How to Use Emotional Eating as the Key to Change

The first step in making peace with food is in understanding what emotional eating is. To learn more about how I define emotional eating, click here to read my article, “What Is Emotional Eating?”

If you’re not sure whether you’re an emotional eater, click here to learn what the “Top 10 Signs You Might Be An Emotional Eater” are.
So You Think You’re An Emotional Eater
As mentioned in the first article, most of us eat in response to emotional triggers from time to time; it only becomes an issue if food is your go-to solution for every problem in your life.  However, our diet- and thinness-obsessed culture elevates this coping strategy to a full-out crime, and the sad result of this is that many people harshly berate themselves whenever they overeat or eat the “wrong thing.” This leads to guilt, self-loathing, and more often than not, more eating to relieve those unpleasant feelings.  None of these are helpful in any way.

In my work, I help people reframe each emotional eating episode into an opportunity for self-compassion and the development of a more intimate relationship with themselves. Yes, that means that you can see a binge as a “good thing” if you’re willing to take responsibiity for increased self-awareness and growth.  This concept is foreign to many, and requires that one suspend deeply engrained judgment and self-criticism, at least in the moment.  But the truth is, once a person does this, it opens up a whole new world, one in which you can learn incredible things about yourself, and the doorway is your relationship with food.

Here’s the process I usually teach my clients to accomplish this. It can be done the moment you find yourself craving […]

By |February 15th, 2012|Emotional Eating|0 Comments

Beyond the Diet Mentality: Helping Clients Through Attuned Eating

This month’s article is written by Judith Matz, LCSW, co-author of The Diet Survivor’s Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance and Self-Care and Beyond a Shadow of a Diet: The Therapist’s Guide to Treating Compulsive Eating.  I came across this article in the latest issue of Psychotherapy Networker, a magazine geared toward what’s new in the world of psychotherapy.  Aside from my obvious professional interest in the article, I was impressed with how clearly Judith outlines what it is exactly we do as therapists working with people who struggle with yo-yo dieting and emotional eating.  Although this article is written by a professional for professionals, I think it comes across as quite accessible and will demystify the whole process of how therapy and coaching can help you overcome your struggle with food.  Judith’s website can be found at 

Q: Many of my clients struggle with food and weight problems. I’ve helped them look at the emotional issues behind their overeating, but it doesn’t always help. What else can you recommend?

A: When I began treating clients with eating problems, I believed that once they understood the emotional triggers behind their overeating, their compulsion to reach for food would decrease–which in turn would lead to weight loss. Instead, I discovered that, although they could resolve issues around depression, anxiety, relationships, work, and self-esteem, conflicts with food and weight usually remained. In the early 1990s, after witnessing the failure of most diet programs, I learned a nondiet approach to treating compulsive eating, one that has enabled me to intervene directly in the diet-and-binge cycle and help my clients make peace with food, their bodies, and themselves.

In our culture, dieting is seen as the primary way to control […]

Top 10 Barriers to Self-Growth

Change can be scary as we feel new things, entertain different thoughts, perhaps leave old ways behind. Often, resistance to change can rear its ugly head whenever our egos feel threatened by some change in the status quo.  This resistance can take many forms, and is sometimes difficult to recognize in ourselves.  Here are 10 obstacles that can hinder self-growth.

1. Denial. It’s difficult to grow when you don’t see the need. Listen to the quiet voice inside and to what your loved ones are saying. Get the support you need to see the truth, because ultimately it’s the truth that will set you free.

2. Seeing yourself as a victim. If you’re always one-down, you can’t become the empowered person you are meant to be.  Staying trapped as a victim robs you of the opportunity to take charge and change how you react to a situation.

3. Substance abuse. Whether you’re self-medicating with food or alcohol, or seeking escape, the problems just don’t go away without the willingness to face them.  In fact, the problem only gets worse, because a new problem is created–like excess weight, or addiction–that takes the focus away from the root cause.

4. Self-loathing. Nothing banishes self-hatred faster than self-care. Choose in any moment the kindest path.  If a friend came to you with the same problem, what advice would you give her?  Use the same advice for yourself, and do it with love.

5. Blame. If we always point the finger at one another, we never see our own role.  Be willing to take responsibility for your part in contributing to the problem.

6. Defensiveness. This is a racket we swing against anything that suggests we might be at fault. Try to see “faults” […]

By |March 4th, 2010|Anger, Change, Emotional Eating, Tips|0 Comments

The Importance of Self-Love

The legend of Narcissus tells of a young boy who, upon seeing his reflection in a clear fountain with water like silver, fell hopelessly in love with himself. Unable to tear his gaze away from his reflection, he could not eat, could not sleep, until finally, he pined away and died.

Unfortunately, the myth of Narcissus is too often our concept of self-love. We believe that if we love ourselves, we are selfish and self-centered, that falling in love with self means conceit and self-absorption. In fact, the opposite is true. Self-love is an honoring of the self that requires a high degree of independence and courage. The love we give others will be enhanced by the love we give ourselves.

