How to Spot Emotional Eating and What To Do About It

Picture this: You hit the snooze button one too many times, had a last minute project thrown at you at work, and then sat in an hour of frustrating evening traffic.

Finally home, you breathe a sigh of relief, head into the kitchen, and decide you deserve a snack after the day you’ve had. Maybe you reach for a few crackers, then a bit of chocolate.

Before you know it, you’ve munched your way through the entire kitchen without eating a proper meal. You’re stuffed, ashamed, and wondering what the heck just happened?!

Sound familiar?

It’s called emotional eating, which is eating for any other reason besides actual physical hunger, fuel or nourishment.

3 Trademarks of Emotional Eating

  • Binging – usually on high-sugar and carbohydrate-rich comfort foods (i.e. junk food). How many people do you know who reach for carrots or broccoli when they’re upset?
  • Mindlessly eating – you’re not aware of what or how much you’re eating or how those foods are making your body feel. You’re usually mentally checked out while eating them.
  • Eating to numb, soothe, please, relax, or reward self, i.e. “I had a bad day and deserve it” kind of thinking. Eating during these times provides temporary relief, but often leaves you feeling worse than where you started.

I’ve had my own experiences with emotional eating. When I first started my business, I’d reward myself after a long day’s work by walking to my favourite coffee shop for a peanut butter cookie. Pretty soon one cookie turned into two, and before long I’d skip the walk and drive there to get my evening treat.

What started out as a fun habit and a little treat for myself soon became the highlight of my evening, and I’d be moody if I didn’t get to reward myself with my favourite cookie. Sometimes I’d even want to skip dinner and just have cookies instead. That’s when I knew I had to take a step back and reevaluate this habit.

Looking back, it wasn’t so much about the cookie as it was a chance for me to check out and relax. When I set better boundaries around my time and allowed myself to designate my evenings to personal time I stopped feeling like I needed to mark “my time” with a treat and the habit was easy to break.

The trouble with emotional eating is it overrides your body’s natural hunger cycle and can promote things like:

  • weight gain
  • an increase in your risk for inflammation and chronic disease
  • create an unhealthy relationship between you and food
  • lead to more dangerous types of disordered eating

What Triggers Emotional Eating?

Even though it’s called “emotional eating” because people often reach for food to cope with their feelings, there are a lot of other non-hunger reasons that can prompt you to eat.

Some common non-hunger reasons include:

  • Uncomfortable emotions, like anger, guilt, fear, and sadness
  • Stress
  • Boredom
  • Need to feel pleasure and/or comfort

Six Tips to Help You Get a Handle on Emotional Eating

If any of those scenarios sound familiar, know that you’re not alone. Emotional eating affects a lot of people at one point in their lives.

Here are six great tips to stop emotional eating in its tracks:

1. Have a non-food outlet to process uncomfortable feelings

  • Try journaling, exercising, or talking to a trusted friend or coach

2. Manage stress

  • Exercise, meditation, deep breathing, getting enough sleep, and not taking on more than you can realistically handle can help decrease stress levels.

3. Recognize boredom

  • Call a friend, take a walk, pick up a book, or tackle a DIY project or hobby you’ll enjoy when you know boredom is likely to strike.

4. Practice self-care

  • Set aside time to take care of your needs. Tune in to your body to notice if you need to rest, move, stretch, or have some fun, then follow your body’s lead.

5. Practice mindful eating

  • Avoid distractions at meals. Your focus should be on the food in front of you.
  • Eat slowly, chew, and savour each bite. This helps give your body time to receive the signal from your brain when it’s full.
  • Stop eating when you feel full.

6. Eat a balanced diet

  • The majority of your diet should be nutrient-dense whole foods.
  • Allow for occasional treats and indulgences so you don’t feel deprived.
  • Include protein, fibre, and healthy fat at each meal to promote satiety.

BONUS: Reward yourself with something other than food. Often we use food as the focal point for celebrations, but this can be problematic if you’re prone to emotional eating. Instead focus on a fun activity, connecting with someone you care about, or doing something you enjoy, which will take the focus off food.


