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Olivia Shakespear

I love all things nutrition! But most of all I love helping people find balance with food. So many of us have an unhealthy relationship with food - as I did for many years. I trained as a nutritional therapist and specialise in working with people who are binge eaters or have disordered eating. The key is to have support on a daily basis, which is how I work.
Nutritional Therapy
Plant-based Diet
Life Coaching
Mindful Eating
About Olivia Shakespear

I love all things nutrition! But most of all I love helping people find balance with food. So many of us have an unhealthy relationship with food - as I did for many years. I trained as a nutritional therapist and specialise in working with people who are binge eaters or have disordered eating. The key is to have support on a daily basis, which is how I work.

10 years of practice
On Core Spirit since March 2021
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Olivia Shakespear
Letting Go of Disordered Eating for Good

Today is New Year’s Day, a wonderful time for leaving old habits and old conflicts behind. At the same time there is a wonderful sense of a new beginning and belief in making lasting changes. I’m 44 years old and I’ve had many a New Year, new month, new week where I wanted to give up binge eating but New Year was always a hopeful time for me. However, my decision to give up binge eating was usually part of a long list of other New Year’s intentions and resolutions that would last a few weeks but inevitably fail because I’d set the bar far too high. So before the end of the month I’d have let the ball drop. Luckily for me my birthday is at the end of January so I frequently used this as a second New Year and a second opportunity to make the same resolutions!

The feeling of so desperately wanting to let something go and make changes in life for the better are no doubt familiar to pretty much everyone. If you’re reading this I’m imagining that you one of these things is binge eating. In the process I use to support people in letting go of binge eating and changing their relationship with food into something that they truly enjoy and find a great deal of peace with, I emphasise the importance of making the decision to let this habit go on a very deep level. Now I can understand you might feel that you’ve done that many times over so what’s the point? But I can tell you if you are still bingeing this means that you may have thought you’ve made that decision but there’s always been a little part of you holding back. It’s easy to miss this part because it’s so deeply ingrained, especially if the binge eating has been around a long time. If there wasn’t a part of it that is still giving you something you feel you cannot find elsewhere then it would have been easier to let go of. Of course, when we have deeply ingrained habits these become wired into our brains which makes things so much harder to change. It’s like a double whammy, but whilst it’s important to understand the brain’s tendency to go down tried and tested routes, no matter how painful the outcome, I still truly believe that ultimately until you make the decision on really deep level to make that change then you aren’t allowing the space for those changes to happen.

I can tell you hand on heart that when you do make that decision it feels very different to all those other times. I remember sitting on my bed and really feeling into what needed to happen in order for me to say goodbye to binge eating. For me personally, I asked my guides for support, and by guides I mean from the other side of the veil. I realise this might seem wacky to some people, but most people have some source of faith that can be really important in helping them feel they aren’t on their own. But even if you don’t believe in anything beyond our five senses, it doesn’t matter because ultimately it’s all about making that decision with your own self. I held my hands around the wrapping of the chocolate bar I’d stuffed down despite being pretty full already, and I’d written the date on it because this was the last time I was going to eat with that mentality. It certainly wasn’t intended to be the last piece of chocolate I ate and hasn’t been in any way! But I didn’t want to be eating chocolate in a frenzied and bingeing manner any more.

I felt a huge rush of emotion now that I realised I really was going to have to leave behind something that had comforted me for so many years. Yes I knew that the comfort was short lived and just made me feel like hell afterwards, but it had been a coping mechanism that gave me short relief from the emotional workings of my mind and body. In my recovery guide e-book, which you can download for free, I do stress that there are many biochemical and neurological reasons why the urge to binge is so powerful and it is important to understand this because it helps you realise what you’ve been up against. You aren’t a failure if you haven’t managed to make the changes last up until now. But when I actually made this decision it was the emotional aspects of binge eating that suddenly became so clear. I’m not saying that this is what everyone will feel, this is just my personal realisation. I had a complete clarity that all this junk food was something I had been using as a way to feel loved, in a distorted form of self-love as a way to make up for a lack of connection I have sometimes found in my life. Now I have to point out here I have a wonderful family and amazing friends and this isn’t about a lack of love from people per se, although absolutely this might be the case for some people, for me it was more about the sense of disconnection from a sense of wholeness..

When this realisation hit I felt overwhelmed with grief at what I’ve been doing and how misguided it was to mistake the comfort of foods designed to be addictive for a true sense of peace. I also realised I didn’t need more connection with other people (although I do feel the more we connect with people the easier it is to feel a sense of joy and peace in our lives) but actually what I was looking for has been inside me all along. I felt an overwhelming sense of calmness and peace wash over me and ultimately it just felt very different to the prescriptive and often quite dogmatic approach I previously used. I just felt the need to be gentle with myself and to love myself through the process. I know this can sound so corny and overused but when you feel this on a deep level you realise it has a real weight to it. And it’s great because then you realise you are not waiting for something in your external life to change before you can let go of the addiction.

