Dieting is the wrong focus for overweight kids and teens

Dieting is the wrong focus for overweight kids and teens

For parents who have teenagers struggling with their weight, a recent study in Cleveland, USA showed that encouraging them to diet sent the wrong message and could have long-lasting adverse effects on their relationship with food.

Researchers followed more than five-hundred teens in the US who had been told to diet. After checking back in with them some fifteen years later, the researchers found that the diet group they studied were now more likely to be overweight and have problems with their body image than a control group who were not told to diet.

Experts from many countries now agree that focussing on dieting at a young age can create a dysfunctional relationship with food that can influence a person’s eating behaviours for decades.

Seeing dieting as a negative influence is due in part to the fact that most diets are calorie restrictive and the compulsion to eat and even overeat can feel overwhelming when one is experiencing enforced hunger and lead to yo-yo dieting.

A pattern of behaviour develops for many yo-yo dieters of commitment to the latest fad diet-plan only to give up and regain the weight they lost plus usually more too. This pattern of weight loss and weight loss can hurt self-esteem as people feel like failures when in fact it was the diet that failed them.

So, how does acknowledging that focussing on diets with young people can be counter-productive sit with a recent campaign initiated in some UK schools that intend to send a letter home to parents to alert them that their child is overweight? The idea behind the letters is in response to a record number of under-11s who are already too heavy and who are potentially contributing to a national health crisis.

The ‘fat-shaming’ letters have sparked a debate as to whether sending these notifications to parents are cruel or a necessary evil to prompt parents to act. The discussion also poses the question that if your child is overweight as a parent do you already know this and are in denial or just not sure what to do for the best?

It is not clear from advance information whether the letters advise parents on how to tackle their child’s obesity and whether putting a child on a diet is recommended or not.

Apparently what the letter doesn’t address is the causal link between childhood obesity and food poverty when lower-income families struggle to provide nutritious and satisfying food on a tight budget. The ability to provide nourishing meals if further hampered when the adults in the household are not skilled at home cooking or do not have access to adequate cooking facilities.

A more promising approach that came from the US study of teens reported that instead of focusing on what not to eat it is better to focus on the health and nutrition that comes with eating well. To achieve this will mean teaching children about how to buy, prepare and eat real food versus the drawbacks of eating junk food.

Influencing young people with sound information about proper nutrition is harder to achieve as many of the world’s largest ‘frankenfood’, and soda manufacturers regularly contribute to the funding and the creation of misleading or biased resources for schools and colleges.

The report also recommended teaching young people mindful eating so that kids learn to slow down their eating and focus on their meal times by turning off devices so that consumption doesn’t happen in a zoned out way while occupied doing something else.

“It’s so important to give teens these skills at this juncture in their life, and I talk to parents about tools, not rules. So moving away from food rules but helping them change their habits around the way they eat,” said Susan Albers, at the Cleveland Clinic.

Experts also recommend helping your teenager learn to manage stress by relaxing, reading or going for a walk, as opposed to turning to food. That will help steer them away from comfort-eating and swallowing down their emotions with food which leads to emotional eating.

If you or a member of your family is struggling with weight loss or weight management food may have become a way to manage painful emotions including anxiety and anger. If this sounds familiar, you can book an obligation free call on this page.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.


13 ways to lose weight without dieting

13 ways to lose weight without dieting

13 ways to lose weight without dieting

1.Observe the emotions that might be triggering you to over-eat. Learning to check-in with how you’re feeling increases your intuition and self-awareness. Taking the time to acknowledge your authentic feelings can interrupt your established habits of turning to food when feeling angry or sad and is an effective first step in changing your behaviour.

2. Notice if you’re regularly bingeing on sweet things at certain times of the day. Mid-morning energy slumps or afternoon drowsiness can make you crave a quick sugar fix to help drive you through the day. Instead, find ways to add more protein to your breakfast or lunch to help you to stabilise your mood and keep you feeling fuller for longer.

