What’s eating you?

How comforting is comfort eating?
How comforting is comfort eating?

Regardless of culture or religion, food (and eating) plays an important role in our lives. We use food for sustenance, to celebrate birthdays, weddings and religious holidays and for the pure enjoyment of the experience.

Our relationship with food can be complicated and for many not all food experiences are happy. Often when we lose control we convince ourselves that we are “comfort eating” while in reality is it isn’t comforting at all. After overeating there are feelings of guilt, and frustration because of a “lack of willpower and self-control”. So we “give-up”, because we “don’t care” or because “it’s too difficult”, and we eat more which makes us feel worse. This leads to a cycle of weight loss and weight gain and can negatively affect our self-worth and self-esteem.

So how do we break the cycle?

Recognize what emotions trigger your eating –

In my book “Low Fat Food for your Mind, Body and Soul” I suggest people keep track of what emotions trigger their eating. Examples are:

  • Low self-esteem, self-loathing
  • Fear of failure
  • Fears about sexuality
  • Anger (towards others or yourself)
  • Frustration
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Tension
  • Jealousy
  • Fatigue – low energy levels
Keep a journal to track your emotions and what food you chose / craved e.g.
  • Under what emotional conditions do you crave carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and potatoes?
  • Next time you crave diary products eg cheese, yoghurt, milk – work out how you are feeling emotionally.
  • When your energy levels are low, what type of food do you reach for?
  • Do you crave chocolate?
Find other ways to deal with your emotions.

What else can you do instead of eating. Can you go for a walk around the block? Can you phone a good friend / family member to discuss how you are feeling? Do you need to make an appointment to see a professional that can help you deal with the problem?

Become mindful of what you eat, how much you eat and how often you eat.

Support yourself with healthy lifestyle habits

Exercise – it doesn’t have to be a gym, go dancing, walk your dog
Relaxation – have a regular massage, go to yoga, mediate, listen to music
Spend time with people you enjoy and that make you laugh

Acknowledge thoughts that sabotage your success.

e.g. Do you think slim people don’t have fun?
Use affirmations, rethink the “ tapes” you play in your head and reword what you say to yourself.

Set up new patterns of thinking and behaviour.

e.g Eat smaller meals, get enough sleep

Know the difference between Stomach (i.e. physical) hunger vs Mouth (i.e. emotional) hunger.

Don’t think you can do it? The good news is you can train your unconscious mind to think about things differently.

Try this exercise which can be used as a start to changing the perception you have of yourself about not being able to lose weight.

Start by making a list of all the things you have done successfully, then think of any areas of your life (parenting, career, work within the community, etc. where you have been successful or achieved something that you set out to do. Write down all the characteristics that you currently have, as well as all the skills and knowledge, which you have acquired in an area where you have been successful. Looking at the list, what skills, knowledge and characteristics do you have that you could apply to losing weight?

Now paste the list up somewhere where you can see it and look at it every time you think that you cannot achieve your weight loss goals.

And lastly next time when you think you’re going to give in to comfort eating, stop and ask yourself how comforted you feel afterwards?

What’s eating you?

Stop the Yo-Yo diet cycle!

Diet books

Diet Books 2

When I was a teenager (many, many moons ago) some of the diets I tried which were popular at the time were  The Beverley Hills Diet, The Grapefruit Diet, The Drinking Man’s Diet etc.  What struck me the other day while I was walking through a book shop was the titles of the books in the Health / Diet section.

  •  The 4 – hour body
  • The 5 day Bikini Diet
  • 8 hour Diet
  • 4 week Diet
  • 21 day total Body Transformation
  • Eat, Fast, Slim
  • The Overnight Diet
  • The McDonalds Diet
  • Fat Chance
  • Run Fat B!tch Run

So what has changed in all the years since I was a teenager? Clearly not much! Based on their titles are they really trying to help people lose weight and keep it off or are they trying to satisfy the need for people to lose weight and lose it fast? (I am not for one minute suggesting that these books don’t have some good advice and I also acknowledge that I am judging the books by their covers or should I say titles.)

The question to ask is why after all these years has nothing changed? Who is feeding the diet yo-yo cycle? Is it the authors / journalists / celebrities / influencers / weight loss / wellness product companies, many of whom are motivated by the money they make out of the billion dollar weight loss industry or is it us, the consumer demanding instant gratification?

What has changed since I was a teenager is the internet and social media. The combination of books,  magazines, the internet and social media all providing so much conflicting information has resulted in many people being very confused about what choices to make. They don’t know what is healthy, what is fattening, what food groups they should eat and which ones they should leave out. They lose weight and often regain what they have lost (and more) because they can’t sustain the eating plan they have chosen or go back to eating a food group they stopped eating. Besides being confusing it is also extremely demoralizing and depressing as anyone who has ever had a weight problem will know.

So how do you get off the yo-yo diet cycle? You need to acknowledge some facts and ask yourself some questions.

