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 ‘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

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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

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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.     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.     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.     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 se