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Old 03-04-2007, 04:35 PM   #1
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Default Comfort in place of food

I am a stress eater, more than anything. I work 50-55 hours a week, and I have a 1 hour commute each way, so the stress from that is one of the reasons I am at the weight I am today.(231) What do any of you out there do to replace the comfort you used to get from food? A friend and I walk 20 minutes twice a day a work, but it still doesn't cut it. I read my Bible and pray on the way to work; listen to praise music on the way home, but nothing seems to soothe me the way food, particularly chocolate, does. I welcome any suggestions to try!
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Old 03-04-2007, 04:43 PM   #2
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Comfort eating is still a problem for me. Here's something I found that might be useful (it's long--you can scroll down to the tips if you're only interested in the tips rather than reading about the emotional issues, etc.). :

"Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re actually hungry, so here’s an exercise that Politi uses to help Duke Diet and Fitness Center clients distinguish between emotional hunger and physical hunger.

She suggests thinking of a food that’s neither appealing or unappealing — maybe an apple. Then every time you feel that you’re hungry, ask yourself if you would eat an apple. If the answer is yes, you’re physically hungry.

If an apple wouldn’t satisfy you but you want one of your favorite foods instead, that’s emotional hunger.

In addition, some experts say physical hunger builds gradually but emotional hunger can strike suddenly.

To break the habit of emotional eating, the first step is to recognize the emotions and stressful situations that make you want to reach for food.

“A good way to learn to identify triggers is to practice being aware, or mindful, of your feelings,” says Kathryn Minick, a licensed psychologist in Kansas. “Develop a habit of simply asking yourself, ‘How do I feel right now?’ and ‘Am I hungry?’ If you notice yourself feeling emotionally uncomfortable, then ask yourself, ‘What do I need?”‘

When you’re emotionally hungry, you need something other than food. Maybe you really need sleep, a laugh, a talk with a friend, some fresh air, a little exercise or a good cry.

Minick says remembering situations and feelings that drove you to eat emotionally in the past can also help you get a good idea of what your triggers are.

“Once you learn to identify patterns in your feelings and eating habits, anything you can do to alter those patterns will help,” Minick says.

When should someone seek professional help for emotional eating?

“I think when it becomes really disruptive to their quality of life,” Politi says. If you’re isolating yourself or if emotional eating is making you lose confidence in your ability to eat healthy, consider calling your doctor, a registered dietitian or a mental health professional.


When negative feelings lead you to the refrigerator, there are lots of weapons you can use to win the battle against emotional eating.

Distraction is your first line of defense, experts say.

Kathryn Minick, a licensed psychologist in Kansas, suggests brainstorming to find activities you can do when you feel like eating. Write your ideas on scraps of paper and put them in a jar in the kitchen. For example: Do 10 sit-ups. Send an e-mail to a friend. Write a page about what I did today and how I feel. Play a game with the kids.

Then when you’re tempted to eat emotionally, draw a piece of paper out of the jar and do whatever it says.

“Doing this will interrupt the pattern and often helps to prevent the emotional eating,” Minick says. “Even if you still eat something, at least you’ve delayed the eating and that is a step in the right direction.”

When her clients get an urge to eat, Duke Diet and Fitness Center nutrition manager Elisabetta Politi advises them to wait 10 or 20 minutes and then decide if they still need food.

“The waiting period helps them realize they’re not really hungry but they’re feeling something else,” she says.

Here are more tips:

—Have a structured meal plan where you map out your meals and snacks ahead of time. The Duke Diet and Fitness Center has its clients turn in their menus at the beginning of the week, and they must stick to that.

“Planning really sets up your mind to follow a certain regimen,” Politi says. She suggests counting calories or using the food pyramid and counting servings of different food groups.

—Don’t deny yourself your favorite foods. Deprivation sparks cravings and can lead to emotional eating, Politi says.

The key is to set in stone the amount you’re going to eat and then really enjoy it.

That amount varies from person to person. “Some people can include their favorite food every day and still do really well, and some people have to be aware that if they have their favorite food every day, they’re not going to lose weight,” Politi says.

—Relaxation exercises can help emotional eaters cope with stress in a healthy way. Minick has her clients practice deep breathing. Or try seeing an image in your mind of your favorite place and imagine yourself there for a little while. “Yoga is excellent for physical and mental relaxation,” Minick says. “For some, having a simple prayer to recite can be very helpful in moments of stress.”

—If you use food to reward yourself, look for alternatives that don’t have calories. Buy yourself some new shoes, take a bubble bath, get a massage or treat yourself to a movie. “If you find ways to reward yourself that aren’t food-related, I think you find a healthier rapport with food,” Politi says.

—Meals are often a time of emotional eating, so Minick suggests fixing a plate with healthy-sized portions on it, then removing other food from the table so it’s not at your fingertips.

—Try keeping a food diary to track what and when you eat as well as any emotions or stressors that triggered you to eat.

If you find that something in your schedule is likely to be a trigger for you to want to eat, make a plan to do something else at that time, Minick says.

—Make sure you keep some healthy snacks at work that you can eat when you’re hungry. Maybe some fresh fruit, unbuttered popcorn or low-fat, lower-calorie versions of your favorite foods.

—Drink plenty of water. It’s a good idea to keep a bottle of it with you. “It’s possible that drinking a glass of water could help a person avoid an unhealthy binge,” Minick says.

What if I slip up?

Be kind to yourself when you give in to emotional eating, Minick says. “Give yourself credit for your efforts and figure out what to try next,” she says. “The trick is to not submerge yourself in feelings of guilt about overeating because that very guilt can become the trigger for another binge.”

Your goal should be to decrease the times you eat emotionally, not to be perfect, Politi says. “Know and admit that you’re going to relapse,” she says. “The important thing is to be able to get back on track.”

After a relapse, have confidence that you can make healthy choices, get back to a meal plan and try new ways to manage your emotions and decrease stress."

The grand essentials of happiness are something to do, something to love and something to hope for - A. K. Chalmers.
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Old 03-04-2007, 04:58 PM   #3
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I am also an emotional eater. Especially when I am stressed and bored. I have been doing pretty good for the past month or so. I have weight watchers ice cream bars and yoplait whips chocolate yogurt on hand for these times in need of sweets. Where did you(Sheila) get all the info from the Duke Diet Center? Sounds like great stuff! Jrenzul, take the great advice from above and find alternatives. If that is not possible have a small portion of what you need to satisfy you. Soon you will find healthier snacks that will satisfy you.
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Old 03-04-2007, 08:37 PM   #4
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Sheila -- awesome info -- thanks for sharing it.

I am an extremely emotional eater -- I've just within the last two months started listening to my body and it's signs of hunger and not my head!! I'm like a little kid -- I get so excited when my stomach growls and I "feel" hungry as opposed to eating for the "fun" of it previously.

Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint.
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