Overeating, poor food choices and obesity is a common phenomenon. Our environment constantly bombards us with cheap, delicious food, and without the skills, self-awareness and knowledge to deal with these temptations it can be a constant battle. As well as all the food temptations, many of us have sedentary, and often stressful lives. Stress can increase appetite, adding to the problem. It’s no wonder obesity has become such a common phenomenon! What’s needed is a holistic weight management approach that inspires people and equips them with more awareness, knowledge and skills to help them feel more in charge of their eating, helps them to address their relationship with food, empowers them through improved nutritional knowledge to make better food choices and enables them to manage their lifestyle in a way that’s realistic, enjoyable and sustainable.
“After years of yo-yo dieting, I felt lost with food…” “Thanks to Emma a bad food day doesn’t scare me.”
My Mindful Eating Service: The Whole Picture
If an individual wants to improve their relationship with food, stop overeating, feel more in charge of the food environment, lose weight and set up long-term healthy eating habits, it’s really important to look at the ‘whole picture’. This includes considering a person’s:-
~ Stress levels
~ Relationship with food
~ Relationship with self/self-concept
~ Eating behaviour (habits)
~ Actual food choices (not just now, but over the past few decades)
~ History of dieting- ‘feast and famine’ eating patterns
~ Lifestyle management
~ Life satisfaction
More Than Just Calories: The Psychology & The Physiology
What’s caused the obesity and diabetes Type 2 epidemic is not people eating too much fat, but the body producing too much insulin too often in response to the frequent eating of processed foods- foods stripped of their natural fibre (including white flour-based foods), often with added sugar: biscuits, cakes, pastries, breads etc. Insulin is vital for keeping blood sugar levels at a safe level, but in excess it can lead to fat storage in the body and insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes). This is why it’s important to look at the composition of meals and snacks, not just the calories they contain.
We must consider the physiology and the psychology, not just how much we’re eating. We cannot just think of the overly simplistic, mechanistic and limited approach of calories in, calories out and relying on willpower to restrict food intake. The above factors can have a significant influence on our mood, the way we think and our physiology (hormones such as insulin, cortisol, leptin and sex hormones), which can determine weight management ability, happiness levels, motivation levels, energy levels and general health and well-being, which in turn influences how, what and why we eat.
The ‘3 Keys’
Exploring our relationship with food and eating habits can feel overwhelming as it can seem like a huge, complex subject. With my expertise in both psychology and nutrition, I teach people about three equally important, distinct areas. I empower clients with the knowledge, insight and skills they need to make positive, long-term change- it’s a journey, not a diet. The three key areas are:-
1. Eating behaviour (mindful eating strategies)
2. Emotional eating
3. The ‘Hormone Factor’
Exploring Your Relationship With Food
Sometimes all we need is to take a deep breath, relax, and have an opportunity to talk about our eating, with a listening ear.
I help people to improve their relationship with food, feel more in charge of their eating and to set up and maintain long-term healthy eating habits. My services include one-to-one sessions, a range of talks (Lightwater Surrey and online), an online fortnightly support group and an online course: ‘Improve Your Relationship With Food’. If you’ve had enough of dieting, you feel out of control of your eating, you’re struggling with your weight and you want to find a fresh, flexible approach, then my services are designed to help you achieve just that. I also help people who might not be overweight but who are seeking support in setting up and maintaining healthier eating habits.
I encourage clients to address their mindset in terms of how they think and feel about food, to help them manage the food environment. I help clients to address unhelpful thoughts, feelings and beliefs around food such as thinking that you deserve to eat a certain food (reward-eating), thinking that you’ve ‘blown’ it after eating a piece of cake (catastrophic thinking), that you must clear your plate (excuses to eat and ‘crooked’ thinking) or telling yourself that you’ll start to eat better once you’re back from your holiday/weekend away (the ‘black and white’ mindset, and procrastination).
“I was a victim of 1980s dieting”
My Mindful Eating service was set up with the aim of helping individuals to make beneficial, long-term changes to their eating and lifestyle, enable them to improve their relationship with food, eat more healthily and mindfully and reach their health goals such as losing weight. Each individual has their own needs, preferences, skills and challenges, so I offer a personalised service that enables me to work with clients in depth. Read about my own weight loss journey here.
“Emma has helped me so much with understanding my relationship with food.”
The Problem with ‘Quick Fix’ Diets
Many people get trapped in a cycle of yo-yo dieting, perhaps losing weight and then re-gaining the weight they’ve lost. Not being fully aware of their mindless eating habits or underlying (emotional) eating triggers, not knowing how to change their former, pre-diet eating or their body having a ‘rebound’ response to rapid weight loss can put individuals at risk of weight re-gain; I’ve experienced this with many clients who have approached me following a quick-fix commercial diet programme. Short-term weight loss diets might not address underlying habits or a person’s relationship with food, and identifying unhelpful eating behaviours as well as unhelpful thought patterns is a key part of helping a client to improve their eating. My service helps clients to adopt more healthy eating habits, more helpful attitudes towards food and weight management and improved knowledge about themselves, food and the body, giving them a much better chance of successful long-term weight management and a better relationship with food.
The Client’s Relationship With Food
Many people come to me with a long history of dieting, yet they’re still overweight, having yo-yo dieted for many years (recurrent weight loss followed by weight re-gain). They’ve realised that going on a diet where you follow someone else’s rules hasn’t helped them to reach their health goals or tackle their relationship with food. Going on a diet doesn’t usually get to the heart of the problem because the focus is often on weight loss alone. Through knowledge and skill-building I help people to tackle any problematic eating habits they have, enabling them to feel more in charge of food and to no longer have to rely on strict diets to control their eating. Read my blog post: ‘How To Boost Your Weight Loss Motivation‘.
