Food is a big part of our day-to-day lives. We celebrate events with birthday and wedding cakes; we treat each other to fancy meals; we console ourselves with bowls of creamy pasta. Often, this is nothing to worry about – those heavy cakes are annual treats and we don’t eat pasta every night. But regular emotional eating can be very bad for you.
We often grow up being told things like you can’t leave the table until you have eaten everything on your plate. Or if you’re good you can have a sweet. These are all emotional triggers that make us eat even when we are full. Hypnotherapy is one of many techniques used to identify these triggers. Once we become aware of them we can start taking positive action to stop them unconsciously controlling us.
Cortisol is a stress hormone can be caused by a bad day at work, a hefty bill or an argument with the friend. In response to this, your body demand what makes it feel better. When we’re feeling down, we naturally reach for carbohydrates which enable the body to make the happy hormone serotonin. Oxytocin, the “hug hormone”, is stimulated by foods like chocolate.
So you can see where our comfort food cravings come from – it’s our bodies demanding a quick fix or falling back on old habits! But after the initial high, we’re usually left feeling guilt-ridden, worried that we’ve undone all our healthy habits.
However, food is not the only way to activate these hormones. Oxytocin is know as the hug hormone because it is produced when we fall in love. That glorious “can’t sleep” feeling, with soaring energy levels and sunny moods, is down to oxytocin. In this naturally occurring instance, there is a slimming effect, but when we’re inducing it with food, the effect is quite the opposite!
Here are some tips to help break the emotional eating cycle:
- What makes you happy? A run? A long soak in the bath? A chat with a friend? Popping to the shops for your favourite magazine? While these things take more effort than reaching for the chocolate, try and swap something else that makes you happy for a food replacement. This has the added bonus of being completely guilt-free!
- Change your routine. If you usually go straight home after a bad day at work – don’t. Instead, go for a long walk in a local park; check out a gallery or local museum; meet up with a friend. By changing your routine you avoid falling into the habit of going home and eating to cheer yourself up.
- Look at your diet. What is your general diet like? If you aren’t eating enough protein, your body may be struggling to regulate your insulin levels, making you crave sugary snacks.
- Don’t give in immediately. When the craving strikes, allow yourself a set time – perhaps 5 minutes – before you will allow yourself to give in. In those 5 minutes, try something else that makes you happier. In 5 minutes, you could have your running shoes on and be halfway out of the door – craving forgotten!
If you really are struggling with emotional eating, you can visit our nutritionist Julie Deeks, who can support you through making big changes to your diet and lifestyle. If you’d prefer a massage to a slice of cake to cheer yourself up, we have massage therapists available throughout the week and can often fit you in last minute.
Jean Luc is available on Wednesdays and Fridays, you can call, email or book online.