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Maria Broadbent of Bury St Edmunds restaurant CASA, explores the reasons why we eat when we’re not hungry and encourages some self-love

"Love yourself first, because that’s who you’ll be spending the rest of your life with" - Maya Angelou (American poet)

My column last month looked at losing weight by a change in a mental approach to the issue. The feedback I had was it struck a chord with readers. Given that it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I would continue with the self-love message.

My love of food has in the past been at odds with my love of myself. Using last month’s 10 point hunger scale especially numbers 5 and 6 – which indicate a desire to eat that is not accompanied by hunger. Analysing the reasons for eating without hunger unveils fascinating psychological links. I would encourage a fresh approach to how we look at consumption!

It is okay to eat absolutely anything you like as long as you are not allergic, it impacts on your medication or you have been given strict medical advice. Oh, and of course – not just eat, but enjoy! It is the frequency and the quantity that is key. How often have you really fancied a bit of chocolate, instead you have eaten some fruit. . . but you still end up eating the chocolate. That’s around 89 calories that could have been avoided and that’s just the banana! The question is, were you hungry? Were you bored? Sad?

Love yourself (29012293)
Love yourself (29012293)

Here are some of my new-found practices (that sometimes slip!):

1 Be completely mindful of everything you eat – stop working, surfing the net or driving. You will enjoy it more and your brain will register what you are eating and you will feel satiated more quickly.

2 Eat things you really like, if they are less healthy options then have a smaller amount and balance it out through the day/week.

3 Present your food well – a nicely served portion of food perhaps on a smaller but attractive plate really helps with the enjoyment of your food.

4 Remember most vegetables have more flavour than beige carbs – we have fallen into a habit of using lots of processed carbs to bulk out our meals. . . this bulks us out too!

5 Use spices, herbs and other seasonings to make your food more flavoursome – your brain registers flavours/nutrients and controls your appetite not an over full stomach.

6 Stop thinking about food other than when you are planning your weekly menu/shop or preparing/eating food. My issue with slimming clubs is they focus your mind on the one thing you need to think less about. If you are unsure of the calorie/nutritional values of food they can be really helpful. If you know what you should be consuming in moderation then they seem to me, from friends and my own experience, to be counter-productive sometimes. Especially encouraging consumption of processed food and using words with negative connotations to fill you with guilt.

Social dining:

1 Look forward to who you are going to see, what you are going to wear as well as what you are going to eat.

2 Value for money is not directly related to calories consumed! No, really – chefs generally put as much effort into healthy dishes as unhealthy dishes!

3 I now order my sparkling water with a Prosecco glass and my slimline tonic in a gin balloon with lots of ice and a slice! I find that more than anything else this removes the pressure from others to join in and for me not to be perceived as ‘boring’.

Psychological trip hazards – our self destructive self-justification:

1 I am sad – I need cheering up with food/wine.

2 I am bored – eating will entertain me.

3 I have done well because I cleaned the bathroom – I deserve wine.

4 I have got a busy day ahead – I need a full fry up to cope.

5 I am stressed – I need a beer/bar of chocolate to unwind.

6 It’s mealtime – I’m not hungry, but I ought to eat.

7 I am doing really well – but we always have a takeaway and a few drinks on a Saturday, even though I went out on Thursday and Friday, too.

8 After all that booze – of course I needed a kebab. Oh yes, and can you get me a bacon buttie for breakfast?

Where do these emotional links to food stem from? Upbringing, social conditioning, advertising, primordial programming, obsessive character traits and sometimes simply habits.

We often eat something we really like and manage to introduce guilt into the equation – this is reinforced by many guidelines, articles and groups. Mental health is an increasing challenge for our society and this includes eating disorders – this is a worrying statistic. Can we improve our relationship with food? I definitely believe we can – I think first we look at how we relate to ourselves.


The British Heart Foundation gives us some hints on looking after your heart through diet.

There is a free booklet you can order on their website.

Eating in a healthy way to protect your heart

What you choose to put in your body really affects how you feel and how healthy you are. Eating the right sort of foods in the right amount is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health. It can reduce your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases. If you already have a heart or circulatory disease, eating better can help protect your heart from further problems. We help you understand a healthy approach to food and how to get into good eating habits. It’s about taking your own health and wellbeing seriously and finding ways to make a balanced diet work for you. Eating healthily can be tasty, simple and doesn’t have to take extra time. It’s about making gradual, long-term changes and enjoying the food you eat.

See bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/publications/healthy-eating-and-drinking/eat-better.

This is my current go-to recipe


2 salmon fillets, skin removed

1 courgette, cut into 4cm thin strips (called julienne)

1 leek, cut into 4cm thin strips (4cm is 1½-2ins)

1 carrot, cut into 4cm thin strips

½ lemon, zest and juice

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Black pepper (salt if you must!)

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees centigrade.

I kickstart the leeks and carrots by adding a tablespoon of water and giving them around 3 minutes on full power in the microwave. (You can also do this in a pan.)

Cut 2 pieces of baking parchment 15cm by 30cm (6” by 12”).

Lay the veg in the middle of your pieces of paper, place the salmon on top.

Mix the juice zest and parsley together and divide over the 2 parcels.

A grinding of fresh pepper and then fold up your parcels.

Bring the 2 long edges together and pleat, then double fold up the 2 short ends – you’re aiming to seal it to keep the moisture and the flavour locked in.

Pop in the oven for 15 minutes.

This is the perfect amount of time to get the rest of your meal prepped and pour a nice glass of Viognier if you fancy one!

Serve the parcel unopened and savour the release of those aromas as you unwrap at the table.

Serve with extra veg such as broccoli or rice, rice noodles or roasted root veg.

You are invited. . .. . .to a FRESH APPROACH

On Tuesday, March 3, I am throwing a little party at CASA from 6-8pm!

This is FREE and is for women (we will do men later, but almost all the feedback from last month’s article was from women) who want to consider a fresh approach to what and how they eat. It will be a relaxed social event with some fresh ideas for how we approach food and it will also be about self-love.

Fancy a glass of Prosecco (or sparkling water) and a few canapes, chat to like minded people and generally have a couple of hours of guilt free fun with quality you-time? If you want to join us then email bookings@casabse.co.uk (places will be strictly limited).

I will share some of my FRESH APPROACH to recipes and ideas.

Kate (coach and mentor) will be around to chat informally on a FRESH APPROACH to how positively we view ourselves.

Sally will be there to give free advice on a FRESH APPROACH to your body through pilates.

Maria Broadbent is owner of Mediterranean restaurant CASA in Risbygate Street, Bury St Edmunds

Tel 01284 701313


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