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.

Nutrition Challenge: Alcohol

Photo by Scott Warman on Unsplash

This Saturday the nutrition class asked if we could talk about alcohol.

It gets over consumed, particularly this time of year, with so many social events going on. You don’t want to turn down the invitation to come over for a glass of wine – because you don’t want to turn down the company of your friends and family. You don’t want to miss out on those memories, and that’s completely understandable.

But the concern is when you start over consuming alcohol – and that looks different for everyone. Perhaps the 2 or 3 glasses a night to take the edge off makes you feel a little apprehensive. Or maybe you’re strictly tee total all week, but once Friday night hits, you’re more of a binge drinker.

Alcohol can be tricky but not impossible to include in a healthy diet. The main issues are that it stimulates appetite, usually leads to you making less than desirable choices because your judgement is impaired, and definitely will be making it harder for you to enter the deepest stages of sleep.

Like anything, I think the solution lies in what we can do to move the needle just a little bit. You don’t have to give up alcohol entirely – that might not be the right option for you. Instead could you drink 2 glasses instead of 3? Could you include a soft drink in-between alcoholic drinks? Or could you sip the drink so it lasts longer?

Like so many things we do nutritionally, noticing where you’re at right now is the first step. Studies suggest that our own estimations of our alcohol consumption is often under reported. Alcohol is about making trades – it’s one factor which can affect physical performance, health and fitness and it’s linked with others. But giving up the weekend happy hour with your colleagues, or the beers with the rugby may or may not be worth it for you. You’re an adult and you know what’s best for your body.

It might make it harder to get to the gym on Saturday morning if you’ve been out on Friday night. It could make it harder to say no to food which isn’t in line with your goals that night and the next day. It is also likely to make it harder to sleep well and wake up rested.


There’s no best answer because the research on booze isn’t super clear, just like what counts as “moderate” consumption is unclear. Instead of a right answer, let’s try finding an answer that’s right for you.

Figure out your current drinking habits by keeping an accurate record for the next week or two. We’re just collecting data, and this is just for you to look at – no judgement, and no need to share it with anyone.

Review your data, and consider whether it’s what you expected. Are you drinking more or less than you thought you were? Is your drinking slow, social and savoured or do you tend to be alone, and slamming it back? Can you spot any triggers – such as always drinking after a particular shift in work? Does alcohol actually enrich your life, or does it cause you stress and unnecessary worry? And is your drinking okay, but all the other behaviours that come with it (eating choices, smoking, texting toxic people, possible drug use) could do with being looked at?

Notice how alcohol feels in your body. This is such an astonishingly simple test. “Does this feel good?” was the question that allowed us to figure out that my husband was actually allergic to alcohol!

Aside from the physical test, does it put you in a good place emotionally, mindset and general perspective? Remember, alcohol is a depressant. That’s why people use it to take the edge off a difficult day. Do you like who you are when you’re drinking?

You’re a grown up, and you’re in charge of what you put in your own body. What you say yes and no to, as well as what you’re prepared to say yes and no to – is your choice. But it can be a useful exercise to make drinking alcohol mindful again: Delay having that drink by 10 minutes, when you do choose it – savour it, and keep the quality high. Ditch the firewater for the good stuff, remember, it’s going in your body so quality matters.

If you’re concerned about your alcohol consumption, it might be worth talking to your doctor or other healthcare professional about your consumption, habits and choices.

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.

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. 

The obstacles in your path aren’t obstacles. They are the path.

Not finding the time to workout, or cook nutritious food because you’re too busy?

It’s common to find that when the kids are off school, your carefully planned routines go out of the window. Or when work starts to get a little bit crazy, those self care rituals are the first to get chopped. 

I often hear that I’ll come back to the gym when [some external event happens]. But we both know deep down that the set of circumstances you’re facing right now is unlikely to be unique to you, or even exceptionally unusual in your own life. Your children are on holiday from school several (predictable) times a year. You have to go to work and be productive for the majority of the week. That’s not weird, or unexpected, or an ‘obstacle’. 

