Overeating During The COVID-19 Quarantine

Empty supermarket shelves during covid-19

I’ve seen a bunch of content floating around the internet recently bemoaning the potential for weight gain during the lockdown we’re going through at the moment to isolate against COVID-19.

There are a few things I’d like to talk about.

You Might Have More Food Around

Wide selections of food availability can encourage you to eat more. Food diversity is a recognised factor in overeating. This is why so many successful dieters stick to a fairly limited range of food choices day in and day out. Avoiding having trigger foods at home right now might be a smart strategy.

Overeating calories will cause you to gain weight. So eating more calories than you need – coupled with the likelihood that you’re less active than usual because of the restriction on movement outside of the home – could mean that you’re gaining weight. 

That’s if you’re lucky enough to have food at home, and you didn’t leave the supermarket empty handed.

Mindless Eating

Mindless eating is a risk year round of eating more, not just due to the exceptional circumstances we all face at the moment. It’s a good idea to make mealtimes your sole focus – not watching TV or scrolling through your phone will you eat. 

It can help to have a set meal time, and not graze throughout the day. Consider sitting at a table, and make the meal an ‘event’ for the family during the day. Putting your utensils down while you chew can slow your eating down, so you digest more thoroughly and feel fuller. Here’s a link to more detail on how you can practice mindfulness in your mealtimes.

Food Proximity

You’re closer to your food than you would be normally – particularly if you’re working from home for the first time. Perhaps you may be dipping in and out of your fridge every time you get up from your work station and this sense of proximity can lead to snacking.

You might make healthy snacks visible and put away less optimal snacks out of sight. If possible, you could also move further away from your kitchen when you’re working. 

It’s An Emotional Time

Increased stress might lead to as much as an increase of 21% more food consumed for some people who relate to being emotional eaters

Whereas others may be skipping meals due to their emotional upset, and not realise. Then, later, they might make food choices which don’t align with their goals and values and increase their emotional state indirectly. 

You May Be Feeling Bored

Like the Grinch, you may just be eating because you’re bored. Finding a way to structure working from home, or to create a sense of purpose during your day can help. If you’re still working from home, trying to keep things as normal as possible can help. If you’re not able to work at the moment, some structure during the day can make a difference. It could be a new time to try learning a new skill or a hobby. Even getting ahead on planning meals could be a great step.

Regardless of whether you’re overeating or not, this is a difficult time for many people. You could be experiencing food shortages, or isolation from your loved ones. You are likely to have more pressing concerns at the moment than a few extra calories. Remember, you’re only ever one choice away from being back on track. If I can help you with your focus, you can book a call today and we can have a chat at a time that works for you.

Why Am I Not Losing Weight on My Diet?

Photo by Jamie Matociños on Unsplash

You’re doing your absolute best on your diet, eating clean and abstaining from alcohol and chocolate – but by the time the weigh-in comes around, you aren’t seeing the results you wanted. You ask yourself, “Why am I not losing weight on my diet?”

You’re frustrated and confused – and I’ve got the answers. I’m going to tell you what you can do about it.

This Diet is Taking Too Long

Dropping body fat takes time. Often far more time than we expect – especially once we’re over 30, sadly. It might be that you’re expecting too much in the time frame. 

Be patient, know that the process isn’t linear, and you almost definitely don’t need to do anything drastic. 

If you’re still not moving the scale in a fortnight of adherence – and I am talking total compliance with the diet here – we might slightly increase your cardio (NEAT) but almost definitely patience will be all you need to see progress again. 

We want to keep your calories as high as possible for as long as possible because this makes it easier to be compliant so don’t go dropping too many calories too soon. If you’re truly at a plateau – 100% compliance and no movement on the scale for 4 weeks or so, then think about taking off maybe 100 calories from carbohydrates (around 25g) and readjusting to that.

Enjoy the Diet You’re On

My clients always start with a list of foods they love so there’s never anything in their diet that they don’t enjoy. Many times, we begin by adding more of something nutritious rather than taking something else out.

