Dr. Phil Shares: How to Cope with Emotional Eating

 

How to Cope with Emotional Eating

How many times have you eaten not because you were physically hungry, but because you were stressed, tired, bored, anxious, angry, or (insert appropriate emotion here)?

Many of us have been taught that food can “soothe a mood,” that shoveling scoops of Ben & Jerry’s straight out of the pint can help dull the ache of a breakup. Comfort food — those warm, salty, melty bites of mac and cheese, for instance — preys upon our inability to say “no thanks” when we seek a reward or feel stressed.

When we use food to appease our moods, it sets us up for a vicious cycle of possible weight gain, followed by self-recrimination, followed by more emotional eating. But, I want to assure you that you can and you will stop this cycle if you learn a few simple tools.

Are You An Emotional Eater?

How do you know if you’re eating for emotional reasons? Try this self-test. For the following Answer each of the following five questions with a simple “yes” or “no.”

  • Do you eat between meals even when you’re not physically hungry?
  • If you eat between meals, are you eating on auto-pilot — i.e., mindlessly and without complete awareness and attention to what you’re actually doing?
  • When something upsetting happens, do you reach for the nearest bag of cookies to make yourself feel better?
  • Do you fantasize about foods that are your special “treats” such as chocolate cake or kettle chips?
  • When you eat these treats, do you hide out and eat them by yourself because you’re embarrassed to eat them in front of others?

If you answered “yes” to more than two of the above, you may be an emotional eater. When you want to eat when you’re not physically hungry, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

  • What am I feeling and why?
  • What do I really need besides food right now? (Hint: It’s often rest or a break from what you’re doing)

The healthy alternatives offered below may help you begin to escape the cycle.

Three of the Emotional States That Lead to Emotional Eating

Sadness, anxiety, and anger are the three emotional states I see most often among my patients that can lead to bouts of emotional eating. Some people eat to celebrate (hello, birthday cake), to quell boredom (think mindless snacking while watching TV), to reward themselves (“I just ran 7 miles, so I can eat a fully-loaded cheeseburger and fries”), but when it comes to patterns of emotional eating, I see them stem most from sadness, anxiety, or anger.

Sad Eating

Let’s face it: When heartbreak or loneliness hits, eating that tub of ice cream seems like a good idea. A bit of sweetness to drown out the sorrow… Before you know it, you’re caught in a self-perpetuating negative cycle that can be very difficult to escape. You eat because you’re sad, then you feel even more blue because you’ve eaten so much. This can lead to a “what-the-heck” attitude, increasing the likelihood of overeating when the next bout of the blues strikes.

Healthy alternatives to sad eating:

1. Express yourself: Your melancholy mood was probably caused by an upsetting incident. Get it off your chest by talking about it with someone you trust. If nobody is available to talk, try writing down your feelings.

2. Move: Battle the blues by moving your body and getting your heart pumping. Even doing 30 minutes of moderate exercise can boost the “feel-good” chemicals in your brain.

3. Give yourself permission to let it out: Light some candles, take a hot bath, listen to sad music, cry until you run out of tears. Allowing yourself to feel sad will help you process. Or, put on headphones, turn up the music, and dance, or punch pillows… pick a constructive way to emote that’s not eating.

Anxious/Stress Eating

Many of us eat to relieve our stress or anxiety. Research points out that emotional distress increases the intake of specific foods — in particular, those that are high in fat, sugar, or both. An excessive intake of these types of highly palatable foods shares similarities with the effects on brain and behavior that are seen with some drugs of abuse, according to research published in the journal Nutrition.

Healthy alternatives to anxiety/stress eating:

1. Stick to a regular, healthy sleep routine. If you’re not sleeping well because you’re stressed, the lack of sleep can result in poor food choices. Research shows that people who got insufficient sleep for several consecutive nights increased food intake to keep them going. When they returned to getting adequate rest, they stopped eating as much — particularly carbs and fats.

2. Do something relaxing and calming. We all have different ways of relaxing. The next time you feel stressed and anxious and instinctively turn to food, resist the urge to run to the cupboard or fridge, and instead practice a relaxing activity. Consider trying meditation, yoga, or even just pause for a moment to take some deep breaths.

Angry Eating

Unfortunately when we stuff our anger down with food this doesn’t get rid of our anger. It simply buries it. If we don’t deal with the emotion, it will keep popping up.

Healthy alternatives to angry eating

One way to get out of the angry eating trap is to delay eating — even 10 minutes will do — and to sit down, take a deep breath, and tune into what you’re really feeling. Ask yourself the following questions and patiently work your way through the answers.

  • What happened today that may have made me angry?
  • Why did that event stir up angry feelings?
  • What do I need to do in order to let go of this anger and feel peaceful?

