Not much help for emotional over-eating

Misunderstanding, lack of help and stigma affect people with emotional over-eating issues  a survey by Beat – the UK’s leading eating disorder charity – has found.

Over 1,000 people across the UK responded to the survey and the findings were significant.

  • 88 per cent said their problems with food were related to emotional problems.
  • 73 per cent who visited their GP said their emotional health wasn’t investigated.
  • 92 per cent said they’d like to lose weight.
  • 76 per cent  felt their self esteem was low.
  • 85 per cent had a negative body image of themselves

Two thirds of the population in England alone are overweight or obese and in the last 25 years there has been a 400 per cent increase in obesity. This has led to predictions that half of Britons will be obese by the year 2050. Also see Losing Weight.


What is emotional eating?

Emotional eating is a new term coined to emphasise that eating too much doesn’t happen by accident. Behind most large people are a range of negative emotions – self-disgust, loathing, wretchedness, feelings of rejection, feeling unloved and ugly, and a sense of despair.

Dr Andrew Hill Professor of Medical Psychology at Leeds University said ‘Emotions, mainly negative emotions, play a major role in unwanted and uncontrolled eating.  Unhelpful relationships between food, eating, and mood can be long-standing and very difficult to change.  They are also very difficult to talk to others about.  For some people, recognising the interplay between food and feelings is an important first step.  Others require more specialist psychological support.

‘Lifting the stigma of mental health is one of the challenges for our time.  Understanding the role of food and eating in emotional health is part of this challenge, as is making opportunities for access to the varieties of helpful support available.”

Find out more at

The root of the problem

Frequently the issues with food start in childhood and let’s face it most parents use some ploys to get their children to eat – who hasn’t been guilty of rewarding their kids with chocolate when they do something good? The kind of behaviour that can result in emotional issues around food are:

• Parents using food as a punishment
• Parents using food as a reward
• Disharmony at the dinner table between children and adults or parents
• Emotional difficulties in childhood concerning divorce or parents, death of someone close, bullying and much more
• Being told to eat up everything because of the starving people in Africa

‘Comments about feeding the starving people in Africa or India are completely irrelevant because the food we leave won’t get to them, but it can do immense harm,’ says Bar Hewlett, a Cognitive Behaviour Therapist with Lighter Life.

‘I liken food to other addictions like alcohol, but people don’t often recognise this. Some people say that they need a cigarette or a drink to make them better but with the exception of chocolate they don’t always say it about food.

‘With emotional eating the rational you has gone and you eat things that you may not even want instead of something healthy. It hasn’t got anything to do with hunger.

‘Parents often manipulate their children – “You’ll eat it if you love me. I’ve spent a lot of time preparing this food. What a good boy/girl – you’ve cleared your plate” And some mothers give a lot of food to their children to make up for the love they are unable to offer. Consequently the child learns if they want love from their parent they will have to put up with food so they transfer their feelings on to the food.

‘When someone is ill they often tell you what they want to eat – it’s usually what their mother gave them when they were sick as it brings them comfort. Similarly when people are unhappy they go back to the food they liked as a child – sweets, chocolate or whatever it may be.

Cognitive behaviour therapy

Cognitive behaviour therapy is offered as part of a diet plan with Lighter Life. Bar explains, ‘We get people to keep a thought diary and to recognise how they are feeling and relate it to their behaviour. This gives them a chance to make their thoughts more realistic and alter their behaviour too. Instead of eating the whole box of chocolates they can just have two today and two tomorrow.’


There are various ways of changing behaviour patterns and if someone is put into a hypnotic state of deep relaxation they are able to accept and respond to suggestions. ‘It is as if they are on autopilot,’ explains hypnotherapist Jose Penrose.

Jose helps people with weight problems at her Surrey clinic. ‘My sessions last an hour and we spend 20 to 40 minutes discussing the issues around the person’s weight problem.’ Once she has gathered all the facts she puts them under hypnosis to help them to change their behaviour – be it bingeing or snacking all the time.

‘I usually ask them what has motivated them to lose weight, what their goal weight or dress size is, and how life would be different if they achieve their goal.

‘Many people’s weight is bound up with their self-esteem, particularly if they are yo-yo dieting and never achieving any lasting weight loss. Often they think, “People don’t fancy me so why bother?”

‘I saw a woman who had been abused by her father when she was a child. She felt this was at the root of the problem. A few weeks after she had had hypnosis she was at peace with herself and much happier and she had lost a stone in weight.’

