Stress and Emotional Eating: Using Cognitive Behavior Therapy to Break the Habit

Most of the dieters whom I treat overeat when they're feeling stressed or experiencing a negative emotion such as anxiety, sadness, anger, shame, and so on. They often have one or both of the following unhelpful ideas:"There's nothing I can do to calm down when I'm upset.""I deserve to eat when I'm upset."

Jennifer's Struggle

Jennifer recently shared with me her struggle over whether to eat certain foods, particularly during evenings. Jennifer would finish dinner, and then, it was as if the treats and desserts would start calling out to her from her refrigerator.

Inflexible Eating

When I introduced the notion of following a food plan inflexibly to Robert, he initially experienced both anxiety and skepticism. Robert asked me why he couldn’t just make substitutions when he felt like it as long as the calorie count remained the same. Here’s what I told Robert:

Amy's Business Trip

Amy came in this week feeling quite defeated. Although she had previously been doing quite well with making food plans and sticking to them, she had been on a business trip earlier this week and hadn't been able to write down her food. She viewed the trip as a complete "failure," which left her feeling demoralized and unmotivated. 

Cindy's Anxiety

Cindy has been having some anxiety about the future. She successfully lost 43 pounds and has been maintaining that loss for over 8 months, but she still has negative thoughts and images that pop into her head from time to time. The most common one is that she sees her future self standing in front of the mirror, trying to zipper her jeans, and realizing that they have become too tight.

Katherine's Changing Tastes

Katherine was also surprised by the fact that her tastes have really changed. She said she used to eat a lot of fast food and fried foods, but ever since she started eating less but enjoying her healthy food more, she can't really stomach her old way of eating.

When Did Special Treats become the Everyday Norm?

When did it happen? When did we Americans go from an occasional piece of pizza to having multiple slices throughout the week? When did we go from the occasional soda to drinking sugary soft drinks throughout the day? When did we go from a weekly overindulgence, such as a big dinner on Saturday night, to excess food every evening?

Planning to Eat More and Gain Weight

I asked Julie what was the hardest part of sticking to her maintenance diet. "I'm just tired of what I'm eating. I want to eat more. I want to eat different things for lunch and dinner. I want to have a glass of wine when I go out with friends and dessert every night. I want to have an afternoon snack, like pretzels or crackers or chips. But I know if I do," she said glumly, "I'll gain weight."

Calorie Counts on Menus

Earlier this year, Philadelphia joined New York in requiring that chain restaurants print calorie counts on their menus. Even I was astounded, when I ate out a few days ago. I was fascinated by how high the calorie counts were for almost every item.

Why Doesn’t It Taste as Good as I Thought It Would?

Lisa, who had had an absolute rule (which she occasionally broke big time) against eating junk food, had recently started allowing herself to have a moderate portion of a favorite food every day. Some of the food she enjoyed immensely, in fact, more than before, because she was able to eat it guilt free. But sometimes the food, for example, certain kinds of candy, just did not taste as good as she had remembered.

Regaining Weight

 Many dieters and maintainers are mystified when the scale starts to go up. “But I’m doing everything the same!” they usually proclaim. That’s when I ask them a series of questions to try to figure out what has changed:

Dr. Judith Beck to Appear on the Dr. Oz Show— Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dr. Beck will appear on the Dr. Oz show tomorrow, Thursday, February 18th, advising a family whose health will likely become compromised if they don't change the way they eat.

Fear of Food

Marie avoided eating potato chips, French fries, onion rings, and crackers. Although she loved these foods, they would trigger cravings and once she started eating them, she found it quite difficult to stop. Marie actually developed a fear of these foods. She was sure she would lose control if she ate them.

Fast Food Dieting

A recent article in the New York Times asks, “Can fast food help you lose weight?”

Peanuts and Mr. Ed’s Elephant Museum

 Carly was really proud of herself-and deservedly so. She, her husband, and kids went for a short road trip for a few days and she was able to stick to her plan, almost completely. On previous trips, she and her kids would have "perpetual snacks" in the car. On this trip, Carly ate only at her regularly scheduled snack and meal times. She occasionally reminded herself, "It's not time to eat now. I'll eat when I'm supposed to."

Advising Food Pushers on Television

Yesterday I went to New York to tape a segment for the Dr. Oz Show. He interviewed a family who likes to eat-a lot. The mother had not realized the extent to which she is a food pusher, constantly urging her children and husband to eat more and more. She also had not realized the potential health consequences of her family being overweight and potentially obese.

10 Tips to Stick to Your Diet

I was recently asked for 10 tips for sticking to your diet. I quickly made the following list but I didn’t necessarily include the 10 most important tips, especially because each dieter is different. Which tips (on or off the list) have been most important to you?

Time to Get Serious

Okay, it's 2010. Time to get serious about your health and lose weight for the last time. Do you really want to find yourself in January 2011 heavier than is healthy for you?

Dealing with Food Pushers

Laura was bothered by a comment her sister-in-law, Rosemary, made at a family gathering two weeks ago. “Wow, you’ve really lost weight. Well, I don’t know if I can associate with you any more,” she said, with an edge in her voice. Laura knew that Rosemary was probably a little jealous, as her sister-in-law had struggled with her own weight for many years.  

Diet Hurdles and Bumps along the Way

Andrea, a dieter I’m counseling, was so glad I had prepared her well for a more difficult time. At her second session with me, I asked her to write a response card to read every morning, in preparation for the first day that dieting would seem hard. It said: “Dieting is supposed to get hard. That’s okay. Just keep practicing your skills and it will get easy again.”

Vacation and Your Weight Loss Plan– An Article in the Albuquerque Weight Loss Examiner by Marsha Thole

In her recent article for the Albuquerque Weight Loss Examiner, Marsha Thole provides a helpful guide for dieters on vacation.  First, Thole spells out what typically goes wrong for dieters on vacation.  Then, using tools and techniques from the Complete Beck Diet for Life, she describes what must be done in order for dieters to remain on track and stick to their plans.

Trashing Food

A dieter emailed me recently after she had watched a three-minute TV segment in which I suggested putting food in the trash. She was concerned, and understandably so. For this dieter and for most people, the notion of trashing food, instead of saving and reusing it, is absurd.I explained to the dieter that while the TV segment she watched was three minutes long, I had actually been interviewed for about two hours. So, unfortunately, viewers didn't get to see the whole story about the Beck Diet program or about throwing away food.

Our Diet Workshop Was A Success!

Our diet workshop, here in Philadelphia on Sunday, September 13th, was a success! We had over 120 dieters and health and mental health professionals, from 20 US states and 3 countries. We're excited to announce that Julie Soller, from UCLA, filmed the workshop, and will use part of it for a documentary on The Beck Diet Solution

Sue: Part 11

Sue has been weighing herself daily and graphing her weight loss. She has now proven to herself several times that the number on the scale goes down some days, stays the same some days, and goes up some days-even when her energy input and output is the same!