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.

Appetite suppression hides disordered eating

Appetite suppression hides disordered eating

Kim Kardashian West faced recent controversy over some paid-for content on her Instagram feed. 

She was photographed posing coquettishly with a lollipop in her mouth from manufacturers The Flat Tummy Co lollipops.

It was claimed that the lollipop can be used as an appetite suppressant due to it containing Satiereal, a saffron extract which supposedly activates a neurotransmitter that combats the urge to overeat.

Only a limited scientific study has been undertaken of Satiereal’s effectiveness for weight loss even though it is a growing favourite ingredient in weight loss products.

It involved a mere sixty 60 'healthy, mildly overweight women'—half of whom took a twice-daily capsule of Satiereal, while the others received a placebo.

The study found over a two month period than 99 per cent of the women in the Satiereal group had 'significantly greater body weight reduction' than those in the placebo group.

That study was considered favourable enough to be the foundation on which Kim Kardashian West's Flat Tummy Co. created its range of supposedly appetite busting products. 

Appetite suppressants have had a chequered history as an aid to weight-loss.

Fashion-conscious 'It' girls in the 1960s swore by smoking as an effective way to reduce their appetite. If they felt hungry, they would light a cigarette instead of eating. Early cigarette advertising targeted women’s desire to stay slim by launching specially created cigarettes for the female market.

By the late 60s tobacco giant Philip Morris had launched a brand called Virginia Slims, so named to play on the belief that smoking helped you slim.

Urban legends say zero-size catwalk models who face a constant battle to achieve the tiny body measurements their industry’ demands often suppress their appetite from eating calorie-free cotton wool balls which swell in their stomach to make them feel full or eat only one sliced apple a day.

You can read the fascinating memoir of a catwalk model in Victoire Dauxerre’s book entitled ‘Size Zero: My Life as a Disappearing Model’ Click to buy it here from Amazon.

Another popular appetite suppressant was marketed with the brand name Ayds (pronounced ‘aids.") It was an appetite-suppressant toffee-style candy launched in the late-1970s and early 1980s.

By the mid-80s, as public awareness of the disease AIDS increased it caused problems for the brand due to the phonetic similarity of names. It was eventually withdrawn from the market.

The search for the holy grail of effortlessly eating less continues right up to date with tens of brands of exotic teas promising to curb appetite or to provide an effective detox. It would seem that none of them currently stand up to scientific scrutiny.

In the work Liz and I do with our weight loss clients we find the best way to suppress your appetite at lunchtime is to have had a hearty protein based breakfast; and the best way to not over-eat at dinner-time is a have eaten a protein-rich and satisfying lunch.

So much disordered eating is hidden in plain sight as it takes place in secret in a person's subconscious mind. If you are vulnerable to disordered eating, or someone who has experienced an eating disorder in the past, the purchasing of appetite suppressants can be a way to legitimise your unhealthy eating patterns. It can also be used as an excuse to obscure what is really happening with yourself and food.

It has been shown that your body will continually crave nourishment until you provide it with a balanced and healthy way to eat. Your body will also hold on to every last gram of fat it has if you are constantly yo-yo dieting and restricting your calories which replicates the effects of famine.

If you know your eating is either out of control or absorbing far too much of your thoughts then you might be ready to explore what is really happening with you and food.

You can erase your secret feelings of shame and transform your relationship with food so that you can eat for nourishment instead. If you recognise yourself here you can book an obligation free call with me via this page.

Take the guess work out of how much you eat

Take the guess work out of how much you eat





In an article from the New England Journal of Medicine in the early 1990s, ten overweight people were asked to estimate their calorie intake. Their estimations were off by about 50 percent. They thought they were eating about 1,000 calories a day when they were actually eating 2,000 calories.

That’s a remarkable difference. It seems from the research that people carrying excess weight often tend to be more inaccurate in estimating their calorie intake than ‘normal-weight’ individuals.

Shop Smartly
Lincoln University undertook a study back in the 1980s that showed that if you teach an overweight person to plan meals and food shop accordingly, then an average person could lose up to 10 pounds in three months. This was due to participants in the study reducing their number of impulse purchases when compared to food shopping without a list.

Impulse purchases are usually high-calorie and low-nutrition and can increase calorie consumption by almost half.

This organised way of shopping ensures that if it’s not in the ‘fridge, then no-one will be tempted to eat it! One fool-proof way of taking the guesswork out of what you eat is by keeping a food diary, even for just a couple of weeks.

