emotional eating

Is anger making or keeping you fat? At some point or another, we all get angry. There are times we will rationalize that it is justified, circumstances call for such emotion. Still, anger has some pretty profound negative effects on your body. Anger can have a destructive—even deadly—effect on your health. According to Dr. Don Colbert, M.D., author of Deadly Emotions, anger can profoundly damage your health. “Depression, anger, guilt, condemnation, low self-esteem…these are only a few of the lethal toxins…,” Dr. Colbert warns.
He supports these claims with scientific evidence about the effects of anger on the physiological aspect. Anger triggers a biologically embedded “fight-or-flight” response. In ancient times, when human beings faced physical threats like animal predators, the fight-or-flight response saved our lives by pumping our bodies with hormones and chemicals necessary to fuel intense physical action. In modern times, that is usually not necessary. In fight-or-flight, your body’s resources mobilize for immediate physical action. Any bodily function not directly related to fighting or fleeing is put on hold, including digestion, cell production and body maintenance.

Marianne’s Anger Sabotage

Marianne was proud of the twenty five pounds she had lost on her new diet and exercise regimen. It was easy and enjoyable. A few days later she was part of a decision making team at work. Arguments and insults flying around made her afraid to give her opinion. Marianne sensed something was missing and she grabbed a pillow and then placed it in on her abdomen. What a relief! During that stressful moment Marianne missed the ‘padding’ that her fat had provided. The cushion blanketed the messy feeling.

On her drive home she thought about the meeting and felt demeaned and diminished. Why was it okay for her colleagues to vent, but leave no space for her views? Anger rose up. Her rage felt like shards of sharp glass ready to lacerate her insides. Marianne stopped at a store and bought a cheesecake and a large bag of potato chips. That combination was her most trusted and true numbing device. The sharp glass became frozen with layers of reassuring and calming comfort food. No chance of any disgusting leaks of weakness. Keeping her cool was rewarded by yummy admiration and scrumptious respect. Later, she felt remorse, guilt and bloating.

There is an acronym used by those wanting to stop drinking, “HALT“. They are told not to drink when Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. The same would apply to binge eating. Often I see clients who will follow a diet so carefully and then self-sabotage when someone or something makes them angry. I will share with them something the Buddha said, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

It is important that we look at our emotions and try to understand what they are telling us. Anger stems from pain, so what is it about the situation that is hurting? What do you need to change in your life regrading that emotion? Trust your first signs of anger as a signal to protect yourself, then re-cycle your angry energy into motivation to be heard and acknowledged. Use the motivation to risk saying what you feel as you become aware of it. Feel the validation of taking that risk rather than the weight of keeping it all in, and then build on that feeling. Remember to HALT, think before you stuff yourself like a waste bin.

Exercise is a key component in maintaining more balanced emotions. Use that energy in a positive way. Release those feel good hormones into your system. If you know that you’re going to be entering into a situation that is likely to make you angry, go for a brisk walk first.  The walk might be useful not just because it works off some excess energy but also because it gives you a chance to think about what made you angry in the first place – or how you want to handle the situation.

If you need help with anger or angry (emotional) eating, consider hypnosis. We can utilize the power of your subconscious mind to find that pain and eradicate it. You deserve to feel good, look good and live well! Don’t give your power away to anger or pain.

I just had a great conversation with a weight management client, for this purpose I will call her Beverly (not her real name). Beverly was concerned that she might start emotional or stress eating again because of a situation that is ongoing in her life. She was pleased that so far the emotional eating hasn’t begun, but she wanted to be sure it didn’t. So we talked about the situation and what she could realistically do about it.
First of all, Beverly realized that she cannot control the other person (I shall call Judy) involved or Judy’s actions. The only person she can control is herself. If she begins to eat for emotional reasons, then Beverly has lost control of the only person whom she can regulate. The tricky part then is to not allow Judy to have so much power over her. Judy isn’t in Beverly’s life on a consistent basis, hasn’t been for years. The issue goes back several years and while the Judy may not have done the right thing by Beverly, nothing can change the past. Beverly admitted that she has thought angry, jealous and hurtful thoughts about Judy for years. Meanwhile, Judy has continued to live her life as if nothing ever happened.
How often do we all do that, hold onto hurt or resentments that cause us to lose out on the rest and best of life? I have certainly been guilty of that. Because I hadn’t gotten my perception of justice, I was still feeling the imbalance of the scales and holding onto my pain. Then, it occurred to me that I was suffering by my own thoughts way more than anyone else had ever inflicted pain on me! Doing the math is what made it obvious to me. I mentioned this in my post, I’m Not Gollum, “If you break things down into numbers and percentages though, how much of your total day did you deal with that one incident?”
When we hold onto pain, it is natural to want to self-medicate. Some people do that with alcohol, some with drugs or shopping and in the case of my weight clients, it is often food. Food becomes the drug of choice, although not a very effective one. In fact, the pain still resides inside their head, and now they have added guilt and remorse and other unhealthy side effects.
I suggested to Beverly that she begin to take back her thoughts. When she noticed herself going in that direction, clap out loud and say STOP! She could get up and sing a song or she could go for a quick brisk walk. The idea is to interrupt those thoughts, suddenly and then redirect her attention to something that will benefit her. I have had many clients buy helium filled balloons. Then write what it is they need to let go of on the balloons and release them by the water. This is a great visual ritual that allows you to see your issues leave.
In trance we do the release of the balloons as well as the prisoners (those who offended us). Then we can create a shield of light that is filled with love to surround us. The subconscious mind is then given permission to find healthier ways of dealing with the pain and the stress. For each person it may be a different activity, that powerful subconscious knows what is perfect.
So, if you find yourself stress eating or eating for emotional reasons, maybe you want to consider releasing your “prisoners” and old negative thoughts. Maybe it is time to evict those hurtful folks and put a no vacancy sign up instead!

