The Self Care Series: Laura Phelan
Updated: Feb 1, 2019
Laura Phelan is a Harley Street expert in eating disorders and relationships with food & our bodies. Check out her top tips for self care inside & out.
"Tell us about your personal journey to getting comfortable in your own skin"
For me getting comfortable in my own skin was a rather long and difficult journey, but one which taught me to value myself even more for the person I am today. To give you an insight into why, as a teenager i suffered with an eating disorder, so at the age of 13/14 when most teenage girls are getting to grips with their hormones, "womanly developing body" and starting to go clothes shopping etc I was quite literally a shell of a person. It didn't start out for me as hating my body, but as I got deeper into the disorder and even in my recovery I really struggled with feeling comfortable in the body I was in and it honestly took me up until the ages of 18/19 to start accepting it. Going travelling and going on my first girls holiday were all experiences that challenged me greatly but also allowed me to appreciate the memories I had with my body, what my body could do for me including climbing mountains and swimming in seas abroad! When you spend some time getting to know yourself and also meeting other people from other walks of life it definitely helps you grasp a sense of you being so much more than just a body and for me embarking on my work helping people with their own body image struggles and talking out about my own journey just confirmed this feeling of being enough. Its definitely about the person on the inside that counts because once I truly started to appreciate her, I then began to feel comfortable in my own skin with a much deeper appreciation for myself wholly.
"We are often bombarded with messages, particularly on social media, telling us to 'love ourselves' as if it's something we can just make happen overnight, but it's rare that we ever see practical advice as to how we do this. What advice can you give for people to find that self love?"
This is such a great question because I think we are often sold this "ideal" of self love in a shiny package of a beautiful woman living her best life in a bikini looking gloriously sun-kissed.
And whilst this can be true for some people, I also think its pretty far from the reality of what self love is. For me self love is a total inward process, its really about having an innate sense of respect for yourself, aiming to be content in who you are and knowing that its something you'll have to continually work at. So first of all, try not to compare yourself to the ideal we are sold, its not as easy as love yourself into eating well or loving yourself into your dream career. Instead start at that place of self respect, what can you do to be kinder to yourself each day, how can you stop criticising yourself each day and what would you say to a best friend who was struggling? This way, you can make small changes that will actually help to build up your self esteem and basically just start to treat yourself in a more loving capacity, maybe that's getting an earlier night, spending less time with toxic people, or setting regular breaks in your working day to stop overwhelm building up. There is no magic secret, your life is incomparable so do what feels good for you.
"What role do you think body image and our relationships with our bodies plays in emotional and mental well-being for women?"
A MUCH bigger role than you probably imagine! To put that into context, statistics show that as much as ten million women in the UK alone feel depressed about how they look, 96% of these women anxious about how they look and around 2 out of 3 women are on diets to change their bodies.
If you think about how much brain space is taken up by these negative body image thoughts, on top of the hundreds of advertisements we are bombarded with each day and other women pressuring other women into changing their bodies-its an endless cycle! There are so many things we could be doing or thinking about, and the scary reality is that our emotional and mental wellbeing is so tied in up our appearance that we are quite literally missing out on life!
On a more positive note, there are more and more campaigns and people of influence fighting to change this. From Dove's self esteem project and inclusion of diverse bodies in their ads, to the I weigh movement by Jameela Jamil, to weight neutral/health at every size personal trainers and health professionals, good changes are happening which means that if we continue to educate and empower people we can change the conversation and in turn decrease this level of dissatisfaction in our bodies. If you or anyone you know is going through a difficult time I will leave some great resources at the end of this blog and welcome anyone to get in touch with me by email for more support.
"What are your favourite self care rituals, when do you do them and why?"
I am so passionate about helping people understand how to use self care because its a lot more simple than we might imagine! First of all self care should be for your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. For me that might mean, taking my dog out for a walk, getting an early night in, watching my favourite sit com and even making lists to manage my workload! That may seem super simple and non-glamarous, but its really important to remember that self care isnt just about going to get your nails done or buying flowers (those things are also great) but it starts much simpler. I also like to ask myself and others 3 simple questions: 1-Are my emotional needs being met today? 2-what is the kindest/gentlest thing I can do for myself in this moment? 3-Followed by a self compassion statement such as - I am doing everything I can right now, I am okay or I am only human!
"What's the difference between body confidence and body positivity?"
Myself and my friend and co founder of Beyond Body Confidence Abby are super positive about this! The reason its so important to know is because otherwise we are taking over a space which wasnt create for women who are white, able bodied and with bodily privileges. The Body Positive movement was created in the 60's for marginalised bodies, for women of colour, in the LGBTQ Community, fat women and women with disabilities. This of course now extends to men. Its about allowing these groups to have a space to be seen and celebrated in a world that to frequently only celebrates slim women with perky derrieres and no stretch marks, which is also very far from the population reality where the 'average' sized women is a UK 16. Body confidence is something we can all celebrate and adhere to, being content and accepting in your body, embracing your body and being confident in its appearance and ability. It can equally take a lot of time to get there and look different on everyone.
"Who are your inspirations or mentors for body positivity?"
Megan Crabbe (body posi panda) Michelle Elman (scarred nor scared) who did a video with me a while back and eloquently explained the differences. The Vagaggle. iamdaniadriana Callie Thorpe and Fullerfigurebust to name just a few! 7. If there was one piece of advice you could give your former self, what would it be? Be gentle and kind with yourself, be patient, it will always turn out okay and you are a good egg!
Get more tips for health & happiness from Laura on Instagram @phelanwell & @beyondbodyconfidence