Food diaries are a basic staple of all the weekly slimming clubs out there but you can super-charge your insights by not just keeping a food diary but adopting a food and mood diary instead.

Keep track of your eating
This not only keeps a track of what you eat but highlights emotional triggers attached to when you eat so that you can start seeing patterns around emotional eating or eating when you’re not hungry.

A template for the food and mood diary we created to use with our clients is included in the book ‘7 Simple Steps to Stop Emotional Eating’ (Hammersmith Books) I co-wrote with Liz Hogon. It is available on Amazon

It’s not just food that counts
In our food and mood diary, we also ask you to rate your hunger when you eat on a scale from zero to ten. Zero means you’re eating when you’re not hungry at all and ten means you’re eating when you’re ravenously hungry.

The mood part of the diary asks you just to pause and ask yourself how you are feeling in that moment you are about to eat.

Are you calm and relaxed or frustrated or angry? Just a word or two is all you need as shorthand to record your feelings.

A few days of a food and mood diary can offer some fascinating insights into habits around food and eating. It brings to mind a client who came to see me to lose weight. When I looked at her food and mood diary, it was clear that she grazed all day long and that was perfectly normal for her as she’s eaten like that for years. It became clear as our work together progressed that she was haunted by memories of her childhood.

Memories of childhood chaos can still trigger eating today
She recalled growing up in a chaotic household where meals were often missed or were unpredictable.

As a child, she had strong memories of feeling powerless and often hungry. As an adult, if she didn’t keep grazing on food, the slightest hint of hunger caused her to feel that old, familiar panic over not having enough to eat. Part of our therapy work together was to release her fears attached to those old memories so that they could be resolved and released.

No longer triggered she was able to regulate her eating, lose the weight she wanted and even safely feel some hunger understanding that as a grown woman she could provide for herself whatever food she needed.

Another food and mood diary insight came from a man in his 50’s. He had type 2 diabetes and was morbidly obese. He had come to me to see if it was possible for him to lose weight and remove himself from the NHS waiting list for bariatric surgery.

Being overly hungry can drive eating to excess
From his food and mood diary, he rarely ate before he reached a number ten on the hunger scale. From this, it was clear he was ravenously hungry by the time he ate, and such an intense hunger made it difficult for him to make sensible eating decisions. Also, long gaps between meals and his busy work meant his diabetes was poorly managed, and his symptoms were worsening.

Part of our therapy work together explored how little care he took of himself as he confided that having once been a very fit and athletic man he was ashamed of how overweight and ill he had become. He blamed himself completely and was so furious with himself that emotionally he had stopped caring for himself at all.

We also worked together with self-forgiveness so that he could break his pattern of self-loathing. By changing his belief system, he was able to make changes in how he thought and felt about himself. Firstly, he stopped pushing himself to the point of physical collapse and began planning and preparing some of his meals instead of always relying on take-outs and fast foods.

As he began to lose weight, his self-esteem increased and he re-discovered his pride. This was especially true when he had lost so much weight he no longer met the NHS weight requirement for bariatric surgery.

Find your a-ha moments with food
Food and mood diaries never cease to cause a-ha moments or provide useful insights. A surprisingly high number of client’s diaries’ show how much of what a person eats is of poor nutritional value. Often clients are surprised when I tell them they need to eat more nutritious food and not eat less as they may have expected.

This is often true of new mothers desperate to lose their baby weight. They are usually feeling so overwhelmed with their new baby that from their food and mood diary it is clear they are exhausted, and their nutrition levels are very poor. The pressure on mothers to be perfect is very damaging, so therapy work in many of these cases often involves reframing clients beliefs so they can let go of impossible ideals and standards.

Instead, the therapy work makes it okay for them to ask for help and to delegate wherever possible all the non-essential tasks. It’s also easy for new mothers to lose sight of themselves, so therapy refocusses them to understand how important their well-being is and that it’s not selfish to prioritise their own emotional needs too.

Keep a note of your eating
If you don’t have access to our Food and Mood template, you can use a notebook or your smartphone to create your food and mood diary and keep track of your eating and its emotional triggers. See if you can be a detective and work out what’s happening with food for you.

If you’d like some help with this process as a crucial first step in exploring your emotional eating, then do book an obligation-free discovery call with me.

