HOW CAN I STOP COM­FORT EAT­ING?

The Mail on Sunday - You - - Health - Anna M Storey, an­na­s­torey- counselling.com; down­load Anna’s book 10 Ques­tions Diet, £2.73 on Kin­dle, from ama­zon.co.uk

QI keep gain­ing weight be­cause I com­fort eat. Re­cently I didn’t get a job I wanted and, although I wasn’t hun­gry, started eat­ing choco­late and cakes out of pure de­spair and frus­tra­tion. It’s my way of cop­ing with fail­ure and re­jec­tion. Can you give me any ad­vice? A Many over­weight and obese peo­ple have be­come that way ow­ing to emo­tion and stress-re­lated eat­ing. In one study of 337 obese pri­mary care pa­tients aged 18-65, half re­ported high emo­tional eat­ing, which is known to af­fect women more than men.

Anna Storey, an ac­cred­ited coun­sel­lor who of­fers weight man­age­ment counselling, says: ‘Our re­la­tion­ship with food is formed be­fore we can walk or talk. Food is one of our first sources of com­fort, so it’s not sur­pris­ing that we rely on it in times of dis­tress.’

Anna works with clients on re­solv­ing emo­tional blocks or needs that prompt us to turn, as you did, to sugar-laden treats such as choco­late and cake. ‘An emo­tional event in our lives, if left un­pro­cessed, can lead to com­fort eat­ing and there­fore weight gain. Start by think­ing back to the time and place when you first started eat­ing to com­fort your­self – it is of­ten in child­hood – and then list your cur­rent trig­gers. How do you feel just be­fore you reach for that choco­late bar? And af­ter? Un­der­stand­ing your feel­ings will help you to see the real rea­sons be­hind your weight gain.’

Let­ting go of these past and present trau­mas can, in turn, help you to let go of the urge to eat when you feel re­jected and frus­trated, so you can de­velop a more healthy re­la­tion­ship with food and lose your excess weight. You may feel you need the help of a ther­a­pist like Anna. The web­site well­do­ing.org helps you to find a suit­able, qual­i­fied and ex­pe­ri­enced ther­a­pist lo­cally. Mean­while, there are sim­ple ways to help your­self: Eat bal­anced meals, sit­ting at a ta­ble. Never skip meals. For a sen­si­ble eat­ing plan to lose weight and get healthy, I rec­om­mend The Louise Parker Method: Lean for Life (Mitchell Bea­z­ley, £20)*, which ad­vises a holis­tic ap­proach. When you are tempted to dive into the cake tin – and not stop at one slice – just stand still and slowly count to ten, sug­gests Natalia Traxel, a doc­tor and nu­tri­tion­ist (na­tal­i­a­traxel360.com). Ask your­self why you are reach­ing for food now. Are you re­ally hun­gry? In which case, eat some­thing whole­some rather than a sugar-laden ‘treat’. Or are you feel­ing tired, lonely, bored, angry or dispir­ited and in need of com­fort and dis­trac­tion? Salv­ing those feel­ings could take a dif­fer­ent form from food, such as a hug, a phone call with a friend, a walk or do­ing some­thing cre­ative.

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