Changing relationship with food: Sep'13

7 October 2013

In this live chat, Dr Mark Winwood answered your questions in regards to changing relationship's with food.

AXA PPP healthcare: Hello, and welcome to this afternoon's live chat. Dr Mark Winwood is now available to answer your questions about changing relationships with food

Anonymous161 asked: I have a terrible relationship with food, I constantly think it about it, or when my next meal is.
How do you get out of the bad cycle?

Dr Mark Winwood answered: Hello Anonymous 161 - this is a very common issue. It is important to think about what food means to you and what you are using it for. If you are using it to fill bordom in your life - perhaps increase activities or plans. The worst thing you can do is to try and stop thinking about it - as soomn as you try and stop thinking about anything i can be sure you'll think of it more - example - try not thinking about a pink elephant - bet you can't! Perhaps rather than dwelling on the thoughts as a bad thing perhaps turn it into something positive. Food is important - so use your thoughts to plan a healthy meal and enjoy your food rather than punishing yourself.
Good luck!

Hez_p asked: I find I tend to binge when I'm feeling down. How can I stop this?

Dr Mark Winwood answered: Hello Hez_p.  Binge eating is something that is not uncommon reaction to feeling down or depressed.  There are a numbero f ways you can deal with the problems associated with this depending on the extent to which you feel you binge, the amount of times or regularity of the behaviour and if there is any associated behaviours such as puging or being sick (bulimia). If this is something you do rarely a self-help programme might be really helpful for you. If this something that is effecting many areas of your life and is becoming habitual - therapy with a specialist cognitive behaviour therapist might be useful or even some medication to help you manage your mood. I would recommend you see your GP or healthworker at your local surgery to discuss this behaviour if you feel it has become problematic.
All the best

Anonymous182 asked: Hi, I've always been a tea drinker but recently I've been feeling a bit sick after my afternoon cuppa. Any ideas?

Dr Mark Winwood answered: Sorry - not within my area of expertise.

Anonymous182 commented: oh ok, thanks anyway

AXA PPP healthcare commented: Hi Anonymous182, one of our other experts might be able to help. You can find our Ask our Experts service on our expert advice hub.

AXA PPP healthcare asked: We've just had a question from John on Twitter: "I have recently quit smoking and have seen my cravings increase, and I've put on quite a bit of weight, how can I reduce these cravings whilst not reverting back to smoking?"

Dr Mark Winwood answered: Hello John.  Well done for stopping smoking - the health risks associated with a bit of extra weight are nothing compared to the health benefits you will gain from not smoking.
Your cravings can increase, or be replaced by food when you stop smoking.  You may find you will enjoy food more because you can taste better or you might find that food replaces the 'hand to mouth' activity of smoking.  What I always recommend is have healthy snacks available at all times - such as carrot sticks or fruit.  Try and replace the foods you would automatically go to with something more healthy. It might also be a great time for you to increase your level of exercise - which will burn off any excess calories.
Good luck

Jen22 asked: Hi, I've recently found my appetite has disappeared. I don't intend to lose weight, but I often just don't have the motivation to eat. Is this related to stress?

Dr Mark Winwood answered: Hello Jen 22. Some people when they are stressed or anxious eat more - some eat less.  So the easy answer to your question is - yes - it can be due to stress or if you are feeling low.  However, lossing you appetite can be due to other things - that are more physiological in nature so i woudl recommend if this has been going on for more than a fwe weeks that you visit your GP and explain whats been happening.
There is a really strong link between food consumption and mood - and appetite can go back to as it was once the stressors or event that has contributed to the low mood has resolved.  Perhaps think about events in your life that might have impacted on your mood and see if the appetite changes co-incide with this.
All the best

Jen22 commented: Thanks

Anonymous183 asked: Hi Dr Winwood, I have a friend who struggled with an eating disorder when she was younger. She's mostly better now, but when she has a bad day or there's a problem she's struggling with, she stops eating again. Can you give me some advice on how I can be supportive to her?

Dr Mark Winwood answered: Dear Anonymous 183 - it sounds to me as though you are already being supportive to her.  Eating disorders, a bit like addictive disorders can re-occur and people can relapse.  It is not uncommon for people who have had eating disorders in the past to use this as their 'go to' coping strategy when they are down or they are struggling with aspects of their life. The best thing you can do is to listen to your friend and help her deal in more helpful ways with their concerns.  It might be important for you also to monitor how she is coping so you can recommend introducing some formal support where necessary.
It is really important when you are supporting anyone to also look after yourself and dont ignore your own needs.

Mickie asked: I've never liked vegetables since I was a kid, but I realise now that avoiding them isn't the best thing for my health. How can I get out of this mind set?

Dr Mark Winwood answered: Hi Mickie - kids hating vegetables is not an unusal one!  But sometimes we take those rules and apply them to our adult selves.  If we decide before we try something that we are not going to like it i can almost guarantee - we won't!  The mind is strong and can help you with this.  I can suggest a couple of things:
1. Try vegetables that you didn't have as a child - that don't have the same negative memories
2. Try remembering that you are now an adult and your taste has changed - many kids dont like the tast of alcohol - that changes!
3. Try positive affirmations - affirmations are a powerful tool to reverse negative thoughts and reprogram your beliefs, behaviour and actions. They can change the way you see the food. So try
• This plate of food is so good for me.
• My body knows how to use this food.
• My cells are about to be not nourished with so much goodness.
Good luck!

