Archive for the ‘Emotional Eating’ Category

Weight Loss Doesn’t Have To Be So Hard!

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

weight loss doesn't have to be hardWeight loss doesn’t have to be so hard.

There. I’ve said it.

I can feel your jaw dropping. Fists clenching. And brows raising.

You know better.

After all, you’ve suffered for years. Why would you have made it hard if it wasn’t necessary?

Well, sometimes we do what feels natural, even if it isn’t right.

We suffer through something because we don’t know any other way. We see other women around us in a virtual prison, fighting nonstop with their own bodies. We become prison wardens to ourselves in our quest for thinness. We deprive ourselves of what we enjoy, and mentally beat ourselves if we slip. I don’t even want to talk about the kinds of abuse we heap onto ourselves when we are less than perfect.

There’s a big problem with dealing with weight loss this way.

Of course, the biggest problem is simply that it doesn’t work. I mean, have you lost your extra weight and kept it off by being a meanie to yourself?

Also, when we beat ourselves up, we feel worse. Ashamed. Sad. Hopeless. And when we feel these really low feelings, of course it stands to reason that we want to run away.

If you’re an emotional eater, you eat. That is the fastest way to escape yourself.

If this sounds familiar, I want you to think of someone you know who is naturally slim.

You know they don’t torture themselves. Much of the time they are peaceful and enjoy their life AND their food.

But they aren’t happy because they are slim. They are happy most of the time because they create a beautiful life. They treat themselves well. They enjoy their food and have nothing to run away from. So they are able to get to and stay at their natural weight without pain, and without drama.

Most of us who are emotional eaters walk around holding prison bars up to our faces.

We are not in prison, but we create our own prison of suffering.

And this becomes such a habit that we think it’s the only way to be, to live.

How can we let go of these bars and make it less hard? Even pleasurable?

I know that this is a tough concept to imagine. If you’ve been torturing yourself for years, you must believe that it’s the only way.

Why else would anyone treat themselves so badly?

I’m here to say there is another way.

But you have to begin by asking the right questions.

Not: Why am I so fat? Why am I so stupid? Or why can’t I do this?

Instead, ask, how can I feel good now? How can I make this easier for myself? And how can this experience feel so much better than it does?

The Story of Your Weight

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

StoryDoes this story sound familiar? Once upon a time, there was a woman who weighed 172 pounds. (Or whatever your number is today.)

This weight was more than she weighed 5 years ago.

It was much more than she weighed 10 years ago.

And so whenever she stepped on the scale and saw the number 172, she made up a story about herself.

These stories were not your typical fairy tales.

There was no beautiful princess waiting to be rescued by the handsome prince.

These stories had a heroine for whom this woman felt no compassion.

Here’s how they went:

Once upon a time there was a woman who weighed 172 pounds. She was a terrible person. She had no control.

Wait… this isn’t true! The only thing that’s true is the number.

Okay, let’s try again:

Once upon a time there was a woman who weighed 172 pounds. She had no willpower. She was weak and stupid.

Wait! That’s not true either! The only truth here is the number 172.

Back to the drawing board.

Once upon a time there was a woman who weighed 172 pounds.

She used the number 172 to tell all kinds of mean stories about herself.

And, they worked!

They made her feel terrible. Not smart. Not healthy. And certainly not worthy.

Now, my friends, sadly that last story is true.

For lots of us, we use the number that represents our weight to mean all kinds of things about ourselves that not only aren’t true, but they make us feel awful.

That is sad.

Because when you make yourself feel awful, it often feels so bad that you want to escape by eating more unneeded food.

And so we go in a big, unhappy circle.

So I’d like you to consider one final story.

Once upon a time, there was a woman who weighed 172 pounds. This number was higher than she wanted it to be.

So she gently took a look at how this number came to be.

She saw that she ate more than she needed when she was sad. Or angry.

Or sometimes these strong urges came over her and she felt helpless and had to obey them.

This story is the beginning of the happy ending.

This heroine was compassionate with herself.

No beatings.

Just curiosity and love.

From there, she might figure out why she ate too much, and learn how to deal with urges and feelings differently.

But for now, she was okay.

She was okay with the number 172.

Because all it meant was a simple measurement.

And she could move on from there.

Can you rewrite your own story?

Truth #2: Connect With Your Body: What Satisfied Feels Like

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

What Satisfied Feels LikeWe all eat, right?

But some of us eat more than others.

What determines when we’ve had enough? And how do we know when to stop eating?

