Generally  if I see a man for weight loss, I know it’s going to be an easy path.  We talk about why the weight went on, I explain what to eat and when to eat it, and off they go with steely determination.  They then stick to the plan, they don’t get side tracked and the weight is lost …..mostly!

However for many women, food and emotions are very intertwined, and this makes weight loss much harder. Typically women go off their food when excited – falling in love, getting married, etc, however when things go wrong, when they are sad, depressed and needing some comfort, food is what they turn to – usually chocolate.

I think there are three main reasons for this.  The first is that chocolate contains phenylethylamine – a chemical found in the body that promotes feelings of giddiness, attraction, euphoria and excitement; it is also believed  that phenylethylamine in turn causes the brain to release mesolimbic dopamine in the pleasure centers of the brain

The second reason is that if one of my clients has succumbed to a chocolate bar it is usually mid to late afternoon, a typical time for a drop in blood sugar, causing the brain to crave glucose.  These women often describe themselves as “greedy” or “weak willed” when quite simply all they needed was a sensible snack such as a small handful of nuts and a apple before the need for sugar became overwhelming.

The third reason could be ingrained from childhood.  A study on gender differences and emotions by Pennsylvania State University showed that girls expressed more submissive emotion than boys, and fathers attended more to girls emotion than to boys at pre-school age.  It is a known fact that parents often comfort with food, and if little girls are more likely to be comforted than boys, maybe this sets up the emotional eating pattern that continues into adulthood.

So what can be done? 

Learn to find other ways to comfort yourself, such as a warm bath with candles or phoning a friend. 

Don’t let your blood sugar dip which means not going to long without food and eating sensible snacks as mentioned above.

Don’t set up this pattern with your own children – if your daughter is sad there is more comfort in a hug than a chocolate bar!

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