Finding a method that works for you is a massive win – so you can learn to love the process. The reality of the diet sets in around week 3 when it’s actually just doing a few things really well. It’s not big, grand or sexy. So finding a way that works for you right now is key; for some that might be intermittent fasting, or calorie cycling, or even ditching the alcohol completely

Fat Loss Not Weight Loss

Remember that you’re looking for fat loss – not weight loss. That scale weight is simply a reflection of your mass. I’ve trained a couple of women that have actually been happier with their physiques for adding a little bit of muscle, and that often means a heavier scale weight – but with a toned, lean body and none of the jiggle.

You can use other systems of measurement for this which might reflect your progress better than the scale; tape measurements as well as photographs are always a brilliant way to check your progress. This is especially true for people who have a challenging relationship with The Sad Step.

You’re Being Less Compliant With The Diet Than You Think

Lack of compliance is likely to be the number one reason you’re not reaching your goal, and from a coaching perspective, this is often the only metric that actually matters. If you’re jumping from programme to programme, coach to coach, and fad diet to fad diet – but then not sticking to it anyway, nothing will work. Doesn’t matter whether you’re on the carnivore diet or the vegan diet: nothing works unless you do. Pick something that seems suitable and be compliant with your diet. 

Tracking inaccuracies may happen by accident (I forgot to track the oil I cooked with) or “on purpose” I forgot to track the food I hoovered up off the kids plate after they were finished. It’s astonishing to me how many people want to lose weight but have no clue what they’re eating on a daily basis. If your goal is weight loss, this is the ultimate tool at your disposal: track everything you eat, at least for a short period of time.

You Lack Accountability in The Diet

Lacking accountability can be a problem for some people. Write your goals down in a journal or on Facebook and invite questions from friends and family. This will make them an actual real thing that you’re going to do. Review the goals mid-week and course correct if necessary. Evaluate your effort on Sunday – consider what worked well, as well as what might need adjustment for next week.  If you want, you can do this in the Facebook group with The Tribe

For ultimate accountability, and being supported every step of the way to your goals, you could consider getting a coach.

Some people do better with in person coaching, so you should go to your gym and ask to speak to some of the trainers there. I’m based in gyms in Llanelli, but fear not – if you’re not in Llanelli, there are other options.

Remote coaching, delivered over the internet works better for some people. You would consider this option if you have a difficult working schedule or perhaps don’t have the budget for face to face accountability just now. If you’re interested in that, you can set up a call with me, here.

Who Else Wants to Stop Excess Snacking?

Image by Couleur from Pixabay

Maybe you’re a pro at planning balanced meals, but things go awry during the hours in between. Excess snacking can put you over your daily calorie requirements and fill you up with sugar and other ingredients you’re trying to avoid.

Lose weight and protect your health by changing the way you snack. Check out this list for ideas about how to snack less between meals and make smarter choices.

How to Snack Less Between Meals

  1. Be mindful. Are you surprised to find you’ve eaten half a cake when you really meant to have one slice? You’ll probably be satisfied with less food if you pay attention to each bite. Turn off the TV and chew slowly.
  2. Leave the table. It’s difficult to tell when dinner ends and snacking starts if you sit around nibbling leftovers on the kids’ plates. Clear the table and go for a walk.
  3. Have a hearty breakfast. Late night snacking could be a sign that you didn’t take in enough calories earlier in the day. Start with a nutritious breakfast that has enough nutrients to keep you feeling full.
  4. Drink up. Thirst and hunger are often confused. The next time you want to snack between meals, drink a glass of water to see if the craving goes away.
  5. Sleep well. Chronic fatigue can also make you want to eat, and when you do eat you’re more likely to make poor choices. Go to bed on time and take a nap if you need to catch up on your sleep.
  6. Chew gum. Sugar-free gum is an ideal snack. Satisfy your sweet tooth and enjoy chewing without consuming any calories. Gum even helps to clean up bacteria in your mouth in between brushing and flossing.
  7. Keep a log. You may be snacking more than you think. Use your phone or a notebook to track what’s really going on.
  8. Identify trigger foods. Many of us have certain foods that lower our inhibitions and make it hard to stop eating once we start. Limit the availability of these foods in your home, and keep them for special occasions.
  9. Manage stress. Are you eating to cover up difficult emotions? This can be a tough one to manage, but identifying it is the first step. Notice when the cravings happen by keeping a note of them – and when you find a pattern in when you crave a snack you stand a much better chance of stopping.

