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Four Questions to Help Control Your Emotional Eating

Asking yourself these questions to help yourself lose weight.

Twenty years ago I started working as a counselor and consultant for two intensive hospital outpatient weight loss programs. This was in the age of Oprah rolling out a wheelbarrow of lard on her show to tout her rapid weight loss. Disappointingly, these intensive weight loss programs waned quickly because they were not the healthy answer. Since that time I have successfully coached many clients on self-care, weight, and health issues. My work in more recent years also included consulting to regional area YMCAs to help teens in a medically supervised program learn healthy behaviors to lose weight.

A strong concern I have is that no matter what weight loss programs people enroll themselves in, the vast majority eventually sabotage themselves with emotional eating and regain their weight, or even gain more.  I believe the central problem is that these programs offer people canned strategies and answers but they don't encourage people to grasp the self-discovery questions and tools needed for their own successful journey. 

I have found it alarming that in this information age where there is so much accessible nutrition and exercise information, that child and adult obesity rates have soared. At the end of the day, no matter how much we tell people to "get a little more active and watch what you eat", this just does not really help. Nor does it seem to help when someone or some program gives them answers on eating "dos and don'ts", when they have not first asked themselves, why they want to lose weight and what they are truly willing to do to succeed.

My weight loss coaching practice centers on a self-discovery model I developed called L-O-S-E.  I am sharing this today in hopes that it will inspire you or anyone you know to begin asking empowering questions instead of searching for answers. My coaching for weight loss is all about helping my clients discover "whys and hows" for themselves. I am not saying commercial weight loss programs across the board are not valuable.  What I am saying, however, is that true self-awareness must come from asking ourselves powerful questions and answering them for ourselves. 

Make no mistake, my weight loss coaching model is not a silver bullet, lose body fat while you sleep, and wake up twenty years younger, and twenty pounds lighter fantasy gimmicky plan. Rather, these questions represent a sample of the the many motivating questions I use with my coaching clients. They are designed to help you capture the mindset you need to make healthy decisions and do healthy behaviors.

I suggest seeing a physician and nutritionist for questions about your physical health or dietary issues. You may also want to seek out a qualified mental health professional if you suspect you are suffering from any significant mental health concerns or eating disorders.

That all said, I encourage you to ask yourself these questions below if you have a problem losing eight and a strong tendency to emotionally overeat. 

The L in L-O-S-E stands for letting go. What thoughts and behaviors do you need to let go of the most to stop overeating and abusing food? 

The O represents options for accountability. How can you start to become more accountable to your self in your relationship with food? 

The S is about setting goals.  What small and larger weight goals can you set for yourself to capture your own motivation?

The E represents engaging in new thoughts and behaviors. What new thoughts and behaviors can you "own" to help you reach your goals.

As an example, I will share how a twenty-nine year old weight loss coaching client of mine, Julie (not her real name), used these questions to help her lose twenty pounds in six weeks. Our coaching sessions went from weekly to now once a month and she has kept her weight in a manageable range for sixteen months and counting.

Amongst some other conflicts, Julie realized that she had to let go of her guilt of emotionally "leaving behind" her best friend and boyfriend who she tended to overeat with. Of course, she could remain in these relationships, and she did, but she had to Let go of her need to conform and participate in their spontaneous food feasts.

Next, Julie became aware of Options when I questioned her about what she wanted to do differently. The first option she pursued was to download a food management App on her smartphone and use it to become more mindful of her daily food choices. She also started requesting a take out container right away when she went to a restaurant with her boyfriend or friend. This helped her to not be a victim to restaurant "portion distortion." She also optioned to "retire" from the need to justify to her boyfriend and friend about why or what she was doing concerning her becoming more accountable to herself about her eating. 

Julie Set attainable goals for her weight loss. Most exciting, she also set a goal to call me when she hit her first inevitable weight loss plateau rather than sabotage any further progress as she had in the past.

Julie engaged her health conscious friends, engaged in joining a yoga class, and engaged me as her coach to help her stay consistent in two essential skills all along the way: self soothing and problem-solving. I will discuss how I encourage healthy self-soothing and problem-solving in regard to weight loss coaching more in-depth in my next blog entry.  

Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist, parenting and relationship author, weight loss coach, and executive coach with over twenty two years experience. He can be reached at