What If You Weren't At War With Your Body?

8 August 2018 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

My inner rebel is kicking and screaming. I am starting to despair at the messages we receive in women’s magazines.

Many years ago, I would have bought these magazines in a flash with the vain hope of looking like one of those models, only to be disappointed and disheartened with my failure. Today I look at those covers and I sigh a deep sigh of despair.

I have taken some photos of magazine covers on South African shelves over the last few months.

“Look slimmer by Monday”?
Firstly, do they think we are stupid?
Detoxes, cleanses, challenges, eating plans, lifestyle eating – these are all just other words for dieting. And if you have been reading my blogs you will know that:

Diets simply DO NOT work.

Secondly, why should we look slimmer by Monday? The message we are given here is our bodies are a problem and that losing weight is the answer to the problem. It is no wonder that most women regardless of their size suffer from negative body image. How does perpetuating the myth of thinness help women?

For how long have we been subjected to messages from the media that we need to change? Our bodies. Our hair. Our make up. Our homes. Ourselves. The overriding message is that we are not – insert – thin, good, pretty or clever enough as we are. Our appearance is equated with our worth.

It is not surprising that most women feel as if we are not enough.

“Many young girls are constantly consumed by controlling and managing their body image to the extent that they are much more involved in the production of the self than in living.”

– Susi Orbach –

A few years ago I approached a magazine and asked them if they were interested to write a piece about Mindful & Intuitive Eating. Their response was “bring us your weight loss success stories”.

They weren’t interested in how, through this approach, people stopped dieting and felt relaxed and free around food. They were not interested in how women slowly started to appreciate their bodies. They were not interested in the shifts women made around their relationship with food. All they wanted was weight loss stories.

I refused. Mindful and Intuitive Eating is not about weight loss, there are so many benefits that go beyond weight loss. When will the media and our culture understand that it’s not about weight and that it’s precisely the pursuit of weight loss that creates the problem?

Perhaps “accept and embrace your body as it is” doesn’t sell magazines?

I recently attended a retreat at the Buddhist Retreat Centre. We did a timeline of the highs and lows in our lives. I just turned 50 so my timeline was neatly divided into five decades. I realised that over 3 decades of my life have been spent trying to improve, change or fix my body. It’s like the task of Sisyphus. There is simply no end to it. Yes, ending the diet roller coaster and working through my dysfunctional relationship with food and my body has brought me to this meaningful work and I am so grateful for that. But what will it take to accept and let go of this elusive and unrealistic “thin ideal”? What will it take to live our best lives and not put things on hold, regardless of the size of our bodies? Our obsession with our bodies and our appearance consumes our lives.

“I wish we could treat our bodies as the place we live from, rather than regard it as a place to be worked on, as though it were a disagreeable old kitchen in need of renovation and update.”

– Susie Orbach –

When are we as women going to stop supporting these messages? When are we going to stand up and speak up? Our purpose is not to be slimmer by Monday or “to get a sexier butt and legs”.

Our life’s work is not to “curb our cravings forever”. Imagine if we collectively took all the energy, head space, time and money we have wasted on worrying, planning and thinking about our bodies. Imagine that we used all of this energy in creative and meaningful ways, the change we could bring about. Let’s stop trying to fix our bodies and start fixing the culture that says our bodies are a problem.

My Women’s Month wish for all women:

May you learn to treat your precious body with love.
May you learn to look after your body with joy.
May you learn to respect and accept your body with kindness.


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“From our first meeting - two faces on Zoom across the world from each other, there was a sense of familiarity and comfort that was a healing balm for a lifetime of food struggles and dieting. Without realizing how much damage I had done to myself by adhering, for decades, to restrictive food plans and rigid diet programs, Xen had a way of redirecting the harsh and negative self-talk and sending me forth each week with compassion, mindfulness and a new way of seeing myself in the here and now. Gone are the maybe somedays, and if-only, and when-I’m-smaller thinking. Now I am committed to the imperfect and rocky path to listening to my body, accepting my perfect imperfections, and rejecting diet mentality. Those negative voices will revisit me from time to time, I know, but Xen has offered valuable tools for meeting each day as a fresh start - another choice, another chance. Her devotion to this work and her belief in her clients is a remarkable gift; I am so fortunate to have found her. It is never too late to let go of the drama and embrace joy, ease and self-acceptance.”

Karen, Colorado, USA

“I reached out to Xenia because 2021 started on a tumultuous note for me. Between deaths, businesses suffering, hospitalizations, and job losses in our personal circle, I felt depleted and found myself being available for everyone but myself. Then I was hit with an unexpected health diagnosis, which was the last straw as it meant giving up “healthy foods” and workouts that I leaned on for my well-being and stability. Despite working in wellness (Yes, coaches and healers are vulnerable too!), I found myself reaching out to desserts for comfort. I like to live a life of permissions (not labels or deprivation leading to bingeing), so I wanted to work with someone who approached healing from a place of mindful compassion. I didn’t want to be my own client. Xenia was great in reminding me to be kind to myself. Working with her, brought me peace and helped shift my mindset. I love how desserts and I look at each other now.”

Sweta Vikram, New York, USA

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Daniela Velásquez, Ottawa, Canada

“Working with Xen was a game changer for me. After working together for a few months my relationship with food radically changed. I no longer felt like a failure. I now have the tools to nourish my body with foods that feel good in my body. I don’t feel guilty about eating cake or chocolate, I also don’t overeat cake and chocolate. I no longer feel the need to exercise to compensate for my eating. I feel much more free around eating and I am more accepting of my body. Xen has a nonjudgmental and compassionate approach to coaching and really supports you in the process.”

Rachel, Dublin, Ireland

“Working with Xen has been very empowering. Her approach is so refreshing from the usual. I have learned that I am in charge and that I get to choose what I put in my body and how to move my body in a way that I like! I get to make my own choices. It’s so liberating. Once you get a taste of freedom with food, there is no turning back to old ways! Thanks Xen for guiding me along the way to freedom.”

Heather B, Cork. Ireland

“This is the answer for those of you that struggle with food and all that surrounds it. Xenia said that I could make peace with food and it seemed at the time like an impossible dream. Turns out it isn’t. I recommend Xen and the mindful eating / intuitive eating approach unreservedly. If you have any questions about my experience, please get in touch. Thank you Xen. My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”

Michelle, Johannesburg, South Africa

“Xenia was a walking, living, breathing example of what can be done. I laughed and cried my way through a short course in this fascinating and invigorating programme with her, and have gained a designer tote full of coping skills that go way beyond containing kilogrammes. I feel infinitely lighter. I am doing this for me and, yes, you can do this for you too! And believe me, I’m cynical!”

Diana, Vancouver, Canada

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Certified by The Life Coach School Certified and Trained by The Original Intuitive Eating Pro Professional Member of The Center for Mindful Eating