How to Snack Healthier

  1. Reach for vegetables and fruits. Full of micronutrients and low on calories, these foods can aid digestion as they’re full of fibre. Recommended daily intake ranges from 5 a day to as much as 8 portions, but just including one more than you’re on now could be a great start. Use snacks to help you reach your target.
  2. Control portions. Most adults can indulge in any favourite treat as long as they keep the serving size reasonable. Learn to estimate by sight what serving sizes should be by using a measuring system for a little while.
  3. Create substitutes. This is recommended by one of the ladies that comes to the diet & nutrition class at the gym. She allows herself snacks that she’s baked at home herself – leveraging any laziness to her advantage!
  4. Stock up. Fill your refrigerator and kitchen cabinets with nutrient-dense foods you love. Remove the barriers to healthy snacking by prepping fruit, or vegetables and leaving them pre-chopped and visible.
  5. Don’t watch adverts. Advertising tends to promote ultra-processed foods high in sugar, salt, and saturated fats. Psychologists call these “hyperpalatable foods” and they are commonly overeaten – it’s not your fault, and you’re certainly not the only one!
  6. Plan ahead. Vending machines and office staff rooms are full of foods that can derail your diet. Carry your own snacks or keep them in your desk at work. Pressure from colleagues can be a tough one to avoid, but this is one to work at mastering. Here’s a guide to meal prepping that can help.

Make your snacks work for you, keeping you full between meals and fuelling up your body. Watch your calories and eat nutrient-dense foods that don’t derail your fitness goals.

Nutrition Challenge: I’ve Got a Sweet Tooth!

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

Each week on a Saturday I run a diet and nutrition class in the gym I work at. Each Sunday I put up a question box on instagram stories to encourage people to make requests for the following Saturday’s topic.

People every week identify that they have a sweet tooth, and consider this a barrier to them losing weight. Of my own in-person clients, over 50% of women consider themselves to have a sweet tooth when asked in a survey.

High sugar foods alone aren’t the problem though, it’s the combination of sugar with fats which make foods super delicious and difficult to say no to. A highly engineered result we call “hyper-paletable foods”.

So, if you can’t resist the Halloween treats in the supermarket this week, or you are drawn to the snack baskets in your house – you’re not alone and you’re not to blame. These foods are manufactured to be almost impossible to resist. Pretty sneaky.

Even people who have got very healthy relationships with food have a hard time saying no to certain “trigger foods”. These are different for everyone, but they’re almost always highly processed, high sugar, high fat, high salt – and highly available.

Food manufacturers have revealed Big 5 stimuli stacking elements of foods.

  1. Calorie dense – often high in sugar, fat & salt
  2. Intense flavours – often combining flavours in ways that psychologists call “supernormal stimuli
  3. Immediately delicious – the big flavours pack and immediate punch
  4. Easy to eat – this relates to the texture and ‘mouth feel’ of foods which don’t need to be heavily chewed
  5. Melts in the mouth – these foods disappear quickly from the mouth, making it hard to eat slowly, and very easy to eat more than you intended to. Specifically, these manufactured foods should be broken down in no more than 10 chews. Compared with around 25 chews per mouthful of whole foods.

These Big 5 components are what food manufactorers look for when designing foods for marketability and they are even more important than how foods actually taste!

Clearly, the solution to overeating these foods shouldn’t rely on willpower alone. There are some things you can do to stop overeating these hyperpaletable foods.

  • Observe as you chew how things feel and taste in your mouth. How long it takes to chew and swallow the foods, and do you feel satisfied after eating it? These things might influence whether we keep eating.
  • Pay attention to the less healthy foods that you buy and consider cutting down on the variety. By allowing yourself some ‘treats’ it can help adherence to a calorie controlled diet and by limiting your choices, that can take some of the temptation out of the picture.
  • Pay attention to the craving. This is likely to have been triggered by something – and it can help to keep a note book on your observations for a week or two to get to the bottom of what’s causing them.

