Who is Emma, where are you based, and what do you do?
First and foremost, I’m a mum of two super kids. We live in Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, with our dog, rabbit, two pet pygmy goats…and last but not least, my wonderful husband. I run an eating disorder support service, called BalancED MK, which I set up following my own recovery from anorexia. I am also a Personal Trainer and Martial Arts Instructor (teaching Jado Kuin Do) to kids and adults in my local community. Last year, I wrote two books linked to disordered eating and began offering one to one recovery coaching to individuals striving to find balance in their life.
What has been your journey so far?
I grew up in a large, loving family of five children and numerous animals. My childhood was full of love but also had some challenges. I was quite a sensitive person and didn’t really feel that I fit in, turning to my horse on loan for company instead. I struggled with feeling low, and began to use food as a way of expressing or repressing my feelings when I was about 17 years old. As is often the case, this situation spiralled out of control and I actually took an overdose when I was just 18. Luckily, I survived to live another day and began to rebuild my life. Sadly, I relapsed when I was in my early twenties and subsequently sought specialised one to one and group support to help me get better. Some years later, I decided that I’d like to help other people affected by an eating disorder, so set up BalancED MK in 2007. Since then, I’ve done various training courses to compliment the lessons I’ve learnt from experience and try my best to turn a bad situation into something good.
What is a typical day in the life of Emma?
I mostly work from home, so I’m able to take my kids to school each morning. I then walk my dog, do some admin, meet with someone for recovery coaching or personal training, do the school run again and finish off with teaching martial arts. Sometimes I give talks about eating disorders at events, organisations or schools too. My life is very varied, which I enjoy.
Tell us about your book ‘Rebalance your relationship with food’
I provide one to one coaching to people that benefit from having an experienced mentor supporting them through recovery. I was looking for a recipe book that would help them to rebuild a healthy relationship with food, but couldn’t find anything very appropriate, so I decided to make one myself! I used my personal experience of recovery, combined with my professional knowledge and feedback from self-help group attendees to create my book.
Why a recipe book?
I wanted to create a recipe book specifically designed for people affected by disordered eating or body image issues, but realised that the recipes were all based on balanced eating so would be relevant to almost anyone. So I put together a book that gave examples of simple, nutritious meals, set out in a way that wasn’t overwhelming. I didn’t include any reference to calories or fat, but instead noted the positive benefits of key ingredients, helping to justify and encourage the reader to try new things. I wanted to help people to establish a positive eating pattern, based on the theory ‘everything in moderation, including moderation itself’. I hope the book sets a good example of balance. I also included quotes from people in recovery, inspiring and empowering others.
What’s your favourite recipe?
Too difficult to choose. I love the healthy pancake recipe in the breakfast section! Some other favourites include mackerel pate, salmon and spinach frittata, rainbow salad with houmous, sweet potato and chickpea stew, lentil stuffed peppers, pizza/pasta sauce, bliss balls, pecan bis-cakes and rejuvenating chocolate cake! I’ve developed some new favourites too, which I often share on my Instagram account rebalancing_me.
If someone feels that they know somebody who may benefit from having this book, how should they approach giving it to them?
This would depend on the person. The recipes are examples of balanced meals suitable for anyone, with or without an eating disorder, so a loved one could buy the book themselves, making it available to the person directly affected. Alternatively, someone might be more likely to trust and use the book after reading a little about my story and seeing written endorsements on my website www.rebalancing-me.com.
The work you do covers a very serious life issue, that many families struggle to understand if someone they love so much is doing so much harm to themselves, what is the best first step?
Appreciating that there is an issue to challenge in the first place is a huge step towards recovery. Calm support from friends and family will also make a big difference, but it’s important to establish a wide network of support so that no one person feels overly responsible for someone’s recovery. Specialised professional support, from a counsellor, recovery coach, self-help group or eating disorder team can often play an important role in recovery. It may also be necessary to involve a GP, to monitor any physical complications needing attention. There’s no need for anyone to struggle alone because there are people wanting to understand and support people wanting to recover, even if they’re not sure how to go about it.
What other support is there for people with an eating disorder?
There are various organisations dedicated to eating disorder research and recovery, in addition to the specialised help available through the NHS (accessed via a GP). Self-help materials have been shown to play an important role in recovery too. For example, I have published a second book, called the ‘Eating Disorder Recovery Handbook: A Practical Guide for Long-term Recovery’ by Dr Nicola Davies and Emma Bacon. This book is based on the topics we discuss at the self-help group, aiding recovery from any form of disordered eating. See www.rebalancing-me.com for further information.
I like how you say you are not perfect, you are “perfectly me” – what tips can you offer to get us to understand it’s ok not to be perfect?
Learning self-compassion has been key to my recovery and ongoing happiness. Self-compassion is a skill that has to be learnt and practiced on a daily basis, but worth all the effort. It’s important to invest some time and attention on your emotional wellbeing. Self-care is not selfish, it’s responsible and necessary to live a happy life. I accept that if I’m trying my best, with what I have, in each particular moment, that that is more than good enough. I think that trying your best is something to be proud of, even if it’s not perfect.
How do you relax from work?
I love yoga, cooking lunch for my friends, walking my goats on a Sunday afternoon and chilling out on the sofa with my husband. The simple things in life make me happy. Having said that, I also love to travel as and when my work allows me the time. We’re planning a four week trip around Europe with the kids this summer – I’m very much looking forward to that!
What three things could you not live without?
- My family.
- My best friends.
- Eggs and avocado!!!
And finally – what’s your favourite indulgence?
I absolutely love a bowl of yoghurt, nuts, seeds and honey, mixed with some maca powder (which makes it take like meringue!). I also enjoy going out for a meal at a good Thai or Indian restaurant.
If you want to know more about how you can get help or provide support to a family member or friend, then visit Emma’s websites, all her contact details are below:
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