Edwina HawkridgeCounselling in Stamford, and City of London

Self Certified Chocoholic?

Blog. Chocolate

Many people think that they are addicted to chocolate when in fact they have a dependency on it or like it a lot. Chocolate like most things that contain sugar stimulates your opioid system. Your brain is one of the biggest users of glucose (sugar) in the body. Over time sensors in your brain become down regulated or desensitized to sugar and therefore it takes more and more of the same substance (sugar) to feel the same ‘hit’ or level of happiness after something sweet. It is this process that happens within the body that has people thinking they are addicted to chocolate as they seem to be eating more and more of it. If you’re concerned about the amount of Chocolate, you are craving or eating there are things you can do to break the cycle and curb your cravings.

Low Battery
We crave sugar for many reasons one of which is low blood sugar which translates to low energy. The brain relies on glucose to function properly. When our blood sugar drops rapidly our brain releases chemicals that has us craving something sweet like chocolate.

Poor nutrition, through not eating a range of foods can lead to us being deficient in magnesium and chromium which can sometimes lead to sugar cravings.

High Stress
Stress can have a huge impact on the number of sweet things we eat.

Serotonin Imbalance
Serotonin imbalances may also be leading you to crave something sweet. Sometimes people with depression try to eat their way out of their depressed state as food is mood changer especially sweet things that spike your opioid system which is your happiness and reward system.

Lack of Sleep
When excess sugar is consumed the body converts sugar into glycogen, when these stocks are full the body converts excess sugar into adipose tissue. Adipose tissue is excess fat that normally hangs around the midriff and is accurate at determining health risk factors.
When blood sugar levels rise too quickly our body produces too much insulin which can lead to insulin resistance or prediabetes so how do I curb my cravings for chocolate I hear you ask?

Curb the Craving

By eating a range of foods that include chromium and magnesium, mainly whole grains and leafy greens you are giving your body what it needs to beat cravings. The nutrients within these foods increase cell sensitivity to maximise the amount of sugar your body can metabolise and burn off.

Balance out your blood sugar levels by eating regular meals that contain protein, good quality carbs and good fats to help maintain satiety and blood sugar levels. Cinnamon, Cardamom and Nutmeg have been shown to help people with type 2 diabetes gain better control over their blood sugar level. Adding healthy fats like Avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, salmon, nuts and seeds to your diet can help keep your blood sugar levels stable which can reduce the risk of insulin resistance developing.

High stress and cortisol levels can lead to sugar craving, manage stress to manage cravings, move for fun, exercise, take a bath, try a breathing exercise it all helps.

Stimulus control
It is much easier to say no once in the supermarket to a bar of chocolate than every single day that it is sat in your cupboard! Practice not rationalising having chocolate in the house ‘for someone else’ chances are you will be the one that ends up eating it and sending your blood sugars on a rollercoaster ride which will have you craving more…. sugar.

Sleep Right
Get plenty of sleep. Lack of energy is one of the reasons people go for chocolate in the first place. Pay attention to your environment, keep your bedroom clutter free and at the right temperature, minimise light and noise so that you can get good quality sleep.

Don’t Skip
Try not to skip meals this will force your blood sugar to drop and will have you craving something chocolatey. Stick to a regular schedule of eating breakfast lunch and dinner minimum.

Swap it out
Make a swap dark chocolate is a sensible swap for milk chocolate products. Dark chocolate is classed as a superfood it is packed with antioxidants has a much lower sugar content and can assist heart health.

I’m a firm believer that most things should be present in your diet and that cutting out entire foods or food groups can be more detrimental to your physical and mental health. It is much better to learn how to moderate and make sensible swaps to support your health.

Improve your Work-Life Balance

Blog. Ballerina Balance

One thing that can lead to job burnout is not having an appropriate work life balance. Some signs that indicate you may be feeling burn out are:
  • Dragging yourself to work and have trouble getting started
  • Becoming cynical or critical at work
  • Irritable or impatient with co-workers
  • Lack of energy to be productive
  • Lack of satisfaction from your achievements
  • Using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to feel nothing at all
  • Sleep habits changing.

    If you have some of these signs there is a possibility that burnout is around the corner. Improving your work life balance is one step that may be helpful in fighting burnout. If work is getting on top of your chances are your work life balance is off as the desire to succeed professionally often means we neglect other areas of our lives. It’s National work life week therefore what better time to start improving your work life balance?

    The first step is to assess your own needs which will be different to those of your colleagues or partner. Not everyone’s work life balance will look the same and people rarely divide their time in half. True work life balance is about having the flexibility to get things done in your professional life whilst still having enough time for a personal one. You may have to work longer one day to ensure you get a long weekend away. It is important to remember that balance is achieved over time, not each and every day.