Common triggers include:

Thoughts and feelings: thinking of food as a reward, or something that you’ve earned. Feeling bored, lonely or sad. Food can be something you’re using to fill the void.

Times of day: lots of my in-person clients recognise this one – so much so, that the “2pm twix” had become a running joke. These snacks are part of your routine.

Social settings: it’s my colleague’s birthday, and there are cakes in the staffroom again. It’s happy hour and I always have a bag of crisps with my pint.

Places: your parents’ house, a dark movie theatre, or the automated way you order at a familiar restaurant can all be triggers to eat without really thinking about it.

Once you’ve spotted the pattern, we can put other behaviours in place instead – behaviours which support your goals instead of sabotaging them. Then it’s a case of practicing.

You might not get it right first time – and the act of practicing can take a while, but you are able to make those changes that you want in your life.

If you’d like me to help you, fill out the form below and let’s have a chat.

The Outrageous Benefits of Eating Mindfully

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

“How soon after exercise should I consume my protein shake?”

“What percentage of my calories should come from fats?”

“What about ketones?!”

These questions come from well intentioned people who just want to lose some weight. They are – understandably – baffled by the amount of information about the “right way” to lose body fat and spend a great deal of time worrying about what they should be eating.

There’s a step you can take before changing anything in your diet.

Something that’s so monumentally simple and straight forward it almost seems not worth bothering with.

Eating slowly.

Whatever you’re having to eat, eat it slowly. Chew it thoroughly. Put your knife & fork down while you chew, and really be mindful about the flavours, textures and temperatures of your food.

Sure, there are way more complicated things you can be doing. But why start with something complex when you are able to get results with something more simple?

Slow down, pay attention, and stop when you’re no longer hungry.

This works for 2 reasons:

  1. It gives your body a chance to feel physically full.
  2. You feel psychologically more satisfied with what you’ve had and feel less deprived.

If you’re prone to digestive issues such as bloating or stomach cramps after eating, this can help some people. Physiologically, it stops you taking great big bites of food and gulping it down – because when you eat more slowly, you chew more thoroughly and that digestive process is helped along. This too has a psychological effect by making you feel sluggish or out of shape.

Eating should be a response to internal hunger cues – not because it’s a certain time of day, or Karen has brought snacks to the break room (again?! Damn it, Karen!)

Slowing down your eating can help you with your appetite awareness, helping you to tune into when you’re feeling hungry and when you’re getting full. This ability to listen to those internal cues are the start of the intuitive eating that could make up the rest of your life.

When it comes to binge eating, slowing down can help you to recognise what’s happening. It allows you to pause and catch hold of the panic which can accompany an episode. It can also allow you to become aware of the triggers that lead to binge eating, and help you to interrupt these patterns and feel more in control of your decisions.

It works even in circumstances where we might not have control over what we eat. How we eat is something that’s always in our control and doesn’t need any fancy diet foods or equipment.

Like everything, eating more slowly can be measured on a continuum.

At its most basic level, take one breath before you eat. Allow yourself to pause and savour the smells and colours of your meal. Feel gratitude for the food, and giving thanks to the people who were involved in making it is a really nice way to do this. Continue – one pause and one breath at a time.  

Try to move the needle by eating without distractions. Put your phone away, don’t eat in front of the TV and make sure you eat at a table where possible. This is an opportunity to put down your fork, take a sip of water, or speak to your dining companions if you have company.

Remember this is a practice that takes time and can be refined. Honestly, this is something that I still really struggle with. I sometimes ask whoever I’m eating with to remind me to slow down.

If you benefitted from this article, and you’d like to subscribe to my mailing list, please put your best e-mail in the box below.

All Diets Work: an infographic

And what’s more, they all work the same way: by limiting calories.

The only factor that actually contributes to whether or not you lose fat is if you’re in a calorie deficit.

