Getting off the Emotional Eating Roller Coaster for Good

Getting off the Emotional Eating Roller Coaster for Good

“Please Make your Way to the Exit…”

I think you would agree that emotional eating is one roller coaster ride in life none of us truly enjoy.  The thrills are short-lived, quickly followed by disappointment, and seeing how we have a hard time getting off, it’s a rather nauseating ride.  Despite what we may think about our relationship with food, many of us boarded this ride a long time ago and have yet to completely exit the platform.  When you really think about it, statistics convey this quite clearly.  Consider this; an estimated 65% of US adults are currently either overweight or obese.  However, the knowledge base about weight management continues to expand.

So what is precluding our successful passage from knowledge to behavior?  There are many theories, including the roles our genetics and environment play, but I strongly believe it’s the combination of our unhealthy emotions and sabotaging thoughts that can be most destructive.  Under-eating or over-eating have long been recognized as coping mechanisms for alleviating and dealing with stress and emotions.  In fact, most nutrition professionals believe 75% of overeating is secondary to emotions.  So it begs the question, “Why do we as Americans not spend more time investigating our relationship with food, and solutions for bringing it into better balance?”  First Place 4 Health gives attention to this prevalent disconnect that so often thwarts our plan for eating healthy and losing weight.

I attended a professional conference led by Judith S. Beck, author of The Beck Diet Solution.  If you’re looking for some summer reading, I highly recommend it.  From the conference I learned of three validated solutions for getting off emotional eating roller coaster.  I pray that the validated solutions below speak encouragement into your day and hope to overcome this boulder of a barrier keeping you from reaching your goals.

Retraining Your Brain

Cognitive restructuring is defined as “the process of learning to refute cognitive distortions, or fundamental faulty thinking with the goal of replacing one’s irrational, counter-factual beliefs with more accurate and beneficial ones.”  To assist us in this process, Dr. Beck suggests reading response cards that state rational, factual, and beneficial thoughts whenever we feel tempted to step foot on the ride, even just for one go ’round.  Here are some examples of cue cards you could make and use at home:

On your fridge:  
“It’s not in here.”
By your alarm clock:  “You’ll thank yourself later for getting up and exercising.”
On your dashboard:  “Keep driving – the drive-through isn’t worth it.”
Anywhere:  “You can eat whatever you want or be thin, but you can’t have it both ways.”

These statements immediately bring reality to your mind and serve as a rudder for guiding your thought processes along a more constructive course. What ideas can you come up with?

Remembering What It Is You Really Want

Another exercise Dr. Beck has her clients do is create an “advantages list” – a list of all the reasons it is advantageous for them to lose weight and get fit.  Dr. Beck encourages her clients to read aloud their advantages multiple times a day to combat the subtle but ever-present temptation to fall off course.  Like Paul says in Romans 7:15, We do not understand what we do for what we want to do we do not do, but what we hate we do.  The theory is that when we remind ourselves of what we truly want, we are motivated to stay on track.  Some examples of advantages from classes I visited were:

1. peace with my body
2. so I can play longer with my kids
3. so I can model healthy self-esteem to my daughter
4. spiritual maturity
5. self-respect
6. so I can enjoy clothes shopping
7. to finally move on with my life

I strongly urge you to make a list of your own.  Laminate it.  Carry it with you.  Make multiple copies and put them where you’ll read them.  Let your advantages list keep you in constant remembrance of why you’re in First Place 4 Health, what your goals are, and why they are important to you.

Keeping Yourself in Check

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – keeping a food record is one of the best favors you can do for yourself.  They are a very strong predictor of weight loss – stronger than your baseline body mass index, age, or exercise!  Even if you don’t fill it out perfectly, studies continue to show that they make a big difference.  When you are honest with yourself and monitor your progress, you do a lot of good for your thinking and your perceptions.  I won’t lie and say it isn’t painful sometimes to open ourselves up and assess how we’re really doing, but trust me when I tell you it’s fruitful – abundantly so.  Be sure and add the element of your emotions to your tracker.  If you don’t have enough room, write in the margin or wherever you can fit extra details.  It’s just one more step towards awareness and we know ignorance is not bliss!

Archived article by Erin Dubroc, MPH, RD, LD