The facts:

  • You gained weight over a period of time – you are not going to lose it in a few hours or days or weeks.
  • You have to select an eating plan that fits in with your lifestyle.
  • There are no quick fixes.
  • Weight loss may require you to also change your thinking.
  • For long term success you may need to change your behavior.
  • Being a perfectionist – it’s all or nothing – is a form of self sabotage an excuse.
  • Cutting out a food entirely may make you crave it and go overboard when you do eat it.
  • Losing weight and keeping it off is not only about food choices but also about one’s thinking and behavior.
  • Quick fixes or unrealistic / unsustainable eating plans usually result in yo-yo weight loss and gain.
  • To lose weight and keep it off you need to adopt a lifestyle change not go on a “diet”.

Questions to ask yourself:

  •  At what stage are you going to get off the yo-yo diet cycle?
  • What behaviour / habits do you have to change to lose weight and maintain your weight loss?
  • What excuses are you hiding behind?
  • How is your thinking sabotaging you?
  • What changes can you make to your thinking to be more successful?
  • What beliefs about being thinner  / healthier are holding you back?
  • What “tapes” (thinking / excuses) do you play that you could change?
  • How is your perfectionism influencing your eating / weight and how can you change your thinking to be more successful in the future?
  • What affirmations can you use on a daily basis that will help your thinking
  • Can you maintain your selected way of eating as a lifestyle and is it healthy?

I really hope that you are able to find a  healthy lifestyle that you can adopt. I’d love to hear from you. Let me know how you managed to get off the yo-yo diet cycle.

Stop the Yo-Yo diet cycle!


Karen before losing 21 kgs
Karen before losing 21 kgs

Karen After losing 21 kgs

My name is Karen Hochfelden and I am 33 years old. I lost 21kg in 6 months. I weighed 102kg in July 2012. Now I am 81kg. It helped that my friend asked me to be her matron of honour. I was embarrassed that I was so fat, that I almost felt like telling her I did not want to be her ‘bridesmaid’ as I did not want to ruin her wedding pictures . My husband said that if I really felt that way I must seek help. 

I am a stay at home mom, married, have had 3 pregnancies and have 2 lovely kids. In July 2012, I weighed 102 kilos. My weight was affecting me physically and emotionally. I was experiencing numbness in my leg caused by a pinched nerve in my hip and was told by the surgeon that it was due to the weight I’d gained.

I am an emotional person and often feel stressed and anxious. I overdo things and don’t let myself slow down. Not feeling attractive to myself and anyone else was not good for my state of mind. Over the years I used many reasons to explain my weight gain: my caesarian, my medication, my body type, finances (a sandwich is cheaper than a salad), social events (braais, kids parties, moms teas), no time to: eat at work, make a healthy lunch or go to gym, needing to eat chocolate and bananas to help my serotonin levels, water retention…. I continued making excuses until  a friend of mine asked me to be her matron of honor. I was embarrassed that I was so fat and so I almost refused because I didn’t want to ruin her wedding pictures. My husband said that if I really felt that way I must seek help. At that stage I weighed 102 kgs.

I was referred to Sandy. During the course of our consultations, I became more aware of my habits. The one thing that hit home, was that all the reasons I was using, particularly the one that the medication for anxiety were the cause of my weight gain, were just excuses.

The reality is I hate to waste food and do not like bits of leftovers in the fridge, so I literally ate what was left on my family’s plates and in the pots. I would also eat when I was unhappy or feeling stressed. By becoming more mindful of my habits and excuses I was able to make healthier choices.

What worked for me:

  • Getting a weekly menu plan.
  • Shopping once a week and not adding little extras.
  • My weekly consultations, weigh-in’s with Sandy kept me accountable and on track.

Changes that I’ve made:

  •      I have learnt to sit and eat slowly. It only takes 10 minutes. I used to eat on the run or not eat because I was too busy.
  •      I cut down on our serving sizes  – at home and at restaurants.  We used to fill our breakfast bowls, which were too big.

Some quotes of Sandy’s that resonated with me were:

  • “Become more mindful of your habits and what triggers your eating, then find ways to work around them.”
  • “Find the reason/s why you are you sabotaging yourself.”
  • “Sugar makes you crave more sugar / sweet things.”

I lost 21kg in 6 months. I weighed 102kg in July 2012. Now I am 81kg and have maintained my weight.

As you can see from my photographs I was a bridesmaid at my friend’s wedding and I felt beautiful. My husband has been so supportive and it’s been great getting compliments from him as well as family and friends.



Wanita, whom I hadn’t been in touch with for some time, contacted me recently to tell me about her new venture. We met for coffee and the more we chatted the more excited I became. I realized that our philosophy regarding a healthy lifestyle overlaps in so many ways. I have always believed that combining healthy eating and exercise is the perfect balance to leading a healthy lifestyle.

I founded Unique Lifestyle 15 years ago and have focused on healthy eating by changing old patterns, behaviors and shifting preconceived ideas about food to create a life of balance. Wanita has always been passionate about exercise and she wants to help motivate people to lead a healthy lifestyle by incorporating exercise into their lives. Below is an article in which she explains her philosophy, how she can help you and how to contact her. 

