Category Archives: Tools for Recovery

5 Secrets to Turning Resolutions Into Reality

The end of the year is a time to review and take stock. The news media recounts the major events of the last 12 months, and makes lists of the public figures who have died. And we, as individuals, think about our own lives. What happened to us over the last year? What went right? What went wrong? What can we do to make next year better?

Even after good years there is always a little sadness because the passage of time reminds us we are mortal. So resolutions for the new year inevitably involve renewed commitment to healthy habits: quit smoking, exercise more, lose weight. Unsurprisingly, given that the new year comes after a month of heavy holiday eating, a commitment to lose weight is the most common new year resolution of all.

For most people, the commitment doesn’t last. Good intentions translate into a burst of short-term effort followed by discouragement, self-recrimination, and finally giving up. You stop even trying, for a while, anyway.

It doesn’t have to be like that.

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Are You an Emotional Eater? Take the Test!

Are you an emotional eater? If so, what are the reasons you eat? Are you mainly soothing negative emotions, or do you eat primary to distract yourself from the real problems in your life? How does being fat affect your view of yourself, and perhaps even serve you?

Take the test and find out! After you’ve completed the test, you’ll get:

  • An interpretation of your own answers.
  • A summary of how others answered, shown separately for men and women.

Men and women both struggle with emotional eating, but they may eat for different reasons – as the summary stats will reveal. (You may have to come back to check the summary stats. The test was just posted so the counts are still low.)

After you take the test, come back here and post a comment saying what you thought of it. Was it informative? Did the interpretation seem right? Were you surprised at the scores of men versus women?

Eating Candy and Feeling Guilty

Today is the day after Halloween and candy leftovers abound. Are you locked in a war with yourself about eating it? Here’s how to take the power out of the candy and put it back in you, where it belongs.

The crucial shift is in your attitude. You must know on a deep level – not just intellectually, but emotionally – that you have the right to eat whatever you want. This is true no matter what your current weight. If you feel your rights are constrained by societal mandates – that others can tell you what you should or shouldn’t eat – you’ll stay stuck in a childlike mindset, either doing as you’re told or rebelling against it. Only people with the right to choose can make choices. You can’t freely choose to forego candy or eat a salad unless you understand you have the right to make either choice.

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Change Your Thinking, Change Your Body

Last night I went to hear Deepak Chopra talk about his new book, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul. The book was just released yesterday and we all got copies, so I’ve got it hot off the press. The talk, sponsored by the New York Open Center, was held in the magnificent Riverside Church, which for some reason I’d never been in before. I don’t know how I’ve managed to live in New York City for 30 years without seeing this beautiful church.

I haven’t finished reading the book yet – I only just got it last night – but if it’s anything like Chopra’s talk about the book, then I expect it’s wonderful. His talk was amazing. I particularly noticed one of the last things he said: “Changing one’s diet and lifestyle is a byproduct of shifting consciousness.” I noticed it because I say the same thing in Normal Eating for Normal Weight. When your thinking changes, you become able to change how you eat without fighting with yourself. It just happens as a natural byproduct.

Deepak Chopra book launch, Riverside Church, NYC
Deepak Chopra Book Launch, Riverside Church, NYC. Taken by someone from the Open Center, standing just behind Chopra. I had taken my own picture - or thought I had - but it disappeared from my camera.

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What Is “Normal Eating”?

Since everyone else today seems to be asking “What Is Normal Eating?” (Psych Central blog, New York Times Wellness blog, Feed Me I’m Cranky blog), I figured I should address it here – at the official “Normal Eating” Web site.

“Normal eating” means eating according to body wisdom – which then begs the question, “What is body wisdom?”

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5 Reasons Emotional Eaters Shun Mindfulness

There’s been a lot of discussion in the forum lately about mindful eating – generally how much people don’t want to do it. It’s ironic that emotional eaters who claim to love eating find it so hard to just eat – to focus only on eating when they’re eating. It seems the only time that emotional eaters don’t think about food is when they’re eating!