Our goal, as healthy humans, is to eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re satisfied.

Today I want to talk about the whole question of what ‘satisfied’ feels like. So you have a clearer idea of when to stop eating.

There’s a big difference between ‘satisfied’ and ‘full’. If you have been struggling with your weight, you probably stop eating when you are full.

Full feels like you have an awareness of the food in your stomach.

You feel an internal heaviness.

You may feel a lessening of a desire to keep eating unless you are eating emotionally or bingeing.

You don’t feel like being active at this moment.

You might feel sluggish.

Our goal is not to eat to fullness.

Yet it’s a word we all use interchangeably with satisfied.

Let’s look at the definition now of ‘satisfied’.

You feel neutral to a tiny bit full.

You don’t have any discomfort at all.

Your stomach doesn’t feel heavy or stretched.

You no longer feel like eating.

Satisfied feels light. You still have energy. You could go for a walk if you wanted to without being uncomfortable.

Satisfied feels good.

Full is when you’ve gone past good, and now you are in the territory of ‘too much’.

When we talk about how our bodies feel on the inside, it’s very subjective. So we need to develop our own internal scale to know when to stop eating.

So, think about these questions when you are eating:

  • When you feel full, what does it feel like?
  • Do you like feeling full?
  • If you do, why?
  • If you don’t like feeling full, can you say why you don’t?
  • Do you think being satisfied is different than being full?
  • What does satisfied feel like in your body?
  • Do you like it? Why?
  • If you don’t like feeling satisfied, why not?

You need to develop your own measurement of how each of these bodily sensations feels in your body. And then you can choose how you want to feel each time you eat.

It can feel like you are giving yourself a treat when you go past satisfied to full. But the truth is that you are not being kind to yourself when you slip past full. When you give your body more than it needs, you are eating for reasons other than hunger. And if you’re not hungry, whatever the reason is that you continue to eat… food won’t satisfy it.

Have the courage to try it.

And see, honestly, what feels better to your body.

And if full really feels better than satisfied, that’s okay. But your next step would be to take an honest look at why it does.

And move on from there.

When Your Emotional Eating Habit Dies

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Emotional Eating Habit DiesI was struggling.

Something had been bothering me for several weeks.

I had done all the things I tell my clients to do: I talked to my coach, my friends and my coach friends.

I wrote in my journal. Extensively.

I cried.

I googled my issue and read about it online.

There was no resolution. But I did feel a bit more peaceful.

I had taken the issue apart. I had looked at how my thoughts were contributing to my painful feelings. And I realized that part of feeling better for me would come with the passage of time.

My thoughts would soften. My feelings would ease up. And I’d take some actions to help myself.

Eventually.

But that morning, I woke up and realized a habit I used to have was officially dead.

I’m talking about my emotional eating habit.

In the past, anything could set me off.

Work not working. My daughters being teenagers. A friend forgetting my birthday. Almost anything could lead me to unneeded snacking.

Snacking that left me bloated and overly full.

Regretful and remorseful.

And let’s not forget filled with self-hatred.

But I realized that I went through, and was still going through, something I found upsetting, and I wasn’t eating emotionally. At all.

I was feeling my feelings. The good ones and yes, the bad ones. Even when I work on my thoughts there is some necessary pain.

That’s life.

But without the extra food to compound the problem, I was free.

Free to work on a solution, to relax my view, to create less painful thoughts.

And because I wasn’t indulging in an emotional eating habit, sometimes those feelings felt worse.

Because they weren’t being muffled by food.

But my confidence was through the roof. And I could use this confidence to add to my deep knowledge that I would figure out my problem.

Without the buffer of food in between me and my problem.

It’s a much more direct route to a solution.

And even if the solution wasn’t evident right then, I knew it was there.

And I would find it.

And, if I could do this, without the extra food, then you can too, my friend.

How Your Lower Brain Hooks You Into Bingeing

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

lower brain urgesA while ago I had the pleasure of talking to author Kathryn Hansen about her book, Brain Over Binge.

We talked about how the lower part of our brain gives us messages based on a strong drive for survival. We may get messages to eat unnecessarily large quantities of food… too much for our bodies, but seemingly never enough for our misguided brains.

Why is it so hard to recognize the voice of our lower brain? And how exactly does it ‘hook us’ into believing that there is a real, immediate need, and we’d better load up on food, NOW?

The lower brain is very tricky.

It sends us messages that really sound like it’s our true self that has this need.

