By Pepita Anderson

BodyTalk interviewed Pepita, the founder of Eathink and a woman with experience of eating disorders, mental health challenges and disturbed body image. More importantly, she’s a woman who has managed to turn her life around and today she’s helping other womxn do the same. Eathink is a coaching service with the purpose of empowering womxn to create a more positive relationship with food, their bodies and thought patterns. In a world where appearance seems to be the top priority and our biological needs often get silenced - it's important to have the tools to look and listen inwards. Eathink aims to guide womxn on the journey to find that inner peace and self-love needed to live a happier and more self-compassionate life.

How old were you when you realised that you had an eating disorder and do you know why you got sick?

︎ I was thirteen years old when I got diagnosed with anorexia… but I started dieting when I was 11. That I already carried so much self-hate in my yet undeveloped woman body saddens me today. When I think about why and how I got sick, I never come up with a clear cut answer. All I know is that several things acted as contributing factors. Things that have to do with who I am, who I used to be and the context I grew up in. Things that are more general or universal also contributed, things that affect all of us more or less. Take the wide spread fatphobia for example, both developed and maintained by Western societies. We've all internalised it by simply watching television, using social media or looking in fashion magazines. Everything we see and hear impacts us in one way or another and some things become so normalised, that we don't even react when we're faced with them. An example of that is the never ending fat-jokes in movies and social media. It’s only lately I’ve started to really react to them… they are horrible and they come with the message that you're not worthy unless you look a particular way. It is everywhere, when you start to look. So, I believe that many different things and circumstances contributed to where I ended up, not least myself. At the end of the day, everything starts and ends with ourselves, we can never escape that.

Do you think it is important to understand one's past? To know how and why you ended up where you are?

︎ Yes, I believe that it is good to work through things in your past if it helps you to move forward in the present. Knowledge is power and the more you know and understand about yourself, the more changes you can make. However, when it comes to moving on and creating the best possible future for yourself I believe that the key lies in the present moment and not as much in figuring out the past. The truth is that we can take what we have right here, right now and turn it into something incredible if we want to. This is more or less what Eathink is all about, finding the power that you already have within - and use it to challenge learned behaviours that are no longer serving you. It is about understanding that you are at cause for everything that is happening in your life and you have the strength and capacity to create the outcomes that you want to see. This empowerment was something that I felt was missing in my treatments and probably why it took me over 10 years to fully recover. We only focused on the past and how trapped I felt in my present - no one ever told me that I was in control of my own thoughts or that I wasn't powerless over my emotions. No one encouraged me to take accountability for the situation I was in. Neither did anyone encourage me to learn about nutrition and how the human body works. Instead I was told to accept my diagnosis and I began to identify with it. Don’t get me wrong, therapy is incredible and I truly encourage everyone to go to therapy - but I think that you can only go so far facing backwards, at some point you have to turn around and focus on where you want to go next.

So, you feel there is a gap that needs to be filled here?

︎ Absolutely, there is a gap that needs to be filled generally when it comes to mental health challenges. Most of us don’t know how much power we actually have within and how the subconscious mind works.

What do you want people who struggle with mental health issues, negative body image and food related issues to know?

︎ That we can be, do and overcome anything we want. We can live a healthy, happy and mindful life without ever counting a single calorie or controlling our weight. We can go from depression to days filled with joy and laughter much easier if we get to know the subconscious mind. We can reduce anxiety with nutrition, self-awareness and mindfulness. We can go from always caring about what other people think to not give a sh*t and focus on living our lives instead. We can align our thoughts, emotions and actions with our values. And, we can start to love ourselves and our bodies without changing a single thing about how we look. Amazing right?

That does sound amazing but it also sounds like huge steps, to go from hate to love. How exactly can one make these major shifts?

︎ The first step towards all of this is self-awareness. You have to evaluate your life today, with pure honesty and without any judgement. Where are you in yourself right now? How satisfied are you with your life and yourself? What would you change right now, if you knew that the change was possible? How would your life be better, if these things changed? Then, you have to uncover your limiting beliefs. What beliefs about yourself are you holding on to, that are keeping you from moving forward? When you know what they are, you have to release them, one by one. The following steps will not be the same for you and me. We are all unique human beings and I have to understand and get to know you as an individual to suggest how to move forward. Much of this you can do on your own but it is harder without guidance from a professional. Seek help, follow people who speak about this, listen to podcasts, read books and practice mindfulness.

Does self-awareness help you to overcome eating related issues as well?

︎ Definitely but when it comes to food and body related issues we also have to be willing to educate ourselves around nutrition. As a nutritionist I don't believe that one type of food or one way of eating fits all. Again, we are unique human beings but there is one thing that I believe to be true for everyone: The more natural, non-processed food we eat - the better we feel mentally, spiritually and physically. Now, this doesn’t mean that you should have regrets after eating something that falls outside of this description, it should work more as a guideline towards better decisions. The bottom line is that you have to find out what kinds of food that work best for you and your body. You have to understand and listen to what your body is telling you. If you tune in to the right station, it will tell you exactly what it needs and you will learn what your food preferences are. Just bring your mind on board and make sure to create a flexible relationship with these preferences - they are not meant to be rules or restrictions. Once you connect to your body and listen to what it's telling you that it needs, you don't have to control a thing.

Do you think that most people don’t listen to what their body is telling them?

︎ I think that many of us eat solely based on what we are thinking and/or feeling and that's when we create conflicts within ourselves. If you work on bringing your body's signals into the decision making, you will discover a range of things that you haven’t noticed before. It has taken me close to six years to figure this out. After I recovered from my eating disorder I went on this long journey to learn what kinds of food makes me feel the best - physically, mentally and spiritually. I've also worked on getting rid of strong fears around foods that I once had labeled as "bad". I believe that this could have gone much faster if I had the right tools and knowledge that I have today. However, I've gained so much experience on the way so I don't regret a thing. This way, I can help other womxn on their journey instead and that is a beautiful thing to be a part of.

What is the most common pattern that you see amongst your clients when it comes to eating habits?

︎ Many of my clients believe that they either have to be on a strict diet or not care at all about what they put into their body - when in fact, they can have the cake and eat it too. This goes for everyone that doesn't have a serious disease like cancer for example. Some circumstances require more strictness. But, for a seemingly healthy person you can care about what you eat without obsessing over it - and you can be free in what you choose to eat and not feel any guilt or regret. Once you trust yourself and your body, you will find a balance that will make all those other ideas fade away.

Is there anything else you would like to say to the reader and perhaps a future client of yours?

︎ I look forward to welcoming you to Eathink's community and to continue these meaningful and important conversations. Until then, I want to leave you with these powerful words by the amazing author Brené Brown: “Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimise the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame. Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough but here's what is truly at the heart of wholeheartedness: Worthy now. Not if, not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.”