Mindful eating is the functional opposite of emotional eating, and therefore its antidote. It blocks the payoff of emotional eating, so it’s no wonder that people resist it. But for that same reason, it’s essential.

The complaints about mindful eating generally fall into five categories:

  1. Mindful eating is boring.
  2. Checking in with myself makes me anxious.
  3. I’m too busy to take the time to just eat.
  4. It feels like too much work.
  5. It feels like a diet.

Here’s what’s behind each of these complaints.

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5 Main Triggers for Emotional Eating

When you’re in the moment of craving – wanting to eat, though you’re not hungry – it doesn’t help to have abstract knowledge of why you eat. If you know that you eat when you’re angry, for example, that doesn’t help much in the moment that you’re angry. You’re still angry and you still want to eat.

The only way to dissolve the craving is to figure out the true need underneath the emotion, and take action to address the true need. Simply recognizing that you’re angry doesn’t help. You need to uncover the reasons below the anger – the unfilled needs or boundary violations that triggered the anger.

Connecting with yourself on this deeper level is hard when you’ve spent years ignoring your own needs, but it’s necessary. If all you know is that you’re unhappy, the only way out is a comfort behavior like eating. If you know the underlying need, then you can work on meeting it.

Over the years of working with emotional eaters, I’ve noticed five main themes:

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How to Stop Emotional Eating in the Evening

Do you eat in the evening – and eat and eat? If so, you are not alone! Here is a sampling of the many posts about this in the forum:

“Night eating has been my number one curse. When I initiated that terrible habit then the pounds really started a rampant escalation. I have found that this is the time of night I’m fatigued, anxious, lonely and bored. Sadly to say, that an infusion of sugars actually temporarily reduces the anxiousness I feel.”

“Evenings have always been my time to graze, binge, overeat and numb out. There isn’t one simple reason for it with me, it happens for a variety of reasons but one of the primary reasons is that at the end of the day I feel “empty” and I am seeking something to fill the void with.”

“One of my issued is I am a perfectionist and would do well all day and then in the evening eat everything sweet in sight because “I was not perfect today” so I’ll eat as much as I can and surely tomorrow I will be perfect. Never happened.”

“I’ve been fine each morning and early afternoon, but once evening hits, so does my eating. I eat from early evening until I go to bed. I don’t know why, and I’m not sure how to stop it, but I need to.”

“Evenings make me anxious because of their frustrating, ambivalent nature. Is it my time of rest and relaxation, or is it the time to be productive around home, after the whole day of being productive at work? If I sit and relax, I feel guilty at the housework piling up. If I apply myself to housework, I feel resentful. The push to munch serves the purpose of dodging the issue.”

You can break out of this! Here’s how.

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Eating Out of Loneliness (or Is It?)

The Normal Eating® approach is to figure out the reasons behind emotional eating, and then take steps towards fixing the real problem. So if you’re eating out of loneliness, you’d take steps towards enriching your social life.

The tricky part is figuring out the real problem. It’s not always obvious. For example, consider this question from a Normal Eating Support Group member:

What’s the solution for feeling a drab kind of emptiness at nighttime? Or feeling lonely? I do have lots of friends, and I see them regularly. But still I feel lonely when I come home at night.

I don’t think loneliness is the real problem here.

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A Simple Tip to Stop Compulsive Overeating

Not all emotional eating comes from the expectation of future deprivation, but some of it does. How many people, for example, decide to start a diet on June 1, and then spend May 22 to May 31 overeating — getting while the getting is good? A lot!

Even if you’ve sworn off dieting, a sense of deprivation can keep you eating after your body has had enough. Your conscious thought may be, “This is so good — I’m full but I can’t stop.” But what’s driving the compulsion, under the surface, is the feeling that not eating it now would be a flat-out loss because there likely won’t be another chance.

There is a very simple but effective solution.

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