3. Make the times when you eat your sole focus. Zoned out eating is when you eat while doing something else such as surfing the net; working at your desk; or watching television. The act of eating is your opportunity to honour yourself with proper nutrition so take the time to source the best food you can and appreciate this act of self-loving kindness.

4. Prepare your food. The act of preparing real food is a fundamental stage for your mind and body to recognise that you are about to eat. The sight and appetising aromas of your meal cooking cause physiological and psychological reactions including signals from your brain to your stomach to release digestive enzymes in the expectation that food is on its way. The whole process of cooking from scratch aids digestion leading to increased satiety. You may well find you need to eat less to feel contented and full.

5. Mouth full – hands empty. This mantra helps to remind you to put down your cutlery between mouthfuls of food. Eating hurriedly doesn’t give your body time to register when you are full. It takes time for the messages from your stomach to register with your brain that you have eaten enough. This mantra helps to slow down your eating until it becomes your natural eating pace.

6. Always sit down to eat. Find a quiet place to sit and eat that is away from your desk so your mind and body can be receptive to the nutrition you are providing for yourself. Alternatively, turn the TV off and take a breath or two to help you to feel more relaxed before your meal. Stress hormones in the body inhibit the digestion of nutrients, so it is beneficial to be as relaxed as possible at meal times.

7. See everything you plan to eat on a plate. Eating anything including biscuits or crisps from a packet makes it much harder to keep track of how many you’ve eaten. Tip the biscuits, crisps or sweets into a bowl first to increase your awareness of how many you are eating and then focus on what you are eating. You may well find you still satisfy your desire while having eaten less.

8. Reduce your portion size by reducing your plate size. An optical illusion can play a part in managing your portion sizes. The trend for oversized plates encourages larger food servings. Choosing a smaller plate tricks your mind not to notice your smaller portion or a deep bowl with a narrow opening gives the impression of eating plentifully even with a smaller sized serving.

9. Break the eating rules imposed on you. Any parental pressure when you were growing up to clear your plate can make you feel uncomfortable as an adult about leaving food on your plate can compel you to eat more than you want. Remember whether you eat it or not the food will still end up as waste so make it your new rule to throw away food you don’t want the moment you have finished your meal.

10. Find new ways to reward yourself. Compensating or rewarding yourself with food after a tough day is favourite defaults for emotional eaters. Consider new methods of treating yourself that do not revolve around food. How about running a bath with essential oils for an indulgent soak or telephoning a friend to share the news of your day? What activities did you used to enjoy doing that you haven’t done for a while? Find ways to incorporate them back into your life.

11. Are you eating your emotions? Swallowing down food is often a way of avoiding uncomfortable feelings. If you feel compelled to eat when you know you’re not hungry take a moment to focus on how you’re feeling. By merely acknowledging your feelings of anger, frustration or sadness it can be enough to break the binge eating spell and is a necessary step to dealing with what is eating at you.

12. Raise your bar and demand more. Eating foods to make you feel better or to distract yourself from life’s challenges are indicative of feeling disempowered or overwhelmed. What incremental, small changes could you make to improve how you feel about yourself? One perhaps surprising way is with walking. It is nature’s way of calming and grounding yourself by regulating your breathing. Even a short daily stroll outside can shift your mood and help you to feel refreshed and renewed.

13. Track the source of your negative, self-critical voice. We all have an inner critic to some degree, but if your inner voice is particularly acerbic or judgemental about your body size, shape or what you eat, then it is worth exploring where it originated. Becoming aware of one’s inner critic is the first step to silencing it for good. A lot of your self-judgements happen just below your conscious awareness and act as a constant drip-feed of disparaging and unkind comments. Focus on how you speak to yourself and question in your mind the assumptions you believe about yourself. Most likely they are negative and self-limiting. Learn to be your own best friend instead and speak to yourself with kindness and respect.

This post was originally written by Sally Baker & Liz Hogon for Healthista and was inspired by their book 7 Simple Steps to Stop Emotional Eating available from Amazon.

If emotional eating is stopping you from achieving your weight loss goals, then you could benefit from exploring and releasing your triggers to disordered eating. If this resonates with you, book an obligation free discovery call with me on this page.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.


