Holy moly. Thanks to everyone who read my first interview a couple of weeks ago ( click here if you missed the interview with Kerry Beake).
This week. AGAIN. Another super inspiring health professional. Sarah McMahon
Sarah MacMahon is a Psychologist, proud Director and Co-Founder of Body Matters Australasia. She specialises in and has been working with people with eating disorders for over ten years. She has successfully treated over 200 individuals who have made a full recovery from their eating disorder.
Now, if you haven’t heard of Body Matters – then you really need to head to their website HERE. They are huge advocates for fighting against the body shaming culture in Australia and the knock-on effect it has in perpetuating eating issues.
So, let’s go..
Was there a particular moment you decided you wanted to work with and help people with eating issues?
My desire to help people recovering from eating disorders was an idea that emerged over time as I became increasingly aware how limited services and support for this group of people was. That was 15 years ago and I am glad to say that there is more and more support for people becoming available now.
In your opinion, why don’t diets work for many people long term?
Dieting is not a sustainable state for our body to be in, and when we go on diets our bodies struggle desperately to ensure sufficient nutrition is obtained, ultimately increasing food seeking behaviour including pervasive thoughts around food. It is vital that we remember that we didn’t fail the diet: the diet failed us. Its also vital to remember that in most instances this “failure” is inevitable.
What does a positive body image mean to you?
Positive body image is about more than just liking how you look- although of course this is a good starting place. However there are may people who like how they look because they abuse their body by engaging in unhealthy weight loss regimes, for example.
Positive body image is about behaving consistently with the notion of existing within a body that you love, so treating yourself kindly and compassionately and engaging in health giving behaviour. Maintaining a positive body image is much like maintaining a friendship in that it is a dynamic and ongoing process that requires ongoing positive investment.
Here at SOL we have a lotta love for mindfulness based strategies. A big part of mindfulness and avoiding a dieting mentality is self-love and nurturing. Can you tell our SOL friends your favourite way to nurture yourself?
My favorite way of nurturing myself is exercising.
It has taken a long time to reach a point where I can put my hand on my heart and say that I am exercising because it makes me feel good from the inside out!
Unfortunately there is so much pressure and confusion to exercise for other reasons, such as fulfilling a quota or to look good. I now find exercising an extremely mindful experience, I love being thankful to my body when it performs as I hope- and even sometimes exceeds my expectations. I am grateful to be able to be self compassionate when I feel my body does not deliver, for what ever reason (and sometimes no reason at all). I love the feeling of stretching after a session and being kind to my body and in that moment as well.
Imagine you were Prime Minister for one day and could enforce ONE change to our health system or society to prevent body image issues. What would that ONE CHANGE be?
I would love to see the regulation of the dieting industry, so that people are more aware of the dangerous (or placebo) products included and, more importantly, so expectations of weight loss when dieting are realistic. After 2-5 years following a diet, most people (indeed nearly all people!) actually end up fatter! If we track the history of body shaming and the use of words like “fat” for derogatory rather than descriptive purposes a parallel is very clear: this phenomenon is clearly linked to the increasing profiting of the dieting industry.
Who do you respect (or who is a trailblazer) in promoting a positive body image?
I would have to say Susie Orbach and Rick Kausman for their ongoing work in education and advocacy. They are both humble individuals who have single-handedly challenged culture through the drip drip drip effects of their important messages over many decades.
What’s one thing we don’t know about you?
I have an identical twin sister!
OK. Almost there. What are you working on in 2015 – what exciting things should we look out for?
We are beginning to run support groups for sufferers & parents. We will also be offering online yoga to compliment treatment, build on mindfulness skills and also facilitate people moving their body in a compassionate way.
Thanks to Sarah McMahon for taking part in this interview series. Like all the health professionals I have contacted, she has graciously donated her precious time and it is appreciated
If you would like to learn more about the team at Body Matters Australasia including Sarah’s Co-Founder Lydia Turner then check out their website by clicking HERE.