The Problem with not Loving Yourself

A lack of self-love is a sign of low self-esteem or self-worth and shows its face in many ways: a refusal to enjoy life, workaholism, perfectionism, procrastination, emotional eating, guilt, and shame. Those who lack self-love avoid commitments, stay in destructive relationships, and fail to experience true intimacy with anyone. They practice negative self-talk, compare themselves with others, compete with others, caretake others and fail to take care of themselves. Unlike Narcissus, when they look in a mirror, they turn away.

The primary difference in those who practice self-love and those who don’t is their belief about themselves. “Of all the judgments that we pass in life, none is as important as the one we pass on ourselves, for that judgment touches the very center of our existence,” said Nathaniel Branden in his book on self-esteem, “Honoring the Self.”

The Gift of Self-Love

Unable to love ourselves, we are our own harshest critics, fault finders, nay-sayers and naggers. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No […]

By |February 4th, 2010|Beliefs, Emotional Eating, Tips|0 Comments

15 Tips for Holiday Eating Without Weight Gain

by Michelle May, M.D.

Do you anticipate the holidays but dread the “inevitable” holiday weight gain? Do your holiday events revolve around eating more than the meaning, people, presents, decorations, or travel?

Avoiding holiday weight gain and eating healthy during the holidays can be a real challenge unless you have a great strategy.  These 15 holiday eating tips will help you avoid holiday weight gain and enjoy the season more while eating less.

1.  It is easier to get distracted from signals of physical hunger and satiety at social gatherings, especially if food is the main event. Make an effort to pay close attention to your body’s signals.

2.  Be a food snob. Skip the store-bought goodies, the dried-out fudge and the so-so stuffing. If the food you select doesn’t taste as good as you expected, stop eating it and choose something else. Think of how much less you’d eat if you only ate things that tasted fabulous!

3.  Think of your appetite as an expense account. How much do you want to spend on appetizers or the entree? Do you want to save some room for dessert? Go through this process mentally to avoid eating too much food and feeling uncomfortable for the rest of the evening.

4.  Pace your eating prior to the event so you’ll be hungry but not famished at mealtime. But please, ignore the old diet advice of “eat before you go to a party so you won’t be tempted.” That is absurd! You want to be hungry enough to enjoy your favorites.

5.  Socialize away from the sight of the food. People who tend to overeat are “food suggestible” so just hanging around food […]

By |December 3rd, 2009|Emotional Eating, Food, Mindful Eating, Tips|0 Comments

The Mind-Body Connection

“I think; therefore I am” – we’ve all heard this powerful quote by Descartes. But how many of us stop to think about what it actually means?  Is it possible not only that our thoughts are who we “are” inside our minds, but can actually influence who we “are” in our bodies as well?  And if so, should we be paying closer attention to what our minds, and bodies, are trying to tell us?  This month’s article focuses on how the body and mind are connected, and, some might say, inseparable.


Just today a client came in describing an unpleasant odor she came across while on the bus (N.B.: I had her permission to share this anecdote).  The more she thought about feeling nauseous, the more nauseous she felt. She was surprised at how easily she became nauseous just by thinking about it.  And while relating this story to me, she made the powerful insight that if it was so easy for something as physical as nausea to be evoked by her mind, imagine what else she might be experiencing needlessly by over-focusing on it.  This is a great example of the mind-body connection.

A more extreme version of this is somatization, or the expression of emotional/psychological issues through the body. Psychosomatic conditions present real, measurable physical symptoms, yet they are not entirely the result of a physical problem. Although the symptoms and experiences are caused by the “mind,” the symptoms are in fact quite real, not “imagined.”

Typical psychosomatic symptoms include:

* Getting (and staying) sick while under high levels of stress

* Stomach aches before giving a presentation

* Rashes that break out in response to emotional abandonment

* Aches and pains when feeling tense or anxious

* […]

By |October 1st, 2009|Emotional Eating|0 Comments

How to Be a Food Snob

I’ll never forget the day I figured out I was a food snob. There I was, sitting in a graduate seminar chatting with a colleague, when she pulled out a granola bar that looked interesting.  I said, “Wow, I’ve never seen that kind before, but then again I never buy granola bars.” And when she replied, “Of course you don’t, you’re a total food snob!”, I was taken aback.  Was this an insult? After a few seconds, I thought, “Yes, yes I am a food snob!” and thanked her for her compliment.

What is a Food Snob?

What the heck is a food snob, you might ask, and why should you be proud to be one? Good question!  A food snob is someone who has an epicurean zeal for high quality, fresh and fancy food.

Here are some of the traits and behaviour patterns of a food snob:

* They prefer to buy their food from specialty shops; bread from bakeries, meat from butcher shops, and nuts and grains from bulk food stores.

* When in a suburban-style mega-grocery store, they mostly avoid the centre aisles, opting instead for fresh produce and dairy.

