Many of the clients I work with struggle with “Emotional Eating”. According to 1300+ licensed psychologists this is a common obstacle to weight loss for many people. In a study conducted by Consumer Reports National Research Center “understanding and managing the behaviors and emotions related to weight management” is the number one stumbling block to their patient’s success. Learning to break out of the pattern of emotional eating is the secret to many dieter’s successes. Here is a three step process that I’ve developed to help clients break the emotional eating habit.
1. Take Stock
The first step is to determine if, in fact, the client is an emotional eater and to what extent. The best way I have found to do this is to keep a food log for at least 7 days while at the same time noting general feelings/thoughts that were occurring during those times. This information gives a great starting point for knowing what, when and how much someone is eating.
2. Become Aware
Next we dig in deep and look at the individual eating patterns. Why did they make those food choices? Where were they and what times of day were they eating? And most importantly, what was going on around and inside of the mind of the client when they were eating. This can reveal if certain foods are connected to certain moods and help to discover where the emotional attachment is that is driving diet behavior.
3. Back to the Future
Having determined that emotional eating is a component for someone, we work together to focus on the future instead of the past. We find the “Why that makes you cry” – the emotional lever that will move them from old ways of eating to new, supportive habits. For many people, the motivation to lose weight is the certainty that the life path they are on will lead to illness or infirmity. For others it’s a desire to be a positive role model to their children. Whatever is the prime motivator, we set that as their emotional trigger point. So, when tempted to find solace in the refrigerator, a photo of their kids on the fridge door can remind them stop and think about why they are eating at that moment, and give them the strength to walk away if they are eating for the wrong reason.
I’m not a psychologist, I’m a coach. If someone has deep rooted emotional struggles, I recommend those folks to a Licensed Psychologist, Acupuncturist or Hypnotherapist to help them work through their emotional issues with food.
Knowing what you eat, why you’re eating it and staying mindful of why you chose to change will keep most dieters on track and away from old Emotional Eating habits.
Steve DiOrio is the founder of Primal Boston, a concierge diet and wellness service.