Sunday, January 24, 2010

From Dr Denise, Emotional Eating Expert -- Food: Reward or Punishment?

Food can be a reward or a punishment! When we were children we were most likely both rewarded and punished with food. Desserts were likely withheld until all of the vegetables had disappeared and you may have been given candy if you behaved. You may have been sent to bed without supper as a punishment or not allowed the ice cream or candy others received because you had been “bad.” For most, if not all of us, there are memories of food being used in these ways. Food is a powerful motivator. Behavior modification programs use candies, for example, to change difficult behaviors in children or in people who are learning impaired. Once the child or adult learns that he or she will receive a candy when they perform a specific behavior, they become motivated to perform that behavior again to receive another treat. It is extremely effective.

We have all been conditioned in this same way to some extent. If we learned as children that food is a reward, we may continue to use it in that way and the deprivation we experience on any diet plan may translate to us as punishment. If food was withheld from us when we were little to keep us in line, we may feel angry now when we experience any hunger. We may rebel against those who punished us then by eating even more now than we really want or need. Begin to notice how often you give yourself a “treat” as a reward. Notice how often you feel deprived and punished at times when you are restricting food.

Taking responsibility for what we put into our mouths means, in part, releasing some of our old beliefs about food. If we can appreciate food as neutral – not good or bad – we can begin making more thoughtful choices. Food is a powerful force in each of our lives. It is hard to untangle our present eating behaviors from the ways we viewed and experienced eating in our childhood years. It is helpful to recognize this and to begin paying attention to the ways you may be using food to reward yourself or how you may be experiencing even mild hunger as a punishment. If you realize your tendencies to do this, you will be less compelled to act on impulse, eat for emotional reasons and you can give yourself time to decide whether you really want to eat or not.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dr. Denise, Emotional Eating Expert -- Is it OK to fall off the wagon?

Not only is it OK to "slip" at times but it is beneficial and important to do so.

I find that most of the people I have worked with over the past 25 years hold fast to self-perfectionistic expectations. They often feel like failures if they don't do everything perfectly. Although I believe we are all perfect just as we are, it is impossible to behave perfectly every minute.

If you insist on perfection, you automatically set yourself up to fail. If you break your "diet" for example by eating one cookie you may soon find yourself beating yourself up emotionally and shoveling more cookies in to anesthetize yourself (with sugar and fat) from the feelings of frustration and disappointment you are experiencing. You may feel like a failure and this leads to more hyper eating, resulting in even lower self-esteem and guilt and more cookies.

I often recommend the Bach Emotional Eating Support Kit to my clients. Using this helps improve body image, stop that "out of control" experience and helps them get back on track in a self loving, not restrictive, way. They can then give up the idea of perfection in all areas of their lives, accept themselves as human beings and learn from their "slips."

The heart of the matter is that many people feel that if they behave in a way that conflicts with their idea of perfection then that makes them "bad." They are not "bad." They are simply reacting as all humans do, sometimes doing better than other times. It is essential to learn that there are no mistakes, only lessons and an important lesson here is to give yourself a break. The pressures of trying to be perfect at all times takes a tremendous toll. Life is just too short for that!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dr. Denise, Emotional Overeating Expert -- Social reasons to overeat

Another common reason to overeat is connected to social situations we frequently face. It is impossible to be harmonious, balanced and content all the time in such situations or in life in general. If we feel too successful or unsuccessful, for example, we find ourselves off balance and anxious. Anytime things are a little too “good” or a little too “bad” we find ourselves racing to the refrigerator in search of something to help us find emotional balance. We mistakenly think food can provide this for us. It can not. It can only soothe us temporarily. Only we have the power to cope with our own assortment of feelings as we negotiate our way along our own life’s path

All this can be very confusing and discouraging. At times it is hard to keep our needs in the foreground and to nurture ourselves. Even in settings where opportunities to sabotage ourselves abound and our Chew is screaming for “treats,” we do not have to feel helpless and victimized. We don’t have to be emotional eaters! It may be hard for you to believe, but it is possible to feel under control even in the most food-focused situations.

Remind yourself to slow down, breathe and regroup. Take a quiet minute to reaffirm your commitment to yourself and your health. Remember that the goal is to create the most joyful, vibrant life. You can actively pursue that instead of reacting to everyone else and their comments and ideas. Your path is yours alone and no one else’s opinions need to affect you unless you allow them to.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Denise Lamothe, Emotional Eating Expert -- My New Year's Message to You

Happy New Year to you! If you are like most, you have made your commitment to change your lifestyle and to treat yourself in healthier ways than you have in the past. Perhaps you have the goal of getting rid of those extra pounds. Well, you can do it! But, and it’s a big but (not butt) because we live in a food focused environment.
Have you ever paid attention to how focused our culture is on food? Virtually every occasion we experience has food as a central theme. Think of Thanksgiving without turkey and pumpkin pie or Easter without candy eggs. How about Valentine’s Day with no chocolate, birthdays or weddings with no cake or even meetings without refreshment breaks? How often do we get together with friends without including food? We ask people to meet us for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. We invite them over for coffee or a drink. When was the last time someone asked you to get together just to spend time enjoying each other’s company? Food is everywhere and a part of nearly every occasion.
It is important for us to ask ourselves these questions. How can we take care of ourselves in this food-oriented culture? How can we socialize with friends, celebrate birthdays, go to fine restaurants and relax about it? How can we manage to enjoy ourselves, eat only some of what is offered and feel satisfied? How can we survive this constant exposure to food? If we eat too much, the result is anxiety and we will want to eat to medicate this feeling. If we eat too little, we feel deprived and set ourselves up to binge later. If we have weight to lose, we feel anxious about that and if we have lost the weight we wanted to lose, we feel anxious that we will gain it back. (Many women report that they find it much harder to maintain weight loss than to lose the weight in the first place.) So we eat because we have not lost weight and we eat because we have lost weight. What a dilemma! At either end of the scale, anxiety lurks and if we don’t know healthy ways to cope with the anxiety, we eat.
Focus your energy on taking gentle care of yourself. Make your resolution to be as self-loving and joyful as possible and do what you love. The rest will be ever so much easier to manage and emotional eating will recede into the background!