Whilst the following days, weeks and months still required a good deal of effort to keep reminding myself that I was no longer going back to my old ways, I found that this time it didn’t feel like a pressure cooker waiting to explode when it got to the point that I could no longer deal with whatever stresses were occurring without using food. I’ll be providing a lot more information through my blogs on what steps you can take after you’ve made this decision to help those changes stick as I very much combine the use of nutrition along with practices that support emotional and psychological well-being. But this initial decision is the most important factor and the start of your journey.

Olivia Shakespear
The Mind Gut Connection

We have so many phrases in the English language that talk about the connection between the mind, our emotions and our gut – such as “gut feeling”, “gut wrenching”, “butterflies in the stomach” etc. There is a good reason for this. Our brain/mind and our emotional reactions are hugely linked to the gut. We even classify a separate “brain” in this part of the body, known as the enteric nervous system. The enteric nervous system is a network of neurons that govern our digestive function. However, when you realise that this area is also rich in neurotransmitters, many of which are also found in the brain (such as serotonin) then it’s no wonder that the brain in the gut does much more than simply handle digestion. Furthermore, this area is connected to our solar plexus chakra, the chakra that holds our personal power and momentum to move forward in life and take action to fulfil our wishes and desires.

Triggers from the Brain

Physiologically our brain triggers many important reactions in the gut, such as stimulating the release of gastric juices for digestion. Imagine you are hungry and you see an advert for a juicy (…. you fill in the blank), and your mouth starts watering. This is due to the signal from the brain that kicks your digestive system into action long before you even eat a mouthful.

But what about all those emotions that trigger reactions in the gut? We all know them well. Feeling nervous, anxious, fearful or excited, all create corresponding reactions in the intestines. Stress here is the overall factor in many of the emotions – and from my point of view can be linked to feelings of disempowerment, which is very much associated with the solar plexus. When a person is severely stressed, there can be huge consequences in their gastrointestinal health, not least because being super stressed actually shuts down digestion. But other factors are important too with stress, such as the effects it has on inflammation in the gut, gut motility (constipation and diarrhoea are hugely linked to stress), how it effects the delicate lining of the intestines and the bacterial balance that plays a huge role in health as we are discovering more and more.

Given the levels of stress many people face on a daily basis, is it any wonder that so many people experience chronic stomach problems, such as IBS? In all honestly, I’m often surprised when I meet someone who doesn’t have any gut health issues – it’s pretty rare. Ok, people might think they don’t, but dig a little deeper and usually you pick up on symptoms related to gastric health – it’s just that people become so accustomed to them that they no longer even recognise that the symptoms aren’t normal.

Triggers from the Gut

But what about the other way round? The connection goes both ways, and a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can also be the cause of anxiety, stress and depression. Having stomach pain on a daily basis is enough to make anyone feel pretty anxious – so the whole thing can become a bit of a chicken or egg situation.

However, there are some very real factors that can occur in the gut that create imbalance in the brain. One big one to consider is the presence of food intolerances. Another is the presence of pathogenic micro-organisms that can take up residence in gut. The imbalance created in the gut can have a direct impact on the neurotransmitter activity in the brain as well as other parts of the body.

Functional GI Disorders

These disorders of the brain-gut have been classed as “Functional GI Disorders”. They are some of the most commonly seen disorders in the general population, and account for around 40% of the GI problems seen by doctors and therapists. Basically the term is used to describe a group of disorders classified by their symptoms, such as motility disturbance, hypersensitivity in the gut, altered gut microflora, altered immunity (remember, 60-70 percent of our immune system is in our gut) and altered central nervous system activity. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) comes under this classification.

The problem in the past has been that determining symptoms as brain-gut related, they have in the past been dismissed as psychosomatic. Whilst from an energetic point of view, of course this can be seen as true – a weakened sense of personal power, will and momentum that effects the solar plexus will lead to problems in this area. And even from a more mainstream point of view, psychological factors are well-known to influence gut health. But the dismissal of these factors as psychosomatic (often code for “all in your head”) can be pretty detrimental, given that the symptoms are very real. Yes, psychological factors influence the condition, but this is not the same as something being “in your head”. Plus, can anyone tell me a disease where the psychological status of someone does not affect the physical expression of a condition? Stress impacts pretty much any symptom or disease you can think of. Furthermore, research shows that people with functional GI disorders perceive pain more acutely than other people, because their brains have trouble regulating pain signals from the intestines. So it is definitely not all in the head.


Like all chronic conditions, it is so much more helpful to approach these symptoms and disorders in a holistic way – taking into account the psychological, energetic and also physiological factors. As a naturopathic nutritionist, I always aim to work in a holistic way, so it comes naturally to me to address the issues together, but I’m surprised at the number of people with gut health issues who don’t seem to make the connection between what is happening in their emotional/mental life and what is happening in their gut. Hopefully by talking more about the physical connections, people will feel they are more able to seek help for long term gut health issues without being labelled as having a psychosomatic problem.
Anyway, hope that all makes sense!

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