Alcohol replaces food for some bariatric patients

Alcohol replaces food for some bariatric patients

Bariatric surgery is an effective treatment for severe obesity, but it can have unintended negative psycho-social consequences, including an increased risk of alcohol use disorder or even Class A drug use.

The medical profession believes a greater understanding of the psychosocial effects of bariatric surgery will probably improve treatment outcomes. However, I think that successful long-term results without addiction switching would be enhanced by exploring and resolving the psychosocial reasons for prospective patients with excessive food consumption leading to their morbid obesity.

The UK National Health Service (NHS ) has strict criteria for people who want bariatric surgery.

These include:

1. A body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more, or a BMI of between 35 and 40 together with an obesity-related condition that might improve with weight loss (such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure.)

2. Prospective candidates must have exhausted all other weight loss methods, such as dieting and exercise, but have struggled to lose weight or keep it off.

3. Patient has to agree to long-term follow-up after surgery – such as making healthy lifestyle changes and attending regular medical check-ups.

The three-point guide-lines sound straightforward enough in theory. Point 2 demands that prospects have tried and exhausted all other weight loss methods which are not unusual for people who have struggled all their life with yo-yo dieting. However what is not immediately apparent is that bariatric surgery is subjected to the same postcode lottery as many other surgical procedures with a health service struggling to meet the needs of its raging populace.
Hence, I see more post-surgery bariatric clients who had their surgery overseas as private patients.

Why do they seek out a therapist after their surgery?

Two main issues continue to challenge some post-bariatric patients.

The first focus on self-image. Once a once obese person has lost a great deal of their excess weight, which can happen rapidly after bariatric surgery, it is challenging for them to believe and fully absorb the concept that they are slim.

Their subconscious mind maintains an image of themselves as much larger and heavier. For instance, people who have lost a great deal of weight often dream they are still morbidly obese, or on waking in the morning feeling the same familiar negative feelings they had about themselves they felt before their body changed.

They are also often impervious to compliments from friends and family as although the transformation has taken place physically, and they look considerably different, it has not taken place for them emotionally in a way that they can believe and fully accept.

It is vital to correct their misconception of themselves as otherwise, the newly lighter, and fitter person will not feel the emotional benefits from the changes in their physique and so will not be invested emotionally in doing their utmost to support their healthier body.

My therapy work addresses this unique type of body-dysmorphia and through a series of techniques allows them to change and update how their subconscious mind views their new self. The desired result is that the physical self and the subconscious mind are aligned with the new reality and when that is authentically in place a person can thrive in their healthier body.

The second focus of my work is to address the addiction switch from food to alcohol or recreational drugs that international specialists in bariatric surgery are seeing in a percentage of their patients.

My therapy work here explores the emotional drivers of over-eating or disordered eating that led to them becoming morbidly obese in the first place. The medical profession is increasingly recognising that the psychological reasons for eating when not hungry are as essential to resolving as the physiological reasons.

To erase the emotional triggers to binge eating and sugar cravings along with ending the need to over-eat without causing any sense of deprivation or denial is the missing piece to stop addiction switching from food to other substances for some post-bariatric surgery patients.

If you struggle with your cravings for sugar or the need to eat overeat when you are no longer hungry, and you feel ready to reset your relationship with food you can book an obligation free discovery call with me via the link on this page.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.


Hangry is a real emotion

Hangry is a real emotion

The term ‘Hangry’ meaning angry and hungry has been added to Oxford English Dictionary this year.

A real phenomenon for many of us is that as your empty stomach rumbles become more frequent, your temper shortens giving us the concept of being ‘hangry’ which is anger induced hunger.

Studies from the scientific research from the University of North Carolina has found a link to how hunger can generate the feeling of anger in a person.

While experiencing the feeling of hangry the researches found proof of how emotional response to neutral images and scenarios are perceived more negatively when hungry. Another key finding is that anxiety and stress also increase when hangry.

A drop in blood sugar levels from not eating was initially thought to be the cause for these negative feelings. However, a study published by the American Psychological Association reveals it is more complicated than initially thought and is a complex emotional response down to biology, personality and environmental cues.

