Why Do We Comfort Eat - And What Can We Do About It?

We all comfort eat from time to time. Often when we feel stressed, bored or lonely. Or we just want to cheer ourselves up.

Most of us do it without even being aware of it. That extra biscuit with a cup of coffee. That naughty bar of chocolate at the supermarket checkout. That temptation to have that extra helping because we've enjoyed the first one so much.

Most of the time, we comfort eat when we're not really hungry at all.

So, how does it all start?

Comfort eating is something that is instilled in us from birth.

When we were babies we cried and our mothers comforted us with their milk. As we grew older, we were given treats for comfort or when we hurt ourselves. We were rewarded with sweets or the occasional ice cream when we were good.

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We were learning the lessons that food could make us feel better. And the early lessons in life always stay with us. But, unfortunately for many of us, these comfort eating lessons often come back later in life and cause us havoc with our weight!

When we feel under pressure or when we get upset or worried those old comfort eating buttons get pressed and no food is safe!

When we are eating for comfort, food becomes a way of making ourselves feel better. It might just be caused by a stressful day or by something that is worrying us. Or it may to down to something more significant

Poor relationships
Lack of love
Lack of confidence or security
Low self-esteem

The important thing to realise is that comfort eating is not about being greedy and is not about being unable to cope - it is a learned behaviour; A skill. From a very early age, we learned the skill of making ourselves feel better with food.

Most of the Comfort Eating foods are very more-ish; the manufacturers ensure that they are. We therefore come to associate some foods with comfortable feelings.

Once we begin to understand some of the origins of how these cravings come about, it’s amazing how much influence we can begin to have over conquering them; for good!

1. ANALYSE YOUR DIET: Keep a food and mood diary. Try writing down everything you eat for a week and jot down what you were feeling before you ate it. Try to pinpoint what it is you need and aren’t getting. It may be approval, security, love, or even just a hug.

2. TRY MOOD-BOOSTING FOODS: It’s important to remember that not only chocolate can make us feel good. There are other foods that work much better. There is growing evidence that a Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on fruits, vegetables and olive oil, is associated with less depression. Also, try eating more omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in tuna, salmon, herring and walnuts, as they are supposed to help the mind as well as the body.

3. THINK ABOUT YOUR FOOD: Eat mindfully and take time to relax and enjoy food. In our fast-paced society, multi-tasking often results in eating quickly to manage stress. Try making every meal a special occasion. It only takes a few more minutes to eat in a relaxed way. Turn off the TV, switch off the laptop and pay attention to all the wonderful aromas and textures of a healthy meal.

4. PLAN AHEAD: It’s easy to opt for a packet of crisps if it seems there is nothing else to munch on. Don’t order so many “naughty” foods when you shop online, and pick tasty fruit and vegetables that you can slice to provide healthier snacks. If the chocolate isn’t in the cupboard, you’ll look for something else. And you are more likely to eat some celery, peppers or carrots if they are nicely chopped and sitting at the front of the fridge.

5. FIND A NEW COMFORT: If you are eating because you are bored, find another way to amuse yourself so you don’t always reach for the biscuit tin. Try a new exercise, or even a walk. Exercise is a natural mood-enhancer. If you’re feeling sad or anxious, try short bursts of any type of activity. Climb the stairs to burn some calories and it might even release some tension too.
Music is also a powerful mood-changer. Put something upbeat on if you are feeling a bit stressed, dance around the house and create some playlists that make you feel good. If you have just broken up with someone, the last thing you want to be listening to is a sad love song. It’ll only lead you to the biscuit tin.

6. DISTRACT YOURSELF: Keep yourself occupied – de-clutter that room you’ve been meaning to sort. Make a list of all the jobs you need to do in the house or garden and put it somewhere you can keep going back to and revisiting. If you feel peckish, but suspect it might be because you are bored, read a book, put a CD on or watch your favourite film – and plain popcorn is not too naughty so you can even have a bowl if you feel like munching on something. Many of us feel peckish late at night, but try having a long soak in the bath, rather than eating another packet of crisps.

7. DON’T DEPRIVE YOURSELF: This is important. Don’t cut out comfort food altogether as this kind of deprivation can led to binge-eating, which will only make you feel more guilty. It’s perfectly healthy to eat the foods you crave but try to eat slightly less. Go for a two-finger KitKat instead of four, or one doughnut instead of two.

8. KEEP TALKING TO YOURSELF: Find a mantra that you want to stick to. Keep telling yourself that you won’t fit in those jeans or eating that second biscuit will only make you feel guilty. Or make a list and put them on the fridge or biscuit tin. Developing the willpower to avoid the cravings will increasingly lift your mood.

9. TRY THE WAITING GAME: If you are really craving some comfort food, try waiting 15 minutes before you reach for the burger and chips. It will give you time to evaluate whether you really do want it and the craving may subside. Drink a glass of water; it may just be that you were de-hydrated.

