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How to Overcome Emotional Eating

Emotional eatingThe next time you feel like mainlining a pizza, stop and ask yourself the following questions first. From The Life You Want: Get Motivated, Lose Weight, and Be Happy, by Bob Greene, Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D., and Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D.

1. Am I really physically hungry?

2. What emotional state am I experiencing now? Label it. (Example: “I am sad because my sister was just diagnosed with breast cancer.”)

3. Decide how to handle your feelings. (Example: Call her. Empathize with her. Offer help. Talk to your husband and tell him: “I would like to go to California to help my sister during her treatments.”)

4. Learn to tolerate the reactions of others. (Example: In an ideal world, everyone would be understanding of the fact that you want to help your sister, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case. If your husband responds negatively to your decision — perhaps he gives you a hard time about going and complains about having to take care of the kids while you’re away — try to hear him out without being defensive. Let him know that you understand and respect the dilemma this will impose, but this is something you have to do.)

5. Be assertive. Clearly, calmly, and confidently tell others what you plan to do to address their concerns. (Example: You will help make arrangements for someone to take care of the kids for two weekends while you’re away.)

6. Accept the responses of others. (Example: Your husband may still be unhappy, saying that you shouldn’t be putting your sister’s needs before your family’s. But applaud yourself for doing what’s right for you and your sister. Explain to your husband that it’s important that you be there to help your sister during this difficult time — not just for her but for you. Explain that you’ll do all you can to make your absence as easy as it can be for him and the kids. At this point, take a moment to remind yourself that you don’t need to give in to the stress or feelings of guilt and binge: “I need to be strong and speak up for myself.”)

Answering these questions can be discomforting, even painful, but it’s critical. If you don’t take the time to ask them and be honest with yourself, you’ll miss a golden opportunity to not only fend off overeating or an all-out binge but also gain a sense of control over your eating and yourself. When emotions run high — emotions that you may bury the rest of the day; emotions that are the very reason you overeat — you become vulnerable to an overeating episode. The above questions will help you identify these emotions and label them, which helps make them easier to handle.

Bob Greene, author of The Life You Want: Get Motivated, Lose Weight, and Be Happy (Copyright © 2010 by Bestlife Corporation), is an exercise physiologist and certified personal trainer specializing in fitness, metabolism, and weight loss. Visit his website at

Ann Kearney-Cooke, PhD, co-author of The Life You Want: Get Motivated, Lose Weight, and Be Happy (Copyright © 2010 by Bestlife Corporation) is the director of the Cincinnati Psychotherapy Institute.

Janis Jibrin, MS, RD, co-author of The Life You Want: Get Motivated, Lose Weight, and Be Happy (Copyright © 2010 by Bestlife Corporation) is the lead nutritionist for, Bob Greene’s weight loss and fitness website.



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