“We all know that hunger can sometimes affect our emotions and perceptions of the world around us. however, but it’s only recently that the expression hangry, meaning bad-tempered or irritable because of hunger, was accepted by the Oxford Dictionary,” said lead author Jennifer MacCormack, MA, a doctoral student in the department of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The researchers carried out experiments on more than 400 Americans to draw their conclusions.

McCormick continued, “The purpose of our research is to understand the psychological mechanisms of hunger better-

Two key factors determine whether the feeling of hunger will contribute to negative emotions or not: context and self-awareness.

The study’s co-author professor Kristen Lindquist, PhD said, “You don’t just become hungry and start lashing out at the universe.”

“We’ve all felt hungry, recognised the unpleasantness as hunger, had a sandwich and felt better. We find that feeling hangry happens when you feel unpleasantness due to hunger but interpret those feelings as strong emotions about other people or the situation you’re in.”

As well as these environmental cues, how hangry a person feels is affected by their level of emotional awareness – if you’re more aware that your hunger is making you feel irritable, you’re less likely to express a hangry attitude.

In a second experiment, researchers found that hungry individuals reported increased unpleasant emotions like feeling stressed and hateful when they were not aware of their own emotions. They also expressed more negative feelings towards others.

In contrast, those who were mindful awareness of their own emotions and spent time thinking about their feelings, even when hungry, did not report these shifts in emotions or social perceptions.

“By simply taking a step back from the present situation and recognising how you’re feeling, you can still be you even when hungry,” MacCormack said.

“It’s important to take care of our bodies, to pay attention to those bodily signals and not discount them, because they matter not just for our long-term mental health, but also for the day-to-day quality of our psychological experiences, social relationships and work performance.”

So, if you feel you are prone to mood changes when you are hungry and possibly behave in more negative ways at work or home you would gain insight and control over your emotions by taking just a few moments to explore how you are feeling. A more mindful attitude would help reset your negative perceptions to ones that are at least neutral or even more positive – making the world around you seem less negative too.

Experiencing strong emotions around your hunger levels or feeling strong cravings for specific foodstuffs may indicate that your relationship with food is out of kilter. If you want to explore bringing yourself back into balance, then book an obligation free discovery call on this page.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.


Lunch time or comfort break?

Lunch time or comfort break?

Perkbox a UK based employee benefits provider commissioned research into the incidence of comfort eating with male and female workers and found women are nearly twice as likely to comfort eat in order to deal with stress than men.

Almost 50 per cent of women surveyed said that stress makes them want to comfort eat compared with just 26 per cent of men.

So what kind of comfort food hits the mark for stressed workers?

It is no real surprise that new research confirms that it is the high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods that satisfy comfort food cravings. The science behind this shows that these types of meals and snacks fight stress by stemming the tide of stress-related hormones that are released when people are continually exposed to stress.

Of course, this way of managing stress comes at a high price as the extra pounds can pile on and waist-lines expand exponentially.

In a study undertaken by the National Academy of Sciences, researchers investigated the effects of comfort foods on stressed-out rats. The research team found that when rats exposed to high levels of stress ate foods high in carbohydrates and fat, an unknown component in the foods acted like a brake on the cascade of stress-related hormones,  that are related to the “fight or flight” syndrome.

Researcher Mary F. Dallman  of the University of California, San Francisco and colleagues said, ’There is no doubt that eating high fat and carbohydrate comfort foods cheers people up and may make them feel and function better.” 

‘However, habitual use of these foods, perhaps stimulated by abnormally elevated concentrations of cortisol as a consequence of underlying stressors, results in abdominal obesity,” they write. Unfortunately, this type of obesity is strongly associated with type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.’

Where does that leave workers suffering from decision fatigue who eat the same lunch every day for often years at a time – especially if their food choices are sub-consciously made to help them deal with their work-related stress?

While it was noted by Perkbox’s research that men were less likely than women to turn to comfort eat they are more likely than women to turn to potentially harmful alternatives – such as coffee, nicotine and alcohol – to cope with stress.

