Shrink Yourself blogger Dr. Roger Gould is one of the worlds leading authorities on emotional eating. He has helped thousands reclaim their power over food by conquering emotional eating, the number one cause of weight gain. Dr. Goulds approach has been the subject of seven scientific studies.

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Shrink Yourself

by Dr. Roger Gould, Emotional eating expert

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Please welcome Diet.com's newest expert contributor, Dr. Roger Gould. The expert psychiatrist/author has a rich and successful history of helping women and men deal with the emotional eating that derails many diets. Please check him out this week and every week here at Diet.com.

I am still taken aback every time I think of the answer a patient once gave me when I asked her WHY she ate half a dozen donuts. She said, "what else could I do?" She couldn't figure out a better way of dealing with the demands of her 16-year-old daughter. She temporarily “lost her mind.” She was paralyzed. She was unable to think like the intelligent adult that she was.

I started asking other patients the same WHY question, and kept on getting the same kind of answer, in one way or another telling me that the strength of a craving, the lure of a binge, or the power of food over them, was overwhelming, and they too “lost their mind” to food.

Emotional Eating: Blessing or Curse?

I heard more and more people tell me that their mind was taken over by thoughts about food and weight. They told me that their mind was “occupied” by a force they couldn’t understand, and what they wanted as much as weight loss was liberation from this preoccupation. In fact, there are 17 million Americans who have this same mental struggle even though they maintain a normal weight.

So why do YOU eat too much after you have committed to a diet and told yourself you are not going to do that anymore? On one level the answer is simple and obvious. You eat too much when you think you HAVE to use food to reduce your stress level or get away from some uncomfortable feeling or thought because you BELIEVE that you don’t have any other way of doing that. Then food becomes a tranquilizer; an instant, always available, medication that shuts down your mind. At those moments emotional eating is a BLESSING.

But when those moments pass, and you realize you have a bad habit of using food as a tranquilizer TOO often, and you understand that this is the single most sabotaging factor in your weight control struggle that makes you break your diet every time, then you know that emotional eating is a CURSE, and you spend a lot of mental energy beating yourself up.

And if this habit of emotional eating is too embedded in your life, it is even more of a CURSE because on some level you understand that this habit so overloads your mind with obsessive thoughts about food and weight, that you can hardly think of anything else. It is a very bad eating habit that distracts you from vigorously pursuing your own personal development and the betterment of your relationships because it uses up too much mental oxygen. It is the addictive habit that causes binge eating and bulimia.

Control Your Binges

If you have struggled with your weight and quit as many diets as you started you are very familiar with what I have just described. Your problem is that you have not yet decided whether emotional eating is a BLESSING or a CURSE. On one hand you desperately want to control your eating; and on the other hand you want to be able to binge when the craving becomes so strong that you feel helpless and think to yourself, "what else could I do?"

You have a divided self because it is BOTH a blessing and a curse for you. You will be at peace with yourself about food and weight only after you have resolved the divided self conflict within you. If you don't resolve this conflict you won't be in charge of yourself and no matter how successful you are at losing weight by any diet, you'll always be worried about regaining it.

Large scale research on dieters tells us that you are in one of three equally large groups.

1.You only want a quick fix, fast-loss diet which means you would rather go through another cycle of weight loss and regaining than deal with this divided self conflict.

2. You have given up on all diets or weight loss approaches which means you have decided that emotional eating is too much of blessing to ever think of giving it up.

3. You recognize you need to make real lifestyle changes in regard to food which means you recognize emotional eating is more a curse than a blessing and you are looking for ways to resolve this divided self conflict.

I know this conflict very well. As a psychiatrist I have studied this with my own patients, written a book, and then created a program that has been used successfully by over 14,000 people. For those in the third group who are looking for lifestyle change, emotional eating can be controlled if one takes a careful step-by-step approach, at each step learning a critical piece of insight, and eventually replacing the initial helplessness thought "what else could I do" with the in-charge person who says “look at all the other ways I can handle this stress.” Then a new sense of personal power naturally emerges, and the cravings that were so strong in the past, actually disappear.