Real hunger vs fake hunger

Real hunger vs fake hunger

If you graze and snack all through the day, it's easy to be confused about whether you are physically hungry or just fake hungry. Grazing and snacking can be such an embedded habit that some people have no idea what real, actual physical hunger feels like.

Are you so used to eating without thinking that you find it hard to stop even when your stomach is full?  Some people go even further and don't stop eating until they feel bloated, uncomfortable and completely over-stuffed.

Your eating can feel even more out of control when it happens in a sort of absent-minded way while busy doing other things like watching TV, surfing the net, driving, or at work.

Maybe you do this?

Do you find yourself back in the kitchen searching for something tasty shortly after eating a big meal?

Do you buy yourself ‘treats’ as part of the weekly grocery shopping that is a secret that no one else knows?

Are you ashamed of what you secretly eat and try to be clever at covering up your tracks and hiding any evidence from family or friends?

Well, you’re not alone!

If you recognise yourself in any of this, you too could be an emotional eater who confuses physical hunger with fake hunger and uses food to swallow down your uncomfortable feelings such as anger, sadness, boredom, loneliness or even just feeling fed up. 

I’m right here for you with everything you need

For nearly twenty years I have worked successfully with thousands of people to erase the triggers that make them want to eat when they are not physically hungry. They are people from all walks of life who blamed themselves for being overweight or for failing to stick to the latest fad diet. They thought their excess weight was because they were greedy or that they had no will-power but nothing is further from the truth.

For emotional eaters, the drive to eat it is not ever really about food and never, ever about a lack of willpower.

Even NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) who provide national guidance and advice to improve health and social care in the UK recognised a momentous shift in how the medical profession sees the future of adult weight management in their 2016 guidelines.

It recognised for the first time the need to include ‘talking therapies’ to tackle obesity, and this marked an acceptance that psychological hunger is as powerful, and as important to tackle, as physiological, or real hunger.

Dr Matthew Capehorn said, ‘We can make anyone lose weight (lock them in a cupboard and don’t feed them!) If we don’t address the underlying reasons why they became overweight, they will face precisely the same psychological problems they had at the start and are more likely to put the weight straight back on’. (Ref: Foreword to 7 Simple Steps to Stop Emotional Eating, Hammersmith Books, London)

The underlying reasons you put on weight can be resolved too so that you are no longer triggered by your emotions to eat when you are fake hungry.

Once your emotional triggers to eat are successfully erased you too can lose weight by eating only when you are physically hungry, stop effortlessly when you have eaten enough and enjoy feeling completely calm and relaxed around food.

I work with the most powerful therapy tools that have already transformed the lives of thousands of other emotional eaters to end their fake hunger so that they can eat for nourishment instead of swallowing down their emotions.

Contact me if you recognise yourself as an emotional eater and are ready to get the help you need to transform your relationship with food so that you can eat for nourishment instead of self-punishment.

Just click on the button at the top of the page to schedule your discovery call with me.

Brent’s Story – A therapy case study

Brent’s Story – A therapy case study

‘When I signed up for therapy with Sally I was already on the waiting list for a gastric band operation. Major abdominal surgery was something I wanted to avoid, so this programme felt like my last-ditch attempt to get my weight under control.

‘At the initial consultation, I weighed in at 24 stone and one pound (337 lb/153 kg). A week later, when I came for my first therapy session, I topped that with an additional half a stone (7 lb/3 kg) for good measure. Those extra pounds were a classic “Last Supper” response, coupled with the fall-out from the celebrations for my 58th birthday.

‘Clearly, I had a long way to go. I was under no illusions that my weight was causing me problems, but I was obviously not in the right frame of mind to fully focus on doing anything differently. I was disappointed in myself that I’d got myself in this state and felt pretty disgusted with myself for letting it happen. I had gone from being a well-built, strong athletic type of guy to someone who was classed as morbidly obese with painful joints, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnoea. And, I felt like had let all of that happen to me.'

‘All those negative opinions of myself are just great ways of beating myself up and keeping me stuck. Little by little I was able to let go of that self-blame and begin to do things differently.' 

‘I’m a bloke, so I like goals and structure. The first thing I did was set myself staged, with dated targets, towards my key goal of getting my weight down to 19 stone, nine pounds (275 lb/124 kg). That wasn’t an arbitrary weight by the way. That was the weight I needed to achieve to get myself out of the morbidly obese category as defined by the NHS' [UK’s National Health Service] BMI (body mass index) measurement.'