Almost 1 in 4 of men will do this during times of stress compared to just 13 per cent of women. Chieu Cao, CMO & Co-Founder  of PerkBox said,

‘Relying on stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine and nicotine – all of which, ironically, actually contribute to stress, tension and anxiety – is also a common but unhealthy method of stress relief. And it is especially interesting to see how much more of an issue this is amongst the male workforce.”

Cao continued,: ‘Overeating or turning to alcohol, caffeine or nicotine can have negative effects on our health. There are numerous benefits that businesses can offer which promote physical and mental health, yet are still strongly desired by staff. For example, exercise through the form of; office sports teams, free or discounted gym membership, free yoga classes and mindfulness are all ‘perks’ that play into healthy coping mechanisms for stress, yet are relatively inexpensive for businesses to set up.’

If your company has put in place activities to support better stress management it would be great to read about it in the comments box below. Alternatively, if you are struggling with your stress levels then book an obligation free discovery call with me to find out how you can better manage your stress and be happier in your time at work and away from work.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.


Sugar craving or sweet temptation

Sugar craving or sweet temptation

A recent article in a Middle Eastern newspaper detailed the daily strategies a woman went through to make sure she didn’t succumb to her self-acclaimed sugar addiction.

According to the article published recently in the Jordan Times, her need to eat sugar is the first thought that enters her mind upon waking and is the last thought she has at night as she judges how ‘good’ she has managed to be that day.

She goes on to describe how many of her daily routines are there to help her avoid her sugar cravings from making sure she drinks plenty of water in the morning through to avoid the temptation of going to the supermarket in case she can’t resist buying sugary treats.

Parties and celebrations are a mine-field for her. How she feels about herself and her self-esteem is wholly tied up with whether or not she fills her plate with the sweet delicacies on offer.

It sounds exhausting!

The idea of sugar as an addiction is disputed amongst many nutritionists and psychologists. It has been discovered that sugar causes responses in the pleasure centres of the brain and because of this, it has led some experts to consider sugar to be addictive. However, some of the very same pleasure centres in the brain also respond to classical music, but no-one complains they’re addicted to Beethoven!

Russell Brand said in his book ‘Recovery’ about his past addiction to alcohol and heroin, ‘Drugs and alcohol are not my problem. Drugs and alcohol are my solution.’

In a way, I feel the same way about sugar.

Johann Hari in his book ‘Chasing the Scream’ that explores and proposes to debunk the accepted wisdom about addictions said ‘If you are alone, you are vulnerable to addictions.’ It begins to address what I believe is the emotional motivation behind the sugar cravings that some people struggle to overcome. 

What if sugar was merely a substitute or a distraction from the real thing you crave?

Could it be it is safer to distract yourself with a foodstuff like sugar instead of focussing on something more challenging you want in your life?

What if sugar was a convenient way of self-medicating to deal with the frustration and even the pain of not achieving what you truly desire?

In my therapy work with clients and their issues around eating we discover time and time again that it’s never about food or a lack of willpower but something a great deal more profound.

I’ve had many clients tell me they deserve their sugar treat and that it’s the only bit of sweetness they have in their day. The explain that their life is really hard and they feel under-appreciated and sometimes unloved.

It’s sad to hear they are living without feeling more fulfilled and happy. Often though they have sought our a therapist like me because there is a part of them, a growing part of them, that wants more from their life and they’re ready to make some changes.

How I work with the therapy process is to gently explore and unfurl those layers of substitution and distraction to find the real drivers for either sugar cravings or any other kind of emotional eating.

it takes some courage to say to oneself that its time let go of emotional eating as a prop and live a different kind of life but it is only once those triggers are resolved that a person feel free to eat for nourishment and take their power back from food.

Once you have taken back the power you invested in food and no longer self-medicating with sugar and carbs you will have the clarity and emotional energy to demand more for yourself from your life.

If that sounds like you then you can book an obligation free call on this page to explore you transforming your relationship with sugar.

I’ve written a more comprehensive blog post about Sugar Cravings that you can link to here.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.