*Survey from Lighter Life Magazine

BEAT charity,

Contact Carole Gaskell, at the Lifecoaching Company, 01628 488990,

Lighter Life weight loss programme includes cognitive behaviour therapy and replacement meals, 08700 664747,

Jose Penrose is a hypnotherapist, counsellor and life coach in Surrey: 01483 769058,

General Hypnotherapy Register, Lymington, Hampshire, 01590 683770,

Tricia Woolfrey, hypnotherapist, 01932 354746,

The Lean Team provides interactive health coaching for people who want to lose weight:

Men healthier and happier than women

men and womenMen are healthier and happier than women in general, a survey by revealed today. Health and Happiness, a nationwide study of 2,000 men and women found that men reported a higher rate of happiness when it came to their weight, shape, appearance, and the way they are perceived by others (55 per cent). Women, on the other hand, were more self-conscious and slightly less satisfied with their happiness levels at around 49 per cent. Women are also much more likely to try dieting (71 per cent) compared to men (47 per cent).

Leading nutrition expert, Patrick Holford said: “The general perception is that women are more health conscious, but what this survey shows is that women do actually have more health issues to deal with, especially relating to digestion, mood, anxiety and sleep. The results also show that respondents, regardless of their gender, considered the absence of disease to be an indicator of good health. But being healthy means more than that – it’s abundance of well-being indicated by good energy levels, a stable mood and a sharp mind, all of which achieve optimum health.”

Men don’t feel stressed as often either. Almost 60 per cent of male respondents said they only felt stressed once a month, whereas 60 per cent of women said they felt anxious once a week or more.

Over 70 per cent of men also claim they rarely felt depressed or had mood swings, compared to half of women (50 per cent) who admitted to feeling low or unhappy at least once a month, if not more. Male respondents reported that they were less likely to have trouble sleeping at night – 51 per cent said restless sleep occurred around once a week or more, compared to 60 per cent of women.
Headaches, bloating or poor digestion were less of a problem among men. Almost half (49 per cent) said they rarely got headaches, compared to 64 per cent women who said they experienced them at least once a month or more. For 70 per cent of men, bloating and poor digestion would only occur once a month or less, but almost half (43 per cent) of women said it was a weekly or daily problem.
Men also reported higher satisfaction levels when it came to their professional lives, from job security (51 per cent) and salary (45 per cent) through to career prospects (46 per cent) and overall finances (50 per cent).
The survey also revealed the healthiest and happiest cities in the UK: Londoners rated themselves as healthiest with 59 per cent describing themselves as ‘healthy’ against a national average of 54 per cent.  Levels of alcohol consumed in London were 5.5 units per week as opposed to Manchester which saw an average of 6.7 units, and a whopping 79 per cent of Londoners are non-smokers.
Half the people from London do at least 20 minutes of exercise a week or more, but more people in Cardiff do regular exercise (54 per cent).  Sheffiel;d is the city where people get most sleep with 40 per cent of them saying that they have seven hours a night, compared to a low national average of 34 per cent. The people who have most illness and smoke the most appear to be those in Birmingham, according to the survey. Dieters in Bristol were the most successful and Scots in Edinburgh have least sleep with over 70 per cent saying that they have restless nights or difficulty sleeping with high levels of stress and anxiety.

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Five ideas for a healthy and happy retirement

Old lady with flowersMany people dread their retirement, seeing only a never ending stretch of non-activity ahead of them once their working days are done. In the 21st century, as more of us live longer, this needn’t be the case. Here are a few ideas for a happy and healthy retirement.

1. Change your accommodation

If you are no longer able to keep up the energy and expense of running your large family home, then retirement is the perfect time to downsize. Your grown up children may have moved away and some will complain when you suggest that you want to move but they don’t have to deal with the daily headaches of running a house, paying heating bills and all other domestic expenses! If you are looking for a reputable firm who have experience in retirement apartments then have a look at  McCarthy & Stone for some ideas.

2. Healthy habits for a happy retirement

It’s never too late to start exercising. Even if you may feel a little stiff when you first start your new exercise regime, you’ll soon find that after a couple of weeks you’ll be able to really enjoy yourself. If you’ve downsized and moved into a retirement apartment, you’ll probably be able to go on walks with other residents who also want to keep fit and healthy.

3. Keep your brain active in retirement

Scientists have discovered that the longer you keep mentally stimulated the happier you’ll be. The University of the Third Age is a wonderful organisation that promotes mental and physical activities for anyone over 50. This organisation has groups throughout the UK and if you’ve just moved into a retirement apartment you should try and track down your nearest group. It’s a great way to make new friends as well as keep your mental faculties stimulated.

4. Socialising is vital when you retire.

Once you’ve moved into your new flat, you could always knock on your neighbours’ doors and invite them around for a dinner party. This is the easiest way to make new friends. Obviously, you won’t gel with everyone but you may well develop a few close friendships with your new social group. If you are prone to low moods, socialising is a good way of helping you to stay positive and is a practical method of keeping busy and energetic.

5. Use your life skills and volunteer once you’ve retired

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau and other voluntary groups couldn’t run without the skill and expertise of the over 65 demographic. If your new flat is close to a town, look out for volunteering opportunities at your local library or town hall. This is also a great way to mix with people of all ages and will keep you active and engaged with your new local community.


