Comfort Eating – Beat it this Winter!

Does this weather get you reaching for the pastas, pies & puddings?

Comfort eating – let’s beat it this winter…understand why we do it & how we can gain control:

We should enjoy our food, but eating for comfort rather than to satisfy hunger can lead to over-eating & negating those efforts in the gym! But the difference is sometimes hard to spot!

Our brain makes chemicals from foods we eat & we are hard- wired to like sugary, carby foods – they make us feel happy, calm & sleepy…….IN THE SHORT TERM!

They also make us produce lots of insulin so that in the LONGER TERM we feel tired, lacking in energy & low in mood.

So, try to re-connect with what your body is telling you:

1·       Eat when hungry, not just through habit or boredom

2·       Have a drink when cravings strike – it may be thirst that is driving you

3·       Keep a log – mental or written if you can- of how different foods make you feel & try to factor that in to your food choices

4·       Eat with no distractions so that you can appreciate each mouthful

See this month’s newsletter for a delicious Soup recipe……..

‘Your mood can affect what you eat & what you eat can affect your mood’

Eating is a primal (excuse the pun) pleasure as well as a necessity. Many foods & tastes can take us back to the comfort of childhood or positive early memories.

But also, our brains react chemically to foods, particularly carbohydrates, by producing chemicals, like serotonin, which make us feel calm, happy & sleepy. That explains the post lunch lethargy & subsequent 3-4pm energy slump after a carb-heavy meal. And this time of year we are even more prone to crave those warm, comforting foods such as pastas, pies & puddings.

The emotional aspect to eating can, for some people get out of control & result in binge eating & weight gain, particularly during periods of emotional stress. Addressing the stress would be ideal but not always possible. Try some of these simple strategies to help you:

1   Be prepared – try to plan meals as far as you can so you don’t end up with a pizza on the way home

2   Start the day with a good breakfast, including plenty of protein & fat, like eggs (cooked anyhow), granola or a smoothie with added nuts & seeds, or protein powder.

3   Have snacks available for when the munchies strike – a handful of raw nuts (any kind but nothing salted & roasted!) or an oatcake with nut butter or cottage cheese (full fat, of course), Greek Yoghurt with some chopped fruit (dried or fresh).

4  Try to keep a written diary of your mood & what you eat. It shouldn’t take long for you to associate having over-eaten stodgy, comfort foods with more unpleasant effects such as bloating, indigestion, lack of energy etc. That should help you gradually condition your brain to resist comfort eating & opt for lighter, fresher foods.

5   Once again, eat more fat – replace those stodgy carbs with healthful fats from foods like avocados, butter, olive oil, full fat dairy & coconut fat. It is fat & protein which make your body feel full & satisfied, whilst bucket loads of carbohydrates will never quite achieve that.

6   Be mindful of what, when & where you are eating. Have no distractions, other than good company & a relaxed atmosphere. This allows you to savour every mouthful & your brain to register what is happening. Remember it takes around 20 mins for your brain to release hormones telling you to stop eating. If you’re mindlessly shovelling mouth after mouthful of stodge into your stomach your brain doesn’t stand a chance!

7   Finally, we can choose foods which have a positive impact on our stress & anxiety to make us less likely to comfort eat: replace lost minerals (used more in the stress response) with plenty of nuts, seeds & leafy green vegetables (for magnesium); meat, eggs, dairy (for phosphorus) and tomatoes, dried fruit, sweet potatoes & squash (for potassium).  Boost B vitamins with good meat, poultry, fish, avocados, green leafy vegetables, nuts & seeds & finally top up Vitamin C levels with berries, citrus fruit & more dark green leafy vegetables!

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