RECIPE:

These energy balls feel like an indulgent snack, but are made from whole food ingredients and contain a bit of protein, healthy fat, and fibre to help you feel satisfied.

Chocolate Chip Almond Butter Energy Balls

Ingredients

1 cup natural almond butter (or other natural nut butter)

½ cup coconut flour

½ cup ground flax seeds

¼ cup hemp hearts

½ cup dark chocolate chips

¼ cup maple syrup

Pinch of sea salt

How to prepare

1. Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, stirring until smooth. If mixture is too thick, add 1 Tbsp. of water at a time to help the mixture come together.

2. Scoop 1 tablespoon of the mixture and use your hands to roll into a ball. Repeat with remaining mixture.

3. Store energy balls in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 week.


REFERENCES:

Study: Current Diabetes Reports, 2018 — Causes of Emotional Eating and Matched Treatment of Obesity

Study: Journal of Health Psychology, 2015 — Boredom proneness and emotion regulation predict emotional eating

Healthline: Mindful Eating 101 – A Beginner’s Guide

How to Have More Time for Yourself

I used to do this thing where I’d go out of my way and sacrifice my needs to help my friends and family.

I wanted them to feel taken care of, supported and loved (still do!). But what I found after a while of putting everyone else first, was that my stuff was always on the back-burner…

I’d have hectic weeks because I said yes to something on the weekend and lost my meal prep time.

I’d stay on the phone during my workday for an hour with a friend in need, and end up having to work late.

I love my people, but something had to give because I was always left holding the bag – MY bag, with all the things I needed to do for myself in it.

Recently I did a Facebook Live where I talked about the 3 important realizations that I had about how to make more time for yourself. Check it out here….

Here are some things I learned about how to make more time for myself:

  1. When I’m clear on my priorities, it’s easier to say yes/no to other things because I know what I need to dedicate my time to.
  1. Efficiency saves the day – I’ve learned to double up on my time by taking walking meetings or planning my work tasks around the errands I need to run.
  1. Usually, things can be done faster. Rather than giving myself a whole Sunday to accomplish housework, if I condense the task into 2 hours in the evening I can usually get it all done in that time, leaving more time for something else.

A note on perfectionism – in learning to make myself a priority I’ve had to let go of some perfectionist tendencies. To be honest, I don’t think I realized I was being a “perfectionist” about things, I just lived by this internal set of rules that I held myself accountable to. It wasn’t until I started feeling overwhelmed by the amount I’d need to do to keep up with all my personal expectations that I realized it was a bit much. So, I slowly started to loosen the grip on some things…

For example, I used to pressure myself to show up “professionally” at all my meetings. It became overwhelming to try to balance a full meeting schedule and get my daily workouts in, or teach yoga. Considering I live my life in yoga clothes (I’m either coming from or on my way to the studio) I’ve decided it’s ok to take business meetings in my yoga clothes.

Now I book my meetings right after a yoga class at the cafe next door. My colleagues understand that I’m prioritizing my wellness and respect me for it. I’ve come to respect myself for it too because it’s one way I prioritize my health vs stressing over superficial details.

So, if you find yourself suffocating underneath the expectations you’ve set for yourself, try loosening the grip a bit. If you do this and put the three tips above into practice, you might just find you have more time for yourself.

Adaptogens 101: Part of Natural Stress Management

If you haven’t heard of adaptoens, you’re in for a treat! This is one group of supplements that anyone can benefit from. Their name says it all – they help your body adapt to stress. Adaptogens work in a unique way, by helping you perk up or calm down, depending on what your body needs. They’re like the chameleons of the supplement world.

Read on to discover the different types of adaptogens and how they can support you.

You may hear the word ‘STRESS’ and immediately think of the mental and emotional aspects along the lines of feeling overwhelmed, overly busy, and/or anxious.

In reality, the body actually encounters different forms of stress every day and is always working to restore homeostasis (the body’s happy place, or natural equilibrium).

Your body is constantly being bombarded by stressors – even when you don’t feel stressed. In fact, you probably won’t feel stressed day-to-day from some of these ongoing sources of stress because your body is adept at dealing with them.