There are a ton of ways you can make this work in your life, but actually it all comes down to 3 things:

  1. You eat fewer calories than you expend. You diet.
  2. You expend more calories than you eat. You exercise.
  3. A combination of these things. Through diet & exercise.

That’s it. Astonishing, isn’t it?

Regardless of which diet you choose to use, that’s how it works. That’s their magic formula: calorie restriction.

They might restrict your calories in different ways though:

  1. By limiting what sorts of foods you can choose to eat.
  2. By limiting what times of the day you can eat.
  3. By limiting how much food you can eat.
  4. By limiting choices about what you eat by making choices for you.

I made an infographic to help clarify this.

If you found this useful, just leave me a comment to let me know that you liked it. Or better still, stick your best e-mail in the box below to jump on the mailing list to get exclusive offers, first looks at new launches and much more!

Nutrition Challenge: I CBA to Plan Meals

It’s no secret that I have struggled with meal planning.

In times of high stress, it’s always the first thing to get binned off for me. 

In fact, you could probably take a pretty good inventory of my current stress level at any given time by opening my fridge and seeing how out of date any fresh food is – or if there’s any in there at all.

It’s an embarrassing thing for a personal trainer and nutrition coach to admit. 

I sometimes feel like this is something I should have cracked 100% by now.

I remember telling my mother that one of the interventions that I use with clients when they’re feeling overwhelmed with their diets is the simple question, “have you got any proper food at home right now?”

She looked at me like I was daft. 

People pay you for that?! 

But I know that it’s not as straight forward as it sounds. That loads of people struggle with their food. Probably more than they struggle with their training. 

Myself included. Which is why I can say with confidence that if you struggle with this too – it’s not your fault. It’s a common issue.

When clients tell me that they are struggling, we’ll actually solve the problem. I’ll stop their training session to go with them to do a quick food shop.

It’s a problem we can make progress on pretty simply.

You see, nothing needs to be perfect to be good.

You don’t need a perfect training plan. You don’t need a perfect diet. You just need one that works for you.

Meal planning – like literally everything – works on a continuum.

On the one hand, you put absolutely no thought whatsoever into what you’ll be eating next, let alone the rest of the day, or the rest of the week. The decision about what to eat doesn’t occur to you until you’re already hungry and might involve grabbing something from a fast food drive-through because right now you’re ravenous. 

On the other hand, you might spend one whole morning out of your weekend food shopping, writing family menus for the week, and batch cooking food to store in little labelled tupperware pots. You leave nothing to chance. Nothing passes your lips without it being weighed, measured, and tracked in MyFitnessPal. 

Between these two extremes though, there is so much room for progress. 

It could mean browsing the restaurant menu before you arrive and making a choice before you get to be screaming hungry. 


For more on this, ask me about my high street survival guides

It might mean ordering a side salad as well as your regular meal. When this gets easy, maybe order it instead of your chips.

It might mean prepping your breakfasts for the week in advance and just winging it for the other meals. 

It might mean including steam bags of veg that you can tolerate and mixing them through each time you cook rice. Don’t worry about the variety of veg for now, and don’t worry about not cooking everything with dirt on that takes a month to peel.

This is about removing barriers and doing just a little bit better. These choices can really add up, but individually they don’t take a great deal of planning or effort. 

This week, I am working on an old classic for me: I want to eat at home more often than I eat out. I am such a lazy cook that I’ll buy a Subway on my way into Tesco.

I want to know what you’re going to do this week – what 1 change you can make that isn’t going to take a heap of effort – to move the needle just a tiny bit on that continuum. 

Beginner’s Guide: Actually Executing Your Meal Prep

Photo by Emma Matthews Content Production on Unsplash

One of the most overlooked parts of meal prep for the week is how you actually sit down and execute your plan. People ignore this when they set their intentions for the week because they feel confused and overwhelmed about how it can fit into their lives.

That’s why I am taking all the confusion out of how you take action! It’s much simpler than you might think.

Step 1: Have a plan.

