I am so bloody thrilled to introduce you to two AMAZING women. In fact, I think they may be angels. Sarah and Fiona and two wangels (women angels) on a mission to make dames feel beautiful and comfortable in their own bodies, no matter what size. They run a course called R.I.P.E (Recovery Is Possible for Everyone) that is for women who suffer with Bulimia and binge eating disorders. They have just pulled together their first body positive retreat too. It’s not every day you meet special people like these two who are so passionate about helping women. On top of their busy work lives they each have two busy little boys. Told you, wangels.
Please allow me to introduce Sarah and Fi…
Sarah decided to turn her love of clothes into a career after she Graduated Arts at Uni and worked in high fashion in London, NY and Italy as a buyer and brand manager before chucking it all in for a career in mental health.
Sarah struggled with an eating disorder and decided when she got well she would help others recover, so she sold her house, moved back in with her parents and went back to uni at 28. Ever since then she has worked with people with eating and body image issues in the public and private sectors, co-written a manual, trained hundreds of health professionals in the treatment of eating disorders, lectured at university, been on the board of the EDV and various advisory boards. Sarah currently has a private practice in Melbourne and runs the RIPE program with the incredible Fiona Sutherland. More recently she turned a 15 year love of yoga into a new venture as a yoga teacher.
Fi’s background is in science. She is a dietician but not your typical one (she doesn’t know her quinoa from her mung bean and she definitely doesn’t count calories). Fi loves working with people to help them have a great relationship with food and eating, free from stress and pressure. She is also a Sports & Performance Dietitian and feels lucky to have “the most wonderful job”, working with the The Australian Ballet School and the jockeys at Racing Victoria. Fi has a huge “red flag” radar for when things are not quite right, so being able to help the dancers and students achieve their best performance whilst fueling their bodies properly is a fantastic opportunity for her.
She is a member of the Body Image and Disordered Eating research team at La Trobe Uni, working on an amazing project to help parents promote positive messages to their kids. She really believes that parents can make a huge difference in influencing their kids towards having a positive attitude to food and their bodies without buying into the pressure to eat or look a certain way.
So, as you can tell these ladies know there s**t and they are VERY passionate about encouraging women to love their bodies no matter what size. I threw some questions at these ladies to learn more about their work.
Where did the two of you meet?
We met ten years ago at a private eating disorders clinic where I (Sarah) worked. At a staff meeting I mentioned a desire to do more work with a very under resourced group of women, those with Binge Eating Disorders and Fiona came up to me after the meeting and asked if I was serious and maybe we could work on something together. So we slaved away at café’s and kitchen tables for a year developing RIPE (recovery is possible for everyone), a 14 week treatment program for Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorders as we felt then (and sadly still now) that there wasn’t enough affordable treatment for people struggling with these disorders. It was a success almost straight away. I think 4 people came to the first group and we have just kept on running them ever since. Sometimes two groups a week. We have now run more than 30 groups and seen hundreds of amazing women.
What kind of women attend R.I.P.E and what is the recovery process like?
We often say to people, the incredible ladies we meet in R.I.P.E. are everyday women who don’t have a good relationship with food, eating or their bodies. They are an incredibly diverse bunch of women (we have had 18-70 year olds) who are articulate, talented and wonderful in so many ways! It’s truly a privilege……
The recovery process really does look different to everyone, but what we hope to share with our groups are the skills to develop a better relationship with food, eating and the body. Over time with the right support, people can experience more relaxed social occasions, less “bad body days”, better relationships and more stable moods. Overall, less stress, more LIFE!
You both have son’s but if you had daughters, how would you raise them to have a healthy body image?
Although both boys and girls can experience unhappiness with their bodies, you’re right, girls seem to experience more pressure to fit into a certain “shape” than boys. To be honest, the best gift you can give your child is to feel good about your own body. They are little sponges, and any child that is watching Mummy complain about her tummy, or talking about food being food being “good” or “bad” will most certainly learn and absorb those messages. Parents can’t always control other factors such as comments from other people, media or peer group, but aiming to be a good role model with the way you treat your own body is absolutely the most important. The other thing you can do is help your child build resilience to the factors you can’t control which can certainly help them be more confident in the person they naturally are and therefore be more likely to treat their own body with respect by enjoying a good variety of food and accepting their natural body shape, even if it doesn’t exactly fit into an “ideal” shape.
You are just about to run your first Body Positive Retreat in Byron Bay, how did this baby come about?
OMG could we BE more excited?? Amazingly, it was not over red wine and late nights watching Oprah. At first it was a kind of fun daydream about bringing a residential body positive retreat to Australia to really cater for women to enjoy their bodies and nourish themselves both inside and out. Over the last few years (in amongst babies and nappies) Sarah has trained to become a yoga teacher and is officially a “curvy yogi” who is truly inspiring with her magical flexibility and strength. The yoga added a dimension to what we could offer in retreat, so we found a location in Byron Bay with a wait list of 5 years who had a cancellation in March. Thanks universe! So we just jumped in…..We are both passionate about helping women of all shapes and sizes, ages and flexibility enjoy their bodies & have a great relationship with food, eating and body image. We are body positive warriors!
How does this retreat differ from the ones already available?
As far as we know, this is the first of it’s kind in Australia. Although there will be plenty of yoga, there will be no wheat grass shots or 4am rises! We are all about balance, acceptance and body appreciation. We really hope that people will leave energised not from “clean eating” (we are just not paleo, low fat or sugar-free types!) but more from getting away from the busyness of daily life and having an opportunity to relax, reconnect and get back into having some fun!
We will be offering yummy food, unique workshops (such a self-care through napping, we are excited about this!) and daily yoga practice as well as a massage or treatment and plenty of options during free time. The location is GORGEOUS (you had me at “infinity pool”) in Byron Bay and we’re sending out a request for fab weather!
Both of are are seasoned professionals in working with groups of women to provide an environment where we hope our retreaters will feel comfortable just as they are rather than pressure to eat perfectly, do yoga perfectly or be perfect at all! We LOVE imperfection…
Who would this retreat be suited for?
Really and truly, anyone! Well actually, we don’t want to be mean to the guys, but this one’s just for the ladies, sorry! Anyone who needs time away, wants to do or practice some yoga (anyone of any level welcome…….), wants to develop or maintain a better relationship with food and their body or simply wants to get a piece of that infinity pool. Women who come together as a group can be amazing, and we’re hoping that people will leave not only feeling great, but maybe also with a some new friends as well.
Who do you think are great Body Positive role models for women?
Gosh, there really are so many and they’re probably unique to everyone. For us, seeing women age naturally, appreciate the process of pregnancy or inspiring others by what they do or who they are rather than what they look like, are the most important. We believe that being Body Positive is all about attitude and confidence in yourself as you truly are, not someone you think you should be.
We are also really inspired by people such as Brene Brown and Kristin Neff who speak about the power of authenticity, sharing our vulnerabilities and surrounding yourself with people who are fully accepting of who you are (thigh gap and all!) not to mention amazing Australians like Dr Rick Kausman who pioneered the “no diet” movement in Australia. We want to bring the ideas of self-compassion and Heath at Every Size (HAES) to Australian women in a unique setting. We are anti-diet and pro-nourishment and we absolutely challenge societies ideal form of beauty being one size fits all.
Beauty, strength and health come in every size.
Thank you beautiful women! You are amazing, special and simply bloody rock.
To book your spot at the Body Positive Retreat click here.
To learn more about R.I.P.E click here.