Case study: Overcoming cravings and losing weight

By naturopath Margaret Jasinska

Sarah is a 27 year old lady who had a phone consultation with me recently for help with improving her diet. She has been working from home for the past 5 weeks and her eating habits have taken a turn for the worse.

She has noticed weight gain, as well as feeling increasingly tired and bloated. This is seriously affecting Sarah’s mood and she has become irritable and snappy with her family. She has recently developed acne, which had not bothered her for several years.

Sarah has read several of our books and regularly takes our Magnesium Ultra Potent powder because it helps her sleep. One of Sarah’s friends is a long term patient of mine, so Sarah decided to make a booking for herself.

Eating well and exercising regularly have been a part of Sarah’s life for a long time. She is a busy person who works full time and raises two young children on her own. She has always been highly organised in her home, and that has enabled her to cook healthy meals and eat well most of the time.

Sarah has been working from home while also home schooling her two children. Her mum helps with home schooling two days a week. Sarah said to me “For the first two weeks, working from home was fun. I could arrange my day the way I wanted, as long as I got the work done in the end. Normally I spend so much time meal prepping, and it was a relief to have a break from that and just grab a snack several times each day”.

She always ate a proper breakfast of eggs, or avocado on toast, or gluten free muesli, but Sarah tended to nibble right throughout the rest of the day. She would open a big bag of nuts and snack on it throughout the day, and found herself getting into a packet of biscuits and bags of chips. “I always cook a proper dinner for the kids, and I eat it, even though I’m not hungry because I’ve been snacking all day”. By the end of the day Sarah was bloated and gassy and felt overly full, so her sleep quality suffered.

“The weight gain bothers me, but more than that I hate feeling moody, irritable and unmotivated. I’ve stopped exercising and that always causes a deterioration in my mood. My skin has started breaking out and I just feel really blah. I need help getting motivated again.”

Sarah has experienced a major disruption to her routine and she is experiencing significant stress each day, getting her work done, home schooling the kids and keeping them entertained. It is only natural to let go of some parts of her daily routine and I reminded her to try to give herself a break about it. This stressful time will pass and she’ll be able to resume her regular exercise routine and yoga classes. For now it’s more important to try to unwind and minimise her stress, as that’s more likely to negatively impact her health.

My recommendations for my patient

  • Sarah had not been taking her magnesium powder each evening. I encouraged her to take a teaspoon each night with her dinner. Magnesium helps relieve symptoms of stress. Feeling chronically stressed is not conducive to eating well and looking after yourself.
  • I encouraged Sarah to bring some structure into her day. She started off the day well; she had a healthy breakfast and did a couple of hours of solid work in the morning. Then she tended to wander into the kitchen every hour or so. Sarah needed to prepare a proper meal for lunch; a meal that contains sufficient protein and fat to keep her feeling satiated until dinner time. It is healthy to have regular breaks from sitting at the computer, but each break shouldn’t be a meal break. Sarah had stopped drinking as much water as usual. She had replaced water with gluten free snacks. It is completely fine to occasionally snack on whatever food you like, but Sarah was feeling powerless over her cravings and eating much more than she intended to each day. Protein is the most important nutrient for promoting satiety. I encouraged Sarah to make sure she was eating enough of it, from sources such as eggs, poultry, seafood, red meat or a whey protein powder.
  • Tyrosine is an amino acid the brain uses to manufacture the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenalin. Having enough of these brain chemicals is important for feeling motivated, coping with stress and experiencing satisfaction after a meal. I asked Sarah to take one teaspoon before each meal.
  • I really like the app called Calm. It contains meditation, music and other resources to encourage relaxation and promote deep sleep. Sarah had difficulties winding down in the evenings and I encouraged her to try it.
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