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Publication: Diet Buddy
Emotional Eating!

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         Diet Buddy - Monday, November 13, 2006

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Emotional Eating! 

Hi There Buddies,

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend, and from the looks 
of the weather this past week, I do believe "Mother Nature" 
realized she may have had her months mixed up, which is 
nice for those of us that are warm-weathered sun-
worshippers. It also allows for some extra time to get 
outdoor activities in, that we won't be doing much during 
winter months.

Winter is normally a time of staying indoors and enjoying 
the company of family and friends for the holidays, and it 
also gives us a chance to reflect and make new plans for 
the upcoming year.  It's a time for hibernation and comfort 
foods and also the time of year we lack the most movement, 
in other words, exercise, and as we all know winter months 
CAN and WILL add those extra pounds if we're not careful 
with what we're putting in our mouths.

Last week we looked into the nibbling and snacking habits 
that most of us have at some time or another, if not always.
This type of behavior is so vast, that it's hard to pin down
exactly when snacking ends and emotional eating begins.  
There does seem to be a fine line between just nibbling and 
emotional eating that many don't realize they are crossing. 

We know we eat because we're hungry, and we know we need to 
eat to refuel our energy level, so then why are we eating 
right after we have had a meal?  Why are we eating just to 
eat?  Eating when not hungry seems to be a dilemma for many 
people with unresolved emotional issues and seems to be 
filling some sort of void in our lives that we're not 
consiously aware of.  So what is this "void" and how can we 
fix it?

With the help of the American Medical Network, I'd like to 
explore this subject a little further for those of us that 
are in this type of situation and it's causing a weight 
problem or keeping us from losing it. 

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Emotional eating is the practice of consuming large 
quantities of food - usually "comfort" or junk foods - in 
response to feelings instead of hunger.  Experts estimate 
that 75% of overeating is caused by emotions.

Many of us learn that food can bring comfort, at least in 
the short-term.  As a result, we often turn to food to heal 
emotional problems.  Eating becomes a habit preventing us 
from learning skills that can effectively resolve our 
emotional distress.

Depression, boredom, loneliness, chronic anger, anxiety, 
frustration, stress, problems with interpersonal 
relationships and poor self-esteem can result in overeating 
and unwanted weight gain.

By identifying what triggers our eating, we can substitute 
more appropriate techniques to manage our emotional 
problems and take food and weight out of the equation.

How To Identify Eating Triggers!

Situations and emotions that trigger us to eat fall into 
five categories:

*  Social:  Eating when around other people.  For example, 
   excessive eating can result from being encouraged by 
   others to eat; eating to fit in; arguing; or feelings of 
   inadequacy around other epople.

*  Emotional:  Eating in response to boredom, stress, 
   fatique, tension, depression, anger or loneliness as a 
   way to "fill the void."

*  Situational:  Eating because the opportunity is there.  
   For example, at a restaurant, seeing an advertisement 
   for a particular food, passing by a bakery.  Eating may 
   also be associated with certain activities such as 
   watching TV, going to the movies or a sporting event, 

*  Thoughts:  Eating as a result of negative self-worth or 
   making excuses for eating.  For example, scolding one-
   self for looks or a lack of will power.

*  Physiological:  Eating in response to physical cues. 
   For example, increased hunger due to skipping meals or 
   eating to cure headaches or other pain.

To identify what triggers excessive eating in you, keep a 
food diary that records what and when you eat as well as 
what stressors, thoughts, or emotions you identify as you 
eat. You should begin to identify patterns to your 
excessive eating fairly quickly. 

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How To Break The Habit!

Identifying eating triggers is the first step; however this 
alone is not sufficient to alter eating behavior. Usually, 
by the time you have identified a pattern, eating in 
response to emotions or certain situations has become a 
pattern.  Now you have to break the habit.

Developing alternatives to eating is the second step. When 
you start to reach for food in response to a trigger, try 
one of the following activities instead:

-  Watch television

-  Read a good book or magazine or listen to music

-  Go for a walk or jog

-  Take a bubble bath

-  Do deep breathing exercises

-  Play cards or a board game

-  Talk to a friend

-  Do housework, laundry or yard work

-  Wash the car

-  Write a letter

-  Or do any other pleasurable or necessary activity until 
   the urge to eat passes 

Distrations Not Enough!

Sometimes simply distracting yourself from eating and 
developing alternative habits is not enough to manage the 
emotional distress that leads to excessive eating.  To 
more effectively cope with emotional stress, try: 

*  Relaxation exercises

*  Meditation

*  Individual or group counseling

These techniques address the underlying emotional problems 
and help resolve the original problem as well as teach you 
to cope in more effective and healthier ways.  For more 
information on these techniques, contact your doctor or 
health advisor.

As you learn to incorporate more appropriate coping 
strategies and to curb excessive eating, remember to reward 
yourself for a job well done.  We tend to repeat behaviors 
that have been reinforced, so reward yourself when you meet 
your nutrition management goals.  Buy that blouse, take 
that vacation, or get that massage to reward yourself to 
increase the likelyhood that you will maintain your new 
healthy habits.

Did You Know ???

That "exercise is a great emotional outlet because it 
provides rememdies for many of the emotions that trigger 
eating.  Plus it's a healthy alternative."

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From Our Reader!

Diet buddy,
I know that emotional eating is a big thing for me and I'm 
ok in most situations except the workplace.

I'm currently in a job I don't like.  I've been job hunting 
but can't find anything at the moment and can't just quit.  
When I get to work, I want to eat.  Co-workers bring food 
for birthdays, holidays and leftovers from family gather-
ings. If we've had a rough time at work, someone will bring 
food to 'cheer us up' and help us get through the day. It's 
troubling because usually I have no problem saying no to 
this food in other situations (at home, parties, etc.) but 
once I get to work, it's like an all out pig fest.  I know 
that food takes my mind of my miserable job and I can't seem
to stop.  I'll bring healthy snacks and fruit to work and 
bring "emergency" food (a bag of 100 calories crackers) but 
then I eat those within the first few hours of work - even 
if I'm not hungry.  I do fine eating-wise on my days away 
from work.

Any ideas how to get off this crazy cycle - besides 
quitting my job?

Thanks for the great forum and tips sent every week - it 


Hi JW,

It sounds to me like you're comforting with food in order 
to tolerate your job situation. You've probably been going 
into "eat" mode for quite some time or as long as you've 
been unhappy there.  Your mind and body at this point are 
programmed to getting food during work hours because of the 
emotions that you're trying to stuff.

I'm not sure what exactly you're feeling - anger, 
frustration, boredom, desperation, but try next time you 
feel yourself have a trigger moment to "feel" the emotion 
that is making you want to eat.  Also try recording it in a 
journal or a notepad for a few days and see what you come 
up with.

I would venture to say that frustration and anger seem to 
be underneath your situation and that's something you can 
start to work at.  I'm not a doctor, but I would definitely 
continue to search for a different job, no matter how long 
it takes, because it will give you hope.  Always remember 
you are not destined to stay at this job forever, and at 
this point you are fully aware of how miserable it is making

Please keep up the job search and make note of any feelings 
that you are feeling and try to talk things out with a co-
worker or a family member.  Also know that you have choices 
to change any situation that is making you this unhappy.  
Remember your body and self-esteem is taking the blow.  
Good Luck to you! 

Having weight-loss struggles?  Stop by our Diet Buddy Forum 
and share with the rest of our readers at...

Have a great week everyone !!!

Disclaimer:  Since I am not a medical professional any 
statements in this column are strictly based on research I 
have done and should not be misconstrued as medical advice.

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