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Muddy reviews: WEA’S online learning courses

Reach for the the Hobnobs when you're feeling emosh? If you've piled on the Corona Rolls this year you're not alone. To find out why, we took a bite of WEA's online course Mood and Food.

Woman laughing

Health and wellbeing can be a massive stumbling block to our confidence levels, which in turn can impact our route to education, employment prospects and motivation in general. This is why the WEA (Worker’s Educational Association) offer a range of online courses to help us learn more about making healthy choices. If you’re overweight and on a downer, it can feel impossible to be motivated and positive about fulfilling your potential.

Mood and Food is a 6 week course which aims to help people to build their confidence by equipping them with the tools and understanding to support healthier choices instead of reaching for the cheese when times are tough and getting stuck in a downward spiral. It’s currently being conducted entirely online using a combination of Zoom and Canvas, an online learning resource for accessing course materials. I tried it out to see whether it could teach me anything about how to stop piling on the pounds in Lockdown 2 and the minute I dialled in to the group Zoom call I knew I wasn’t going to regret it.

Along with our tutor, Rachel, and the group tech support, Avril, there are around 6 other participants, so its a small, friendly group. Probably a key point for what is a sensitive and personal topic for many, and it’s worth pointing out that everything discussed in the group is entirely confidential, so I’m not spilling anyone’s chocolate coated beans.

Junk food

The first topic up for discussion is junk food. Why do we crave it? When are we most likely to opt for it? Our group discussions turn out to be insightful and funny. We all agree we make poor choices in social scenarios such as parties or going out for dinner (stuffing our face with crisps, ordering too many courses…) but that being at home during Lockdown has been an even greater challenge simply because food has been the only thing many of us have been clinging to.

We talk about how social and cultural celebrations are almost always centred around high calorie foods and that this makes us associate those foods with feel-good vibes. Romantic dates come with puddings and fizz; Christmas means being with loved-ones, gorgeous gifts and mince-pies. We reach for those comforting foods when we’re feeling a bit rubbish because our brain associates them with good times. It’s not necessarily a bad thing: Nigella has built a fabulous career on this very idea. But the problem occurs when we can’t stop. We become habitual over-eaters and use food as an emotional crutch.

We’re most likely to make poor food choices when we’re feeling stressed and tired and, let’s face it, 2020 has been quite a stressful year for many. When we’re stressed our body releases cortisol. This is often referred to as the fight or flight hormone and if we’re gonna fight, we’re gonna need some calories. This is essentially why we go for the jumbo sharing bag of Doritos when we’re at are most stressed. Biologically, it makes sense, but in modern life we don’t actually need those extra calories to psych ourselves up for the in-laws coming to stay, prepping for a work Zoom presentation, or when we’re just trying to get through CNN’s election coverage.

Smoothies

So what should we be doing to fight these cravings and make better choices?

Keep hydrated

Not drinking enough water means you’ll be tired, less alert and therefore less likely to make good food choices. The NHS recommends 6-8 glasses of water a day, which is up to around 2 litres. I’m awful at remembering to do this, so I’ve started having big water bottle on my desk so I can keep an eye on what I’m drinking during the day.

Regulate blood sugar

If you don’t have a steady blood sugar level, your mood and energy will fluctuate and you might find you have slumps and cravings. Good news! This means that snacking is good for you. Yay! Just not Mars bars and Pringle’s. Boo. Stick to low GI foods without refined sugars or carbs. You’re looking for slow release carbs like nuts and seeds, bananas, oat cakes with peanut butter and fresh fruit and veg.

Learn more

I’ve definitely gained a real insight into why I make certain food choices, and I’ve even shed a few of those extra Lockdown pounds as a result. But don’t just take it from me. If you’re keen to find out more about giving yourself the tools to kick bad habits or improve your confidence and wellbeing, the WEA offer a huge range of online courses with loads of support and resources.

Find out more about WEA’s courses at www.wea.org.uk. or phone  0300 303 3464

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