The focus of Stuffed, is emotional eating. A topic I'm personally invested in, as a chronic comfort eater myself.
I reach for food and massively overeat whenever I'm stressed, tired, sad, and even when I'm happy and celebrating. I'm getting better at addressing the issue (leaving my former career in Social Services was a great move for both my physical health and my mental well-being) but I still have room for improvement.
For anyone who doesn't comfort eat, it's often difficult to understand why others turn to food in this way. I think Stuffed explains this so well and will result in many readers having that much needed "ah-ha!" moment of clarity. If you know the reasoning behind a behaviour, it becomes so much easier to put a strategy in place to address it and ultimately, break free from it.
With this book, there's no complex psychology or exercises to do, it's just straight talking advice for an individual who has been through it herself. Reading Stuffed feels like having a chat with a big sister or trusted friend and there were many times I found myself nodding along in agreement and plenty of "omg, that's so me" realisations. Stuffed is spilt into three parts:
Why You Are Not Stuffed - What Got You Here
This part starts with one of my favourite 'soapbox' topics: why dieting doesn't work! Fadela explains how the dieting cycle causes you to feel deprived and crave the food you have labelled as 'forbidden', which then leads to binge eating, closely followed by crushing guilt after the initial high wears off, which brings us back around to dieting. In Stuffed, this is referred to as 'The Dieting Cycle of Helplessness', which I feel is spot on for describing how it feels to be trapped in that cycle!
Food, particularly the high fat, high sugar, high salt, but incredibly delicious varieties, have, as Fadela Fadela describes, a 'numbing affect' on our emotions when we consume them. They result in momentary pleasure, which allows us to temporarily forget our problems. Emotional eating is therefore used in a similar way to drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. Many people it seems, are simply trying to not feel their emotions.
Fadela shares with us her own story of overcoming her battle with emotional eating and how she learnt to accept and feel her emotions, instead of scrambling for food to numb them. I can really relate to her story of being obese in childhood and having her weight and diet constantly scrutinised by professionals and those close to her. She also talks about how now, more than ever, our diets are made public knowledge as we share our meals on social media. This public scrutiny and criticism is what leads us to define certain foods as shameful, naughty or forbidden, and it's this that often leads to secretive eating, restrictive diets and binge eating, when we finally let ourselves free from the 'rules' and lose all sense of control entirely.
Principals - How to Beat Emotional Eating
Fadela explains in this section what drives our emotional eating, and how recognising and acknowledging our emotional influences is the ultimate key to tackling unhealthy eating habits. For emotional eaters, heading straight for a diet is setting ourselves up for failure because it's less about what we're eating, and more about why we're eating it. Fadela goes on to explain how emotional eating can also become an ingrained habit and uses the example of when she would go for a walk to get chocolate with a colleague every afternoon at work. I'm sure loads of us have habits like this! When I was at university for my first degree, I fell into the habit of ordering Domino’s pizza every Tuesday for me and my now husband to eat. It was my longest day at university on the timetable, so this was my 'trigger', which after a few Tuesdays quickly became a routine, and felt rewarding because it was time out spent with my boyfriend and something I looked forward to all day when I was feeling stressed out and tired from under endless textbooks and papers!
Picking up on these habits, how cues/triggers and the routines is so important for moving on and consciously addressing them. It also means we can put in place alternative coping mechanisms for our unwanted emotions. Interestingly, Fadela used the same alternative coping method as me: exercise! I too began replacing junk food with a fun workout class (it was all about Zumba in the university days!) and felt rewarded by this because I was socialising with other people and having a laugh. Of course, this also had the bonus effect of getting me fitter, as well as removing me from my routine of "feeling tired/stressed after long day -> order dominoes -> feel sluggish and crap shortly afterwards".
How to Stay Stuffed - Keeping It Together
In the final section of Stuffed, Fadela provides us with useful suggestions for alternative ways of handling negative emotions, including stress, overthinking, and our inner critic. I had many 'ah-ha' moments reading through this section and after implementing the suggestions over the last week, I'm already less stressed out and feel less of a need to comfort eat.
I now make evenings a work-free time, instead of kidding myself into thinking I'll get more work done if I stay up to do it. I never do, because I'm not productive in the evenings, I'm worn out after chasing a toddler around all day! So now, when I feel completely overwhelmed with work in the evenings, I write everything I need to do down on a list, and 'detach' myself from it. I do this by imaging it's a To-Do list for an employee (I'm much less hard on other people than I am with myself). I then pick out three things from that To-Do list that I really need the 'employee' to do the next day, leave it on my desk and spend the evening winding down and then going to bed at a proper time. Instead of mindless snacking at my desk all evening while I overwork, I read a good book or even have a face mask and watch a chick flick if my husband is on a night shift! This way, I won't spend the next day feeling tired and burnt out, so I won't feel like I want to order a takeaway because I'm too tired to cook a meal, and I'm much more likely to head out for a walk with my son first thing in the morning, before finally settling back down at my desk, relaxed and refreshed, to work through the To-Do list set the night before.
If you recognise yourself any of the above or think you may be emotionally eating as a way of numbing your emotions, I highly recommend this book to you as a starting point to your recovery!
You can find Stuffed: How to Feel So Good About Yourself You Won't Have Room for Cake, right here on Amazon.co.uk for £9.99.
*Disclosure: this was a sponsored post, but as you can tell from my very passionate review, my opinions are honest and I really do recommend this book!