Start with a meal planner. I have one of these stuck to my fridge that I bought from Wilko but here’s a simple one you can download. It’s not fancy – download this and print it off.

Step 2: Plan when you aren’t going to cook that week.

I find starting with known meals out, birthdays, or other celebrations is a good one. So if you know you have your anniversary meal on Tuesday night and you’ll be working late on Thursday, and will be ordering a takeaway to your office – put those things in first.

This can help you to keep these things in mind so that you don’t over eat that day, and can help you to look forward to those special events.

Step 3: Protein inventory.

Go into your kitchen, and figure out what you’ve already got by way of proteins.

Proteins usually come from animals and animal products but for vegetarians and vegans you’re looking at things like Quorn, tempeh and legumes.

Start with things in your fridge because they’re going to have a shorter date than the stuff in your freezer. The use by date is a massive stressor in my cooking life, and we’ll have to make sure these items are eaten first so we don’t waste food.

I had an awesome tip yesterday from my in person client, Clare: when you’re putting your shopping away, write the day it needs to be eaten by on the product in a sharpie. I think this is simple and so useful. Far easier to connect with than a date.

Step 4: What proteins do you need to buy?

Here’s a downloadable cheat sheet to help you figure out what else you like. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but one of the problems I have when I sit down to do this task is that I get a total mind blank on what foods I’ve ever eaten in my whole life and enjoyed.

Have a look at that – go through it with a highlighter, or a sharpie, and highlight the stuff you enjoy, or would be curious to try – or cross out anything that you know you don’t like, or are allergic to.

Step 5: The smart move! Reusing proteins.

Where can you cook raw ingredients and use them more than once? So if you know you’re cooking up 1kg of mince beef for pasta bolognese, after it’s cooked, take half of it and add kidney beans and spices to turn that into chilli for the next day. I am definitely a lazier cook than you so any time I can cook once and eat twice, I am up for that!

This take a little bit of thought and if it’s too challenging for where you’re at with your cooking right now, don’t worry about it. An easier alternative is just to cook loads of one thing, and portion it into Tupperware to freeze.

Step 6: Adding carbs and veg.

The cheat sheet from before includes carb and vegetable sources, but all we’re doing really is adding these in quantities which support our diet goals. And the great news is that you can’t get this wrong! Just pick whatever you enjoy eating.

Looking to lose weight – add more veg than carbs to keep calories lower.

Looking to gain weight – be a bit more generous with your carbs to increase your calories overall.

Carbs are things like potatoes, rice, pasta, cous cous (sounds pretentious but really it’s ridiculously easy to make so it’s good with me), quinoa, oats, noodles, wraps…

Vegetables – there’s no difference between fresh and frozen really so the choice is one of budget and convenience.

I particularly like frozen fruit – things like pineapple, mango and berries which can be really expensive bought fresh, prone to going off before you can use them, and often only in season for a short while. These are awesome in a smoothie.

Bonus tip!

Like re-using our ingredients in different meals (beef becomes bolognese and also chilli), think about repeating one meal a day or even cycling between 2 meals.

So for example, breakfast A could be eggs, and breakfast B could be a protein smoothie. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday could be A, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday could be B.

This can sometimes be prepared ahead of time but even if it isn’t, it takes away a lot of the thinking needed – which I find is the part of the process which gets tiring.


If you used the resources, I’d love to know about it! Please leave a comment to tell me if you found this useful.

Getting organised with food is probably the biggest barrier for most people, and there’s no one way to get this exactly right.

It’s a continuous process, and we’re all just doing out best not to eat like knobheads all of the time.

Staying Full on a Diet

Image by Aline Ponce from Pixabay

This morning’s workshop on nutrition was requested by a member who had been dieting for a while, but struggled to feel full on the foods she was choosing. When she started to feel hungry, she’d overeat and that made it difficult for her to achieve her weight loss goals.

The request came in last week. As I always do, I took a week to think about the problem and start to suggest some solutions. The ideas I had seemed to be grouped into two camps; those relating directly to food choices, and those which did not.

