I have always had a tempestuous relationship with food. Food has been my best friend, my enemy, my teacher.

When I feel sad or lonely, a gooey chocolate studded cookie wraps me in its comforting embrace. When I am tired and beaten down by life, a family sized bag of salty crisps seems to make the tiredness that little more bearable. When I am celebrating a joyous occasion, a huge slice of decadent, moist cake intensifies the happiness of the moment.

I don’t know about you, but food and emotion seem to fit together like no other combination I know of! The question is this…

How do we move from being controlled by food, being addicted to the wrong kinds of foods to having a nurturing, health promoting, fun relationship with our food?

When I get stressed I notice some key traits:

  • I overeat and gorge
  • I choose heavy sugar, salt or processed carbohydrate foods
  • I eat in secret, hiding the evidence
  • I no longer taste food, I am simply eating to plug an emotional hole
  • I become defensive, denying to others that I have eaten the β€˜forbidden’ food
  • I skip meals, choosing a sugary snack instead

What traits do you notice when you move into your Stress Eating Pattern?

Sometimes I am able to pull back from these emotionally and physically damaging behaviours quickly.

Perhaps I will have a blow out day, but the next morning I am back on track. Other times, the stress I am experiencing in life is so intense, so prolonged that this behaviour spirals out of control. I soon start to notice a collection of symptoms seeping into my body and mind. Here are some of mine. What do you notice?

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  • Anxiety and guilt
  • Depression and low motivation
  • Low self esteem and self confidence, not wanting to engage with others or leave the house
  • Poor skin, spots, red pigmentation, black heads and cellulite
  • Weight gain
  • Greasy, limp hair

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  • Constipation or loose stool
  • Low sex drive
  • No motivation to exercise
  • Aching low back, neck, shoulders
  • Bloating and gas

In the past this kind of behaviour would have been almost constant. I managed to beat myself up so badly with food that at the age of 25 my health had moved into a full disease processes:
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  • Amenorrhea (Loss of periods)
  • IBS
  • Anxiety
  • Eczema
  • Over weight

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  • Insomnia
  • Yeast & Fungal overgrowth
  • Parasite & Bacterial infections
  • Chronic low back pain

Karen MaidmentIf you are experiencing symptoms like these, know that your body really is crying out for some TLC. It is time to let go of the Stress Eating and begin moving towards a more harmonious relationship with food. If I can do it, you can too.

Here are some of my top tips that have, and are still helping me to choose the health boosting as opposed to health depleting foods in times of stress.

Seven Steps to Stress Free Eating

1.Β Β Β Β  SWAP – Start swapping those shop brought cookies, cakes, pastries, crackers and crisps for homemade alternatives. Look for recipes that are gluten and dairy free, and low in processed sugar. This way you can have a little comfort food without sabotaging your health in the process!

2.Β Β Β Β  RESPOND – When you feel that overwhelming pull towards your favourite stress busting food, take 60 seconds to breathe. Simply take some big belly breaths for a full minute. Whilst doing this, ask yourself, what am I really hungry for? Can I plug this hunger with something more nourishing? Perhaps a hug from a friend. A fresh fruit smoothie or a big glass of water. Maybe you need to get outside and walk…

3.Β Β Β Β  FORGIVE – If you simply can’t override the urge then at least forgive yourself when the food frenzy has passed. Wrapping yourself up in a veil of guilt and emotional torment only serves to drive this negative pattern deeper into the shadows of shame, where it will happily sit and fester until the next outburst.

4.Β Β Β Β  EDUCATE – Know that the media have set us up beautifully with the temptations of unhealthy, over-sized food choices. You only have to look at the sizes of fizzy drinks in fast food outlets to see that foods and drinks have become Super Sized! Get educated on what healthy eating truly means. Social media can provide you with a wealth of great information if you know where to look. Buy a copy of How to Eat Move and Be Healthy! by Paul Chek or my book Meals That Heal for a simple approach to achieving great health and a nurturing relationship with food.

5.Β Β Β Β  CREATE – Make your kitchen a space for fun and creativity. Try out new recipes, stock the fridge, freezer and cupboards with delish alternative stress busting foods. You could start by trying my recipe below!

6.Β Β Β Β  SUPPORT – Find a buddy that you can share your food challenges with. The first few days of saying goodbye to those binges are often the hardest. Being honest with someone you trust about your vulnerability is key to finding a greater purpose and firmer resolve.

7.Β Β Β Β  LOVE – In every single client I have worked with and indeed with my own journey, a deep lack of self love has been prevalent. So start loving yourself a little more today. Decide on one thing that you are going to enjoy in the next week that is purely for you. Let me know what you decide. For me? I am choosing to get back into my horse riding, I can’t wait!

Balance Me Smoothie

A simple smoothie recipe combining good quality fats with superfood berries and spinach to nourish your body-mind. The little hit of raw honey adds sweetness whilst providing live enzymes to help you breakdown and absorb the fruit and veggie carbohydrates. Add a hit of gelatin for a truly balanced snack.

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Karen Maidment's Berry Green Smoothie

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Ingredients (serves 1):

  • 1 handful organic spinach
  • Around 6 organic raspberries
  • Small handful organic blueberries
  • Β½ glass organic coconut milk
  • Β½ organic avocado
  • Β½ tsp organic raw honey
  • 1 tbsp Great Lakes Gelatin hydro (optional)

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  1. Place all of your ingredients into a processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Drink immediately