Here are some examples of common, daily stressors:

  • Exercise – yep, it’s good for you, but it’s a form of stress the body has to deal with!
  • Lack of sleep
  • Toxins – like exposure to environmental pollutants, heavy metals, and chemicals in personal care and cleaning products
  • Viruses/Colds
  • Anxiety – which can be caused by stress or exacerbates existing stress
  • Stimulation – in the form of light, screens, loud or constant noise and bombarding visuals
  • Negative thoughts – patterns of thinking that affect your emotions and body’s hormonal response

Decreasing stress is critical for good health. There are many effects of ongoing stress including: weight gain, poor digestion, increased inflammation, accelerated cellular aging, hormonal imbalances, including adrenal dysfunction – your adrenals are responsible for your body’s response to stress.

Good news – there are plenty of ways to reduce the impact of stress in your life, including:

  • Getting to bed before 10:30 pm and getting enough sleep
  • Keep up with a regular exercise routine
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet full of whole foods
  • Consuming enough healthy fats to support your hormones
  • Practicing tried ‘n true stress relief techniques
  • Processing your emotions (through talking, journaling and personal reflection)
  • Yoga, meditation and other practices that calm your nervous system

But, if you’re looking for something to naturally supplement your diet with, in a way that can minimize the impact that daily stressors have on your body, you might want to consider adding an adaptogen (or two) to your health plan.

What are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens – or Adaptogenic Herbs – are plant-based supplements (usually in pill or powder form) that do just what they sound like: they can help your body adapt to the stressors of your personal environment.

Adaptogens have a long history of use in ancient medical practices, like TCM – Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic practices.

Current research has found that Adaptogens boost mental function, attention span, and energy during times of stress and reduce the overall production of inflammatory stress hormones, like cortisol.

Here are 5 common adaptogens:

  • ASHWAGANDHA – decreases anxiety, calming effect
  • ASIAN GINSENG – decreases fatigue, calming effect
  • MACA – boosts energy levels, balances hormones
  • RHODIOLA ROSEA – boosts energy and immune system function
  • SCHISANDRA FRUIT – enhances energy and cognitive function

How do Adaptogens work?

The molecular pathways involved in the body’s stress response are complex.

The 3 glands responsible for regulating stress hormones:

  • Hypothalamus
  • Pituitary
  • Adrenals

These glands function in your body’s stress response. This is called the HPA axis which refers to the cascade of hormone secretion and effects that your body launches to cope with stress in your body.

Contrary to what you might think, your body’s stress response isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually a helpful, adaptive mechanism that supports you in living your best live. When you’re experiencing prolonged stress this healthy sequence of events can be disrupted (something called HPA Axis Dysfunction) which is when you’ll start seeing negative symptoms (like hormonal imbalance) resulting from stress.

Research has found Adaptogens help support these glands in achieving equilibrium or homeostasis – a fancy way of saying that they help stress hormones get back into balance.

Unlike caffeine, alcohol, and other drugs, Adaptogens can gently help reduce stress hormones, decrease anxiety levels, and prevent fatigue without any crazy spikes or crashes in energy.

How do you take Adaptogens – and are they safe?

Adaptogens are available in pill or powdered form, of which powders can easily be added to teas, smoothies, soups, and other recipes – see our recipe at the end!

The best part about these herbal supplements is that it’s not necessary to take every Adaptogen every day, and choosing just one to add to your routine can still provide health benefits.

It’s recommended to rotate between Adaptogens, using one at a time for several weeks and then switching to another, if desired, to reap the benefits of several varieties.

You should follow the dosing instructions on the product label or consult with a Natural Health Practitioner for specific Adaptogen recommendations related to the health conditions that you may be experiencing.

It’s important to note, though, that while most adaptogens are generally safe for nearly everyone, please supplement with awareness.

RECIPE

Maca Mocha Smoothie

Ingredients

¾ cup coconut or other dairy-free milk
¼ cup brewed coffee, cooled
1 banana, frozen in chunks
1 tsp maca powder (can work up to 2 tsp per day)
1 tsp – 1 Tb cacao powder, raw & unprocessed (non-Dutch)
Optional: 2 tsp raw cacao nibs

Preparation

Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender.

