23/05/2012 05:02 BST | Updated 21/07/2012 06:12 BST

Emotional Eating

Eating disorders and emotional eating.

Unhealthy eating patterns can lead to what I call an eating disorder. An eating disorder relates to when an individuals approach to food and body image changes and becomes almost obsessive, unmanageable, leaving huge potential for causing damage to your health. This usually stems from feelings of low self esteem and self worth.

It is not just women sufferers, however, a bigger population of women go through an eating disorder at some point in their lives and about 90% of women are affected by this between the ages of 12-25.

Social, media and emotional factors contribute to an eating disorder. Poor self image is another symptom. The individual may see themselves completely different to how others will see them.

Having gone through my own personal experience of an eating disorder, I understood there was a thin line to draw with knowing how to set the boundaries with food. Unlike other compulsions and addictions which can be totally eliminated, one cannot abstain from eating altogether as we need food to survive. It is understanding where to create boundaries which do not overlap into emotional eating which inevitably becomes habitual. There seems to be a big correlation with the types of food choices one craves when they are using food as a way to sooth, comfort themselves and numb their feelings. I found sugar to be my most wanted food. Put it this way, when you want to gorge on food knowing your not hungry and it is beyond eating for pleasure, your not exactly going to cry out for broccoli are you? I think a good starting point whether your under or over eating is to keep a thorough food & mood diary. It may come as a surprise that you will notice a pattern of when you eat food which is triggered by emotion. I suggest keeping a diary for at least one month and be honest and literally write everything down that your eating along with your feelings.

One of the most important exercises to practice when you are struggling with the attachment of food is to simply express your feelings. Find a good empathetic friend who listens to how you are feeling. By simply talking about your feelings you are letting go of emotion. Even better if you can lend a sympathetic ear to someone going through the same experience. In that way, this takes you out of your own self absorbed head space of constantly obsessing about food and also helps another person. The whole time your helping someone else, your literally healing yourself. If you are not ready to share and open up, it is really important to have a space where you can let go of how you are feeling. Perhaps speak to a professional therapist or mentor.

When I coach clients on weight-loss, we hardly touch on the subject of diet in comparison to the state of emotions. Besides, wanting to diet and restrict oneself usually meets an uncomfortable association with having to be hungry or restricted. It is more about an overall lifestyle change.

As a result, I run and facilitate coaching circles for weight-loss, emotional intelligence, goal setting, limiting beliefs to name a few. This is a fantastic platform to learn, share and express, creating an amazing support network, whilst achieving your goals and meeting like minded people.

From my book 'Fabulous fitness at 40' by Ladan Soltani