If you’re working hard, and are tired or stressed, you might hear yourself think, ‘Oh, let me just have one cookie. I’ve been working so hard! I certainly deserve it!’

Doesn’t that sound believable?

If you have been staying conscious of what you’ve been eating, you might hear your animal brain say, ‘Oh come on, take a break! I hate having to think so hard about what I do!’

It can be really hard to distinguish your lower brain’s voice from the voice of your true self.

So here’s what you can do.

Let’s assume that you truly do want to stop bingeing.

Some people don’t.

But most do… so if you really want to stop, then just know that any excuse you think of to binge or to indulge without hunger is the voice of your lower brain.

Because these voices are not aligned with what your higher self really wants.

Our goal in breaking free from binges is to begin to hear your lower brain’s messages, and then choose to ignore them. We can notice them, and label them as ‘neurological junk’… not worthy of any attention. Just some brain messages from faulty wiring.

But, in order to dismiss these urges as neurological junk, we first need to recognize them.

I suggest that you start a list of your lower brain’s top 10 hooks.

Here are some examples:

  1. Just have a piece of cake! You can always start a diet tomorrow.
  2. You’ve been so good… just give this food to yourself.
  3. So what if you binge, it’s not that big a deal.
  4. You’re so tired, there’s so much to do… take a break and live it up!
  5. It’s not fair that I have to watch what I eat.

And so on…

Make a list of your own usual reasons for overeating.

Jot them down and look them over.

And the next time you hear that voice in your head with one of your top 10 excuses, you will know it’s just your lower brain trying to get you to do what you’ve always done.

Which has been to give in to the urge.

But you are in charge.

That lower brain can give you an urge to eat, but it can’t physically make you eat.

That choice is always up to you.

Start here. And learn to recognize the voice and the words that hook you.

What If Your Binges Weren’t Your Fault?

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

binges and the brainWhat if your binges weren’t your fault?

What if it were simply the way your brain functioned?

And that you could stop binges at any time?

If this sounds too good to be true, it’s not.

If you’ve been listening to the news and doing some reading, you probably already know that interest in brain science and developments in brain science are at an all-time high.

Research has shown us that our brains have neuroplasticity… the ability to change. And this change can be seen, literally, with brain scans.

So what this means for people with compulsive behaviors, like compulsive eating, binge eating and obsessive thoughts and actions, is that these behaviors can be stopped.

Without drugs.

Without therapy.

Here’s the very simplified story:

Our brain has many parts… for the purpose of this discussion, let’s view the brain as having two main parts… the Higher Brain and the Lower Brain.

The Higher Brain is the part that we think of as our True Self, or the Human Brain. It is in the front and top of our brain, and controls rational thought, voluntary motor functions and logic, among other things.

The Animal Brain is lower, and is found in most living things… you may have also heard it being called the Reptilian Brain. It’s responsible for our survival… it tells us what we need to survive and acts in a very routine, programmed way.

How does this affect your eating?

Let’s say, like millions of Americans, you’ve dieted in your lifetime. Dieting can trigger the Lower Brain to urge you to eat, and eat, and eat. Why? Because it thinks by dieting that you might be starving, and its job is to keep you alive.

Eventually, over time, the urge to overeat to compensate for undereating becomes a habit. Guess what part of the brain handles this habit?

The Lower/Animal Brain.

And once these neural connections are made, that part of the brain will urge you to overeat, or binge eat. The feeling of ‘having to’ keep eating doesn’t come from your stomach, once you are physically satisfied. But many of us keep on eating because of that desperate false message we are getting from our Animal Brain.

It can feel extremely urgent that you eat. And continue to eat. And it feels like you have absolutely no choice.

So you give in.

And each time you give in to the binges, you are strengthening those pathways in that part of your brain.

When you are not hungry and you hear that inner voice telling you to go have ALL the cookies in the house, that message you are getting is just the way your brain has been programmed for survival.

And after a binge, most people vow to eat much less the next day, which again gives the Lower Brain the message that you are starving. So you keep on making these urges strong.

It can feel like you are trapped, with no way out.

The interesting thing is that even though the Lower Brain is giving you these inappropriate and unnecessary urges to eat, it actually can’t make you do a thing.

It can’t make you get up and go to the fridge.

It can’t make you order pizza.

And it can’t make you put anything in your mouth.

That’s because it’s your Higher Brain that controls your voluntary movement. Although it may feel like you are out of control, the rational part of you is always in control.

And there is a way to change this.