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

Thanks for sharing Beachbody.com

The Health Benefits Of Owning a Pet

Owning Pets Can Lead To:
Increased Health, Increased Longevity, Decreased Cholesterol, Decreased Weight, Decreased Depression, and Overall Improvement in Physical and Emotional Health.

 

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

As a pet owner, I frequently hear that owning a pet, or a dog in particular, can be a huge benefit in relation to your health and can possibly help you live longer. For years I have believed and reported this to be true to my patients. The results I have witnessed with sick patients and geriatrics receiving pet therapy is amazing and truly touches your heart when you witness the smiles and energy reborn in these individuals. It seems that when patients are lost in the sadness of an illness, or lost in their own minds with dementia, dogs can lift their spirits and bring them back to happiness and health. As a healthcare provider writing this article, I thought it was prudent to do a bit of research on the topic. To be more accurate on a scholarly level, I did not do research, I did read the research of others on the topic, including the American Heart and Stroke Foundation, making it a literature review.

My Review of Available Research

My review did have some interesting findings with respect to increased health and longevity, decreased cholesterol levels, weight and depression, and overall improvement in physical and emotional health. Wow, with those results, why wouldn’t everyone get a dog, or another type of pet? It’s like the perfect diet pill with an emotional bonus?! Does dog food cost less than a gym membership and a happy pill prescription? Sounds too easy to be true, and it might not be true in reality.

Dog Owners are more Active than Cat Owners

A further review of literature shows that people who choose dogs over cats are more active prior to obtaining the pet. Daniel DeNoon, the executive editor of the Harvard Heart Letter spoke of a study that “followed 369 people with cardiovascular disease. A year later, those who owned a dog were four times more likely to be alive than those who didn’t have a dog. Cats, however, did not improve their owners’ odds of survival” (link at bottom of page).

Complete Unconditional Love

There was no mention of activity level of the dog owners or the cat owners. Did the dog owner study group live longer because they were more active before the heart disease and remained active after the heart disease? Were the cat owners less active? It is obvious that there was a distinct difference in survival rate. Could the results be related to the often independent nature of cats versus the unconditional love of a puppy or a dog?

The emotional needs of a dog compared to a cat are directed at the owner as in the traditional dog filled with uber excitement just waiting for their owner to simply open their eyes in the morning. For my dogs, it is like a celebration to see me wake up in the morning, with a huge amount of energy, love, and happiness. Complete unconditional love has to be good for your health!

Active People get Dogs

Berkley University in California speaks of the connection between health and having a dog for a pet. One of their statements regarding a recent study “confirmed that dog owners get more physical activity (at least in part because they have to walk their dogs), and are less likely to be overweight or to smoke, all of which contributes to cardiovascular health”.

Once again, I have a difficult time believing that having a dog would make you quit smoking or over-eating. The most reasonable explanation for this statement would be that people who choose to get a puppy (or in my case two puppies) are already active and engaging in health provoking activities. With certainty, I can assure the world that if I was overweight and smoking, it would impede taking care of my two crazy but beautiful boxer puppies.

Dogs Take a Lot of Energy!

Dogs do take a lot of energy!

My spouse’s mother constantly questions “why we didn’t get lap dogs”, and his daughters believe “cats are all we could handle, dogs are just too much work!”

They are all 100% accurate! Dogs are a lot of work, and that work comes with a huge return of love and kisses. That work is what makes you stay healthy. You can’t sit for long without them making you move. They require attention and give you attention. Therefore, they don’t let you decline in health, they insist you stay active, and activity is what it takes to lower your cholesterol, reduce your weight, increase your mental health, and possibly gives you more energy to make healthier choices on other topics such as smoking?

Increasing Health by Increasing Activity

In addition to increasing health by increasing activity, many dog owners thrive secondary to the unconditional love of a pet. Pets don’t get angry because you didn’t listen to their story over dinner, they don’t care if you left the toilet seat up, they don’t care if you missed a special event, they only care that you give them love and attention. They will wait for your love under any circumstance and will never try to make you beg for forgiveness. This type of unconditional love makes dogs exceptional for people with health issues or mental health issues.

One must also consider that dogs do not live as long as humans. The loss of a dog is as equal on a pain or emotional pain scale as losing a loved one. Harvard Medical School states,”the death of a pet can trigger a grieving process similar to what happens after the loss of a close friend or family member” (link at bottom of the page).

Being attentive to family or friends that are experiencing health issues in their pet are the same as health issues in a family member. Be present and helpful to your loved ones when they experience the same. Altered health of a dog that has given unconditional love to your mother, father, brother, sister, or child will indeed affect them in a way that they will need your assistance. Grieving is a curious entity and a broken heart is not easily mended.

Families and health care providers should always know pet therapy is available to assist with grieving. My boxer puppies visited a long-term care home and the residents would glow at holding them and even talked to their families daily about my dogs.

A piece of heaven on earth!

by

BabyBoomer Health Online