PROJECT #BEYOUROWN BOSS: LAURA PHELAN
At the young age of 13, Laura Phelan developed Anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder that has the highest mortality rate of all mental health illnesses.
“I recall the beginning of my eating disorder as a ‘healthy eating and exercise regime’ which now makes a lot of sense considering the rise of orthorexia.”
Soon becoming withdrawn, isolated and all consumed by her eating disorder, a complete shell of who Laura used to be, her hair was falling out, freezing and all she could think about was numbers and food. Luckily for Laura, after starting a course of day patient therapy and treatment, coupled with a family holiday, a real turning point changed her life. Laura recalls recognising how near to death she was, with the dire effects of starvation on her mind and body, at this very moment Laura admitted that dying would be easier than fighting this illness and having to let go of the distorted comfort it gave me. Thankfully Laura chose life and her long, painful but amazing transformation of recovery began.
Laura’s #BEYOUROWN BOSS Story
My name is Laura Phelan, I am an eating disorder specialist, therapist & coach helping predominantly women (of all shapes and sizes as eating disorders can affect anybody) to heal their relationships with food and their bodies.
I got into this work because at the young age of 13, I developed Anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder that has the highest mortality rate of all mental health illnesses, and it nearly killed me. I recall the beginning of my eating disorder as a ‘healthy eating and exercise regime’ which now makes a lot of sense considering the rise of orthorexia (an obsession with clean eating). I soon became withdrawn, isolated and all consumed by my eating disorder, a complete shell of who I used to be.
My hair was falling out, I was freezing and all I could think about was numbers and food. Luckily for me, after starting a course of day patient therapy and treatment, coupled with a family holiday and a desire to try and fight it, I had my turning point which changed my life. I recall recognising how near to death I was, with the dire effects of starvation on my mind and body, at this very moment I admitted that dying would be easier than fighting this illness and having to let go of the distorted comfort it gave me. Thankfully I chose life and my long, painful but amazing transformation of recovery began.
In 2015 I discovered Beat, the UK’s leading eating disorder charity and began as an Ambassador and Mentor for them sharing my story and supporting others in their recovery. This experience enabled me to discover my “voice” and passion to be a beacon of hope for health and happiness, so I began my training as an Eating Disorder Specialist at the National Centre for Eating Disorders, this remarkable and inspired training is continually updated in line with the latest thinking from a range of psychologies and healing approaches and is approved by The British Psychological Society, whilst working as a pastoral mentor in a sixth form. Alas, Phelan Well was born and my mission to help others develop a more positive relationship with food, their bodies and themselves. Now, with a host of other qualifications under my belt including body image work, CBT and Therapeutic Coaching, I work in Harley St as an Eating Disorder Specialist, where I see people on a one to one basis as well as via Skype and help people from all parts of the world as far as South America!
I have worked with 1000s of people both in my clinic and via delivering talks and workshops for companies, schools, brands, festivals such as “women of the world” and I collaborate with other people of influence to help spread the message far and wide that recovery is possible. As well as reaching millions of people on a global scale through my appearances on TV and Radio, what sets me apart, is that and I have the tools from both a personal and professional experience to show you how.
The biggest challenges I have faced in my career journey so far is stepping into a place so close to my heart, 99% of the time this serves me greatly, as I have a heightened passion and awareness of how to be an integral part of the much-needed change. However with this, comes a great responsibility both as a Spokesperson and someone who has been through it and getting the balance right between sharing my personal story and sharing tools and techniques which are evidence-based, it is a work in progress but something which I truly believe can make a difference and have witnessed it with the hundreds of women and young people I have worked with over the years. I often feel like I am carving a new path of intervention in the recovery space and with this comes judgement, fear and a level of uncertainty of how it will be received, but I often look to Practitioners in the US who work in a much less modulated way and who are having great breakthroughs in this space alike.
The other challenges include the lonely, long hours at a desk which can feel isolating and a little cabin feverish. Not having people who “get it” or think spending hours working at your office from home or taking an hour to write a social media post off your own back, isn’t “real work”. Alongside this comes a great motivation needed to work the hours necessary, but also not burn out, it is so rewarding and worthwhile but also very demanding to be at the service of others every day, so taking regular breaks and allowing “holiday” can be tough. But this year I feel like I have finally found some sort of “balance” and realise that when my own cup is full, my ability to fill others is much greater. Ways in which I take care of myself include walking my dog, staying active, seeing people often, getting lots of sleep, planning fun activities, getting out of London and making sure I have my Supervision sessions regularly and see my own life coach!
I would recommend for anyone in the helping profession and working as an Entrepreneur to do the same. The highlights have been becoming financially secure and independent, building a brand and business I am truly passionate about, helping people everyday and seeing their progress, running events and speaking on the News including the BBC, ITV, Channel 5 and radio shows, LBC, Radio 4, Channel 5 live to name a few. I was named Happiful Magazines “unsung hero” in their March edition last year, for “working tirelessly to change the life of others and break down taboos around eating disorders and Mental health”. Alongside this I have been the spokesperson at Charity events at Beat, campaigned in a Flash Mob with Curvy Kate that was aired on TV, had a regular column for a Leading Health and Wellness Magazine (Alt Healthy) and debated and protested in Parliament for better eating disorder services and provisions! I have also co-founded a project with one of my best friends, “Beyond Body Confidence”, which is really a passion project which will involve campaigns, working with brands and changing the game of Body confidence, which we really believe is an inside-out job and something which everybody can be a part of. Public Speaking for me is the blissful part of my work as there is something so magical and energising about sharing with people through your own story and experiences.
The change I would like to see for Millennial women in business is more support and less pressure. Women have a tendency to stab each other in the back and it often feels like there are more sharks out there than helping hands. At the end of the day, being your own Boss is damn hard and having a supportive network is of the utmost importance. I would like to see more women running small businesses and starting up who may not have hundreds of thousands of followers getting their voices heard and having more space to talk and share the ups and downs.
For me to #BEYOUROWN BOSS is about having heart, passion, determination and a whole lot of integrity, you can have 1 million followers and more than that in the bank, but if you don’t have a genuine desire to help people or make a difference and be a good person, I don’t think any amount of success can mask that.