My lockdown dietary shame revealed

  • I have to confess something to you 
  • How emotions influence your health 
  • Four danger signs to watch for

I started writing these emails back in the Dark Ages…

When the internet was only knee-high to a grasshopper…

And most of cyberspace was all fields.

During that time, I’ve researched a lot of health subjects and made many amazing discoveries about physical and mental wellbeing.

Because of that, I’ve made changes to my lifestyle – following the advice I give you as much as possible.

In comparison to the Ray Collins of the early noughties, I eat a much more balanced diet, with whole food supplementation and daily exercise in the form of brisk dog walking (and a lot of bending over to pick up poo).

However, I’ve never been ashamed to admit this…

At heart, I’m a chocaholic, bread-aholic, carb-aholic, fridge raiding monster.

No matter how much reading and research I do, my brain is embroiled in a daily struggle with my natural urges.

And this latest lockdown really tested me…

By February, I found myself a stone heavier than the same time the previous year, with a recurring stomach-ache that was beginning to worry me.

How did that happen?

Well, I guess isolation, worry and boredom got to me.

Without realising it, I was beginning to break my own guidelines.

The portion sizes grew… the amount of bread I ate increased… and I started to ‘overtreat’ myself to snacks and chocolate.

On top of that, Lara and I were getting takeaways most weekends because we couldn’t go out anywhere nice for dinner.

So why am I telling you this?

Well, it’s to reassure you that even health and nutrition writers go through battles with temptation.

(And I’ll BET you that many of the finger-wagging holier-than-thou health gurus are the same.)

You see, it’s fine to know in your head what you should be doing to live well.

But we’re not always ruled by our heads, are we?

How emotions influence your health

We humans are emotional creatures and many of our decisions are driven by those emotions – just ask anyone who works in advertising!

Sometimes we don’t even notice that strong impulses are dominating our behaviour.

This is particularly true when we’re stressed, anxious or bored…

Those are unhealthy factors when it comes to eating because they lead us to seek comfort in sugary foods and saturated fats.

Four signs of emotional eating are:

  • A sudden surge of hunger, rather than a gradually increasing hunger
  • A feeling you really need to eat now, rather than waiting
  • A craving for comfort foods (depending on what those are for you, whether it’s cheese on toast, ice cream or a chocolate bar)
  • You feel a bit guilty after you’ve eaten

This is why it’s important to look at your mental wellbeing as well as to address what you are eating.

Because if the emotional drivers of your eating problems aren’t dealt with, your attempts to eat healthily will only be temporary.

In fact, it might make your emotional state worse, causing you to flip back to your old ways within weeks.

However, life problems can’t always be ‘fixed’ immediately.

So in the meantime you need to find a way to get on a healthy diet you can stick to – because sometimes unhealthy eating can make your mental health worse!

As an example, let me share what I did to get myself out of my food rut.

A diet without the ‘crash’

When I realised that I had piled on the pounds, I didn’t follow a crash weight-loss diet…

In late February I simply cut out the sugar treats, stopped the takeaways and made sure I was eating fresh fruit and veg every day, with fewer processed carbs like pasta and bread.

I chose fruit with probiotic yogurt for breakfast, soup for lunch, and a dinner with lots of veg and a protein of some kind.

I ate lots of nuts and dried raisins as snacks but also allowed myself hunks of cheese and the occasional bit of dark chocolate.

At no point did I try to starve myself or obsess over calorie intake. In fact, I allowed myself to eat three sizeable meals a day.

But I noticed that within a few weeks my food cravings had started to diminish anyway.

I felt better, emotionally – partly because I was happy that the problem was being solved, but also because the diet was giving me more energy.

When the local swimming pool opened, I started going there, to get the endorphins flowing.

I also got stuck into some great books that absorbed my attention, relieved boredom and got me fired up with ideas for future projects.

Two months later, that troublesome stomach-ache is gone and I’m quite a few pounds lighter.

This isn’t to show off – it’s just to demonstrate that you can get significant results from a dietary change.

It didn’t take too much willpower because I was never really hungry – actually I was LESS hungry because I was avoiding bread, biscuits and pasta which give you those blood sugar spikes.

However, without the instant gratification of a crash diet where you see weight loss quickly, you have to be patient and play the long game.

It took well over six weeks for my efforts to have an effect on my stomach pain – and that’s likely because it took that long for my stomach bacteria to find a proper balance again.

Anyway, I realise that I have talked a lot about me today but I just wanted to share my experience.

This way, if you have similar struggles, know that you’re not alone!