''I had to work hard to clear my self-doubts and to keep focused. When I began, I was pretty overwhelmed and certainly didn’t feel confident that I could make those changes happen. There were many two-steps-forward-and-one-step-backwards as I made progress towards my goal.'

'For me, I appreciated the hypnotherapy and visualising myself achieving my goal weight really helped me to get there. In all, it took me just under a year to get down to the 19st 9lbs target.'

'The key for me appears to be a sort of mindfulness – not only while eating but in keeping these issues, the decision to put my health first, the intention to be accountable to me, in the frame on a daily basis. This is what is difficult, because it is the opposite of what I have done all my life: putting personal issues on the back burner, but is it so good, and so successful, when I do it. And when you’re on a roll success breeds success.'

‘I achieved my steadiest, most reliable, incremental, week-upon-week, weight loss when I listened to the hypnosis-recordings every day; kept a food diary; when my wife and I worked together to plan out the week’s menu in advance; and when we shopped for our meals and snacks so that everything was available in the kitchen.'

''The food diary’s weekly tally of my drinking prompted me to face up to, and radically cut-down my alcohol consumption. That has stayed down ever since, as has switching regular takeaway dinners for more home-cooked meals.'

'I’d had a long belief that the B’s were responsible and that cutting out Bread, Butter and Beer would do the job! However just trying to cut out those with no mental support framework had in the past just been doomed to repeated failure with each pound or stone off followed sooner, or later with two back on!'

'Now, the lower carb diet worked, and is mostly still working for me, does not demand foregoing Butter – but the of course less I have the better (as Betty Botter might have said). Obviously Bread is out along with rice, pasta, chips, etc., and again, as my knees only allow me to perform limited exercise, Beer has to be off the menu.'

'The quality of the mental support framework comes and goes supported by firstly success, by personal relationships, by the hypnotherapy CDs, and by some sort of personal happiness index. – what a list of variables.'

‘It might make it sound as though my weight loss was all down to practical factors, but of course, key to all of this was me getting my head around the idea, the actual possibility, of me being able to lose the weight and that’s what I did in the therapy sessions. I had so much doubt at my own ability to make a difference in my own life that for that first year I carried on attending the hospital appointments for the gastric band procedure, just in case I failed. I kept those appointments all the way up to when I no longer met the NHS’s qualifying guidelines for surgical intervention. I had disqualified myself by no longer being fat enough!'

‘I found I struggled to stay focused when I took on a couple of property renovations and my life got very busy and stressful. It became all too easy to let my health priorities take a back seat while I focused on working hard. I began making poor food choices, often eating on the run. That whole mañana thing of “’I’ll take care of myself tomorrow” had been a bit of a theme for me for years, and had got me into the mess I’d already found myself in.'

'Being busy again, and under pressure, triggered me into those old patterns of behaviour of not taking care of myself. The therapy sessions helped me realise I could make other choices for myself, that I mattered, and that taking care of myself mattered too.'

‘The four to five stone (56-70 lb/25-32 kg) I reduced my weight by had many welcome health benefits. The practice nurse at my General Practice (GP) surgery ran the statistics and said I had improved my life expectancy by 20 percent. All of the readings from my regular blood tests were hugely better. My sleep apnoea had reduced from 40 interrupts per hour to initially 11 interrupts per hour, and now I keep meaning to return the breathing assistance machine to the hospital as I never need to use it at all, which of course is wonderful.'

‘I had a health scare last year driving back down to the south of England from Scotland with my wife. A few hundred miles into the trip I felt that tell-tale tightness in my chest and my heart was pumping ten-to-the-dozen. It was very scary.'

'We were in a part of the country that we barely knew and had to make our way to the nearest hospital, where I was admitted for tests. I was eventually diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a heart condition characterised by irregular heartbeat which can lead to an increased risk of stroke, or even heart failure. I can’t tell you how immensely pissed off I was.'

' I had done everything I was told to do - eaten more healthily, cut down on the booze and lost weight and then - sod’s law - this should happen to me. I felt all over again that my body had let me down. I know it’s not rational, but it’s how I felt. I was back in that abyss thinking that I had allowed this to happen to me, that it was all my fault. It took a while to haul myself back up and recognise that the weight I had lost had probably made the difference from me being here today or not.'

