Body confidence can be a huge problem for women in this day and age. Recent research has found that 80 per cent of women are dissatisfied with their reflection, and more than half may see a distorted image in the mirror. Two women that know that all to well are Donna Richards and Tora Cullip.
Donna was once five stone overweight and Tora was anorexic, but both are now fit and healthy women who teach body confidence to people that were once just like them. They run one-to-one sessions and offer online body confidence programmes, designed to help women achieve and maintain their body confidence.
Here they talk to Belle about turning their lives and health around as well as give tips so Belle’s can do the same…
How did you meet?
We first met over 10 years ago at Brisbane airport in Australia when we were travelling for business. We were introduced to each other by a colleague. At the time, we had no idea that we would end up starting a business together!
Tora, what trigger your anorexia?
I still remember the moment that triggered developing an eating disorder, anorexia nervosa. I was feeling out of control with my life and didn’t know how to move forward. After almost a day of not eating, I suddenly realised that I could try going 24 hours without food. When I did that, it felt like this was something I could control. Initially I felt invincible and in charge of my life due to the control I was exerting over my food intake, but then – like any addiction – it took control of me. My eating disorder didn’t stem from a weight issue, it came from a much deeper place about my self-worth and lack of belief in myself.
Do you have any lasting effects from it?
After dropping to under six stone in weight within about eight months, the threat of hospitalisation helped me to start returning to a healthy weight. Although I recovered physically from anorexia about 18 months later, it probably took another 10 years to overcome the psychological effects. I had to do lot of inner work to learn to love and respect myself more. Nowadays I don’t have any lasting effects, but that’s only been possible because of the shifts in mindset I had to make to feel comfortable in my own skin.
Donna, what triggered your emotional eating?
My emotional eating was triggered by a feeling of being trapped because I couldn’t find a job so I had to move back in with my parents and work on their farm. This is when all of my problems started: I started to overeat, smoke and drink heavily. I was feeling completely trapped by my circumstances and didn’t see that there was a way of getting out. I packed on 5 stone of weight in a 6 month period.
What was the lightbulb moment for each of you for getting body confident?
The lightbulb moment for both of us was realising that we were using food as an answer to a deeper problem and that our weight and body image came to represent just how little we loved and cared for ourselves.
Donna: For me I realised that dieting wasn’t helping and was making things worse as I was getting more desperate and devastated every time she failed another diet.
Tora: I realised that unless sIe overcame my obsession with food I would never improve in my running career – one of the things that helped me to recover.
Were you both surprised to find similarities in your weight struggles, despite coming from opposite sides?
Tora: Donna was hugely surprised! She was blown away that someone with anorexia could have the same issues about food and weight as she did. She also didn’t realise that being skinny came with just as many issues as being overweight. She couldn’t believe that I was at least obsessed about food as she was, it not more.
Donna: Tora was less surprised as she believes that we live in a world of disordered eating, and so many weight issues go way deeper than just the bathroom scales. She had just dealt with her issue by not eating, rather than overeating. However, what did surprise us both was that they did similar things to overcome their issues.
How did you come up with the idea of helping others and turning it into a business?
Because we realised that our journeys were so similar, and also because of our backgrounds in counselling, coaching and fitness, we came up with a formula that could help people become body confident no matter their starting point. We wanted to help people deal with the issues that we had overcome and that had consumed our lives for so long.
Donna, do you ever still think of yourself as that ‘fat girl’ or indeed Tora do you ever still view your self that way?
Donna: yes, sometimes. When I’m feeling down on myself or I’m bloated because I haven’t eaten as well as usual, I can still go back into that old belief that I’m a fat girl. But nowadays I don’t stay there for long because I get back into my healthy eating and I really make sure I do my mindset practices, like gratitudes and success journal.
Tora: I can also fall into the trap of being hypercritical of myself and my body – and it’s nearly always when I’m over-tired. That’s why we are such firm believers in getting enough sleep – sleep deprivation can play havoc with your mindset. I’m also aware that this type of thinking can mean I’m really worried about something that has nothing to do with my body really, so I take time to think about what’s really going on for me.
What is the biggest day-to-day battle these days?
Donna: It’s too many treats (eg: chocolate, potato crisps) when I’m having an emotional or hormonal day. I still have to manage my treats!
Tora: When I get too tired I have to be very conscious of falling into a negative mindset. Although this doesn’t lead me to eat differently, I can beat myself up about things just because I am over tired.
What 3 universal truths do you live by?
1. When you eat is just as important as what you eat. So many people struggle with their weight and health because of sporadic, inconsistent eating patterns. We are very consistent with the routine of eating: breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner. Not only does this support your metabolism working properly, we also believe that you learn to trust yourself more because of those consistent patterns.
2. The upgrade diet and lifestyle. We have a general philosophy of Upgrading. In other words, even though we are fit and healthy we still like to make upgrades to our health and fitness lifestyles to keep improving with age. There is always a small but significant change you can make to be healthier and feel better.
3. Finding your WhyPower. Most people think that they need willpower to get healthy and fit, but it’s been proven that willpower only lasts so long before it runs out. We believe that you have to find your true purpose for wanting to be body confident, and that goes deeper than just fitting into your skinny jeans. Your WhyPower is what keeps you motivated to get the results you want, and make healthy habits part of your lifestyle.
What 10 tips can you give our Belles body confidence?
1. Get Your Beauty Sleep We live in a sleep deprived world, where it’s just as normal to be combating the effects of a bad night’s sleep as it is to wake up feeling refreshed and rested.
2. Drink Plenty of Water We’ve heard it all before, but drinking around 2 litres of water a day is still one of the most underrated habits for optimum health, glowing skin and weight control.
3. Wear Your Love Glasses Rather than looking in the mirror and immediately focusing on all the parts of your body that you want to improve, set yourself a challenge of thinking about the bits you love instead.
4. Reduce Wheat In Your Diet Most people would do anything for a flatter stomach, including 100s of sit-ups every day, but the truth is that it’s your diet and digestion that are the biggest culprits of a protruding tummy.
5. Keep A Gratitude & Success Journal Each day, write down 5 things you’re grateful for in your life and 5 successes you’ve had (no matter how small they are). Keeping a gratitude and success journal is like “health food” for the mind.
6. Improve Your Posture Standing up tall makes you instantly look and feel more confident – remember, bottom in, chest out, tummy in and shoulders back!
7. Upgrade Your Breakfast Start the day with a nourishing, healthy breakfast to get your metabolism working at its best.
8. Practice “Enoughness” Tell yourself that you’re “enough” and accept your flaws; then you can feel body beautiful starting today.
9. Try Green Smoothies Green smoothies are loaded with antioxidants and vitamins, and are the freshest, fastest way to get your daily veggies into your diet.
10. Don’t Quit, Upgrade Getting obsessed about trying to quit certain foods will do nothing for reinforcing your positive body image, so try upgrading your diet instead. Examples of healthy upgrades include replacing milk chocolate for dark chocolate, and white rice for quinoa.
Donna Richards and Tora Cullip are body confidence coaches, authors of I Want What She’s Having, Now! and creators of Body Confidence Breakthrough. They have a free 7-day Hot & Healthy Guide at their website www.donnaandtora.com.