Today, on day one of Mental Health Awareness week, 2019, we are privileged to have Lisa Beasley, owner of My Body Positive, Global Ambassador for ‘Body Image Movement’ and Mindful Eating expert, share her wisdom with us.

When we think of Mental Health in the workplace, we don’t automatically think about Body Image being a mental health issue and yet, for some, dissatisfaction with our physical appearance can be a cause of stress and anxiety, which can impact our focus and progress at work.

Over to you Lisa!

How many times do you hear employees and colleagues talking about “being good” if they bring a salad in for lunch, or as a reason to decline cake brought in for someone’s birthday?

How about commenting on other people’s food choices? I know this is something I used to do myself before I realised that actually whatever someone chooses to eat is none of my business!

Learning to support employee’s mental health is becoming increasingly important. We all know that happy and healthy employees make better employees. They are more productive, take less sick days and are less likely to leave.

Office culture and our working environment has a huge impact on how an employee experiences their working day and it’s often not really thought about, particularly in terms of body image and how and what we eat.

A Shift in Culture

I must admit, in all my years as an employee I never heard anyone talk about Body Image and Mindful Eating in relation to employee’s mental health, however, times are changing and in this day and age, Body Image is increasingly seen as relevant and actually, hugely important, in terms of a people’s mental wellbeing.

Body image and our eating habits are intrinsically linked. A person who is actively trying to change their body through dieting for example, is probably doing so because they have a negative body image and think (mistakenly) that losing weight will be the answer. In fact, the answer lies in changing one’s thinking around weight and body image and learning that health encompasses so much more than a person’s weight.

Employers often believe that the answer to a happy healthy workforce is in encouraging weight loss. I’ve heard of company drives to sponsor people to lose weight, “company weigh in anyone?”  Or even, a health push to encourage people to attend, or even pay for slimming clubs (which don’t generally work for a myriad of reasons).

Personally, I would rather see a change in culture.

A shift towards wellness, and away from a focus on weight.

So what can we do to make an employee’s experience a positive one?

Tips for creating a healthy culture when it comes to body image and eating habits

Here are some ideas to get you started on being more sensitive around these potentially tricky issues:

1. Workplace health improvement initiatives are fantastic, but choice of language is vital. Exercise should be described as an opportunity to move one’s body for enjoyment, rather than to “shift calories” or to “work off the Christmas dinner”. Many people have a really negative idea of exercise, purely because they see it as a punishment for eating too many calories.

2. Encourage employees to take breaks from their desks so that they eat away from computer screens. This has numerous benefits, such as improved productivity etc but also, in terms of our relationship with food. If our employees are eating whilst working, this is a missed opportunity for them to eat mindfully. Mindful eating involves learning to pay attention to things like hunger cues, and levels of fullness, which is pretty impossible if you are munching away through your sandwich whilst reading a spreadsheet.

3. Resist rewarding employees with food – at least not all the time. One client of mine (I’ve asked her for permission to share this) talks about experiences in her office, where staff are regularly rewarded with food to the extent she feels almost forced into having food she doesn’t want which she finds triggering. She described one activity where all staff had to bite into a different doughnut to see what filling they had but she didn’t want a doughnut and felt a total lack of choice. This treat was actually detrimental for her mental health. Food can be a tricky issue for many people so it’s best to avoid team building activities like these.

4. Create a culture where all bodies are respected and valued. Challenge assumptions made by your colleagues, or remarks that are disrespectful of other people and don’t comment on, or praise weight loss – because you don’t know what is going on for that person – they could be losing weight because they are unwell, or grieving.

5. If you are really serious about being a trailblazer for your employees, you could consider becoming a Body Positive employer. The ‘Be Real campaign’ has produced various resources for education in schools and for organisations. You can even sign the ‘Body Image Pledge’ to commit to championing a positive body image and help your employees feel good about themselves.

About Lisa Beasley – Body Image and Mindful Eating expert

Lisa Beasley AKA My Body Positive helps people find peace around food, weight and Body Image WITHOUT dieting. 

She does this because she spent years dieting and hating her body, until she discovered Mindful and Intuitive Eating and Body Positivity, an approach that changed her world – so much so, she decided to help other people find out about it too! 

Lisa is a Global Ambassador for ‘Body Image Movement’, the team behind the phenomenal Body Image movie documentary called ‘Embrace’, has performed talks at ‘BodyKind Festival’ the only Body Positivity festival in the UK, and for schools and businesses. 

She also runs workshops in person and online, as well as helping clients one to one. 

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