I am a Food & Eating Coach with twenty years experience supporting hundreds of fed up yo-yo dieters to find a new way forward with diet and weight issues.
I am also an Open Floor movement practice teacher, inspiring people to move their bodies for joy and vitality beyond exercise and fitness.
I have led hundreds of workshop hours and co-authored two books on how to ditch Diet Culture and stop overeating.
I am compassionate, kind and will be your number 1 cheerleader on your journey to Taste the Freedom.
I am an accredited Humanistic Psychotherapist (BACP Accred) with twenty years of experience and expertise working with women who struggle with eating and body image.
I lead workshops, retreats and courses as well as working one to one and am the co-author of two books about women, food and their bodies.
And I have been there myself, battling with food and my body for the best part of my teens through to my early thirties.
I have the deep knowledge, skills and commitment to guide you through this exciting and sometimes challenging process.
THE BOSS SISTERS
Although we were close as sisters, we never really talked about our relationship with food openly as we grew up. Once we started in our 30's, we couldn’t stop. We talked about the obsession with losing weight. We talked about how desperate it felt to be constantly yo-yoing between being ‘good’ and overeating. We talked about the misery of putting all the weight lost back on. We talked about the secrecy and the shame of bingeing and eating in secret. We talked about how we used food to treat ourselves and make ourselves feel better. We talked and talked and talked…
Audrey had read a book by Geneen Roth. That's when we discovered that the diets were the problem and that we could transform our relationship with food by learning to listen to our bodies. This was a complete revelation.
We made a pact. We vowed to never go on another diet again. We made a commitment to start exploring to get to the root of our overeating. We determined to find a balanced, healthy approach to eating and body confidence.
We pledged to put an end to the years of struggling on our own, promising to support each other along the way and in 2000, Beyond Chocolate was born.
A BLAST FROM THE PAST!
Our first book, Beyond Chocolate, was published in 2006. That's a long time ago! This little video was made by our publishers at the time to help promote the book. We had fun making it and so, even though it's old and we and Beyond Chocolate have both changed so much since then, we are keeping here as it's part of our history. Writing our book was such an intense, creative and enjoyable experience, we hope you'll enjoy reading it.
Your can listen to our stories here
Or just scroll down if you prefer to read...
I spent most of my life, from the age of 13 to 34 either on a diet or eating for Britain. I remember the first time so well; it was at school, with my best friend. We decided that we would have a bowl of All Bran with skimmed milk for breakfast followed by two Ryvitas with Marmite for lunch and the same for dinner! I lasted about two days.
Over the years I went on every diet in the book and made up many more of my own. I believed with all my heart that if I could just lose weight and be thin then everything would fall into place. When I was thin, men would find me attractive. When was thin, I would be worthy of my mother’s love and acceptance. When I was thin, then I could start dressing and behaving like a real woman. But until then, I would continue to feel like a fat, middle-aged failure.
I went to see nutritionists and naturopaths. I tried detoxes and meal replacements and I even earned myself the Weight Watchers Gold Card. I was so desperate to lose weight that I would go hungry for days on end, trying to starve myself into thinness, following some outrageous new fad. Sometimes I lost weight, mostly just a few pounds before giving up. And I always put any weight I did lose back on, always. And what's worse I always seemed to put back on a few pounds more than I'd lost. And every time this happened I felt like a total failure. And yet, I never gave up: I read diet books like novels, avidly absorbing every word, hoping with all my heart that they would work for ever. The only times I lost weight and kept it off for any length of time (about a year at most) were when I fell in love or started an exciting new job. And as soon as the novelty wore off, I was back where I started, cramming in the packs of salami and cakes, wishing I wasn’t so out of control.
By the time I was 34 I was living with my family in London, home educating the children, doing an MA in Education to prepare myself for going back to teaching. I had good friends and was an intelligent, confident and capable woman in so many areas of my life, but somehow all that wasn't enough. I hated my body: my breasts were too big, my bum too wide, my thighs too flabby. I felt huge and miserable, I thought about dieting and losing weight all the time. And I ate constantly.