Blend until frothy and desired consistency.

Add in cacao nibs for last 10 seconds of blending for added texture. Crunch with benefits!

REFERENCES

Healthline: Adaptogenic Herbs: List, Effectiveness, and Health Benefits

Healthline: Smart Girl’s Guide to Adaptogens for Hormonal Balance and Stress

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2017: Understanding adaptogenic activity: specificity of the pharmacological action of adaptogens and other phytochemicals

Pharmaceuticals, 2010: Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity

Food Colours & Dye: Are they safe? Should you avoid them?

It’s the time of year where busy parents get even busier- back to school. Suddenly there’s a push to buy (in bulk) kids’ treats and foods that will make school lunches easier.

Pay attention though to the ingredients in your children’s snacks. Food colours and dyes are one thing in particular to pay attention to since children can be most sensitive to these (adults too!).

At the end of the day, if you’re buying convenience snacks for your kids’ to save yourself time in the kitchen but they have the potential for negative health effects, are you really coming out ahead?

Remember that whole foods like fruit, seeds, cut up vegetables, even whole grain crackers will win out nutritionally over anything that’s processed and dyed.

Despite the growing trend of healthier and safer food products being introduced into the marketplace, you might be surprised to learn that the consumption of artificial food colours, has been increasing over the years, especially among packaged products marketed to children.

Food colours and dyes have been around since the mid-1800’s and were originally created from coal tar – today, they are typically made from petroleum. (yum!)

Many food manufacturers choose to use artificial dyes vs. natural ones because they create more radiant hues, whereas natural food colours tend to create more of a pastel look.

Artificial food colours are used by food manufacturers in a variety of products, including candy, maraschino cherries, cereal, baked goods, sports drinks, pickles (yes, pickles!), smoked salmon (think pink), and even medications.

The safety of artificial food colours has been very controversial among consumers for some time now, despite several regulatory agencies stating that artificial food colours do not pose significant health risks and are therefore safe to use.

One reason behind the controversy, which has resulted in conflicting opinions regarding their safety, is that some countries have deemed artificial food colours to be safe while some countries have banned them from human consumption.

There have been claims that artificial food colours cause serious side effects in some people, including cancer, allergies, and hyperactivity in children. [1, 2, 3, 4]

The following colours are approved by the FDA for use in food:

  • Blue No. 1 (Brilliant Blue): Found in ice cream, canned peas, soup packets, icing, dairy products, ice pops, and beverages.
  • Blue No. 2 (Indigo Carmine): Found in candy, ice cream, cereal and snacks.
  • Green No. 3 (Fast Green): Found in canned peas and other vegetables, jellies, sauces, desserts, salad dressings, cereal, pre-cooked pasta, and dry bakery mixes. This food dye is banned in Europe.
  • Orange B: Found in the casings and surfaces of hot dogs and sausages.
  • Citrus Red No. 2: Found in the skins of oranges that are intended to be eaten (not when an orange is intended or used for processing).
  • Red No. 3 (Erythrosine): Found in candy, popsicles, cake-decorating gels, and pistachio gels.
  • Red No. 40 (Allura Red): Found in soft drinks, sports drinks, cotton candy, cereals, and condiments.
  • Yellow No. 5 (Tartrazine): Found in lemon filling in baked goods, cereal, rice, noodles, cotton candy, instant pudding and gelatin, cake mixes, soft drinks, energy drinks, powdered drink mixes, corn chips and potato chips, chewing gum, and popcorn.
  • Yellow No. 6 (Sunset Yellow): Found in cereal, dry mixes and seasonings, baked goods, sausage, meat, and snack foods. Used with amaranth to produce a brown color in chocolate and caramel.

One important thing to note about the foods listed here is that very few of them are whole foods. You can avoid food dyes altogether by sticking to the perimeter of the grocery store and purchasing real, whole foods.

Wondering if the food products you consume contain artificial food colouring?

Read the ingredient labels on the packaging – any artificial food colouring that has been added is required to be listed on food packaging.