It never fails that when I tell people how I make my living—as a hypnotherapist hypnotizing people slim—they inevitably ask: Does it work; does hypnosis really help with weight loss? My answer usually brightens their eyes with something between excitement and incredulity because most people don’t realize that adding trance to your weight loss efforts can help you lose more weight and keep it off longer. Although hypnosis predates carb and calorie counting by a few centuries, I often hear from desperate individuals that this is their last hope.  Because of stage and screen portrayals of hypnosis as mind control or at the very least parlor tricks the benefits of hypnosis has long been misunderstood.  It isn’t until everything has been exhausted and people are feeling out of control that most people are willing to try hypnosis. Once they realize their goals, I hear “I should have called you first.” If only people understood that hypnosis is a non-invasive tool that can be used for focus and reaching goals.  Hypnosis is also helpful in uncovering and discovering underlying, unconscious emotional factors that cause overeating or making poor food choices when stressed, anxious, bored, depressed, and so forth. Once these emotional eating factors are made conscious, hypnosis is then used to assist changing to more positive motivators and better choices. I understand that most people really want to do the right thing. They start diet after diet only to go back to old unhealthy habits when faced with the demands of everyday life. Most of my clients know every calorie or carb count, what exercises burn the most fat, etc. Ask anyone on the street about his eating or exercise habits and chances are, he’ll tell you he knows he should eat better and get more exercise, but … and they follow up with a litany of excuses. I hear excuses every day, yet those excuses aren’t changing the scales. When people call me about hypnosis for weight loss, I explain that I have several protocols I can follow. The Virtual Gastric Band has a huge 95% success rate according to test groups (my success has been similar). There are other methods that can be used as well, depending upon the needs and goals of the individual. There are as many ways to approach hypnosis for weight loss as there are people needing to make the change. My job is to find the proper fit for you, your job is to show up and be honest.


There are also as many excuses for not committing to change as there are people. I have heard many of these excuses, repeatedly. It’s always easy to come up with reasons to avoid getting started with a healthy eating or weight-loss plan. But all too often, these reasons are really just excuses. “I don’t have time to cook or exercise, I have too much stress to keep on a diet, it’s in my genes, I travel too much, etc.”

Last night at Dr. Lara’s office we had a great time. The group was large, yet felt intimate. People openly shared what their downfalls are as they embark upon the journey of healthier living. Over and over the obstacle of stress came up, it was a hot button for sure.

Dr. Lara explained that stress helps in the creation of a hormone called cortisol, which lowers the body’s levels of serotonin (a “feel good” hormone). Lower levels of serotonin triggers a craving for carbohydrates. We discussed ways to cope with stress, diet changes (lean proteins over simple carbohydrates) and practical tips on avoiding eating when stressed.

Here are six tips I can offer you:

  1. Take action! Exercise releases chemicals into the brain that will counteract the effects of stress. 10 – 15 minutes of exercise will distract the mind and allow you to change your focus. I keep hand weights in my kitchen. If tempted to snack, I do 10 minutes of repetitions in order to earn that snack. Nine times out of ten, I don’t want the snack anymore and I begin to collect my thoughts.
  2. Eat consciously. Place the utensil down between bites and chew. Savor the flavor and textures of your food. When you pay attention the taste and smell of your food, meals are more satisfying and temptation is reduced.
  3. Chew sugarless gum. If you grab a piece of sugarless gum, you are less likely to put other foods into your mouth.
  4. Schedule your eating. By keeping a set schedule of meals and snacks, you create a new routine. This will keep hunger at bay and train your mind to remain on target. Forget skipping meals, that only leads to disaster as the night wears on.
  5. Create a journal of your emotions. Feeling stressed, feeling blue? Write it out. Studies have shown that writing about your feelings helps lead to resolutions and solutions to those same issues.
  6. Practice relaxation techniques. taking a long hot bath or trading a massage with a loved one feels a whole lot better than any junk food tastes!

