Tag Archives: recovery

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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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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A Lightbulb Moment to Stop Emotional Eating?

Are you waiting for a “lightbulb moment” to catapult you out of emotional eating once and for all? This came up recently in the Normal Eating Support Group. It’s a very common attitude, but not one that gets you where you want to go. This is the same thinking that brings you, “I’ll start my diet on Monday” (or the first of the month or whenever) “and then everything will be different.”

It would be great if life problems could evaporate in one shining moment of insight and resolution. People long to suddenly “get it” and float on a cloud above all the mess. But this is not how people change, and waiting for it is a trap that can keep you stuck.

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The Zig-Zag Nature of Recovery

People like to think – or hope – that they can stop emotional eating once and for all, and never have to deal with it again. But you don’t ever forget the old behaviors, and it’s dangerous to think that one day you’ll be immune. If you have this unrealistic expectation, then even the urge to eat emotionally can make you feel like a failure.

The truth is – based on both my own experience and years of working with others – that once you have used food to soothe emotional pain, the impulse never goes away completely. People have a natural tendency to revert to old comfort behaviors, especially when under stress.

What stands between the urge and the action are the tools you learn in the Normal Eating® recovery program.

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New Year Resolutions that Work

Some people say that New Year’s Resolutions are of no use at all because no one keeps them. But I think they are useful in that they make people think about their lives in broad terms – the long view. New Year’s Resolutions are to-do lists for the year, versus the daily to-do lists that so many of us make. When we think about New Year’s Resolutions, we’re thinking about where we want our lives to be a year from now.

New Year’s Resolutions can be useful, but that doesn’t mean they are always useful. Today’s post is about how to make New Year’s Resolutions that work – resolutions that will continue to inspire and guide you for the rest of the year.

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How to Stop Food Cravings

Food cravings are, without a doubt, the biggest obstacle in recovery from emotional eating. Even when you know what is triggering the desire to eat, the craving can remain. As I mentioned in my previous post, the first step towards stopping is to insert a pause between impulse and action – to not immediately act on the urge. Every moment you pause is a moment of recovery.

But how do you use this pause to dissolve the craving so the pause turns into a stop? That is the subject of today’s post. (You’ll find a more detailed discussion of how to stop food cravings in my book Normal Eating for Normal Weight.)

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The Importance of the Pause

Eating what your body tells you to eat, when it tells you to eat it, is obviously a more pleasant and effective way to maintain a normal weight than dieting, but how do you do that if you’re a compulsive or emotional eater? What you need is a road map of how to get from here to there, and that’s what the Normal Eating® recovery program provides. Normal Eating’s four-stage approach breaks down the recovery process into achievable subgoals, and each stage includes uniquely effective exercises to help you get there. The program is described in detail in the book Normal Eating for Normal Weight.

The most important element of the Normal Eating recovery program is “the pause” – the practice of pausing for at least 15 minutes before acting on the urge to eat when not hungry. Pausing before you act on the urge to eat when not hungry is crucial for two reasons:

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