The discovery I have made is not that there is such a thing as emotional eating. We all know that. The discovery is that there is actually a way to replace the “blessing” of food with much better ways of handling life’s challenges. When you learn that well enough to act on it, your conflict is resolved, and the “curse” is gone; the "occupied" part of your mind is liberated.

In the next series of blog posts, I will tell you how that is happening right now with some of my patients and the members of my Shrink Yourself program.

Dr. Roger Gould is one of the world's leading authorities on emotional eating and adult ...    Continue

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@ 2:10pm ET on March 14, 2008
WELCOME TO DIET.COm! :) thank you!

@ 12:25pm ET on March 17, 2008
I can totally relate and have tried therapy over the years for my emotional eating, but nothing ever helped me. I also suffer from anorexia and bouts of bulimia. My thoughts are always on food and losing weight. Although Im at a healthy weight now, I cant stop obsessing over food and binge quite often, especially when Im upset about something. Ive tried distracting myself when I get these urges. I started working out but that just became another obsession. So now my thoughts are always on food, binging, working out and trying to stay away from food. I look forward to reading your blog

@ 6:49pm ET on March 17, 2008
I have been looking into the overeater anonymous groups to try and curb my eating. I am totally our of control and I have gained around 60 pounds in two years. I wish I could be anerexic, but I am too weak. I hope someone can help me.

@ 11:28pm ET on March 17, 2008
i've had anorexic tendencies in the past & still struggle w/ them(not even the full blown disorder). Life becomes a nightmare rather than just a struggle. You can do it healthy. We're all in this together.;)

@ 11:52pm ET on March 17, 2008
these docs are so concerned about our weights for
a mere $40.00 - 18,000 plus depending on what you have done. They'll fix us right up for the right price that is. They take oaths that mean nothing but a Jag or BMW for them selfs. But to hear them
tell it they do it for humanity.

And aman to the nightmare thing.

I don't mean to be negative I've been on so many diets. I begin to think diet is my first name. (lol)

Sorry all good luck. I feel better I vented.

@ 2:23pm ET on March 18, 2008
Hi there beatas13... I can feel your pain about diets and failure. The thing about Dr. Gould is that he is here at Diet.com giving free advice to us. No one has to buy his program. You can hear him out and do what needs to be done to end the cycle of failed diets. His approach of handling emotions -- and ending binges triggered by them -- can make your Diet.com plan work even better! Thanks for posting.
John McGran
Diet.com Chief Editor

@ 2:57pm ET on March 19, 2008
I am 22 years old,168 cm tall,71 weight.
i am tring to lose about 15 kilo, but every mornning i follow my diet, but in the evening ....... i eat something sweet, chocoolate, honey...etc.this is my problem, and i am trying to solve by my own, and i can not!

@ 11:54pm ET on March 23, 2008
Testing login?

@ 4:54am ET on March 27, 2008
I can totally relate, but there is hope however.
in the past (as in less than a year ago) i was bulimic, and had depression. I never ever told anyone and always kept it to myself. I hid it from everyone and not even my mother who can spot anything, saw it. One day tho i sat there, after a particularly bad binge and realised i had to stop. You just have to try be stronger than it, take up an activity and just plainly walk away when you get the cravings. I finally realised i had to stop, because i even took my bad habits on holiday. You have to stop it and get help for it, i didnt and i still have a weight obsession. Ive tried all the diets, and at the end of the day i have found that just eating normally and not putting restrictions on yourself helps. Everytime i dieted it happened, so once i began to eat normally and if i felt like chocolate i ate it. Thats when i started beating it, and it can happen to anyone as well. Im not overweight by any measure, and quite fit. But it can be and is a problem for many. I just hope you are all succesful in beating it, its hard, but its worth it

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