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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We understand that if we want to lose weight we need to eat less and exercise more... so why do we have an obesity epidemic?

Why All Diets Work, Yet All Diets FailIt's proven that Americans collectively shed billions of pounds each year, but billions of pounds are put right back on.

In this country, the average person starts and stops at least four diets within a given year -- and 99% of those diets fail.

We don't need more information about diets, pills or surgeries. We need a public education campaign to put the spot light on the real cause of obesity: Emotional eating.

Emotional eating is defined as using food for relief or reward, and it's the number one reason that diets fail. We need to help those who are stuck in this unhealthy cycle, and most importantly we need to teach our children that food is not an effective way to handle uncomfortable feelings.

We don't overeat because we lack willpower; we overeat because we're not willing to let go of the comfort that food provides. We don't need an updated Food Pyramid. We need to understand why we're willing to sacrifice our health, and ultimately our lives, for food.

More than 30,000,000 -- yes, 30 MILLION -- Americans are on antidepressants. But it doesn't take being a psychiatrist to understand that we're an unhappy people. We're unsatisfied. We're frustrated. We overeat to reward ourselves when life is disappointing. We overeat to calm ourselves when we're anxious, depressed or under stress. We eat when we don't know how to fill our time. We use food as a substitution for love, money, stimulation and success.

Food is the most readily available and legal form of self-medication, which may explain why so many of us are turning to it as our drug of choice. As parents, we wouldn't tolerate our toddlers and young children drinking alcohol on a daily basis, or smoking pot, or shooting heroin, and yet, we allow our children to eat themselves into obesity.

If we didn't reap an emotional benefit from food, we wouldn't be willing to sacrifice so much for it. Did you know that someone only 50 with obesity related hypertension or elevated cholesterol has raised their chances of having a heart attack from 5% to 50%?

Obesity even affects our unborn children. In Georgia, infant mortality has skyrocketed because so many women suffer from obesity related hypertension and diabetes. Each year there are more of us seeking the soothing effects of food. Obesity has increased by more than 50% in the last two decades alone.

Ultimately, this becomes a political issue because extra fat is shockingly costly, not just in terms of health risks for those of us who carry the weight, but to the weight it puts on our health system. It's estimated that obesity costs the country over $100 BILLION each year, half of which is paid for by Medicaid and Medicare, to cover medical costs for diseases associated with being overweight.

The sad thing is that this can all be prevented, but not with diet and exercise... at least not with just diet and exercise alone.

Emotional eating is the reason we can't control our weight. I did an Internet survey asking 17,000 dieters why they broke their diets. Almost 100% said it was either because of stress, depression or boredom. Over 50% also said that they were going through a major life transition and they needed food to cope.

We can start asking ourselves different questions. Instead of asking what should we eat, we can ask ourselves what are we really hungry for and how can we take the steps towards having a more satisfying life?

Emotional eating is a learned behavior. We learned how to cope with life by eating. We can unlearn it. It takes a willingness to face ourselves head on. We can't eliminate uncomfortable emotions, but by learning how to deal with our feelings in more effective ways, we can Continue

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@ 6:47pm ET on April 18, 2009
Food has been a crutch for me all my life. Sometimes I wish I could just quit eating... "cold turkey", so to speak;) It takes a lot of determination to eat good foods and to exercise regularly. The good news is...WE CAN DO IT!!! Thanks for sharing your insights.

@ 1:07pm ET on April 20, 2009
Interesting stuff. I really enjoy these articles. Very thought provoking. I have actually be looking forward to them. Keep posting!

@ 2:08pm ET on April 20, 2009
This is very interesting reading. It is a lot like the program I attend weekly that helps one deal with compulsive overeating. It is a program that has been available to people suffering from overeating and emotional eating for some time now. To learn more about this group and find out more about meeting times go to OA.org. It lists times and places. Everyone is welcome that has the desire to stop emotional overeating and there are no dues or fees required to attend. I put my hand in yours and together we can do what we could never do alone.
Thanks and have a great day!

@ 6:17pm ET on July 1, 2010
Thought provoking.... This really gives me a perspective to how we all value food in this country. While reading this I could not help think that food is America's own worst enemy as we all seem to have some obsession with it--whether that be an abundance obsession, can't get enough, or an obsession with health and perfect eating habits. It is kind of like there is a scale of how much value is placed on food and every American falls somewhere random on that scale. This scale runs our daily lives and determines our health. So, as i let this reading soak I think I will now pay much more attention to where I fall on this scale and use that as a barometer to how I am doing on my endeavor towards helthier living. Thank you!!!

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