Archive for the ‘Addictions’ Category

Emotional Overeating: Returning to those questions

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Back in February and March, I blogged on topics related to emotional overeating, including the question of how addiction factors in.  I share some further thoughts on this issue at “Thin From Within” this week.  Read at


SUGAR: Eating Sanely with a Sweet Tooth (Part 2)

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Sweets top the food pyramid—they sit on that tiny “eat sparingly” point. We know “eat sparingly” is easier said than done. Sugary foods fill way too much of the average person’s diet these days. It’s hidden in foods we buy, we love it, and it’s hard to stop after any amount that could be called “sparing”.

As promised in June 25’s blog, I continue here the discussion of how to stick to those small amounts. I started with a few ideas about buying less, switching to items containing less, and eliminating sugared beverages. Now we turn to the sweets we eat because we want to—whether that’s candy, cookies, pie, or cake. How do you start to say “No, thanks, I’ve had enough” after one piece?

It doesn’t make sense for anyone—skinny, fat, or in-between—to eat sugar in large quantities. So what’s reasonable for you? A small serving per day? Two per week? Three? This is what you can set as your “working to get to” goal. (What’s reasonable if you have a lot of weight to lose will be on the lower end–not only because of the calorie content, but also because of how the sweets may affect your metabolism.) Often people will target something like “one chocolate after dinner each night”, or “dessert on weekend nights”.

Aim for this goal amount. Know that as you begin, you’ll probably want more after you’ve had that amount. Think of how you’ll deal with the desire for more. I’ll describe a couple of possible strategies here. First, giving yourself a time limit before you head back to the cookie plate sometimes works. This kind of scenario might evolve like this: (more…)


SUGAR: Eating Sanely with a Sweet Tooth (Part 1)

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Sugar can doom our weight loss or sane eating plans.  Even as diet trends rapidly zig-zag and change, “avoid sugar” remains a constant.  Our craving for sugar remains constant, too.  And it continues to flavor more and more of our nation’s foods.

Why avoid sugar?  Well, its “empty”, non-nutritious, calories leave us hungry and easily fatten us.  It decays our teeth.  It can interfere with mood and energy.  Now, more and more evidence links sugar with inflammation, and inflammation with nearly any and every health problem.  Yet who can stop eating it? (more…)


EMOTIONAL EATING Part 4: Is This Addiction?

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

  If you eat to soothe or stuff your feelings, does that make you a food addict?

  For years, science said “no”, you can’t really be addicted to food, not as you can with alcohol or cigarettes.  Now, though, it’s become clear that the massive amounts of sugar, salt, and other substances in our foods do trigger our brains to want more and more, and to resist stopping.   With such foods, then, especially in large amounts, there are physical consequences once we start, and then try to stop.  And certainly we can become psychologically dependent on using food to tame emotions. 

  Groups like Overeaters Anonymous and Food Addicts Anonymous define chronic overeating patterns as addictions.  They help people change their behaviors by treating them as addictions, just as if binge foods were like alcohol.  For many reasons, though, these approaches don’t always stop overeating for good.  As people say again and again, “At least with drinking, you can stop completely….you have to keep eating.”  Also, people often do learn to eat “trigger” foods in moderation, even if this is not easy at first. (more…)


EMOTIONAL EATING Part 3: Soothing the Soul, Not Making Waves, and Other Uses of Overeating

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

While it may be hard to stop, it’s usually not so hard to see “stress eating” in operation.  A lot of emotional eating, though, hides in plain sight.  You might not always see the connection between what you’re feeling and how you’re eating.  

If you’re asking the question, “Why can’t I get myself to eat the way I want to?” , you can suspect emotional eating (though even this gets complicated these days, with foods “engineered” to make us want more).  It starts so very easily:  eating is one of our most fundamental human activities.  We can’t live without it.  We’re wired to like it very much, and to seek it out.  We associate it with being cared for and comfortable.  It doesn’t take much for food to start easing problems other than hunger.   

Food is especially good at soothing and distracting us.  It may distract us from bad feelings or critical thoughts about ourselves.  It serves well, too, to quiet disturbing emotions that might feel dangerous to approach—doubts about a relationship, for instance, or anger at someone we love.   Overeating can keep these kinds of feelings from surfacing—and save us from having to speak up or confront daunting situations.  Also, overeating, and then worrying about it, can replace other kinds of worries, ones that might prove way more upsetting.  Conversely, through overeating we can beat ourselves up when we feel guilty, mad at ourselves, or undeserving of good things.  (more…)


EMOTIONAL EATING Part 2: Eating as Stress Management

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Emotional eating takes many forms, some easier to recognize than others, most pretty common.  One form that many admit to is “stress eating”.  Maybe you’ve had a bad day and think “I deserve it” as you head for the Haagen Daz.  Maybe you think “I just can’t bother right now” with choosing something better—you’re just too strung out.    Or maybe there’s a certain kind of situation, like a deadline or an argument, that always starts you grazing.

In some ways, food serves the stress management function well.  It’s fast.  And the chewing or crunching, the melting sweet in the mouth, the feeling of taking exactly what you want—any or all of these things can be very pleasing indeed.  Eating distracts you for a little while, too.  And if you eat enough, you may even get a sleepy or slowed-down feeling that cuts anxiety.

Eating as stress management doesn’t work, though, in anything more than a temporary way.  Sometimes the relief lasts only as long as the chewing, in fact.  And even if you do get relief for longer—20 minutes?  60?—the real trouble comes after days and weeks.  It doesn’t take long at all for stress eating to equal pounds.  And that creates brand-new stresses to deal with, like worsened self-esteem, and at some point high blood pressure and diabetes risk.  (more…)