10. EXPECT AND ACCEPT THE INEVITABLE: We’re only human. Sometimes it’s just too difficult not to give into temptation. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you do reach for that comfort food every now and then. Try to work out what is really bothering you. If it’s a work problem, challenge yourself to sort it out. If it’s boredom, it might be time to take up a new hobby.
Autumn's Arrived!
As if you needed reminding! In fact, there would be some that would argue that Autumn arrived in the middle of June this year, but that's another story!
But now that it's officially here, it means we've also got the darker nights to contend with, in addition to the dreary weather. All this can have a startling impact on our motivation to keep active!
Activity plays a key role in keeping our weight loss goals on track. So now's the time to look at ways of committing to our exercise and activities, to ensure it doesn't go by the way-side.
Keeping it simple and straight forward, here's a very effective two step plan;
1. Start to look at more activities that aren't weather reliant. Okay, we haven't had the best of Summers, but now the dark nights are drawing in and the 'smell' of Winter decends upon us, getting out and about might start to look less appealing. Perhaps join a gym or increase your current visits to the gym, taking on board a new activity. How about going swimming, or to an exercise class, to Zumba or to yoga or pilates? What about blowing the dust off the exercise machine that's buried in the garage or shed; or is it in the spare bedroom, covered in laundry? Why not dig out those exercise DVD's, the Wii Fit or X-Box Connect?
2. Make a firm commitment to yourself to do it. There's a massive difference between, "I'll definitely go for a swim this weekend if I've got time" and, "At four o'clock on Saturday, I'm going to go swimming for an hour".
Committing to doing something 'if we get time' is nothing but a half hearted suggestion designed to make ourself believe that the commitment's there and it's just bad luck that ultimately steers us away from actually carrying it out. Making a firm appointment in your mental diary (or actual diary if you use one) and writing it down will exponentially boost your chances of sticking to the plan.
Go on then .... challenge yourself to get to it and stick to it.  
More again soon
Best wishes


Does Your Body TRICK You Into Overeating?

What is it about the smell of freshly baked bread, fish & chips, pizza, hot chocolate, popcorn, etc, etc …? What is it about this stuff that makes us feel so hungry?

Why don’t we crave broccoli or salmon or celery?

The answer …… Insulin.

And here’s why;

The Science behind Insulin and our Addiction to Carbs

Insulin is secreted by the pancreas. Its job is to take glucose from your blood, store it in your liver and muscles as glycogen and stop the use of body-fat for fuel ….. It’s your storage hormone. You may already know this though.

You probably also know that the glucose in your blood comes from eating carbohydrates.

Carbs = Sugar.

What you may not know is that insulin isn’t being secreted all the time. It is produced in waves or pulses.

In Fact:

The first insulin pulse comes just seconds after you eat carbs. This insulin pulse occurs before the sugar in the food even reaches your bloodstream. This initial burst of insulin lasts for 20 minutes before dying down. As the first insulin pulse fades away, a second, more gradual injection of insulin is released by the pancreas. This pulse lasts for several hours

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So what does this all mean?

This means that:

The first insulin pulse is designed to prime your body for what is about to happen. Your mind tells your pancreas that sugar is about to be released into the bloodstream and that it had better get ready.

Why does the pancreas need advance notice?

It takes 20 minutes for insulin to have any significant effect on blood-sugar. Without the advance notice, and the pancreas’ early warning system, a heavy carb meal could result in symptoms of hyperglycemia:

A feeling of nervousness or jitteriness
A racing heart and pulse
Sweaty palms
And also a headache

So, is this is a good thing?

Yes and no. Here’s the bad news;

This first wave of insulin secretion has also been described as increasing the “metabolic background of hunger.” As the insulin grabs hold of the blood-sugar and stores it away for later use, it also shuts down the release of body-fat as fuel.

Temporarily, this leaves your body starved of nutrients. You can’t use the energy from the meal or the fat from your love handles. As a result of this, you get hungry! The result of this, means that your meal starts to look better and taste better; it’s why we keep making several trips to the buffet. Our bodies are searching for energy and our natural, instinctive choice of fuel is sugar. Fast absorbing sugar.

After some time, your metabolic system does balance out, and nutrients are released to be used as fuel and your hunger decreases.

So What Does This Have To Do With My Carb Intake?

1  Our diet is based on carbs – wheat, potatoes, corn, rice, sugar, etc.

2  When we eat meals based on carbs, our insulin spikes.

3  Immediately after we begin eating, our appetite increases.

4  The resulting effect of this is that our food (carbs in particular) tastes better.

5  Our bodies try to trick us into overeating, in order to fuel our cells.

6  So basically, when we eat meals based on carbs, we force our bodies to crave carbs.

And this is a best case scenario. I am not even going to mention how this pattern of overeating carbs can, and does lead to Type 2 Diabetes. That’s a topic for another day.

Hi Tony,

I thought that I should thank you for the help you gave and continue to give through your CD.

I have lost two stone and seven pounds, but the most important thing is my blood pressure has gone from 145/95 to 118/65. My blood pressure was the reason I wanted to lose weight.

I listen to the CD most afternoons, is it possible to overdose on hypnotism? …. though I do nod off every now and then!!

Anyway thanks again,

Mary. Preston

Zumba is a great way of burning calories and staying fit. It's a great, high energy workout that doesn't feel like a workout because it's so much fun. One of the downsides that often crops up though, is that many people don't feel comfortable or aren't able to go to their local Zumba classes.

If this is you, you may be interested in these 'Zumba Kits' that are now becoming very popular. Loads of my clients are literally raving about these! You use them at home (no embarrasing 'dodgy' footwork!), you can take part at times that are convenient to you and it even includes toning sticks and an 'express routine' for when time is sparce!

If you haven't come across them yet, here's a link where you can find out more ...

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(It's great for burning those carbs off too !!)