig. Now, given her new public stance on all things dietary and healthy (both mentally and physically), she has taken the drastic step to publicly apologise to each and every one of the women she was involved with through Jenny Craig over the years.

In an incredibly revealing, yet not particularly surprising, expose, she laments the fact that many women walked into those meetings healthy and happy, and ‘left with disordered eating, disordered body image and the feeling that you were a failure.’ So incredibly sad, but also true.

Many companies that make money from aesthetics operate on blowing open the beliefs that are usually already brewing at the back of your mind, creating issues and imperfections that do no exist, therefore compelling you to ‘fix them’. Another reason why I am so opposed to these organisations – and here we have proof.

She goes on to detail how as a Jenny Craig consultant she ignored serious mental health issues such as BDs and EDs, She gave bad (and potentially dangerous) advice to those with health concerns such as thyroid problems, diabetes and even pregnancy. Importantly she notes the harsh calorie limits placed on female clients, who despite part-taking in considerable amounts of exercise were encouraged to eat 1,500 calories a day.

She admits that whilst working there she did not believe in what she was doing and would not have touched the diet herself.

Some of the cynics among us (myself included) may say, What an Incredible U-Turn. 3 years is long enough to make money out of something you believe to be wrong. In addition, this lady is also now presenting herself as a health guru, and making money from the royalties of various healthy cookbooks and articles on positive body image and disordered eating. Whatever the motive, it’s commendable that she want to help others. But I can’t help thinking that for the rest of us, who have been on the receiving end of issues cultivated by the likes of Jenny Craig, and who have always shunned this toxic sort of ‘self improvement’, the whole thing is a little hollow. More importantly, the damage has unfortunately already been done for all those women she influenced during her time with Jenny Craig.

What are your thoughts on this one?

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Hair Loss – What To Do

Many people do not realise that sometimes severe hair loss can actually be a result of stress, anxiety and also Eating Disorders. Losing your hair is scary, especially for women. In addition to this if you’re not entirely sure why, and therefore are unable to prevent it, it can be extremely distressing.

If you google ‘hair loss’ or ‘help with hair loss’, you’ll find an inordinate amount of bulloney, adverts for miracle hair-growth products promising several inches in a matter of days, thicker ,fuller, stronger hair almost instantly.

I’ll be brutally honest here – as this honesty helped me immensely when I was going through losing my hair. There is no quick fix. At least, not for the root of the problem, if you excuse the pun. Of course, some products will make your hair feel a little thicker, perhaps make it shinier, give it a bit of volume. But the real solution for hair loss starts with the scalp.

There are a few general tips below which I have used over the years to prevent and alleviate hair loss, as well as strengthen it after a significant loss after Anorexia.

1. Massage your scalp a little every week. Yes, it’s time consuming – but this will increase blood flow to the hair follicles which stimulates new hair growth. It’s really relaxing and is especially good for your hair and scalp if you combine it with nourishing oils (see below!)

2. Use a special shampoo. Don’t get taken in by the expensive brands – not all of them work. Anything with caffeine or peppermint in is great for scalp stimulation – avoid anything heavy or containing lots of chemicals. Organic and natural shampoos are great – and an old favourite, baby shampoo, is perfect. Ultra-gentle, try to find organic, natural baby shampoo. It will cleanse without harming your hair, and nurture any new hair growth coming through. If that doesn’t take your fancy, then all-natural shampoo bars are also a great way to go. (You can read my reviews of hair loss shampoos and natural methods for more information!)

3. Supplements. Do be careful with these, especially if you are on any other medication. Please consult your doctor before starting anything new, and make sure you source them from somewhere reputable. I have found Biotin to be incredibly effective in boosting the strength and health of my hair, skin and nails, as well as 100% B Vitamins. Sea Kelp can be very good at preventing hair loss also.

4. A good serum or ointment to compliment your hair regime can be a welcome addition to your routine. I used Wella Energy Serum the first time I lost my hair.

5. All the favourite health advice applies. Get Plenty of Sleep, don’t smoke or drink too much.

6. Possibly most importantly of all, eat well. I realise this is really difficult when you are overcoming an Eating Disorder. Foods rich in protein, Omega 3 and B-Vitamins are perfect – nuts and seeds, avocado, dark green leafy vegetables, steaks and oily fish, eggs. Whilst calcium is key to the recovery of your body in general, also drink milk and eat cheese to boost calcium and Vitamin D levels. All easier said than done, I know 🙁 If you’re in recovery, there’s a post dedicated to foods for hair here.)

7. Sun. Sunshine and heat is amazing for your hair. Yes, it’s not always the easiest thing to simply jet off on holiday, but if the weather is nice make sure you make the most of it and let a little get to your head. Again, the heat stimulates the scalp for new growth.

8. Invest in a good conditioner. My favourite oil for hair is castor oil – you can read why here. Argan Oil, pure and organic, is really very good for the ends of your hair or as a hair mask, and I also like coconut oil as a natural conditioner for hair. Adding essential oils can help the efficacy of the oils – my favourite hair growth recipe contains a combination of castor oil ,coconut oil and rosemary essential oil.

9. Relax. This is ironic I know, as it’s probably likely that your hairloss has been caused by trauma in the first place! Although it’s hard, try to remember that if you fret over your hair you will onlybecome embroiled in a vicious circle in which the hair loss is perpetuated by your anxiety about it. My only tip for this is distraction – try to focus on something else and rest easy in the knowledge that you are doing everything you can to help your hair.

10. Check your water. Sounds crazy – yet in some places hair water can make your hair dry and unmanageable. Cheap stores sell mineral water for around 20p for 1.5 litres – if you are feeling that your water is to blame, perhaps try washing your hair with mineral water and see if it makes a difference. I notice that when I am abroad, a higher mineral content of the tap water (usually diverted from a spring) makes my hair thick, soft and shiny.

Finally – don’t take all the advice you hear. Using millions of products on your hair will kill it. Keep it simple – choose a regime and stick to it; you will see results in time.

 

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