Keep in mind that there is no nutritional benefit to using artificial food colouring – not even if it makes it “look” healthier because it looks more fruity!

Should you avoid food colouring and food dyes?

On the whole, food dyes are likely not dangerous for most people, but some are more sensitive to them than others – and some children should be especially mindful of their consumption.

Taking steps to avoid processed foods that contain dyes is a good idea for most everyone, and can improve your overall health.

If you are concerned about the safety and health implications of using artificial food colouring, you can easily make your own natural food dyes using fruits and vegetables, right in your own kitchen! Use these for birthday cakes, icing, dying eggshells and more.

RECIPE(S)

Pink Food Coloring

  • 1/4 cup (62 grams) canned beets (drained)
  • 1 teaspoon drained beet juice (from the canned beets)

In a blender or food processor, blend the beets and juice together until smooth. Strain if desired. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Yellow Food Coloring

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

In a small saucepan, boil the water and turmeric together for 3 to 5 minutes. Allow to fully cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Turmeric can stain just about anything it comes into contact with, including countertops, containers, and your skin. Therefore, consider wearing gloves when working with turmeric and use a container that you don’t mind turning yellow.

Purple Food Coloring

  • 1/4 cup (35 grams) blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, thaw and drain)
  • 2 teaspoons water

In a blender or food processor, blend the blueberries and water together until smooth. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the skins from the mix. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Green Food Coloring

  • 3 tablespoons water (additional water may be needed)
  • 1 cup (30 grams) spinach, fresh or frozen (if frozen, thaw and drain)

Fresh spinach: In a small saucepan, boil the spinach in enough water to cover the spinach for 5 minutes. Drain and discard the water. Go to the next step.

Frozen and thawed spinach: Skip to the next step.

In a blender or food processor, blend the spinach and water together until completely smooth. If the mixture clumps together or refuses to blend, add more water as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time. Strain, if desired, and let cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

References

Healthline: Food Dyes – Harmless or Harmful?

* Other relevant studies linked in [1, 2, 3, 4]

Are Nutrient Deficiencies Causing Your Health Issues?

You’re living a fast-paced life and it seems like you’re always being pulled frome one thing to the next. Somehow in there you manage to grab a smoothie, some toast, and the occasional sit down meal. But have you ever thought that your sporadic eating habits influence more than whether you feel full or not?

The food you take in is responsible for giving you all the nutrients your body needs to produce new healthy cells, hormones, and repair your tissues. The thing is, many of us aren’t getting enough nutrients, so we’re missing key building blocks that our bodies need.

Nutrient deficiencies can be behind some common health concerns. They can also be at the root of more serious diseases and chronic lifestyle issues. Read below to see if your health concerns can be traced back to nutrient deficiencies.

Many nutrition professionals generally advise that a healthful, balanced diet can provide most people with the nutrients essential for good health.

Fruit and vegetables naturally contain a number of beneficial nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants and other biologically active components – or phytochemicals.

In fact, it has been documented that consumption of at least 5 servings per day is linked with a reduced risk of various diseases, including several cancers and heart disease.

However, with the overall lack of nutrient bioavailability due to things like:

  • inadequate fruit and vegetable servings
  • soil depletion
  • over-processing of food
  • treated water

It’s no wonder that many of us are indeed lacking in a number of key nutrients that we once came by very easily. We simply aren’t eating our Grandmother’s fruits & veggies anymore!

Do you have any of THESE health issues right now?

(You may be surprised to learn that there may be a connection to certain symptoms with actually having a nutritional deficiency!)

Muscle twitches or leg cramps?

A nutrient that is commonly found in plant foods, but also commonly lacking in our diets due to all of the reasons for poor bioavailability, is magnesium.

This talented mineral is involved as a cofactor for a range of biochemical reactions in the body, is involved in the structural development of bone, and plays a role in nerve impulse conduction, maintaining a normal heart rhythm and muscle contraction.

Helloooo dark chocolate! Yes, dark chocolate is high in magnesium, just like dark leafy green vegetables.