I’ve been using these concepts for months now myself and with my clients and have seen amazing results.

The Secret Life of the Binge Eater

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Brain Over BingeAre you a secret binge eater?

There are many definitions of binge eating… it can be an actual eating disorder, or it can  describe  the behavior of many of my clients:

  • Eating large amounts of food
  • A couple of times a week
  • Feeling out of control, like you have no choice
  • And always with great regret and distress.

Is this you?

I am seeing more and more brilliant clients who are secretly obeying a strong urge to eat large quantities of food fairly often.

These women are eating compulsively… they get an urge to eat and once they start, the eating takes on a life of its own.

They are always disgusted with themselves and fear that something is wrong with them.

I know how they feel.

Because binge eating is something I used to do myself.

Many things can trigger a big eating session, and it’s hard to pinpoint and deal with each trigger.

So to deal with my own pain and the shame and pain of my clients, I researched and found some incredible answers in the world of brain science.

One of my favorite books about this behavior is Brain Over Binge, by Kathryn Hansen. Kathryn is not a coach, a psychologist or a researcher.

But she is someone who is fully recovered from Binge Eating Disorder, and has shared her story of recovery in the form of a memoir.

If you’ve ever felt like your eating was out of control, that once you started you couldn’t stop, or that you ate tremendous quantities of food, unrelated to your size or your hunger, you need to read this book.

I’ll be writing about binge eating for the month of September, so keep reading.

And if you’d like to talk to me privately about your story and hear some nontraditional solutions that you’ve probably never heard before, click here to talk to me.

I’m here to help.

Cookie

How Your Interpretation of Life Can Cause You to Overeat

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

OvereatIf you’re anything like most of the women I talk to, you overeat.

For some of us it’s an occasional event.

For others, it’s a regular thing.

And for still others, not only is it a regular happening in your life, but it’s frequent, it feels very ‘out of control’ and it might be considered binge eating.

In any case, when you eat without hunger, you’re giving your body more food than it needs.

And that extra food will be stored as fat.

So, why do we do it?

Here’s what I hear:

  • I was tired!
  • I needed a treat after working so hard.
  • I’m upset about _____ and food comforts me.
  • My boss was in a foul mood today.
  • My kids are driving me crazy!
  • ______ is a rough time of day for me.

You know the list can go on and on. And I’m sure you can add your own personal favorite top ten reasons for overeating to this list.

Here’s some truth:

NONE of those ‘reasons’ caused you to overeat.

None of them.

It’s your thoughts about those events that drive your overeating. It’s how you interpret those events.

I can hear you now, loud and clear, protesting:

  • “No really!! If I wasn’t working so hard, I wouldn’t need the extra dessert!”
  • “If my boss was in a better mood I’d never come home and pull up a chair to my fridge.”
  • “If my kids got good grades, I wouldn’t zone out with potato chips.”

Nice try.

But you are all busted.

None of what you’re saying is true.

  • Your work doesn’t make you overeat. Your thoughts about your work do. If you think ‘I shouldn’t have to work so hard!’ and you feel burdened and overwhelmed, you might overeat to numb the pain and get some (very) short term relief.
  • Your boss’ mood doesn’t make you overeat. But your thoughts about your boss do. If you think ‘He should be nicer to me, this isn’t fair!’, then you might feel stressed and hopeless or even angry, and you might eat to dull those feelings.
  • Your kids’ grades don’t make you overeat either. But if you think ‘I’m a bad mother; I should have helped my kids with their schoolwork more’, then your feelings of guilt and shame might lead you to some fast, false relief. Like ice cream and cookies.

All events are neutral.

It’s what you make the event mean, or how you interpret it that makes you feel an uncomfortable feeling. This uncomfortable feeling might lead you to an unplanned food festival.

You can change this.

So, what can you do to stop letting life events and circumstances rule your eating?

  1. First, recognize that your brain is doing this. All the time. It’s taking bits of information from the world around you and interpreting it for you. Generally, this is a pretty efficient thing your brain does. The problem is you may have trained your brain to interpret life in a negative way. Which causes you to feel bad. And then take actions that aren’t really in your best interest. Like overeating.
  2. Second, question all assumptions that seem to be leading to an uncomfortable feeling. Is it really true that my boss should be in a great mood? Why? Why do I need that to happen in order to feel good? Can I feel good without my boss changing? Can I feel good even if my kids get poor grades? (Hint: yes!!)
  3. And last, set an intention to use food mostly for hunger, and for some pleasure too. But not to feel better from a story you are telling yourself.

