‘Crazy cravings’: Nutritionist talks emotional eating – why we do it & how to stop

Dark chocolate: 2018 study reveals the health benefits

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Nutritionist Karen Newby spoke exclusively to Express.co.uk about emotional eating and how it affects premenopausal women more than most.

Karen told Express.co.uk: “There’s a really interesting Japanese saying, Kuchisabishii, which is about emotional eating.

“It basically means that you’re not hungry but you eat because your mouth is lonely, and I love that.”

She revealed that “most people don’t ever feel true hunger anymore”, but rather “emotional hunger”, which is why people reach for junk food.

“We eat for a lot of reasons, because we’re bored, anxious, sad, fearful, lonely or stressed, or as a reward.

“These are all classic emotional eating cues that a lot of us are dealing with on a daily basis.”

While emotional eating is rampant across all demographics, perimenopausal women suffer more so than most: “During perimenopause, our hunger hormone, ghrelin, increases.

“There’s a reason why we suddenly put on all this weight.”

And the problem with emotional eating as opposed to eating due to physical hunger is that “you’re not actually getting satisfied”.

As for whether people should allow themselves to get to the stage of physical hunger, Karen believes they “absolutely” should.

“People don’t feel hungry anymore because we’re constantly snacking.”

“If we allow ourselves to feel physically hungry it actually allows our stomach acid to increase in order to be ready for food, whereas if you’re constantly eating your digestive function is overrun.”

Karen’s top tip for curbing emotional eating during perimenopause and “rewiring our feelings of emotional hunger” is “staying one step ahead of those crazy cravings”.

“The first two hours of the day are really, really important.

“Make sure you have a protein rich breakfast, eggs, mushrooms or avocado on toast, but not your Shreddies. And Wheetabix sticks to your gut like glue – I mean, gluten does mean glue in Latin.”

Karen added: “It will really help only having caffeine only with breakfast.

“With caffeine, like alcohol, if you have it on an empty stomach, it will have a greater effect on your hormones.”

If, despite these breakfast tips, cravings persist, Karen is “all about celebrating food” and doesn’t believe in cutting out sugar.

Rather, when experiencing a “crazy” sugar craving, she recommends buying a fresh cake rather than a processed one, or better yet baking it yourself.

“That way it becomes an event, whereas I think for a lot of us, we’re eating junk food without actually realising and not taking any pleasure from it.

“You will never be satisfied if you have a Dairy Milk bar, for example, because Dairy Milk have combined something that you never see in nature which is a high fat and high sugar food.”

There are high fat food such as nuts and seeds, and high sugar foods such as berries, but food marketers know that by combining both, people think “they need to keep going and they can’t physically stop eating”.

Karen suggested some healthy sweet swaps for when cravings hit: “If you eat three squares of milk chocolate you will want to eat whole pack.

“Raw cacao chocolate still has a really nice sweet taste to it, but because it’s more bitter, you don’t need so much of it.

Another “amazing” snack to try when cravings hit are dark chocolate covered Brazil nuts.

“You have three of those and you feel totally satisfied because the nut gives you lots of fat and the dark chocolate stops you constantly wanting more.

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