Stuff that isn’t about food

Indirectly, much of the content of last’ week’s article on mindful and emotional eating seemed to apply – particularly with regard to not eating while distracted, such as while watching TV or on your phone.

Increasingly, people feel pressured to eat lunch at their desks and take a working lunch. I’d encourage you to avoid that if at all possible. Your work is almost definitely not so indispensable that you can’t spare 10 minutes to walk away from it for a snack and a break!

*If your job actually is life and death then obviously don’t bin it off for a sandwich and a prolonged bathroom break. Don’t be a dick.

Actually planning meals, and becoming organised with cooking helps. It also helps to know when you’re getting to eat next, so you don’t eat like an arsehole out of hunger because you don’t know when the next meal will be coming & you’re panicking. 

Remember when you were a kid, and you’d be told “don’t eat that now, you’ll spoil your tea” – same principle applies. Except now you’re the responsible adult… but also the hungry and impatient kid.

Noticing when you get physically hungry during the day and planning a snack for that time can be a great strategy for some. I’ve had a few clients talk about the 2pm chocolate bar fix, or the bag of nuts on the bus ride home that could – if they weren’t careful – spoil their deficit for the day. 

Rely on diet drinks, and zero calorie pop to satisfy that sweet craving instead. Some people may also feel fuller and less hungry by selecting a fizzy, carbonated drink. There is absolutely no reason why you should be avoiding aspartame, no matter what your colleagues told you.

Last week, we talked about the good old Precision Nutrition strategy of eating to 80% full, and putting down your fork as you chew. An incredibly difficult, albeit super simple, target. Even managing this for one meal a day can make a huge difference to how much you appreciate your meals. 

The actual food choices

Regarding the food itself, last week we talked about drinking a big glass of water before and during the meal to feel fuller & help your food digest more easily. 

This week I’d add that avoiding heavily processed foods can help feelings of fullness. This is one that I have relied on in the past, and it’s related to the point about getting organised and preparing food. If you aren’t prepared the chances are you’re going to end up with something processed, which probably won’t fill you, and will probably cost more than you want to be spending. These foods get expensive quickly and are of variable quality. It’s not the end of the world now and again, but it better suits your diet, and your pocket, if you can be a little bit better prepared.

Selecting a lean source of protein at every meal will be a good start, as protein helps you to feel fuller for longer – it’s highly “satiating”. If you’d like a list of possible protein sources, check out this infographic I made, about the bang for your buck you get with different protein sources. 

Finally, adding volume to your meals by adding as many vegetables as possible – a low calorie, high fibre option which makes it seem like you’re eating loads of food, even when the calories remain low. 

For more tips on managing your diet, like my Facebook page, join our free Facebook group and download my free e-book to help you with exactly this issue.

Emotional Eating

“I can’t stop emotionally eating!”

If this is you, you aren’t alone. Around 60% of my clients list this as a “major challenge”, with over 50% saying they have “intense cravings” and “snack when not hungry”.

This doesn’t just mean when things are negative either. Celebrations and social events are emotional too. 

The goal is simply to notice and name each time these episodes of emotional eating happen. 

  • Sunday evenings when getting ready for a new work week
  • Each time you make arrangements to see certain friends or family members
  • Communicating with your ex about the kids

The first step in regaining control is becoming aware of when the behaviour happens. Identifying the trigger means you can disrupt automatic behaviours and make different choices.

Sitting there at the end of your meal, bloated, thinking “how on earth did I let this happen again?!” is not uncommon, and you definitely aren’t alone. 

But what can you do to make sure next time you’re more in control of your choices?

Get to the root of the craving.

First comes the urge, then comes the eating behaviour. Finally, the reward is the big hit of dopamine you get for eating the food you wanted. But the more often you give in to the behaviours, the stronger that craving can become.

So – we notice and name to find the trigger. 

This is often something in the environment, such as sights, smells, tastes, locations or the company you’re in. If we track when and where these urges occur, we can adjust our environment and disrupt the cycle. 