Are you hungry?

If yes, then eat.

If not, then look at the thoughts that are urging you to eat.

And remind yourself that these are just stories in your mind about neutral circumstances.

Why Can’t I Lose This Weight?!

Friday, June 14th, 2013

Frustrated woman with scaleIt’s the universal question. Why can’t I lose this weight?

And it’s frequently followed by these two questions:

What’s wrong with me? And…

How can I do so much and not get this one thing?

In our quest to lose this weight, we tend to focus on the outside.

What you should eat, how much, when to start, when to stop and how much to exercise.

There are about 47 zillion answers to these questions.

But even if there were one perfect answer (which there’s not), the problem is we’re asking the wrong questions.

The question shouldn’t be ‘Why can’t I lose this weight?’

The question should be ‘Why am I eating more food than my body needs?’

This is the key.

When we try to follow a diet, we are dealing with the symptom.

Excess weight on your body is a symptom of what’s going on with you.

It’s a symptom of how your mind is working, and what your internal programming is.

So if we treat the symptom, and don’t look deeper for the cause of the overeating, then you may lose weight, but it won’t be permanent.

And this happens a lot!

And when it happens over and over again, it’s really demoralizing.

You follow a plan, you work REALLY hard, you dig up the most willpower you are capable of creating, and maybe, maybe, you lose some weight.

But if you never figure out the WHY, the big reason you are eating too much, then eventually your extra weight will come right back. If you are able to get it off in the first place.

Now, everyone wants fast.

Fast cars, fast food, fast credit, fast internet.

And of course, fast weight loss.

I want to tell it like it is, and here’s the truth:

Fast weight loss is a quick fix. If it doesn’t address the reason you are overeating, you’re using precious time and energy doing the wrong thing.

So it’s not that you can’t do it.

It’s not that anything is wrong with you.

It’s that you are doing the wrong thing.

Slow down.

Figure out, or let someone help you figure out WHY you are eating more than you need, and do some work on that.

Eventually, with increased awareness and some solutions, your need to eat from different emotions instead of hunger will just fade away. You won’t need to focus so much on what and how you are eating.

You’ll be eating like a naturally slim person.

How does that go again?

Well, they eat when they’re hungry, and thoroughly enjoy their food, and they stop when their body has had enough.

There is a way to learn how to do this.

And after over 20 years in the weight loss business, I can tell you this: it’s the only way.

So, slow down.

Take stock of where you are.

And put your focus where it will help you get what you want.

Not on what’s wrong with you.

But on the big why. And it will happen. I promise.

How Stress-Eating Makes Your Stress Worse

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Stress reliefHave you ever eaten something with no hunger, strictly for the purpose of feeling better?

I have.

And I’ll bet you have too.

Clients tell me all the time that they are stress eaters.

This all-encompassing term includes any eating you do to relieve an uncomfortable feeling.

This feeling could be anything.

  • Shame.
  • Anger.
  • Fear.
  • Loneliness.
  • Worry.

Rarely to never is it feelings of peace, joy or satisfaction.

Often, my clients, who are frustrated about their extra weight, eat to overcome the bad feelings they have about their bodies, their ‘failure’, their inability to get themselves to do what’s good for them.

So, we eat to get rid of uncomfortable feelings.

But, wait a minute!

To me, it looks like we’re soothing our pain using the very thing that causes us pain in the first place.

And this eating adds more pounds of pain, giving you more uncomfortable feelings.

What??

Soothing ourselves with food, when we’re trying to lose weight, is like rubbing salt into a wound.

It makes it worse.

It makes it hurt more.

And it won’t get rid of what caused the wound in the first place.

So, what can you do instead?

First, catch yourself next time you reach for food to soothe an uncomfortable feeling.

Pause.

And ask if this will help or compound your discomfort.

Then choose something else to do.

Don’t eat.

Allow the feeling to bubble up and wash over you.

It will pass.

Now you can decide what to do about it.

I encourage my clients to have a list ready of things they can do to soothe themselves.

Some take only a few minutes.

Some take more time.

Some are solo activities.

Some involve other people.

Have your own personal list ready.

There’s no limit to the ideas you can come up with that can give you relief.

And here’s one more tip: how do you get yourself to pause and go look at your list?

Do a preview.

Start regularly mentally practicing coming up against your stress, and not reaching for food, but for your soothing list. Do it often enough and it will become your new behavior.

But you need to stop using the thing that causes pain to relieve your pain.