    Sometimes thinking about changing careers or roles at work can be a good idea. It’s unlikely that people find work in something that they love 100% of the time however if you hate what you do it can make it difficult to get up in the mornings and stay motivated.

    Prioritise your health
    It is important to prioritise your health, both physical and emotional. If you currently have ill mental health like anxiety or depression you will need to schedule time in your week to attend therapy. If you normally attend an exercise class or workout it’s important to keep doing these things. By looking after your wellbeing, you are likely to be happier at work and more productive. balance.

    Disconnect from the Devices
    Use travelling time or a section of your day to disconnect from work emails and your phone. Read or practice some mindfulness as a way to de-stress and disconnect from the world. Overall, you’ll feel more refreshed and able to continue your day if you’re able to get a little you time.

    Take a break
    A holiday or a staycation it really doesn’t matter as long as you have taken a break away from work to physically and mentally recharge. A few days is all it takes. Try not to think about work or upcoming projects whilst you are away.

    Quality time
    Prioritise activities and hobbies that make you happy. No-one at work can love and appreciate you the way your friends and family can. Ultimately everyone is replaceable at work, but you are truly special to those who love you. Just because work keeps you busy try not to neglect personal relationships. Plan one to one quality time with other people, it will make all the difference to your happiness and theirs.

    Set boundaries
    Set boundaries for yourself to avoid overworking and burnout. Consider having a separate computer or phone for work so that when you leave work you can shut it off and ‘clock out’. Determine when you will work and when you will stop working otherwise work life may start to take over when you are on holiday or on a weekend away. By advising team members and your manager about your boundaries and contactable hours will ensure that they understand and respect your workplace limits.

    Set goals
    Set achievable goals for different areas of your life that you are passionate about, for example career, health, relationships and personal life. Think about what tasks are important within these areas of your life to help you achieve a healthy work life balance, prioritise these goals and set realistic timescales for them to be achieved by.

    Take note
    Pay attention to when you are most productive at work and block that time off for your most important work-related activities. Filter out the less important jobs that add little to no value to your day.

    Avoid checking your phone or email every couple of minutes as these waste time and break your concentration. Set times to check and respond to incoming information which is a good time management strategy and may provide you with more time to relax once your work is done.

    Work-life balance is a very personal thing and will mean different things to different people. Only you can decide what works for you and your lifestyle. However, if you work life balance is out of kilter for too long the detrimental effects on your health and wellbeing can be severe. Hopefully some of the above strategies will prove useful.

  • Orthorexia - A Lesser Known Disorder

    Blog. Poke Bowl

    What is Orthorexia? Orthorexia is not yet classed as an Eating Disorder within the DSM V which is a manual of specific criteria on how GP’s diagnose ill Mental health including Eating Disorders. Orthorexia can be identified through an obsession with healthful or clean eating. It’s important to be aware of the nutritional quality of food people who have Orthorexia are so fixated on ‘healthy eating’ that they damage their own well being.
    Societal pressures to be slim coined with praise for losing weight and ‘being good with food’ can be precursors to Orthorexia developing. A link has been found between individuals with orthorexia and obsessive compulsive disorder.

    Waring signs of Orthorexia


  • Compulsive checking of ingredient lists and nutritional labels
  • An increase in concern about the health of ingredients
  • The avoidance of certain food groups that society has deemed “unhealthy”
  • Body image concerns may or may not be present
  • A decrease in variety of foods
  • Weight loss
  • Refusal to eat food for which they are unclear about preparation or what it contains
  • Refusal to eat food they have not prepared themselves
  • Refusal to eat foods that weren’t produced or prepared in a way they consider pure

  • Spending hours per day thinking about what food might be served at upcoming events

  • Showing high levels of distress when ‘safe’ or ‘healthy’ foods aren’t available
  • Unusual interest in the health of what others are eating

  • Cutting out an increasing number of food groups (all sugar, all carbs, all dairy, all meat, all animal products)
  • An inability to eat anything but a narrow group of foods that are deemed ‘healthy’ or ‘pure’
  • Obsessive following of food and ‘healthy lifestyle’ blogs on Twitter and Instagram
  • Malnutrition

  • Orthorexia can damage the sufferers health and wellbeing due to them not receiving the correct amount of nutrients in their diet due to cutting out entire food groups. The preoccupation with food and sometimes their body image can make life miserable. Often the sufferer and those around them don’t realise that there is an issue as people with Orthorexia can be viewed as having good ‘willpower’ and caring about their bodies, however it can become abusive when their body is lacking key nutrients that it needs to function.
    Sometimes Orthorexia can coincide with over exercise, this is where people push through injuries in order to ensure they have done the ‘right amount’ of exercise. If they do not go to the gym sometimes several times a day they feel immense levels of guilt. Pushing through painful injuries is another sign that your relationship with food and your body is inappropriate.
    People can also feel as though they are socially isolated due to increased anxiety around social situations they stop eating with family and friends, won’t eat anything that they haven’t prepared themselves. If you think you know someone with Orthorexia an eating disorder specialist should be able to assist you further with treatment options.