We experienced some relaxation techniques last night. I worked with the group to focus on each muscle group and send it comfort and relaxation. They gave themselves permission to enjoy the moment, feeling safe and serene. Next they were asked to think of a special person, perhaps a child, or another whom they would treat with total respect and love. They were told to feel that emotion for the other, than transfer that to themselves. Knowing they deserve the same love and respect. Reminding them that they love their body, for that is where they live; they would start treating that body with the same love and respect they would treat a loved one with. Finally, we took a journey to a special event, seeing all the foods available. It was easy and natural to choose healthy foods, because of the respect they were now experiencing.

At the end of the night, the room was quiet and filled with a gentle sense of calm and caring. Caring for each other, caring for ourselves. It was a blessing to experience that moment.

I was asked to appear on Tampabay’s 10 news at 4:00 yesterday, to discuss the blog I posted on emotional eating. Afterwords, I went into an internet chat room provided by the station to continue the discussion. It was a great experience for me. If you want to view the video of the interview, click here: Marty Matthews and Debbie Lane Chat.

I have had the great fortune of working with a local doctor who specializes in weight management. This is his description of what he does: The journey of change starts with an acknowledgment and appreciation of where one is, and a vision of what one desires. My program will provide you with the guidance, support and tools necessary to help you succeed in your life’s journey to a healthier and thinner you….and in the end, help you achieve a new perspective in thought where food is enjoyed and balanced with a healthy lifestyle. ~ Cesar A. Lara, MD

Next, I have created another little video to help me keep my focus on being healthy and in shape. I hope you enjoy it!

Do you grab a bowl of ice cream after a difficult day? Do you crave pizza after hearing great news? Do you find yourself mindlessly munching while doing a rote task? Then you might be an emotional eater.

To some extent, emotional eating is normal. We are taught to eat for emotional reasons rather than physiological reasons at a young age. Fall down and get a boo boo and mommy will give you an ice pop to dry your tears. Celebrate good news with a festive meal. Friends and neighbors bring casseroles and cakes during times of grief and sadness. It becomes a problem when eating becomes our primary coping strategy and our physical or emotional health is affected.

When we eat out of boredom, for instance, our thoughts turn to the food we anticipate and it consumes our attention, temporarily. I recently had a client who told me she ate time away. When angry, we may tear into a crunchy bag of chips, momentarily forgetting what we are angry about. However, when we are finished, we find ourselves feeling guilty and angry with ourselves.

Perhaps, it is easier to be angry at ourselves than at the other person? We know that if we face our anger, disappointment, sadness, etc. we may have to cope with upsets in our lives and relationships. So, we stuff. Then, feeling like a failure for having eaten so much, we once again turn to food to cope. The viscous cycle continues.

How do we stop the cycle of emotional eating? First, we want to recognize whether we are using food as a coping mechanism. Here are some basic signs:

  1. Sudden hunger as opposed to gradual feelings of hunger. True hunger begins with a slight rumbling in the stomach. An hour later you may recognize the feelings again, stronger and gradually those feelings grow.
  2. Cravings for specific food. Emotional hunger is above the neck. It starts in the mouth whether desiring a texture (crunch or soft) or a flavor. All thoughts are of food. Real hunger will be satisfied by a variety of foods. You may have certain foods your tastes prefer, but it is not just one item that will satisfy you.
  3. Eating beyond full. Once the physiological needs are met, signals are sent to the brain, letting us know we are full. Emotional hunger continues to need to fill a void.
  4. Sneaking food. Hiding and eating snacks, so that others won’t see you.
  5. Eating when angry, lonely, sad or other strong emotion. Your first reaction to an issue is to snack.
  6. Ends with guilt. Stuffing food in to comfort, then feeling guilty afterwords.

Once these signs are recognized and you have identified that you are an emotional eater, what do you do? How do you break the cycle? To begin with, you want to become a mood detective. That is, you want to become aware of the triggers you have that set you off on an eating tangent. Keeping a journal of what you eat and the emotions you feel at the time are a good beginning. What were the circumstances occurring that caused the over eating?

Next, you want to have alternative ways of coping with those emotions. Learn new emotional outlets, journal, sharing with a friend, change your thoughts to more positive, hopeful ones. In hypnosis sessions, we identify the triggers and create new behavioral responses to them. We can also begin to look for solutions rather than blame or shame.

Some quick tips for overcoming emotional eating are:

  1. Delay snacking by 15 minutes when sudden hunger hits. When the 15 minutes are up, determine if you are still hungry or if it is an emotional issue you are experiencing.
  2. Take a walk, play cards, change activities when craving foods. Keep only healthy snacks on hand.
  3. Limit your portions. Prepare snack bags or portions in advance of hunger. If you divide containers of snack foods into smaller containers or bags, you are less likely to eat them all at one sitting.
  4. Create a no eating zone. If you know that you have previously sneaked food in your car or bedroom, make that off limits for all food. Become conscious of that, perhaps even putting up signs in those areas to remind yourself.
  5. Call a friend or journal when feeling strong emotions. Imagine confronting the issue and how you might feel if you were to do so successfully. See yourself working through life’s challenges in a positive, productive manner.
  6. Consider hypnosis to learn more about what your personal saboteur is and how to install new reactions, new behaviors and new habits.