When Audrey told me how for years she had been struggling, just like I had, I couldn’t believe it. We had grown up together and neither of us had ever said a word. Something just snapped. That’s when I decided to take action. I made it a priority; I knew that I did not want to spend the rest of my life on diets, feeling like a failure. Transforming my relationship with food, changing old beliefs, patterns and behaviours was a daunting prospect, but I decided to stop dieting and went on a mission. I read every anti-diet, intuitive eating book I could lay my hands on. I kept a journal where I wrote about all the ideas, tools and methods I was exploring and experimenting with, those that I had ditched and those that had worked for me. My commitment wavered at times and I learned to be patient and to be kind to myself in the process.
As I gradually started making changes I realised the one thing I needed more than anything else was support, but there was none around. That’s when I decided to use my own experiences, knowledge and skills as a starting point to create a programme that I could offer women to support them (and myself in the process) to stop yo-yo dieting, to stop food controlling my life. I knew that my body would reach a naturally healthy weight if I focused on having a healthy relationship with food. Back then fat activism didn't 't exist and I was still in some ways attached to weight loss, all the while working to unhook from the belief that the size of my body should define the size and value of my life. I spent the next 18 months researching, talking to women and writing, creating Beyond Chocolate and working on my own relationship with food and my body. The more I worked at it the easier it became. I lost weight without it ever being my focus. Eating had finally become a pleasurable life-sustaining activity – no more, no less – and when I looked in the mirror and saw a slimmer body, that’s all it was, a slimmer body. Still me. I wasn’t the perfectly happy, sorted woman I’d dreamed of. It didn't make my life better in the myriad of ways I had hoped. It did however give me social acceptance and people approved and that just made me angry. I refused to accept that my success as woman depended on weight loss and being thin. I'd had enough.
I spent hours on the phone to Audrey talking about it all and we bounced ideas off each other. I turned to her for advice on marketing and PR, and her encouragement and enthusiasm spurred me on. I encountered resistance when I offered Beyond Chocolate to health clubs and other organisations, due to my lack of qualifications, in part but also because being anti-diet and a fat activist in the 90s was radical and misunderstood. I began training as a humanistic psychotherapist in 2002. My training informs the work I do in many positive ways and gives me valuable tools, which I incorporate into the structure of the courses. What began as professional development has become as much about learning to become a human being as it has about developing my professional skills. And I know absolutely that my real qualification for this work is the years that I spent hating my body, punishing myself with endless diets and all the exploring and experimenting I have done over the years to change that. I took my relationship with food and my body into my own hands. I gradually became my own Guru and I was determined to empower others to do the same. When I was finally ready to run the first Beyond Chocolate workshop in 2000, I knew that Audrey had to be there with me.
I trained as a Humanistic Psychotherapist at Spectrum, the largest centre and practice for Humanistic Psychotherapy in Europe and a UKCP accredited organisation. I am a fully accredited Member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (MBACP Accred).
I believe it is very important for psychotherapists to be visible and accountable for their work, I am in regular professional supervision at Spectrum and continue to develop my personal and professional skills through CPD and other courses. I run two ongoing women's groups and an ongoing parenting group. As well as workshops relating to women's relationship with food and their bodies, I run courses and workshops on: Talking About Death, Self Awareness, Anger and Anxiety. I have been leading groups and retreats for over 20 years.
Before training as a psychotherapist I worked in management at Marks & Spencer and later trained as a secondary school teacher of modern languages. For over 10 years I was in unpaid employment parenting our two children and creating Beyond Chocolate.
I went on my first diet when I was 13. My mother stood me in front of the mirror in my underwear and asked me if I really wanted to go to the beach looking like that. I spent the next three months on the Mayo Clinic diet, mostly eating poached fish, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes and apples.
I lost weight, a lot of weight and, delighted by the results, started to cut down on the already meagre portions allowed by the programme. By the time the summer came round I was looking, to my eyes, pleasantly skinny – and fainting regularly from lack of food. September rolled round, and it was back to school. Buttered toast at breakfast, and tea and sweets from the village shop became my only form of sustenance as I refused to eat the revolting school meals on offer, and I rapidly regained all the weight I had lost – plus a little more. This was the beginning of a 20 year cycle in which I yo-yoed between losing weight and then putting it all back on again. I tried everything: diet books, doctors who prescribed hunger suppressants, WeightWatchers, home-made eating plans based on calorie counting, and countless other miracles that promised me a thin body. I even used vomiting as a way of controlling my weight. It became harder and harder to stick to the diets, I ‘slipped up’ more and more frequently with longer and more intensive ‘pig out’ periods. I always ended up putting on more weight than I had lost and my relationship with food became more and more obsessive and anxious.