The obstacles in your path aren’t obstacles. They are your path.

So next time when you catch yourself saying that you don’t have time to make that 45 minute class, or you can’t keep your hour long appointment with your trainer, or you have to get a takeaway because you didn’t get to a supermarket – resolve to go anyway. Even if you don’t stay for the full time. Even if all you can manage is a 10 minute blast.

Not because that one workout is so important in the grand scheme of things. But because you become the sort of person who doesn’t skip workouts. You become the sort of person who makes it a priority to nourish & respect their body with food. You are the sort of person who you want to be – and self identity is the game changer. Not food or exercise. Not really. It’s who you become when you do those things that counts.

“Not yet”

“Not yet” is the largest enemy of change. It’s a lie we tell ourselves about why we should wait until Monday to start our diets. Why we’ll wait until January to join the gym. Why we’ll wait until retirement to book that once in a lifetime trip. Why we wait to approach that special human that could be our friend, our partner, our investor. 

“Not yet” is the safest and easiest way to forestall change and gives the status quo in your life a chance to deepen its roots. The status quo is whatever you’re trying to get away from. The current aspects of your life that could use an overhaul. The smoking. The bottle of wine at night. The relationship that no longer makes you happy – all the things that need to change, but change is scary. The status quo feels easier.

“Not yet” is a chance for poor behaviours to continue not to serve you. It’s a chance for habits to become even more ingrained and harder to break down the road. A bigger problem to solve – a 40 a day habit, instead of 10. A bottle of gin on a Wednesday afternoon instead of a glass of wine on a Saturday evening. A resentful old age with someone who you fell out of love with years ago.

Change doesn’t fail because it’s too early, but almost always because it’s too late, because the right time might never come. “Not today” becomes not any day. And the discomfort you felt from making changes could be long gone by now. 

Thinking that “it’s not the right time” is a mistake in making lasting change in your life; your life – the one where you get one shot at happiness. One lifetime to tell your humans you love them. One lifetime to be able to look in the mirror and think that you did your best by you and yours. 

“Not today” isn’t you any more. “Not today” is fear talking. All it takes is 5 seconds of courage. Fill out the form below if you’re ready to make a change.

How to fix a gym slump & regain your mojo.

Gym slumps are not often talked about with fitness professionals because we seem to want to give the impression we’re always meal prepping chicken and broccoli and training twice a day, loving it.

The fact is gym slumps happen to everyone, including those of us who work in the industry, and I think it’s far more common than people think. I’ve been working hard to pull myself out of a training slump lately, so here are some of the things that may also work for you.

1. Be gentle with yourself.

Know that nothing good is going to come from berating yourself, and being unkind about your efforts. Don’t feel bad for the things you did to make yourself feel better when you were sad, or anxious, or grieving.

Working out, or not working out, is not an appraisal of your value as a human being. We train and eat well to show ourselves self respect and love, and if there was a dip in your ability to manage that, it’s probably because you were too busy showing support and love to others to prioritise yourself for a little while. We can get back on track any time you are ready to start!

2. Try a new style of training, or a new place to workout.

Start really small. Way smaller than you were training before your loss of mojo. Commit to less than you think you need initially, we can always add things in later. A new style of exercise, like CrossFit, bodybuilding, or spin classes might be something you could look forward to trying. Learning a new sport like swimming, rock climbing or weightlifting might excite you. Keep an open mind, and know that whoever is teaching that class is qualified to keep you safe, and make you progress. 

Maybe change gyms for a while, or skip the gym entirely in favour of an outdoor workout. Getting outside can be great, not just for physical health, but mental health too. And can help with sleep, if that’s something you need right now.

3. Attend classes, or recruit a buddy.

Your gym almost certainly offers group fitness classes as part of your membership. Ask in the gym if you can see a timetable of classes, and pick something new. If group fitness isn’t your thing, finding a training buddy can do something wonderful for your training. 