‘I had got complacent, I guess. I thought I had done enough, but I have decided now I’m ready to lose the next chunk of weight. I’ve set a new weight loss target. I’ve gone back to keeping a food diary and listening to the hypnosis recordings every day. I want to build on the positive health improvements I’ve already gained, and I’m keen to have more of the same. I’m talking to my wife about my plans as I know how well I can do when she and I work together, and she always loses some weight too, so everyone’s a winner!'

‘I understand now that I deserve to be well and happy and that no-one can do that for me, except me, and I truly want that, and I’m willing to work for it.’

Contact me if you feel ready to lose your excess weight through changing how you think and feel about yourself and food. Click on the button at the top of this page for an obligation free 30-minute call.

Emotional Eating Q & A Session

Emotional Eating Q & A Session

Emotional Eating Q&A

Emotional Eating Q & A with journalist Betty Russell poses her questions to therapist Sally Baker about her work to transform emotional eating into successful weight loss.

Why do you have a passion for helping people lose weight?

The mind-body connection informs my work as a therapist, and when working, I am working with a client I tend to focus on the signals from their body to reveal and often, in turn, resolve their sub-conscious issues.

Carrying excess weight for many people is the outcome of a survival decision they made when they felt powerless to defend or define themselves in any other way. Being overweight is never just about food or lack of willpower.

Can you describe the tools you use to help people change?
I work with three main therapy tools. Originating in the US, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) has been around now for over 25 years. It is easy to learn as a self-help tool and can be applied to alleviate a myriad of negative emotions. The technique involves tapping with two fingers on various points mainly on the face, and upper body. It works on the same energy lines, or Chi meridians as acupuncture, the traditional ancient Chinese medicine.

The second core therapy involves listening and interacting with a selection of short audio tracks. The listener taps with the fingers of both hands to a complex sequence of three rhythms.

Due to how the brain processes information, and in particular memory this therapy works wonderfully to reduce and even erase the emotional connection between negative feelings from memories, or events from the past whether they are real or imagined.

The third technique is Hypnotherapy which during a period of intense guided relaxation allows the subconscious mind to accept positive suggestions to support change and to help align the subconscious mind with the weight loss success that a client desires for themselves without triggering self-sabotaging behaviour.

How did you arrive at using this combination of therapies?
I came to use this combination of therapies with my therapist colleague and co-writer, Liz Hogon. We initially began working with EFT, and then hypnotherapy.

It feels as though we have had to explore a lot of modalities and techniques that are out there to ultimately find the most powerful and effective tools for successful weight loss.

What are the seven steps people can take to control their weight that you mention in your book?
We view the seven steps for people to resolve their emotional eating to be similar to the layers of an onion. We recommend people begin at step 1 in the book and work through to step 7 without skipping steps, or tackling them out of order. In this way, the journey begins with the present and unfurls the multi-layers leading to letting go, acceptance, and stepping up to a new way of living and loving oneself.
The seven steps are:
Acknowledging the present
Comfort and stress eating
Body image
Setting and achieving your goals
Breaking through
Digging deep
New day, new dawn

What do you have to say to anyone who thinks this is just another thing that won’t work for them?
By the time a person seeks help with their weight loss from a professional therapist, they are already experienced at every diet from Atkins to The Zone. They already understand that their overeating is not about an insatiable appetite for food but more an attempt to fill a bottomless void inside of themselves or to quell their often ever-present anxiety.

Clients who come to see either Sally in London, England or Liz in Melbourne, Australia feel over-whelmed with years of yo-yo dieting with failure inevitably following success.

Intellectually people understand how to lose weight, and are tired, and frustrated with their occasional weight loss success triggering a whole range of sabotaging behaviours that puts the weight back on, and keeps them stuck.

We begin the work by acknowledging the present, and that includes their fears that this won’t work for them as so many other things they've already tried for themselves haven’t worked either.

We gently explore an individual’s belief system to shift their perspective with the techniques we use so that the client can begin to embrace, and believe that there is a different way and that they deserve it to be their story too.

Anything else you want to add?
All the techniques we use in our therapy practices are simply explained in our book and in our new online course 'Overcoming Emotional Eating.' With the book and the course we have put together a compelling self-help resource for people to tackle their own reasons for emotional eating, and to facilitate their successful lose weight, once and for all.

7 Simple Steps to Stop Emotional Eating is available from Amazon as a paperback and as an e-version. For more information about Sally and Liz's online course 'Overcoming Emotional Eating' checkout

Contact me if you feel overwhelmed with years of yo-yo dieting and emotional eating. You can schedule an obligation free discovery call by clicking on the button at the top of the page.