By the time I was in my mid twenties I was starting a new diet, or vowing to ‘be good and watch what I ate’ every Monday morning. These attempts lasted anything from until lunchtime to a few days, before I gave up and went off the rails, until the Monday after. The more weight I put on, the more miserable I became and the more miserable I was, the more I ate. I hated my body with a passion; hated my flabby stomach, which bulged out over the waist of the too-tight jeans I had squeezed myself into; hated the rolls of fat on my back and the flaps under my arms, which I covered up with baggy T-shirts; hated my triple chin, which I couldn’t hide. Against all logic I believed that my weight was at the root of all my problems and that if only I were thin, I would be happy.
My ongoing battle with obsessive dieting, bulimia and a destructive body image was very private. I never talked about it to anyone. Not to my girlfriends, who were all thinner than me, not to my boyfriend, who I knew would tell me to ‘just get a grip and eat less’, not to my sister, who was forever embarking on a new weight-loss crusade herself, and not to my mother, who had been consistently depriving herself for the past 40 years in a systematic cycle of starving during the week and bingeing on weekends. Anyone looking at me from the outside would have seen an outgoing, friendly woman who was good at her job and had a lively social life. I never talked about the self-loathing, about the late-night binges, or about the vomiting. After all, it was entirely my fault, I was weak and pathetic, and simply lacked the willpower to go on a diet, lose weight and sort myself out once and for all. So I kept quiet and kept going round and round in circles. I moved to Rome and set up a new life in Italy… and ate. I threw myself into my work, building up a successful freelance career in PR and event management… and ate. I travelled and I discovered new worlds… and ate. I went out and had fun… and ate. The years went by and nothing changed.
By the time I was 30 I was desperately unhappy with my body, running out of options and ready for change. It came about first and foremost by accepting that the way I was approaching weight loss was not only completely ineffective but it was also harmful to my health and more importantly, to my self-esteem and ultimately my happiness. It came about by being willing to put lifelong beliefs into question, by being open to new, and sometimes daunting ideas, by experimenting and learning from my experiences. It came about, above all, thanks to my sister Sophie. She was the person I turned to when I finally decided to open up and talk about my struggle with food. That was when I discovered that we had been going through the same things for years, without ever talking about it. It is thanks to her support and vision that I found the courage to make changes. Since then, we have come a long way.
My life as an unhappy, obsessive, serial dieter has been transformed. All the energy, time and effort I used to put into trying squeeze my body into an "acceptable" size has been freed up and goes into more joyful, rewarding and enriching activities. Today, I have a life Beyond Chocolate.
I have been in the business of supporting people to transform their relationship with food and their body for over 20 years. Although I written books about it, have worked with hundreds of clients and groups and delivered hundreds of workshop hours and movement sessions, perhaps my best qualification for the work I do is that I have firsthand experience of what it’s like to struggle with Diet Culture, disordered eating, serial yo-yo dieting and sustaining a healthy lifestyle. They say that we teach what we need to learn the most. It’s true, passing on what I’ve learned over the years keeps me walking the talk. I have a genuine understanding of the challenges and teach from a place of authenticity and service.
My work rests on the shoulders of the Black Fat Acceptance activists who came before me and blazed a trail to dismantle systems of oppression so that it is safe for everyone to live in their bodies. It is informed by the teachings of Intuitive Eating, Health at Every Size, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Polyvagal Theory, Embodied & Somatic enquiry and mindful movement. And of course, rooted in the anti-diet and weight neutral philosophy. More recently, my work has been enriched by training to become an Open Floor movement practice teacher which brings the body - and our connection to it - right to the forefront of the work I do and blends beautifully with the Beyond Chocolate approach. My approach is backed up by a very practical and hands on style. I teach a variety of skills and practices ranging from self compassion for disordered eating recovery, mindful and healthy eating to cooking to mindful movement and dance.