If you’ve tried every self-help book on the shelf to stop comfort eating and still get cosy with a family bag of Doritos in the evening then this blog post is for you!
We have been led to believe that comfort eating is the result of external pressures – a bad day, a rubbish week, or even a terrible childhood. Outside factors that we can’t control which leave us with a feeling of helplessness.
Whilst there is some truth in this there are other factors too. More important factors. The craving to eat to satisfy a need can come from a physiological place. There are biochemical reactions that control the way we think and feel. The good news is that YOU can do something to help yourself. Doesn’t that feel better than something you can’t control?
Here are the best tips for controlling emotional eating from the Brain Food clinic:
- Blood sugar balance.
It’s simple but it’s key to successfully leaving the evening binges behind. In short, eat protein, with each meal, eat regular meals and lay off the sugar and caffeine. This will keep your blood sugar stable avoiding those drops in blood glucose that lead to irritability, feeling low, foods cravings and overeating. If your blood sugar balance is particularly volatile you might need a helping hand from the amino acid L-glutamine. Taking 1-2 grams when needed throughout the day can help get those levels back on track and eliminate cravings.
- Get your gut bacteria back in check.
So many of us have yeast overgrowths, including candida and plenty of less-beneficial bacteria in our guts. These not-so-beneficial bugs impact on our health in big ways. They also lead us to crave the very foods that are bad for us. Sugar cravings are common during and following a round of antibiotics – when yeasts tend to spread voraciously throughout our guts. Get a therapeutic strength probiotic or use fermented foods to give the good guys the upper hand.
- Top up your zinc and B6.
If you are deficient in zinc or B6 then you’ll struggle to create enough serotonin to keep you feeling happy and content. Low serotonin is a BIG factor in comfort eating.
- Get more omega 3 fatty acids.
These fats are crucial for brain cell signalling. A deficiency will lead to many cognitive problems. Comfort eaters are constantly trying to stimulate their reward pathway through food because signalling between neurons is not as good as it needs to be. Eating seeds instead of oily fish is not good enough, often people are deficient in the nutrients needed to convert omega 3 fats from seeds into the long chain fatty acids we get directly from fish.
- Eat less trans fats.
Trans fats are very bad fats. They are manufactured, altered fats that cause havoc in our bodies. They interfere with the uptake of the omega 3 fats mentioned above. They are everywhere – in baked goods, processed foods, margarine, fried foods.
- Identify Food intolerances.
If you are intolerant to any foods, eating them regularly will create peaks and troughs in blood sugar, which will affect your cortisol levels. This will lead to craving and binging on the very foods you are intolerant too. Dairy and gluten are common food intolerances. You can find out if this is an issue for you by running a food intolerance test.
- Get a good nights sleep.
It’s not just about getting to bed a good time but making sure your sleep is solid and undisturbed. A poor nights sleep raises cortisol levels the next day. High cortisol levels leave you craving sweet and starchy foods and lots of them.
- Manage stress.
Ongoing stress has the same effect on your cortisol levels leaving you reliant on the wrong types of foods and not in control of your appetite. Finding positive ways to manage stress combined with blood sugar balancing and a nutritional protocol to support adrenal health is the way forward.
- Identify nutrient deficiencies.
Check for other nutrient deficiencies that might be affecting your mood and causing you to turn to food. Vitamin D deficiency is common in the darker months and can have a serious impact on your ability to feel happy. The precise mechanism is not yet known but it could be a factor worth considering if the winter months are particularly hard for you.