I’m so pleased that rigid slimming diets are officially ‘out’ and eating whole, unprocessed food is ‘in’! We’ve all been caught up in the fantasy of a miracle diet, whilst still munching on processed foods we know are packed with fat, sugar and salt. Talk about being in denial! We’ve also drunk gallons of over-sweetened soda and developed an unnatural craving for all the worst possible foods. LOL! But there is hope for us all, and no matter how bad you think your weight problem is, your weight-loss solution starts here!
Holistic approach to food addiction
Like most other addictions, over-eating is just another symptom of anxiety and chronic stress. And along with sensible eating/exercise plans, doctors are finally approaching the challenge of weight-loss in a holistic way. A lot of us self-medicate with food, so reading another list of the lowest-calorie foods isn’t the answer.
Instead, we’re going to think about why we eat fattening foods, and what events trigger a craving for high calorie food. Most of all, I want to guide you towards getting readily accessible and free professional help locally or online. If you make your primary aim to reduce your anxiety, your relationship with food will improve and you’ll eat fewer calories naturally.
Daily living is stressful
Our craving for extra-sweet and high-fat, processed food is caused by the level of stress chemicals in your body. If you’re always arriving late or running out of time to do what needs to be done each day, you’re building up stress hormones! Regularly getting stuck in traffic creates impatience, which is a form of anxiety, and even boredom causes stress. Many people eat unhealthy, processed snacks while commuting because they feel bored. Meeting deadlines, cold-calling, being unable to afford things, being in debt and unwanted weight gain are also in the top ten stressors for U.K. adults.
Being unemployed is boring and stressful, too. And anxiety about health problems for your family, friends and yourself is very common. In a 2016, OnePoll study of 2,000 U.K. adults, a high 63% said they also feel stressed on their days off work. We’re so wound up, we’re in real danger of losing the knack of relaxing without eating or drinking too much. Relationships, parties, birthdays and Christmas holidays, which were invented to make us happy and relaxed, are also stressful times for many of us. And irritating in-laws are still at the top of the list!
Stress hormones make you crave fat & sugar
Blood sugar levels go up dramatically when you’re anxious. The ancient ‘fight or flight’ instinct causes the body to release stores of glucose-energy as fuel for muscles dealing with a physical threat. You were supposed to use up this energy by fighting or running away and there would be no unused fat-cells left for storage. Unfortunately, this system wasn’t designed to deal with long-term, mental stress such as we all face every day! Modern stress prompts cortisol to release energy from our fat stores, but we don’t use it up hunting mammoths!
Anger, humiliation and impatience are ‘bottled-up’ and the system malfunctions. Chronic stress creates body-cells that are always desperate for more energy. And so they never stop sending hunger signals to the brain! That’s how anxiety is controlling what you eat. Appetite is affected by cortisol hormones and some individuals, no matter how much they eat, always feel hungry. Unless the extra calories are used up by strenuous physical exercise, they’re stored as the extra body fat we’re all familiar with! However, there is a practical way to break this vicious cycle.
Reduce anxiety & weight-loss will follow
If you focus on how to reduce anxiety in your life, you will also be focusing on losing excess weight! Keep in mind that: more stress = more cortisol = higher appetite for junk food = more belly fat. This will help you to identify the times when you have negative emotions. And identifying your stress triggers is vital to allow you to avoid stressful situations in the future. If you’re not happy in your workplace, make an appointment to discuss your feelings with the HR manager.
If your work situation can’t be easily improved, maybe start looking around for another job. Or you could re-train in a different career that you’ll enjoy more. You don’t have to change everything immediately, but you do need to address people or situations that regularly cause you anxiety. And the good news is you don’t have it on your own!
Find someone with whom you can discuss your thoughts productively or ask your doctor to recommend a trained counsellor. If you’re a ‘people-pleaser’ or feel bullied, consider getting some Assertiveness Training. Or use Assertiveness Training to help you deal with ‘bottled-up’ anger, so you can avoid being aggressive.
Don’t worry if you can’t find a course locally, just google ‘Assertiveness Training’ and you’ll find lots of free courses online! There’s a great, free course at www.openlearningworld.com which you can do at home. The Open Learning World – Assertiveness Course is focused on helping you overcome fear, shyness, passivity and anger. In particular, it teaches how to:
- Express negative emotions calmly
- Show positive emotions
- Feel comfortable about asking ‘why’, and to question authority or tradition
- Start, carry on, change and terminate ‘difficult’ conversations comfortably
- Deal with minor irritations as they crop up in life, dispersing anger before it becomes intense resentment and aggression
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT is a highly recommended way of training your mind to be your helper, and not a critical voice. There are also many places online where you can access Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for free. Online CBT can really help with everything from over-eating, negative self-image, feelings of failure, irritating in-laws, poor time-management and all the other hidden-stress reasons we eat too much.
I can personally recommend the Mood Gym here: www.moodgym.anu.edu.au. It was the first professional body to offer CBT online and it’s private and anonymous. You don’t talk to anyone face-to-face, the course is easy to follow and very helpful to anyone with weight problems, stress or depression.
Brush-up your basic cooking skills
Chicken, bean and spinach soup
I know you have to reach deep inside yourself to find the motivation to stop eating foods you’re addicted to. You can start slowly, by deciding to take your health seriously. If necessary, put some time aside to learn basic cooking skills, so you won’t be dependent on snacks, junk-food and take-away. View your healthy-eating plan as something positive, like a new hobby. Forget calories and focus on nutrition, so you eat vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein each day. Be your own best friend and make your health and peace of mind a priority!