20 Dec 2023

Be You, Be Free: How I overcame an eating disorder to become an author, body positive PT, and intuitive eating counsellor


I was 27 years old when I was diagnosed with an eating disorder.

I remember it so well. I was sitting in my counsellor’s office, staring at the box of tissues on the table, vowing to myself that I would never need them.

I was so shocked because at the time I didn’t believe I had an eating disorder. I didn’t look like those women they depicted in the magazines.

But I also knew I needed help which is why I was there.

I tried to get better, I tried to cut my exercise back, I tried to eat more, and I tried to understand why this was happening to me… but all I did was get worse.

‘Once the horse has bolted there’s no going back”.

I’ll never forget those words from my counsellor. And she was right – that horse had bolted so fast and so far, it seemed there would be no getting it under control. That’s when she gave me the ultimatum. “Get better, or I’m sectioning you.”

“You can’t do that,” I said, horrified. “I’m 27 years old and I am from the UK, you have no right.”

“Yes, I can,” she replied matter-of-factly. I will section you under the Mental Health Act.”

It was terrifying.

But it was the turning point I needed – the real threat that my eating disorder would destroy me completely. It had already taken so much of me, and I couldn’t let it have anymore, or it would have all of me.

I threw myself into recovery.

I expanded my treatment team to include an eating disorder dietician to work alongside my counsellor, and I started implementing all the changes that I needed to make to get better… but this time I kept trying, I kept going and I kept picking myself up no matter how many times I fell (which was a lot). I immersed myself in eating disorder recovery books and learnt as much as I could about health and wellbeing.

This was also how I found intuitive eating and health at every size and the amazing non-diet and eating disorder recovery community full of people just like me with stories like mine. It was liberating to know that I wasn’t alone and that there was a way out of this.

This was also how I learnt the truth about dieting, how they fail for 90-95% of us, and how they damage our psychological wellbeing and lead to binge eating, preoccupation with food, disordered eating, poor body image, and eating disorders.

I discovered the truth about the BMI and how it was created by a mathematician/ Astronomer in the 1800s that was mostly based on White European men and was never intended to measure health.

It was where I learnt how health and weight are way more complex than food and exercise and not entirely within our control than we have been led to believe.

It was also how I learnt that the reason I grew up hating my body came from a culture that was rooted in white supremacy, patriarchy, and female political obedience, not only designed to keep us suppressed and occupied but to profit off us from insecurities that they created.

All of this led me to a full recovery.

Once recovered all I wanted to do was help others who were going through what I went through. I decided to have a complete career change, I went back to university and trained as a body positive personal trainer and intuitive eating counsellor.

I started Be You Be Free and now I help people all around the world break free from dieting and make peace with food, exercise, and their bodies so they can start living the joyous, purposeful, and fulfilled lives that they deserve.

I hope that my book will help you do that, too.

It really is the culmination of everything I wish I had known and all of the tools I wish I’d had when I was really struggling.

Be You Be Free can help you to reach a place with food, exercise, and your body that is positive, respectful, and peaceful. It can help you heal your relationship with food, strengthen your body image and self-confidence, and help you approach exercise from a place of self-care, joy, and nourishment, rather than from a place of punishing yourself.

But primarily, you will learn to take care of yourself in the best possible way that works for you, on your terms.  It is not just a book either, it is a workbook too that covers everything from self-care, mindfulness, connection, body image, goal setting, work-life balance, emotional wellbeing and so much more.

I hope my book will help you feel alive, help you feel connected, but mostly, that it will help you uncover the person that you were meant to be before the world and diet culture told you who you had to be.

Written by Shreen el Masry

Purchase ‘Be You Be Free’

Shreen’s book ‘Be You Be Free’ is available to purchase through Butterfly’s shop, where all proceeds go towards supporting Butterfly’s critical work in the prevention of, and treatment and support for eating disorders and body image concerns.

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Related tags: be you be free Body Image body positivity book diet culture disordered eating Eating Disorder help Lived Experience lived experience insights Recovery resource shreen el masry support