Emotional eating: Feeling less, weighing more

By: Dr. Joey Shulman

Author: Canadian Living


Emotional eating: Feeling less, weighing more

By: Dr. Joey Shulman
When you wake up in the morning, does the snugness of your pants determine your mood? Do you find that when you do start to lose weight, you quickly self-sabotage those results and binge eat until you experience the horrible feeling of "food guilt?" If so, you may be an emotional eater. In truth, at a certain level, we are all emotional eaters. Happy, sad, bored, lonely, frustrated or anxious – we eat! However, if you are in a continual pattern of emotional eating and it is holding you back from reaching your weight loss and health goals, it is time to examine this issue and break the emotional eating pattern for good.

When people gain and lose weight over and over again, there is more than just bad food choices underlying the issue. Our relationship with food is one of the most intimate and potentially addictive relationships we create from an early age. If we use food to soothe, numb, celebrate, or for any other emotional purposes we run the risk that food will always be at the core of these emotions.

Without taking care of the emotional baggage that may be at the core of your food issues, you will run the risk of being a "lifer" in the weight loss world. Rather than counting calories, it is far wiser to dive down to a deeper level of awareness about your eating habits and to bring back a level consciousness about the way you are eating. By doing so, you will be in charge of your food choices instead of your food choices being in charge of you.

How do you know if you are an emotional eater? A few classic behaviours include;
• Trying repetitively but failing to keep weight off
• Feeling frantic and out of control when eating
• Eating frequently when not hungry
• Binge eating large proportions of unhealthy food items
• Late night eating
• Thinking about food often
• Sabotaging good feelings and weight loss attempts
• Turning to food during times of stress or despair
• Continuing to eat - even when full
• Feels guilty after a food binge (i.e. I will skip meal tomorrow, exercise more etc.)

Things to consider:
• Emotional eating is sudden and involves automatic, absent minded eating
• Emotional eating is a "need" for a specific food and has nothing to do with physical hunger

Page 1 of 2Breaking the pattern
In order to become an individual who eats with awareness, you must stop when you sense the urge to eat, take a breath and focus your awareness back to how you are feeling. Is it hunger or is it stress?

Try some of the following steps to start practicing awareness eating;
• Take sips of water between each bite.
• Do not take the entire bag or container of food. It is best to dish out the amount or serving size you would like to eat in a small dish or bowl.
• Use you knife, fork and spoon while eating to slow you down. Take breaths between bites and chew your food.
• Do not keep high-glycemic index snack foods in the house such as cookies, crackers or sugary cereals. If the temptation is there, you will likely fall off the health wagon during times of stress.
• Play the "name it" game. While sitting down for a meal, pick 1-2 things that you are really enjoying about your food. Is it the colour of the strawberry? The crunch of the walnut? This will slow down your eating and snap you back into awareness.
• Try to make your meals last a minimum of 20 minutes. It takes 20 minutes for the stretch receptors in your stomach to say to your brain, "Hey! I am full."
• Invest in chewing gum or chewable vitamin C. When you are experiencing the urge to grab and gobble – pop two chewable vitamin Cs to slow you down and cut cravings.
• Do not skip meals. Skipping meals will lead to over eating.
• Do not eat until you are uncomfortable (i.e. until your pants feel snug). Eat until you approximately 80 per cent full.
• Allow yourself to get hungry and feel your stomach grumble. It is important to be able to identify real hunger versus eating merely for the sake of boredom, according to the clock etc.
• Talk to a friend or a trusted family member about the issues you are having with food. There are also wonderful psychologists and counselors who specialize in emotional eating and can be of great value.

Keep in mind, winning the weight loss battle involves both a psychological and physical component. Once you take control of the underlying issues, you will feel an enormous burden lifted that allows you to enjoy food and nutrition, without a negative emotional result.

Read more: 5 sneaky things that make you gain weight.

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For more information on emotional eating and weight loss, look for Dr. Joey Shulman's new release The Last 15 – A Weight Loss Breakthrough. Also, visit
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Emotional eating: Feeling less, weighing more