Hormonal issues causing chaos? Maybe your fats aren’t so good.

FYI, while hormonal imbalances are another topic entirely, here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of hormone imbalances:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia and poor sleep
  • Low libido
  • Infertility and irregular periods
  • Weight loss, weight gain or weight loss resistance
  • Digestive issues
  • Hair loss and hair thinning

Hormonal imbalances are complex, multi-faceted issues, meaning they are caused by a combination of factors such as your diet, medical history, genetics, stress levels and exposure to toxins from your environment.

Again, another topic altogether, but one of the major contributors to hormonal imbalances includes your diet – and specifically a lack of fats. Good fats, that is!

Hormones are built on fat, and your body can only use the building blocks you give it.

Think wild-caught salmon, hemp seeds, coconut oil, avocados, and a special mention of GLA (gamma linoleic acid) found in evening primrose and borage oils – studies have shown that supplementing with GLA can support healthy progesterone levels.

How’s your nail health? Maybe not as good as you think! Here are some signs to watch for:

What’s considered ‘normal’ differs in everyone, but generally, fingernails should be clear, smooth, pliable and peachy-pink in colour.

White spots

Ever noticed white spots on your nails?

While this is most often due to mild trauma (like banging your nail against something hard), it can also indicate a zinc deficiency.

Horizontal lines, ridges and spoons

What about horizontal lines or ridges across your nails?

These are sometimes called Beau’s lines, and may be due to a zinc deficiency but could be indicative of low iron or anemia. Nails can be spoon-shaped at the tips with iron deficiency as well.

Dry, brittle and peeling

Dry, brittle, thin or peeling nails?

Could just be dry nails, but possibly also…

  • a lack of protein
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Deficiency in one or more B vitamins

No half moons?

Ever noticed the lighter-toned half-moons at the base of your fingernail? Or perhaps you haven’t noticed them because they’re absent all together!

This is usually due to a Vitamin B12 deficiency and is also associated with anemia.

So, how do we get all the nutrients we need, and improve our health?

Even with striving to maintain a healthful, balanced diet, it’s apparent that many of us may not be getting all the nutrients we need for optimal health.

Things that contribute to acquiring nutrient deficiencies:

  • Lack of nutrient bioavailability
  • Poor dietary choices
  • Restricted diets
  • Food sensitivities & intolerances
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Poor nutrient absorption (through the small intestine)
  • Some medications
  • Age

As always, getting your full complement of nutrients is encouraged through whole food sources, but sometimes our diet just isn’t meeting all of our needs and this is where supplementation may be necessary.

RECIPE

For better nutrient bioavailability, there are certain food pairings that increase the uptake and absorption of one or more nutrients = synergistic effect.

For example, pairing sources of Vitamin C with sources of Iron to increase the uptake and absorption of the Iron.

My favourite way to do this is in a fresh, vibrant spinach salad with juicy strawberries!

Spinach-Strawberry Salad with Berry Vinaigrette

Ingredients

8 cups baby spinach leaves (organic preferable)
4 cups strawberries, fresh sliced (organic preferable)
½ red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup walnuts, chopped & toasted (or other fave nut or seed, lightly toasted)

Dairy option: crumbled goat cheese

Dressing – in a small bowl, whisk together the following:

½ avocado or virgin olive oil
¼ cup balsamic (or raspberry-infused wine vinegar for a lighter, less sweet option)
2 Tbsp honey (unpasteurized preferable)
Pinch smoked paprika
Salt & pepper to taste

Salad preparation

In a large bowl, gently toss all salad ingredients.

Pour dressing over top and toss gently to just combine.

If using, sprinkle goat cheese over the top of salad or just on individual plates as it can get “mashed into” the salad very easily.

Spinach does not generally keep very long, and becomes wilted quickly. This salad is best served immediately.

REFERENCES

The Wellness Business Hub: Yes, We Do Have Nutrient Deficiencies!
CanPrev: Nutrient Deficiencies – Why Nearly Everyone Has Them
Scientific American: Have Fruits & Vegetables Become Less Nutritious?
Dr Axe: Balance Hormones Naturally