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Weight Loss and Control:
Roger Gould, MD's Weekly Blog
on Emotional Eating

Knowledge is power.
Understanding why you turn to food is the key to changing it. Join in the discussion each week as Dr. Gould shares his valuable insights from over 30-years of clinical experience.

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Food Pushers Everywhere You Go


Who in your life is enabling your Emotional Eating habit? I recently a story by Rob Long on NPR's Martini Shot about craft services (or catering) on film shoots. The set of television or movies can be very stressful. I remember in the early nineties taking a vacation from my position on the AIDS unit of a New York hospital to work for a month on a friend's feature film. The stress and tension on the film set far exceeded the stress and tension on the unit of the hospital where multiple people were dying everyday. I wanted to tell the crew that a movie wasn't life or death but no one would hear it. Apparently, they were convinced it was. On film sets Craft Services often provide comfort foods (doughnuts, mac and cheese, chips and other sweets). The food placates people. Dials down the stress and tension. The NPR story went on to say that every once in awhile craft services will switch and offer healthy options instead of the usual comfort foods. People start losing weight but get angry, have shorter tempers and explode more. Not a risk that producers want to take when that cranky person is holding "an 80 pound light over a celebrity." One might see why they would rather put out crappy food and keep people calm than offer healthy food and deal with explosive personalities.

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Shrink Your Waist, Expand Your Brain


What if I told you that there was not only a way you could lose weight and grow new brain cells, but that you could also add vitality and optimism to your life? If I were you I'd say that's too good to be true, sounds like snake oil. So, let me explain.

It's actually possible, but it's not as simple as taking a pill or having your brain zapped by some fancy machine.

You would have to do some serious psychological work. You'd have to break the emotional eating habit that we have been talking about, and also master some small piece of your own personal development.

For example, challenging your shyness or social anxiety patterns. There is now enough evidence from neuroscience to proclaim that when you actually change a "comfort habit" your brain creates new cells and new pathways.

One patient of mine who I see for her Emotional Eating issues shared that she was terrified of going to her daughter's school functions. She was so anxious about not having anything interesting to say that she would hide out at the buffet table with a mouth full of food. Then, she didn't have to worry about any boring comments seeping out.

Now, that she's making better food choices she was uncertain about how she would handle the function without the respite of the buffet. She screwed up her courage and actually did fine talking to another mother and making a new friend.

By taking risks and talking to people she accomplished three things. She didn't consume excess calories by needing the comfort of the food. By talking to people a new world opened up and that gave her new hope. And by accomplishing those two things and breaking her "comfort habit" of avoidance and eating, her brain was actually growing while her belly was shrinking.

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Don't Speak - Don't Eat


People often turn to food when they're unsatisfied or frustrated. Therefore, learning to get your real needs met is a huge part of leaving overeating behind.

A member asked me a while back what to do when you've asked to get a need met from someone and they still don't meet it. There are many options which include determining if it's a need you can get met somewhere else or a need you can let go of. However, the option I'm going to focus on today is one that I call, in the words of Gwen Stefani, "Don't speak."

I read an excellent book recently called "How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It" by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny. I highly recommend it. Here's a bit from the back cover that explains a lot: "Simply put, talking makes women move closer, but makes men move away. Even with the best of intentions talking about your relationship doesn't bring you close, and it will eventually drive you apart." This type of retreat/approach dynamic can be seen in many relationships, not just heterosexual marriages but between any kind of couple, co-workers, mothers and sons, etc. So, if talking doesn't make you closer you might be wondering what does?

According to the book, to connect with men, they need touch, activity (as in go on a hike, rake leaves together, sit in the same room when they do their bills), sex and routine (respecting their routine and the fact that it makes them feel safe).

The benefit is that when men feel connected they want to talk more. Talking doesn't make them feel connected. So, if you want to talk, you'll need to connect first.

It's normal to need things from others and to want to connect but perhaps it's the way we go about trying to get our needs met that leaves us hungry more than the needs themselves. We often try the same method repeatedly even though it doesn't work and then get increasingly frustrated and resentful. If we look, there is always a creative solution.

One of our members said that she and her husband used to sit beside each other on the couch at night eating and watching TV. Now, they came up with a new plan. She massages his feet while they watch. He feels connected (remember men feel connected through touch). Her hands are busy so she doesn't reach for the remote. And the feet are a natural appetite suppressant. Their relationship is getting better AND they are losing weight.

When you're frustrated or needy is there an action you can take instead of eating?
What are some non-verbal ways you can connect with your partner or people in general?

If you're still tempted to talk things out with your partner go and see Wall-E. It is a robot meets robot love story about Eve and Wall-E. Each character only says two words to the other. Their own name and the other's name. Despite their lack of words it is 100% clear through their actions that they are committed and connected. In this case, the old cliche stands true, actions speak louder than words. And while you can't control another's actions, you have power over your own.