    Change your realtionship with food

    Blog. Avocado

    The end of summer sees people, women in particular look to change their relationship with food and their bodies in preparation for autumn. September is the month of new beginnings and can be a great time to focus on yourself and readdress your wonky relationship with food.

    Notice your thoughts

    A key indicator that food is becoming an issue is the amount of time you spend thinking and planning your next meal. Obsessing about what you’re going to have and having a strict time that you can eat it, food being the highlight of your day and then planning how you will atone for the calories you’ve eaten is an indicator that your disordered eating is taking over.

    Obesogenic Thinking

    If you are following a popular diet and find yourself ‘falling off the wagon’ and having a blow out, it’s another indicator that your body may not be getting the nutrients that it needs, it feels deprived/starved and therefore your brain is leading you to think about fatty sugary foods and to gorge on them. Thinking to yourself I’ve blown it now I may as well eat the whole cake’ is a sign that you’re not thinking about food rationally the drive to eat the whole lot is probably down to your body’s starvation. Losing weight doesn’t mean you have to be hungry all the time. Eat a range of foods rich in nutrients with plenty of fruit and veg in order to give your body what it really needs.

    Sugar Rush

    Cravings for sugar and fat laden foods is so common when people have been used to dieting for long or short periods. As your hypothalamus believes you are starving, survival instinct kicks in and your brain makes you crave things that it needs to survive which is glucose and fat hence the cravings for less nutritious foods such as biscuits, chocolate, crisps and cake.


    Food and your relationship with it are complex. It is easy to use food as an emotional regulator to help you feel calmer, happier or even as part of your bedtime routine. If food has become more than fuel and is your go to as a way to block out difficult emotions such as sadness, anxiousness, low self-esteem or anger it may be time to talk to someone.

    Tips to help readdress your relationship with food


    Keep a record of what you’re eating, is it balanced (plenty of fruit, veg, beans, pulses, dairy and alternatives? Protein carbs and brown fat and plenty of micronutrients and essential amino acids? Write it down or keep a note in your phone, try to avoid using calorie counting Apps as they have been proven to exacerbate eating issues. By keeping a record, you are bringing into consciousness your food choices and any patterns that may be fuelling an unhealthy relationship with food.

    Relax before mealtimes and eat mindfully. This is important as meals times can be crowded with phones, TV’s or books. Use mealtimes to really focus on the food and the people you are with. If breakfast is an issue due to time find recipes for things you can make the day before. Make your table a pleasant environment. Use your best cutlery and china, make it a cosy spot at the table or clutter free whatever works for you but reclaim mealtimes as your own. Set aside enough time each day to eat mindfully and purposefully. The purpose being to refuel, enjoy and relax.

    The Power of 3
    Try to eat three main eating events a day minimum. Three meals a day is being labelled as an old-fashioned ideology it is based on people’s fuel levels and when they need to refuel. If you’re getting a balanced meal from it, you should be able to sustain your energy levels throughout the day. Three to 6 smaller meals a day keeps your metabolism going, keeps you fuller for longer and helps you sustain your energy levels.

    Danger Zone
    Watch the 2 – 4pm slot. The afternoon slump where you come over so tired you can barely keep your eyes open some days. This may well be down to what you chose to eat for lunch. Essentially all that has happened is you have sent your body on a blood sugar rollercoaster at lunch time, your brain told your pancreas to release a lot of insulin which has now made your blood sugar crash resulting in you feeling tired and weak and reaching for chocolate. Keeping a record and choosing food with a range of nutrients should help beat the slump.

    4pm is when our bodies circadian rhythm changes. Our body switches from day system which is serotonin based to night system which is melatonin based and makes us sleepy and fake hungry for a sugary pick me up’. This happens most days and can be combatted through planning in a protein rich snack between the hours of 2pm and 4pm to keep your body going during the transition from day to night.

    Take back Control
    Note how many times in a week you have felt out of control with food, if the number you have felt out of control with food is of concern then get in touch. People who get their eating issues under control sooner rather than later have a much better prognosis for recovery.

    Move for fun. Find an activity that you like, which gives you good mind-body connection. Yoga, Pilates, Zumba anything that gets your body moving. Reconnecting with your body can give you an appreciation for how strong and capable your body is. This appreciation can spill over into your food choices and change the way you think and feel about your body what you want to fuel it with.

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