Live longer, take a holiday

N2K_Stress_2011_6mmWe all know this really, but now it’s official – holidays give us many health benefits according to a new study. Among the findings of The Holiday Health Experiment conducted by tour operator Kuoni, and Nuffield Health, the UK’s largest healthcare charity, were:

Blood pressure of the holidaymakers dropped by a beneficial six per cent while the average of the non-holidaymakers went up over the same period by two per cent. High blood pressure can cause strokes and heart attacks, so avoiding it can be a life saver.

Sleep quality of the holidaymakers improved while that of the non-holidaymakers deteriorated. Holidaymakers saw a 17 per cent improvement while the average for non-holidaymakers reduced by 14 per cent. The body heals when we are asleep so the quality of sleep is essential for physical and mental repair.

Stress – the ability to recover from stress saw an average improvement of 29 per cent among holidaymakers. This compared to a 71 per cent fall in stress resilience scores among the non-holidaymakers. The higher the stress resilience score, the better someone recovers from stress. Stress in itself causes absence from work, but has many other knock-on effects such as depression, anxiety, and serious illness.

Participants were divided into a travel group and a non-travel group and all had stress-resilience testing and a 360+ Health Assessment by Nuffield Health. This was carried out alongside psychotherapeutic tests conducted by psychotherapist Christine Webber. The Holiday Health Experiment was carried out between summer and autumn 2012, revealing how holidays may help us live longer. The results are published in The Holiday Health Report.

Six participants in one group were then sent on a holiday for two weeks to Thailand, Peru or the Maldives. The other six people stayed at home and continued working. In September 2012, all participants underwent a second array of clinical and psychological tests and wore heart monitors for 72 hours.

Exercise tips

Guest blog by Alison Cullen

Arnica, courtesy of A. Vogel (Bioforce)
Arnica, courtesy of A. Vogel (Bioforce)

Before you head out for a workout make sure you stretch properly before. This will let your body prepare for exercise and will also warm you up which is important to avoid muscle soreness and injury as cold muscles mean tense muscles, which can lead to an increase in muscle tear.
Sore muscles are caused by the filaments in muscle fibres tearing and the breakdown of muscle tissue. Don’t panic though, this may sound scary but it’s perfectly normal, it’s just our body’s way of adapting to exercise.
Injury may come about when you’ve suddenly increased your workouts or mileage, which is a common mistake and stresses the importance of pacing yourself and stretching.

Fuelling up

Taking on enough fuel for your workout is also important. Avoid eating a hefty meal before training, so that you’re not trying to digest and train at the same time. It’s better to eat a few slices of malt loaf and a banana at least an hour before training, to release energy slowly and keep you going.

Pain awareness

Play it safe when working out and listen to your body, keeping an eye on any niggles that crop up. Pain is a signal so find out what it means before carrying on and risking further injury. Always find out what the pain is and why it’s happened so you can take steps to prevent it from happening again.

If you get a stitch while working out the best thing to do is focus on your breathing. Take deep breaths in and out.

Optimum fitness

To reach optimum fitness, target different muscle groups so you’re working your upper and lower body. Use gentle weights or try boxing programmes to work your upper body and do squats and lunges to strengthen your legs and you’ll find this will make a real difference to your fitness.

When you’ve finished your workout make sure you do gentle, long stretches. This will allow your muscles to recover from the shock you’ve just put it through.


Refuel afterwards

Make sure you eat well post-workout as this can have major benefits on your fitness performance and can be the difference between getting that personal best and hitting the wall.

Eat plenty of magnesium rich foods like nuts, seeds and wholegrains. They will allow your muscles to work efficiently and recover properly.
If you’ve had an intense workout it’s vital to refuel afterwards with good quality protein. Chicken with vegetables and pasta is a good post-workout meal and a tuna and salad sandwich can help you recover after a lunchtime run.


Aching muscles 

If you find your aching muscles are getting you down, pour yourself a warm bath with some bath salts to help soothe your muscles, or book yourself in for a massage.

Rubbing A.Vogel Atrogel into sore muscles can also help relieve aches and pains caused by workouts. It smells pleasant and is quick drying and can be applied up to four times a day so can be a great alternative to reaching for pain killers.

A.Vogel Atrogel contains Arnica, a herb which, when freshly harvested, is full of lactones. The lactones interrupt the inflammatory process right at its inception, preventing the production of inflammatory chemicals. Well known for its relief for bruising Arnica can also soothe muscular aches, pains and stiffness, and sprains.

A. Vogel Atrogel costs £9.65 for 100ml, and £6.35 for 50ml – click here to purchase from the Nutri Centre.

Alison Cullen is a nutritional consultant at Bioforce UK (A. Vogel).