An Australian nutritionist has revealed how she binge ate for years before finally setting herself free.
Jessica Sepel is a nutritionist and health influencer who has regularly spoken out about her history with dieting – from the age of 14, Sepel says she was caught in a cycle of binging and restricting herself.
But she now says she has developed a healthy relationship with food and her body and has shared her top tips to help other people do the same.
Sepel says her life used to consist of: “exercising twice a day (for two hours at a time), eating only skinny diet foods, weighing myself daily (and allowing the number to determine who I was), skipping meals, anxiously jotting down every diet rule into a notepad, trying every radical diet out there, punishing my body with food restriction, feeling terrible amounts of fear around food (especially at family/social gatherings), struggling with weekend binges and criticising my body all day long.”
Now, however, she says she’s “let go and found freedom” by only doing forms of exercise she actually enjoys (and embracing rest time), never weighing herself, eating whole foods because they make her feel good and focussing on health rather weight.
With this experience behind her, Sepel understands what many people go through: “A range of feelings can trigger emotional eating; whether we’re sad, lonely, happy or excited, we turn to food for comfort.
“But bingeing is triggered by deprivation, which leads to a vicious cycle,” she wrote on her blog.
Six healthy breakfast recipes – in pictures
Six healthy breakfast recipes – in pictures
You will need: 1 onion, 1 red pepper, 1 stick of celery, 1 cup of mushrooms, 4 to 6 eggs, 1 habanero chilli (optional), 1 tablespoon of oil, 25g of grated low-fat cheese, 150 ml of skimmed milk, 50g of turkey breast. Add some spinach for an extra boost.
1) Cook your turkey breast so that it’s ready to add to the mix later on. Best to grill it and then chop it up as it’s healthier than shallow frying. 2) Meanwhile, heat the oil and add your onion, pepper, chilli, mushrooms and celery to your pan. Cook these for around five minutes until your veg is nice and soft. 3) Whisk your eggs and milk together in a separate bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper. 4) Add the egg mixture, veg, cooked turkey and cheese to a high-sided baking pan or tin and cook in your oven for around 15 minutes at 170C.
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Be careful when you buy your porridge, as some brands will cram a lot of sugar in there. Porridge is a good breakfast option as it is renowned for releasing energy slowly, which means you can get to lunch without suffering from a lull. A great source of fibre, potassium and vitamins, bananas are always a good accompaniment to your morning oats.
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Ingredients: 2 full eggs, 3 egg whites, asparagus, peppers, 50g of smoked salmon
1) Boil your asparagus in water for around five minutes. 2) Meanwhile, mix your eggs and egg whites in a jug, and add a splash of skimmed milk. Chop some peppers up and throw them in too. 3) Once your asparagus is cooked, drain it and chop into smaller chunks. Add these to your egg mixture. 4) Whisk your mixture and season with salt and pepper. 5) Pour the mix into a hot pan with a small knob of butter or a teaspoon of quality olive oil. 6) Cook the omelette for around 90 seconds to two minutes. 7) Once the bottom is cooked, take the pan off the hob and place under the grill for another 30 seconds to a minute in order to cook the top. 8) Serve with your smoked salmon.
Greek yoghurt has vast nutritional benefits. Regardless of where you stand on the superfood debate, Greek yoghurt’s credentials speak for themselves. A good source of potassium, protein, calcium and essential vitamins, this food forms an ideal base for a healthy breakfast, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
Eggs Florentine is not only a tasty breakfast, it also carries a hefty nutritional punch, particularly when you throw some spinach into the equation.
So fast and easy to make, yet so effective. Wholemeal toast can be a good breakfast choice, as long as you are sensible with your toppings. Peanut butter is perfect. A good source of “healthy fats”, as well as protein and Vitamin E among other nutrients, a liberal spreading of peanut butter can set you up for the day.
Here are Sepel’s six tips for overcoming binge eating:
1. Stop dieting, restricting and depriving yourself
Cutting back on calories drastically results in your body going into what’s known as starvation mode, which can then often lead to a binge.
“Instead of depriving your body of food, it’s time to start nourishing yourself and healing your relationship with nutrition,” Sepel says.
2. Allow yourself to enjoy your food
Stop labelling foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ as this leads to food guilt and emotional eating. Instead, try and eat mindfully, being aware of what you’re eating.
“It’s so important to sit down, eat slowly and enjoy the eating experience,” Sepel stresses. “Enjoy each mouthful and practise positive affirmations at mealtimes.”
3. Listen to your body
So often we eat out of habit or boredom, but really we should be tuning into our appetite and what our body is really craving. Next time you feel hungry, ask yourself what you really need and want.
“Maybe you just need some water, a rest or a walk outside in the fresh air,” Sepel suggests. “When you’re feeling hungry, give yourself permission to eat – without guilt – and respect your body when you’re not hungry.”
4. Commit to a balanced diet
Remember there’s no such thing as a “perfect” diet, so don’t feel bad about not following one. But Sepel stresses the importance of eating real whole foods such as organic proteins, grains, leafy greens, colourful vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans and pulses.
Like many health experts, Sepel advocates the 80:20 approach – eating nourishing food 80 per cent of the time and allowing herself to indulge with joy the other 20 per cent.
Stress often leads to comfort eating, so it’s important to consciously try and lower your stress levels. Sepel recommends: “deep belly breathing, switching off from social media, sleeping early and reducing stress when eating.”
She also suggests putting your phone down, turning the TV off and taking two deep breaths before your next meal.
6. Love yourself
Treat your body and yourself with something other than food – Sepel recommends doing one thing per day that’s pleasurable, whether it’s taking a bath or watching your favourite TV show.
“One of the most powerful ways to practise self-love is to accept yourself in this moment – just as you are,” Sepel says. “Release the need to judge, blame or criticise yourself and know that you are entitled to live a happy, healthy and fulfilled life.”
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