“I had a bad day. I deserve this cookie.” “I am bored. What can I eat?” “I am really anxious about my health. I need to crunch on some chips.”
How many of us have said these statements to ourselves? Experts estimate that 75% of overeating is a response to emotions.
Why do we eat when we are upset? It may be that we feel that we have no choice but to eat. Perhaps we don’t know what else to do. We also may feel entitled to eat for getting through a difficult situation. Food can be an effective distractor….temporarily. How do we usually feel several minutes after we have eaten a food that we did not plan to eat? Most people say that they end up feeling discouraged because they did not follow their food plan. Instead of solving the first problem (e.g., stress, boredom, anxiety), additional problems were added (i.e., emotional eating and weight gain).
Researchers found that emotional eaters were less likely to lose weight and more likely to regain weight lost compared to people who did not engage in unplanned eating when upset. Individuals who do not have a weight problem as well as those who have successfully maintained a weight loss do not eat to comfort themselves. If they do, they notice what they are doing and immediately get back on track.
Emotional eating is a learned behavior that you can change! The more times that you can manage emotions without eating, the more able you will be able to refrain from overeating in the future. The key is learning to break the automatic connection between food and your mood. It involves finding ways to deal with emotions that don’t involve food.
The Villages Health is excited to introduce a weight management group specifically targeting emotional eating, ACT on Healthy Living. This group treatment is facilitated by Lucy Rathier, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist. Dr. Rathier has extensive experience and expertise in the behavioral treatment of obesity and emotional eating.
Many people struggling with their weight know what to do—eat smaller portions and exercise more. However, knowing what to do and getting yourself to do it are entirely separate skills. When it comes to changing long-term, habitual patterns, getting yourself to do something different is really dependent on keeping in mind your values or how you want to be in your life (e.g., to be healthy and active as I age, to be around to see special events in the lives of my family members, etc.). Thus, the main purpose of this group is to help you lead a life that is vital, full, and connected which includes healthy behaviors as a choice.
This approach is experiential. It includes mindfulness, learning how to distance yourself from unhelpful thoughts that cause you to struggle, and strategies which allow you to experience emotions without being overcome by them. These all lead to the ability to engage in behaviors consistent with living a fulfilling life despite uncomfortable feelings and thoughts. For example, “I feel stressed and desire a comfort food nevertheless I will stick to my healthy eating plan and take a walk.” For it truly to work, participants commit to practicing strategies in their daily lives.
Participation in this group treatment requires established care with a Primary Care Provider in The Villages Health and an initial screening evaluation with Dr. Rathier. For an appointment with Dr. Rathier, please call the Santa Barbara Care Center at 352-674-1740.