“I wanted a way off the yo-yo diet roundabout but couldn’t see a way out on my own. Mindful eating is not a quick fix but has helped me explore and understand my relationship with food“.
I help clients to become more aware of their own eating habits, thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and values when it comes to food, eating and weight management and teach them a more ‘middle-way’, flexible approach to eating, to help them escape the yo-yo dieting trap and to reduce feelings of guilt around food, which can result from an ingrained categorisation of foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Mindless eating is often linked to overeating, and overeating doesn’t necessarily equate to enjoyment. My aim is to help people to start enjoying less food more by teaching them concepts of mindful eating. As they address issues such as emotional eating, they start to find that their need to overeat or eat in secret diminishes, as does the need to go on strict diets in an attempt to control their eating. You can read more about a person’s relationship with food HERE.
“I’d binge eat then restrict myself and was always on a diet. I realised I’d always categorised food into ‘good’ or ‘bad’”.
How Mindful Eating Differs From Dieting
From my experience of working with clients, the problem with a short-term diet where all the thinking is done for you in terms of what to eat/not to eat, and where each day’s food intake is rigidly ‘prescribed’ in a calorie-controlled format is that the diet will inevitably end, after which it’s easy to return to old ways of eating and potentially re-gain all the weight that’s been lost. For many people it can be so easy to re-gain weight a few months after losing weight, especially if they’ve followed a ‘quick fix’ rapid weight loss plan- this is because following weight loss, a smaller body requires less food and so it’s easy to gain the weight back if you return to your former eating habits, such as eating large portions or making unhealthy food choices. Mindful eating is about paying more attention to the eating process itself, engaging the brain more before and during eating to help you make better food decisions and adopting more helpful eating habits that are in your own best interest. It’s also about going on a journey of self-discovery and adopting self-care practises. Many people I meet have a strong inner critic which can make them feel bad about themselves, drive feelings of guilt or cause them to self-sabotage. I take into account the whole person- their needs, preferences, skills, personality and lifestyle. My blog, ‘How To Eat Better Through Mindful Eating’, illustrates some of the key concepts I use to help clients. I also introduce how I help clients in this short video.
“Emma encouraged me to allow myself to eat nutritional (but high calorie) foods that I wouldn’t normally allow myself to eat as I had become so fixed on a certain commercial diet’s way of eating.”
We Can’t Rely On Willpower Alone
If a person has a history of dieting and they don’t trust themselves around food, it’s easy to fall into the rut of thinking that the only way to lose weight or control their eating is to go on a strict diet, and that they must rely on willpower to do it. The problem with relying on willpower alone is that willpower is like a battery- it runs out! This is why many people find it hard to stick to diets for more than a few weeks, because they’re denying themselves their favourite foods. We can’t stick to a diet that’s full of rules, especially as food forms such a central part of our lives; we have to make multiple food decisions every day, and many social events revolve around food. I help clients to manage the food environment by helping them to adopt a range of techniques based on both the psychological and nutritional aspects of eating.
The Dual Approach
In my practice as a Mindful Eating & Weight Management Consultant I teach people about the nutritional components of successful weight loss and long-term weight management, alongside helping them to address their overall relationship with food. Certain beliefs about food and dieting can lead to unhelpful food choices and unsuccessful weight loss attempts; for example, believing that low fat or ‘diet’ foods help you to lose weight, categorising foods as ‘good’ or bad’, believing that all dietary fat is bad, that healthy food is too expensive, as well as a lack of awareness of the importance of the nutritional composition of meals and snacks, and individual differences in terms of which foods satisfy the appetite and which don’t. This is why effective weight loss and long-term weight management requires a ‘dual approach’, addressing both the nutritional and the psychological components.
There are many commercial weight loss programmes available, but not many offer an in-depth, dual approach. My Mindful Eating service empowers clients by giving them the tools they need to feel more in charge of their eating. Clients benefit from addressing both the mindset and nutritional components, but I can focus with the client on a particular area depending on their needs and preferences- one client might want to focus more on improving their knowledge of food and nutrition, and another might need to focus more on addressing their emotional eating.
“I was eating totally the wrong things before, leaving me hungry all the time and still putting on weight. I’ve now lost over a stone in 4 months. I emphasise that this is not a diet! This is about just making better decisions about food”.
Health, Not Just Weight Loss
With the obesity epidemic and the increase in obesity-related health issues such as pre-diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, cancer and cardiovascular disease, it’s vital that overweight individuals have access to services that help them lose weight and achieve long-term weight control. My Mindful Eating service educates and empowers individuals by offering personalised dietary advice and supports them in becoming more mindful eaters. Losing weight can have a significant positive impact on health and medical conditions, and not only can it help to improve specific medical conditions, individuals can also benefit from improved overall well-being such as better energy levels, improved digestion, better sleep, improved mood and better mobility. By adopting sustainable, healthier eating habits and attitudes towards food, clients are able to work towards and achieve a better relationship with food, better weight control outcomes and better health- for life.
A More Personalised, Tailor-Made Service
My Mindful Eating service is therefore useful for individuals who have tried the traditional weight loss clubs and who now require a much more personalised approach. It moves away from the restrictive, often unsustainable, quick-fix diet approach and instead focuses on long-term behaviour change. It helps clients to build the self-awareness and skills that will help them to consider their thought processes and attitudes in relation to food, to manage their food environment and adopt a way of eating that is flexible, sustainable and enjoyable. Read more about how I work with clients HERE.