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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 is NOT a Reward!


The other day I was driving past a Jack in the Box restaurant and I noticed one of the signs in their window. It was a picture of their mascot (the funny cartoon headed guy) with a slogan that said (paraphrasing here), "Treat yourself...not to a massage or anything, just something off the menu." Food is not a reward, I repeat, food is not a reward. One of the things that most confuses us in our relationship to food is the belief that food is a reward. And worse than that, many of us believe, food is the only reward that we have.

If you think food is a reward, keep reading.

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Recent Posts
Losing Weight Can Be as Simple as Breathing In


Over the years, I have heard every excuse for why people can't exercise - arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, plantar fasciitis. You name it, I've heard it! I've also helped people look for appropriate forms of exercise that would help them, not harm them. Substitution is always better than elimination. It's better for the runner to walk than to sit idle. It's better for the weight lifter to do yoga than to give up. But one of the most effective forms of exercise that can be done by anyone despite what itis they might have is breathing. We were born doing it and we'll do it until the moment we die. Yet few of us realize what a powerful and effective tool it can be in our efforts to lose weight.

Why is breathing so terrific? Keep reading.

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Understand Your Emotions Instead of Eating to Stuff Them Down


If you're an emotional eater, any emotion can become frightening. First, the emotional eater learns to eat to deal with a particular emotion that seems intolerable. It could be fear, anger, or depression. After some time, any feeling at all will trigger a craving for food.

The more you stuff your feelings with food, the less comfortable you are facing your feelings. Over time, almost any feeling becomes too much. The problem with this is that you'll often end up feeling stuck in life because you are not using your feelings to guide you and inform your choices.

Emotions don't need to be feared if you understand the messages behind them. This past weekend I had the good fortune of taking a workshop with horses. It was not a riding workshop but a workshop in which one interacts with the horses in order to access and understand one's feelings more fully. During the workshop they handed out something called The Emotional Message Chart. It was adapted by Linda Kohanov from Karla McClaren's "Emotional Genius." This chart could really help emotional eaters to befriend the feelings they have been trying to run from. I hope you will find it useful.

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Learn from a Former Shrink Yourself Member's Success


Each person's triumph over emotional eating looks similar on the one hand, unique on the other. There are always common themes to how someone heals a pattern of emotional eating despite their specific details. No matter what the specifics are we can all learn from listening and sharing, honestly, with one another. Here are some powerful points I'd like to share from an interview with a former Shrink Yourself member.

Accept Yourself Wherever You Are

Jan had done well working to overcome a pattern of emotional eating but she was still not the exact weight that she wanted to be. She would have liked to be about ten pounds less but it seemed the scale wouldn't budge. She had two choices. She could beat herself up about this, or she could accept herself in a more loving way. It took a while, but Jan decided to accept herself at a slightly larger size than she was comfortable with. Doing this freed up her mind to enjoy life a little more. There was no longer a dark cloud of shame and disgust veiling her days.

Live in the Solution, Not the Problem

Sometimes, accepting where you are can open the door to a new and often simpler way. By no longer focusing on the problem so much, Jan was able to find her way to a solution that worked for her. She read a book called, "Mindless Eating" by Brian Wansink Ph.D. In the book Dr. Wansink talks about how people eat without thinking about it. He describes inviting people to a dinner where the soup bowls were rigged to keep filling themselves up with more soup. The guests kept eating and eating despite the bottomless bowl. He also invited people to a movie theater where some were given big bags of popcorn and others small ones. No matter what the size of the bag, everyone finished what they were given. Not to mention that the popcorn was two weeks old! The bottom line of his book is that we eat mindlessly. A tip that he gives is that if you eat just 20% less, your mind won't register that you're less full, and you will lose weight. Jan decided to give this a try. If she took out ten nuts to eat from a bag, she put two back in, and ate eight. If she took a scoop of tuna salad, she took one tablespoon out and put it back in the container. It didn't take much effort, but in about six months she had lost most of those last few pounds that didn't want to come off and felt really great about her body. We all need little tips and tricks. If we focus on the problem too much, we sometimes miss a solution that will work for us. By sharing these solutions with each other, we can try different things until we find something that resonates with us.

Small Steps Still Make a Big Difference

Jan was able to leave a lot of emotional eating behind by finding other ways to deal with uncomfortable feelings. She found that she was still having emotional eating episodes some of the time, but not all of the time. And that is good enough. Remember, it's normal to reach for the comfort of food once in a while. It only becomes a problem when eating becomes the only solution you have to deal with your emotions. If you use food twenty out of twenty times, it's emotional eating. If you use food one out of twenty times, its not.
Don't expect perfection. Just try your best. Small steps really do make a big difference.

Be Interested in Something Other Than Food & Weight

Many people share that an obsession with food can take every bit of their time and energy (and even their money). Jan shared that she had always been interested in finding ways to raise awareness about human rights issues. As a teacher, she did this with her students. Recently, she has helped to cultivate awareness about a hospital in the Congo called Heal Africa ( that helps rape victims heal from a condition call fistula. If you find yourself overly concerned with your weight, volunteer your time, find a cause, or reawaken a dormant dream.

Success doesn't mean perfection. It doesn't mean never using food for comfort. It just means showing up for yourself and taking small steps with the trust that they will get you to where you want to go.

The Missing Link to Getting Slim for Summer


Summer is here, whether or not we feel ready for it. On New Year's Day many people start to worry about getting slim for swimsuit season. Then, on the first day of spring they might start to get panicked. By the time summer actually hits, if a certain goal hasn't been reached, it's easy to throw in the towel and just wait for next year. But next year it can be the same thing all over again. Even if you're not as slim as you'd like to be for the summer, there's still hope.

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