Marissa Pendlebury – Expert by Experience Anorexia Nervosa

Expert by Experience - Marissa Pendlebury Anorexia Nervosa

My name is Marissa Pendlebury, and I am an Author, Public Speaker and the Founding Director of an organisation called Nourishing Routes. When I’m not drinking pots full of tea and eating my favourite chocolate, I am an avid advocate of body positivity, self-love and helping individuals to develop a positive relationship with food.

In a tasty Nutella nutshell, Nourishing Routes is based on my own personal experiences and academic research, and aims to empower as many people as possible to develop life-long positive relationships with their food and body – through learning to love themselves unconditionally from the inside out.

during my teenage and young adult years. Like so many other vulnerable individuals, I grew up in a world where there were so many unrealistic expectations. Being a ‘good’ person was based on school performances, grades, appearance and, eventually, the way I looked and what I ate. I see so many young and older girls, boys, women and men today struggle to accept their bodies and themselves just as they are. Instead, they beat themselves up for not feeling good enough, slim enough, fit enough, academic enough or rich enough. Like my young self, many have grown up to believe that happiness lies in a number or something specifically measurable – such as how much money we have in the bank, what we weigh on a scale, or how many calories we eat a day. Despite many of my own lost years to multiple stays in holistic and battling negative thoughts about myself, it saddens me much much more to see current media trends and health and beauty stores sell dieting or appearance improving products that advertise themselves in a way that suggests we have something missing – that we can only obtain through purchasing whatever manipulating product they have on offer. We have to remember that the diet and fitness industries create over 20 billion pounds of profit in the UK alone – meanwhile, 1.6 million individuals are affected by eating disorders, 1 in 4 people feel depressed about their body, and children as young as 5 fear becoming fat more so than diseases such as cancer. We are living in a world where low self-esteem and jumping on the back of detrimental diet plans are the norm.

Nourishing Routes aims to turn that norm on its head by showing individuals that there are so many routes to wellness other than typical faddy diet and fitness programmes. Alternatively, I help to empower and guide individuals to realise that they have an amazing gift to share with the world. A gift that can be found though rekindling their natural creativity and ability to make positive social connections with other people and the planet. To me, health is also about developing a loving relationship with yourself, and food, where you can value the deep social and cultural connections to what we eat and how we use the amazing bodies we were uniquely born with.

Initially, Nourishing Routes began as a blog and You Tube channel, where I directed my passions into communicating to others about my personal journey to wellness, and how recovery was about so much more than simply restoring a healthy weight. For example, a key part of my own recovery journey was getting involved in my community and taking part in voluntary activities such as youth work and being an advocate for mental health. I saw that there was so much beauty and love in people, and that a genuine smile wasn’t dependent on weight – but simply about feeling that they had life meaning, purpose and positive connection to others and/or nature.

After going on to study health sciences, nutrition, public health and psychology throughout university and my early career as a public health researcher, it dawned on me that there were so many avenues to wellness than what most of us generally think about it. Apart from hitting the gym, I acknowledge 10 key nourishing routes to wellness that are founded on the idea of compassionate living – ultimately learning to love yourself unconditionally, just like you would do a best friend.

These 10 key elements include

– Compassion for the self and others

– Nourishment – not numbers (appreciating the deeper meaning and value of food and developing a healthy relationship with it)

– Health at every size and developing a positive body image

– Gratitude

– Mindfulness

– Creativity

– Making positive social connections

– Experiencing freedom, autonomy

– Pleasurable movement (moving your body in a way that feels fun rather than punishing)

– Empowerment (especially to be critical of negative messages and also the freedom to become your best and most authentic self)

At the moment, Nourishing Routes is spreading its message through me delivering empowering talks in schools, colleges, universities and youth centres. I also offer counselling and coaching to individuals with eating disorders and provide professional training to individuals who want to learn more about eating disorders and how they can effectively integrate the Nourishing Routes philosophy into their mode of working. Earlier on this year I was also fortunate enough to professionally publish a book about my personal journey and the Nourishing Routes philosophy. I am also in the middle of finalising an online course that can be used to help individuals overcome eating disorders and develop a positive relationship with food and body. In the future, I hope that Nourishing Routes can gain more funding and support so that I can set up my own wellness centre where individuals can meet likeminded people and engage with activities that are nourishing for their wellbeing. I would also love the opportunity to develop an ambassador training programme so that more and more individuals can use their own personal experiences to help empower others and spread the Nourishing Routes philosophy.

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