Keeping a cravings journal might be as simple as keeping a document on your phone. Each time you feel the urge, you open up the document and record the follwing:

  1. What are you craving? Specific foods, or certain flavours or textures.
  2. Where are you? Location is important, but also other environmental cues like smells or visual information – adverts, billboards, etc.
  3. What are you doing? Driving, watching TV, working on something repetitive?
  4. What are you feeling physically? Actually hungry, shaky, tense, lightheaded?
  5. What are you feeling emotionally? Anxious, rushed, upset?
  6. What are you thinking? “I’ve already messed up the diet, I might as well go for it now!”
  7. Who is around you? Be specific about the people.

What. Where. Task. Body. Heart. Mind. Who.

You can keep a journal like this for a few days, or a few weeks. There are almost always patterns to how you’re feeling before you start craving. Once you’ve found the pattern, here are some things you can do to combat them:

  1. Put it into a time out. Notice the urge, sit with it for 5 minutes without taking any action. This is about making an active choice, rather than mindlessly hoovering up delicious things in your immediate area. Your choice is more likely to be rational rather than reactionary. Consider whether you’re actually hungry – I like to do this by checking “would I eat ham, jacket potato and a big salad now?” if the answer is yes, I’m probably hungry. If I answer no – I do just want that ice cream, I might be procrastinating, bored, stressed, or otherwise emotional – and that’s okay. I still might choose to have it. But then it will be a choice – and then I’m less likely to feel bad about it afterwards.
  2. Do something else which doesn’t involve chewing. Walk around the block, go wash your hands, spend 10 minutes cleaning up, or delete the random photos out of your phone for a while. By doing something engaging for a little while, you might chase that urge away. This is because your cravings are almost always psychological rather than physical and most feelings are pretty fleeting. If you’re actually hungry, the craving will still be there in 15 minutes. If you aren’t, it will probably have gone by then. You’re just trying to occupy yourself for a short period – a little buffer to divert your attention.
  3. Try fasting. This won’t be right for everyone, and it shouldn’t be something you consider if you have any health issues. But it can be useful to feel real hunger, and to learn to listen to your body’s actual physical hunger pangs. Lots of people treat hunger as an emergency – and one that requires immediate attention and action: it isn’t an emergency to be hungry for a short while. You will find that hunger comes and goes in waves – usually in relation to external cues like mealtimes, socialising or environmental stimuli. You’ll get hungry, you’ll get a chance to really feel it and then it will fade. It can be quite empowering to know that you won’t collapse and the sky doesn’t fall in if you don’t eat for a few hours.
  4. Eat right during the day. It’s way more common to overeat during the evenings rather than during the day time, possibly because you’re restricting what you eat during the daytime, or making less filling choices. Protein and fibre from low calorie veggies help to fill you up, and can help you to feel fuller for longer. So if you’re prone to wanting a little extra something after your evening meal, it might be that what you’ve eaten during the day could do with a look. Nourishing your body throughout the day with lean protein and high fibre can quieten that evening voice that encourages you to go on the hunt for “something nice”.
  5. Have the snack. There are several strategies you can use if you still want the snack. 
    1. You could have a rule that whatever you want, you have to make yourself. Want cake? OK, you can have it, but it’s got to be home made. Can’t be bothered? Good. You don’t want it badly enough.
    2. You could have a rule that you can have the snack, but it’s got to be bought immediately before eating from a shop that’s over 15 minutes away, or that you walk to. You don’t keep it in the house. Remember the importance of your environment. Can’t be bothered? Good. You don’t want it badly enough.
    3. You could have a rule that you can have the chocolate, but it’s got to be super expensive, premium chocolate – like £5 a bar – and then savour every piece. You’re less likely to wolf it down, and less likely to do this every day. Can’t be bothered? Good. You don’t want it badly enough.

Get the idea? You want to put some buffers in between the urge and the behaviour to make sure you really want to do it rather than doing it mindlessly, or before you’ve really considered if this is what you want.

If you still feel like you need some help with what to eat, you can jump over onto the free e-book I have, which has plenty of ideas on how to structure your meals for the week, the day, and by macronutrient. It’s super easy to follow, and it’s FREE.