Mickie commented: Cool, will try! thanks

Anonymous184 asked: I need a meal plan to help me loose weight. I am 80kg now and I need yo loose 20kg

Dr Mark Winwood answered: Dear Anonymous 184 - I am really glad you have asked about a meal plan rather than a diet!  The task ahead is not one of just weight  loss it is one of weight maintenance once the desired weight has been achieved.  Popular diets, can be, very difficult to maintain and that is why many people are always on them and why the diet industry makes such a lot of money!.  The best thing to do is, under the guidance of your GP if necessary, reduce your calories - the best way of doing this is to decrease portion size and try to avoid high suagr and high fat foods - ie alcohol, sweets.  Be careful of foods that are 'low fat' as sometimes the fat is replaced by sugar .  Increasing your activity level will also help you - as you will burn more calories.
A good 'App' to use if 'My fitness Pal' as it means that you can keep a track on your calorie intake and also your activity level. and have examples of healthy eating plans to help you lose and maintain healthy weight. Good luck!

Anonymous184 commented: Thank you so much

Anonymous184 commented: I really need to pep my activity level ip

Dr Mark Winwood commented: Think of smalls steps to a greater gain.
You don't have to get to the gym everyday from tomorrow and do a 90 minute workout - start with a lunch time walk, move up to a 10 minute jog etc..... it needed be expensive or cut into your time too much.
All the best

AXA PPP healthcare asked: We've had a question come through from Jenny on Facebook: "After undergoing a hip operation I have lost a lot of weight, how can I quickly get back to my usual size?"

Dr Mark Winwood answered: Hello Jenny.  Just as we would advise someone who wants to lose weight to reduce thier calories - you need to increase yours.  However, it is important to increase them in a measured way and in foods that are good for you as you recover from surgery.
Calories dense foods such as
•Add high calorie foods to existing dishes - Nuts, seeds, and dried fruit make a great addition to salads, rices dishes, pasta dishes, etc...
 •Add healthy fats and oils to existing dishes - Add olive oil or peanut oil to as many foods as possible. I.E.: rice, sandwhiches, salads...
 •Increase portion sizes - Create larger meals of calorie dense foods like rice, mashed potatoes, and pasta.
 •Drink Calories - Drinks are an easy way to intake calories . Drink juice, soy milk, milk, smoothies, and other healthy high calorie beverages.
 •Do Muscle Building (Anarobic) Exercises - Muscle building exercises increase appetite and also increase weight as your body builds muscle. This is especially true when combined with high protein foods like nuts, peanut butter, fish, or beans.  Only exercise with the agreement of your healthcare professional due to your surgery.
There are also a number of build-up drinks on the market that you can have between meals that will add calories.
All the best!

MrsK asked: I've always had a bad relationship with food. I was overweight as child and would starve myself a lot as a teen. When I got to uni I would binge a lot as I was lonely. I'm now 13 stone and need to lose at least 4 st but I'm worried I might slip into bad habits again if I start tracking what I eat. Any suggestions?

Dr Mark Winwood answered: Hello Mrs K - a few tips for you
1.  Look at what you are using food for - is it a reward, is it because you are low, do you feel lonely, are you punishing yourself?  Knowing this can really help you understand what your triggers are for binge eating or eating foods that are not healthy for you - remember if you are reaching for food when you are not hungry - there is something more emotional going on
2. Remove the temptation - try and clear out the cupboards of foods that do not support your goal
3. Try and understand how much suagr is in the foods you eat and reduce this - we, as a society, get far more of our calories from sugar than anything else
4. Plan your meals and start to eat before you get hungry - so you can monitor your intake
5. Focus on what you can eat rather than what you can't - and enjoy your food
6. You don't have to be perfect - don't punish yourself for what you did or ate yesterday - stop dieting and eat for wellbeing!
Good luck

Anonymous185 asked: What are the signs of an unhealthy relationship with food?

Dr Mark Winwood answered: This is a big question Anonymous 185 but teh simple answer is - like any relationship, the one you have with food can get complicated. Having an unhealthy relationship with what you eat means you turn to food for reasons other than physical hunger and keep eating beyond physical satisfaction.

Ruth asked: Is it possible to be addicted to sugar?

Dr Mark Winwood answered: Hello Ruth. This is great question.  I believe it is possible to crave sugar and I think the food industry actually uses this craving we have for sugar to boost its income!  There was a study that was actually published this month by some researchers in Amsterdam that recommended that sugar-rich foods shoudl have a government health warning.  I don't want to go into here but our bodies react to sugar in way that does not make us feel full - if you start eating cookies you can often keep eating them - the same calories in eggs for example would have you full and unable to eat.  Sugar is also associated with reward - which again fires off feel good chemicals in our brain. So - too much sugar is bad for us - and I would argue is central to our debate on the obesity epidemic we are seeing in the UK at the present time.

Ruth commented: Interesting, thanks!

AXA PPP healthcare asked: Our live chat is now closed. Thank you to everyone for taking part, and special thanks to Dr Mark Winwood for taking the time to answer everyone's questions!