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Counseling for Emotional Eating

Counseling for Emotional Eating

Who hasn’t grabbed a chocolate after a bad day at work or plowed through a bowl of ice cream at night while watching the same silly reruns? Often the thought is, “I deserve this” or “It helps me relax”. Well, science would support that those treats do indeed make us feel happier – temporarily. The simple carbohydrates in sugars bring a sudden surge of blood sugar levels with insulin response that makes serotonin, that “feel good” neurotransmitter, more available to the brain. Ah – relief. However, sugar levels quickly drop and this fluctuation rebounds with anxiety, maybe coupled with irritability, so another chocolate surely seems like a good solution. And so goes the cycle of emotional eating; there is excess intake of simple carbs for that short-lived serotonin rush. Interestingly, this fluctuation and rebounding seems more acute when the simple carbs are consumed with caffeine, alcohol and/or chocolate. So much for the chocolate martini.

With an emotional eating habit, there are common feelings that trigger a junk food frenzy: boredom, anxiety, depression, anger, stress, loneliness. Food is used to “stuff the negative feeling” or “fill the void”. It has nothing to do with hunger. Fortunately, the habit can be changed with the help of supportive counseling and good nutritional advice. A study by the National Institute of Health showed that women who ate a high protein/ low carb diet had improvement in depression scores because protein is needed in the production of dopamine and norepinephrine, the neurotransmitters that boost concentration and alertness. So, how do you get to this better eating strategy and ditch the enslavement to Doritos?

First, it is necessary to identify the emotions that seem too hard to tolerate. For example, the boss criticizes your work. You fret about it, perhaps wondering if you’ll be fired. Anxiety, fear, sadness, maybe embarrassment and anger build. Your self-esteem takes a hit and you may think, “I can’t do anything right. I’m a failure.” These emotions have been triggered by core beliefs (I can’t do anything right; I’m a failure) and you’ve found the perfect excuse for the cookies.

Core beliefs are the foundation of how we see ourselves and the world. They are activated quickly and under the surface but they are very powerful. So, the second part of effective therapy is identifying the core beliefs that hold you captive. These beliefs can be tricky to tease out initially but once you get the hang of it, it is easy to recognize the self-defeating ones. The beliefs that are true and beneficial are left alone. The troublesome ones can be replaced or erased with appropriate counseling techniques.
A couple of the strategies used in counseling are Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and activities lists. EFT is an Energy Psychology method that involves the client tapping on acupuncture points while repeating phrases related to the eating problem. Although it seems unusual, it is based on Chinese medicine, chiropractic and advances in psychology and medicine. EFT is a fast, safe, and effective tool that can be used anywhere, any time. The activities list gives options that replace the activity of eating. It is imperative to fill the void left by the elimination of stress eating. The list gives healthier, more productive or more pleasant choices so you don’t feel deprived or unable to manage negative emotions. The therapist provides support, guidance, insight and education throughout the process and works collaboratively with your nutritionist or other healthcare provider to ensure success. You can be in charge of your emotional and physical health. Congratulations on choosing to take back your life!

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