One of the most successful elements of my face to face personal training business is the folks who do partner and group training sessions. They make friends, support each other with their goals, and the more people than join in, the more flexible the training schedules become! This was one of the best things I’ve introduced in my personal training – both for myself as a coach, and for the clients I train.

4. New kit!

Who doesn’t get fired up with a new playlist, or new lifting shoes? Whatever it is, this can be an easy and accessible way to give yourself a short term boost about getting excited to train again, and needn’t cost the earth!

5. Get a programme, or a trainer.

There are heaps of training programmes available out there for free – pick up any health magazine, or spend 5 minutes hopping around on Google. Even instagram can have some brilliant suggestions. If you’re looking for a little more guidance, accountability and support, spending even a short time with an excellent trainer can be just the thing you need to get your passion back. It might just be the best investment you make in your health!

4 Ways to Overcome Gym Anxiety

You’re thinking about returning to the gym after a period away. It’s on your mind, but you’re feeling anxious and apprehensive about going.  Whether it’s your first time ever, or you’re just making the transition back into fitness, the gym can be a place of anxiety for some folks.

It’s my sincere goal that everyone not only feels comfortable in the gym, but that it’s a place where you feel safe, confident and look forward to spending time in.

That’s why I wrote this list of 4 ways you can overcome gym anxiety!

1. First visit, then train another day.

This removes the barrier of having to do it all at once which can lead to feeling overwhelmed. The first time you go to join up, or the first time back after your break – just go to sign up. Wear clothes that you’ve got no intention of working out in (jeans & boots is a great one). All we’re going to do that day is get the membership set up, and maybe take a tour. This is a brilliant opportunity to scope out the equipment (or maybe new kit since you’ve been away) and gauge what times tend to be busier than others. Ask questions, and don’t be in too much of a rush to leave. Make sure you use the toilets while you’re there! This is time alone when you can collect yourself and have a chance to calm yourself if you’re feeling nervous.

2. Learn the person on the desk’s name – and use it!

The person manning the front desk may be a manger, a receptionist or a personal trainer. Take the time to chat, explain that you’re anxious, and let them take the time to chat to you about the best way to build up to training regularly. If you know one name, you’ve started one relationship. Good relationships are the start to any successful endeavour.

Let them take the lead; we really care that you’re having a good time in the gym, and any decent gym will take the time to make sure that you feel comfortable, and show you around. There may be a timetable of classes that you can take away, or maybe even fitness instructors or personal trainers around that can talk to you about getting started with some support. Managers may direct you to a specific person in their gym that tends to do well with anxious people.

3. Go when it’s quiet & start small.

Most gyms have times when it’s a bit quieter. It may be a good idea to prioritise working out during quieter times of day – most gyms will be quiet in the early and late slots, and busiest between 5pm and 7pm.

Going when it’s quiet gives you a chance to take your time with equipment which is unfamiliar, or ask staff to help you when we’re not too swamped with other tasks.

The first few weeks of any new habit can be challenging; tell yourself that you’ll stay for 15 minutes and if you want to leave after that, it’s ok. Make this time a little longer each week, and soon you’ll build up to 45 minutes to an hour.

4. Use headphones.

These take up next to no space in your gym bag, and allow you to disappear into your own world. Don’t be tempted to rely on them too heavily though – once you’re comfortable in the gym, headphones can make it difficult for people to speak to you. This might be exactly what you want – in which case, leave them in, but if you’re looking to get to know people they can be a barrier.

Finally, you have permission to leave the gym at any point. If you start to feel anxious, or that you’re just not feeling it today, know that you’re an adult and you can give yourself permission to leave it for that day, and try again another day.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever read about going to the gym was from actor and all round delightful human, Terry Crews. If it doesn’t feel good, you won’t stick to attending the gym, so treat it like a spa – give yourself permission to hang out there, chat, and leave if you want to, without working out.

More important than the workout is the habit of attending the gym. Work on the habit, and the rest will come.