* They don’t buy things that come in crinkly bags or brightly coloured boxes with cartoon characters on them.

* Whatever they do buy from centre aisles has to be imported from some foreign country and in a glass bottle with a fancy label, thank you very much.

* They love to visit farmer’s markets, and pick out local produce with the eye of a jeweller choosing the finest gems.

* They also love to try new things; the more exotic and unpronounceable, the better.

* When eating out, they get excited by hole-in-the-wall restaurants that serve […]

By |September 3rd, 2009|Emotional Eating, Food, Lessons in Living, Mindful Eating, Tips|0 Comments

The Straight Facts on Body Image

Although most of us have parts of ourselves that we don’t like (“my nose could be smaller,” “my thighs could be thinner”), for some people, dealing a negative body image is a part of daily life.  The media’s obsession with dieting, and with thin, rich celebrities, certainly contributes to the problem.  However, each of us is ultimately responsible for refusing to participate in this superficial obsession and learning to love ourselves the way we are. Read on to learn more about body image problems and how to overcome them.

What is Body Image?

The scientist in me wants to say that the true definition of body image is the brain’s representation of of the body’s sensory system and internal sense of having a body.  This internal “body image” changes as we grow, especially in childhood and adolescence.  That partly explains why teenagers can be so klutzy and awkward, because their bodies are growing faster than their brains can keep up with.

However, most of us define body image as how we evaluate ourselves. Aside from feeling like we have a body, most of us have an opinion about our bodies.  Those with a healthy body image may have a couple of areas they think need improvement, but generally, they feel good about the way they look and are able to enjoy and appreciate their bodies.  Those who struggle with their weight very often have a negative body image. They feel fat, ugly, and unloveable.  They think others judge them harshly, and they shy away from certain social situations.

In extreme cases, a person’s body image can be so distorted that it can lead to serious problems. Here, the negative self-evaluation reaches painful levels, and […]

By |April 3rd, 2009|Body Image, Emotional Eating, Tips|0 Comments

Stretch Out of Your Comfort Zone and Try Something New

When’s the last time you tried something new?  I mean really tried something new: a new haircut, a new way of doing something, a new hobby, or even something as simple as a new restaurant. We often get stuck in our habits and routines.  A grocery store commercial comes to mind, where a woman is shopping the aisles with her eyes closed, having picked the same products off the shelves for so long she knows exactly where they are through muscle memory alone.

Often habits go beyond the simple daily routines we keep.  They can apply to ways of thinking, feeling and behaving on a more serious level. Staying stuck in an unhealthy or dysfunctional pattern not only prevents you from living your best life, but can be self-destructive too.  For those of you who are stuck in health habits that keep you overweight and unhappy, you know all too well how hard it can be to break free from these patterns.

Why People Stay Stuck

One big reason people stay stuck is the comfort that comes from force of habit.  Better to stick with the devil you know, than the devil you don’t know, right?  Well, maybe not.  Comfort zones are limiting, preventing you from venturing out into new, unexplored territory.

Fear of change is another big reason. With fear come all the questions: what do I have to lose by changing?  What will I be giving up?  How hard will it be to try something new?  What if I fail?  What if it doesn’t last?  How do I know things will be better the new way, anyway?

There are no ready answers for these questions. But know that anything worth having usually comes through hard work, […]

By |March 5th, 2009|Change, Emotional Eating, Tips|0 Comments

20 Tips for Assertive Communication

Most of us know that assertiveness will get us further in life than being passive or aggressive. But few of us were actually taught how to be assertive. Here are some helpful tips.

1. Choose the right time. Imagine you’re dashing down the hall on your way to a meeting. Lisa passes by. You call out, “Can you have the Acme Inc. project out by Tuesday?” Because you haven’t scheduled a special time to bring up the issue, Lisa has no reason to think your request deserves high priority.

2. Choose the right place. Discuss important issues in a private, neutral location.

3. Be direct. For example, “Lisa, I would like you to work overtime on the Acme Inc. project.” Whether or not Lisa likes your request, she will respect you for your directness.

4. Say “I,” not “we.” Instead of saying, “We need the project by Tuesday,” say, “I would like you to finish the project by Tuesday.”

5. Be specific. Instead of, “Put a rush on the Acme Inc. project,” say, “I would like the Acme Inc. project finished and on Joe’s desk by 9:00 Tuesday morning.”

6. Use body language to emphasize your words. ”Lisa, I need that report Tuesday morning,” is an assertive statement. But if you mumble this statement while staring at the floor, you undermine your message.

7. Confirm your request. Ask your staff to take notes at meetings. At the end of each meeting, ask your group to repeat back the specifics that were agreed upon. This minimizes miscommunication. This also works at home; when you and a family have a disagreement or important discussion; be sure to ask them to repeat back what you’ve asked of them.  Do the same for them.

8. Stand […]

By |February 5th, 2009|Anger, Change, Emotional Eating, Tips|0 Comments