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind – through sustainable exercise, healthy eating and the like

Ever feel like things are just getting too much, like you are trapped inside your cocoon? I have been there! Healthy exercise, healthy eating and getting outside, got me through it during my personal journey (not just a philosophy), but I know that it is easier said than done. So you want to exercise, be healthy with a healthy eating plan, want time out from the rat race – but it is, or seems to be, just too hard and you do not have the motivation to do it?

I wish to instil in you that motivation you require to set in motion the exciting transformation process to a healthy body and mind by letting go of the past, which is holding you back, and creating space for the new in order to reach your full potential. I will endeavour to make you experience the wonderful sensation of endorphins rushing through your body, once you have taken those first few critical steps towards a holistic healthy lifestyle.

Life is short and precious and we should not waste one second with a negative mindset. We should make time to go out there, to be ourselves and to live a more purposeful, fulfilling, joyful and healthy lifestyle; and having fun whilst doing it, as life is a wonderful adventure. Being a winner or loser is irrelevant – it is how we play the game that counts.

I do not have the perfect body and I am not a top athlete; in fact far from it, but I have a passion and loveforsport, exercise, a healthy lifestyle and most importantly, helpingpeople. Having a healthy body and mind to enjoy life every minute of every day, is why I wish to share my passion with you. You will not be left on your own, as I will be there with you every step of the way, sharing your experience and your journey.

This transformation journey should not be punishment, but most of the time it should be pure enjoyment and fun, otherwise it will never be sustainable. You will clear your mind of all the negativity and heaviness (and utilise this to create your courage and wisdom to grow and not repeat the past), you will feel the blood flow through your veins and eventually you would want to experience this all the time, as it provides you such a positive energy boost which will permeate into all other facets of your daily life; you will learn to embrace change.

No pressure of other gym members staring at you whilst you are exercising, or having any expectation from anybody to perform, other than yourself. This is all about you doing it for yourself; it is your time and it is up to you, whether you wish to run, walk or crawl like a snail. Once you start seeing results, no matter what your goal is, you will be motivated to keep on going, as this should become part of your daily sustainable lifestyle. You will start implementing holistic and healthy decisions for your body and mind by supplementing your exercise with healthy eating plan (with the assistance of a professional, being Sandy of Unique Lifestyle) and ultimately, you will start feeling rejuvenated and positive.

Experiencing sunrise over a sleepy city, or sunset over the ocean, breathing in fresh air, smelling the ocean air, or simply enjoying being outside; being happy and thankful for a healthy body and mind and for being able to appreciate it all. If you wish to make that change and require the motivation to start that positive transformative journey in your life to unleash your butterfly, no matter what age, mind-set, shape or size, please feel free to contact me. 


Healthy Lifestyle Without Limits (“HL|WL”)

Sole Proprietor: Ms. W.N. Lassen

| Wanita Lassen | E: wanita@lassen.org.za | T: (083) 310-5999 | F: (086) 617-5120 | | P.O. Box 51-595, V&A Waterfront, 8002, SOUTH AFRICA |


Lighting a Spark for Employee Wellness

Spark ATM is a young, vibrant company that takes the health of their staff seriously. And it starts and the top with the CEO, Marc Sternberg. Marc is as passionate about his health and that of his staff as he is about his company.

I was recently invited to speak at their Wellness Day. The day began with a light breakfast in the dining area. Staff could attend talks; chat to representatives from companies on topics related to health and could also have health screenings, which were available throughout the day.

The company has recently moved into new premises in an industrial area in Cape Town where healthy food, access to a gym, a place to relax or take a quick break is not readily available. All of this was taken into account when they designed their new offices.

Part of the first floor incorporates a huge open plan space, which consists of a kitchen, bar, dining and lounge area, with a pool table and flat screen TV. The kitchen area is fully equipped (includes 2 ovens, 4 plate hob, microwave, fridge etc.) so that staff can make themselves healthy meals, snacks or smoothies. They also have an industrial coffee machine and brought in a barrister to teach the staff the secret to making really good coffee.

There is also a library and reading area if staff require some quiet time. On the ground floor they have a fully equipped gym with treadmills, cycling machine, boxing bag and weights. The equipment faces a wall covered in wallpaper with a picture of a forest with sunlight filtering through the trees.

They have decorated their offices simply but effectively and in doing so have provided their staff with a place that is much more than a place of work – it is also a place to eat healthily, relax, exercise, chill and socialize. This approach reinforces the company’s holistic approach to a healthy balanced lifestyle.

They have lit the spark by investing in their employee’s health and the return on this investment will impact on their productivity, employees health, competitiveness and economic growth.

What a pleasure and honour it is to work with a company who is as passionate about health as I am.

Unique Lifestyle Talk at Spark ATM Wellness Day
Unique Lifestyle Talk at Spark ATM Wellness Day

Spark ATM - Kitchen, Lounge, Dining, Bar area with Pool table
Spark ATM – Kitchen, Lounge, Dining, Bar area with Pool table
Spark ATM - Library and reading area
Spark ATM – Library and reading area

Spark ATM - Relaxing area

Spark ATM – Relaxing area
Spark ATM Gym
Spark ATM Gym
Spark ATM Gym
Spark ATM Gym