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Emotional Eating
Making Peace with Food
Presented by: Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes
Executive Director, AllCEUs

A CE course for this presentation can be purchased at

~    Define emotional eating
~    Explore emotional eating in terms of its beneficial functions and rewards
~    Discuss why restrictive diets do not resolve emotional eating

What is Emotional Eating
~    Eating in response to emotions and feelings other than hunger.
~    Eating AT someone (You made me do this)
~    Eating to forget/distract
~    Eating to feel better (release serotonin and dopamine)
~    Eating out of boredom
~    Eating out of habit
~    Not all emotional eaters have an eating disorder
~¬†¬† ¬†You do not have to ‚Äúbinge‚ÄĚ to be an emotional eater
Why is Eating So Soothing
~    Eating as an infant often involved closeness and parental attention (oxytocin)
~    Caregiver generally happy during feeding
~    Food may be associated with sleep (night time bottle)
~    Eating as a toddler
~    Exploration and mastery
~    Power and control
~    Formation of memories around foods
~    Unhealthy foods usually reserved for treats or rewards
Soothing cont…
~    Culturally we associate eating with caring and celebration
~    Low blood sugar an cause feelings of depression/anxiety which are quelled by food
~    Evolution predisposes the human body to crave high-sugar, high-fat, high-calorie foods for quick energy and to prepare for famine
What is Behind the Craving
~    First rule out physical causes
~    Low blood sugar (anxiety, irritability, fatigue)
~    Lack of sleep (sugar and stimulants)
~    Dehydration
~    Nutritional Causes
~    High carbohydrate/starchy foods: Serotonin, endorphins
~    Chocolate: Magnesium, serotonin
~    Fatty foods: Omega-3
~    Soda: Calcium
What’s behind…
~    Then rule out habits
~    Is there a particular time or activity that makes you crave this food?
~    Are there particular times you mindLESSly eat?
~    Driving
~    Television
~    Are you going too long between meals then needing a sugar boost (which leads to a sugar crash…)

Emotional Eating Interventions
~    Mindful eating
~    Food diary
~    When eating…
~    Use a plate
~    Sit
~    Eliminate distractions
~    Focus on the food

EE Interventions cont…
~    Try to avoid setting up a binge by
~    Restricting certain foods
~¬†¬† ¬†Buying a bunch of ‚Äúcomfort foods‚ÄĚ
~    Going too long without eating
~    Initially distract (bath, walk, call a friend, facebook…)
~    Identify the emotions
~    If it is depression: Hopeless, helpless
~    If it is stress/anxiety/anger: Failure, Rejection, Loss of control, the unknown
General Coping
~    Develop alternate ways of coping with distress
~    Distract
~    Talk it out
~    Journal
~    Make a pro and con list
~    Focus on the positive
~    View failures as learning opportunities
~    Identify whether it is worth your energy
General Coping
~    Develop alternate ways of coping with distress
~    ABCs: A= _____  C= Emotional Reaction
~    Eliminate vulnerabilities
~    Be compassionate with yourself
~    Urge surf
~    Other tools
~    Close the kitchen
~    Brush your teeth
~    Meditate

ACT for Emotional Eating
~    What am I feeling/thinking
~    What is important to me
~    Will emotional eating get me closer to or further away from what is important to me
~    What other things could I do that would get me closer to my goals
Holiday Help
~    Choose lower calorie foods
~    Keep water or a low calorie beverage in your hand
~    Talk
~    Stay away from the buffet
~    Rehearse refusal skills
~    Pay attention to your distress meter.
~    Keep an index card with your coping mantra and two reasons you don’t want to eat.

~    Holidays bring out a lot of emotions for people
~    Some people struggle with depression, anxiety, jealousy, grief and anger during this time.
~    When constantly bombarded with high-fat, high carbohydrate foods, people are tempted to eat to feel
~    Calm
~    Happier
~    Numb
~    Emotional eating, like most other escape behaviors
~    Never addresses the underlying emotions and their causes
~    Often results in physical issues such as weight gain, poor sleep, reduced energy (sugar crash)
~¬†¬† ¬†Some people try to ‚Äúundo‚ÄĚ emotional eating by restricting other calories which leads to a nutritional deficit and more cravings
~    Emotional eaters need to
~    First find a way to stop before they eat
~    Second identify the underlying reason for eating
~    Address the thoughts and emotions leading to the urges

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