Shrink Yourself blogger Dr. Roger Gould is one of the world’s 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. Gould’s 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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Everyone talks about the benefits of eating a sensible diet. However, few think about the fact the root of the word sensible is sens, meaning "to feel." You can't think your way into ending a binge pattern or an addiction to food. Instead, you'll need to feel your way.

Using your senses to improve your dietAnd that means using all five of your senses.


What makes off-limits desserts so enticing? Their taste. Their sweetness. After a satisfying dinner you still want a little something sweet. You'd be surprised, but incorporating something sweet into your meal can make a big difference. A roasted sweet potato, some dried cranberries in your salad, or a grilled peach with your meat can satisfy that craving and help you say no to dessert.


A whiff of a certain food will kick off a craving. Most of you can remember the cartoon character Woody Woodpecker being carried off by a desirable smell. Since you can't prevent yourself from smelling certain things, especially if you live in a big city where street vendor carts emit delicious scents on every corner, what can you do to override your basic animal instinct to eat anything that smells good?

Simply being aware of it can help you talk yourself out of eating something just because you're salivating. It might also help you decide to walk down a different street than one where the aroma of French fries wafts out onto your path.


Randy Seely, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati, explains how research using MRIs has shown that the brain patterns of people differ depending on what food they are looking at. Simply seeing a favorite food, including a commercial on television or a advertisement in a magazine, can cause you to salivate for whatever you just saw.

Perhaps it makes sense that smell would have such a powerful effect on cravings but sight actually does too. For this reason you may want to shield yourself from images of foods that you're trying to avoid eating.

If the only way to do this is by turning off the television, you might find yourself having more time to do other things that are actually more nutritive than eating!


Pavlov rang a bell every time he fed his dogs. After a while he only had to ring the bell (without presenting any actual food) and the dogs would salivate. People aren't really so different.

Certain sounds can trigger cravings. If you're skeptical, just see what happens to a bunch of kids who hear the music from an ice cream truck's speaker. We come to associate certain sounds with eating. The sound of the television or the sound of the car radio can make you want to eat.

In order to combat this, you'll need to make new associations. Breaking a pattern of eating while you catch up on primetime TV can make a huge difference.


Human beings underestimate the value of touch. To survive, babies primarily need two things: food and touch. In the absence of touch, one could become overly dependent on food.

Take time for long hugs, get massages or manicures, or have a practice of applying cream to your feet or hands each night. A little bit of touch can make a huge difference in how you feel. When you're getting the comfort of touch, you won't need the comfort of food nearly as much.

To adhere to a sensible diet, you'll need to employ all five of your senses!

Dr. Roger Gould is one of the world's leading authorities on emotional eating and adult development. A board-certified psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and former head of Community Psychiatry and Outpatient Psychiatry at UCLA, he is the author of Transformations and Shrink Yourself. Dr. Gould is also founder of the Shrink Yourself online program, an effective, proven program that ends emotional eating.

@ 12:47am ET on July 20, 2009
Wow. The idea of touch having an effect is very insightful. I am going to use this. Also, I think that by avoiding associating my television and radio time with food, Ill do exercise while watching my favorite show. I will also decrease my television time and promote more outdoor activity. I'm sure the dog wants to get out as much as I know I should. Thank you for this.

@ 1:15am ET on July 21, 2009
Those who didn't know that psychology has an impact on weight must be living in a cave. What I want is to know how that knowledge is supposed to help me.

@ 1:15pm ET on August 3, 2009
Irvie, forewarned is forearmed. When you know what's happening, you have a chance to combat it. If you aren't conscious of these triggers, they'll trip you up. I wonder, what would happen if you used some of the suggestions in the article, like avoiding that street with the enticing french fry aroma now that you're thinking about it. kaspankers also has a good idea in changing the associations that certain stimuli hold.

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