#037 How to Overcome Emotional Eating

September 22nd, 2014 by

I can find all sorts of reasons to eat. I don’t even need to be hungry!

Just this afternoon, I finished a very healthy and satisfying lunch, and it was time to go back to work. My first thought was, “I’m going to head out to the garage freezer and see if we have any chocolate out there.”

Having quite a bit of experience with this faulty thought process, I caught myself and asked, “Jane, are you really hungry?”

The answer: “No.”

“What do you really need right now?”

The answer: “I am tired but I feel I need to get back to work. I have so much to do. Instead of giving myself permission to rest for a few minutes, which is what I really need, I thought I’d try eating some chocolate and keep going.”

Aha! The truth!

I decided that I would honor my real need to rest for 20 minutes before I went back to work and assured myself that I could eat the chocolate later, if I still wanted it.

Rejuvenated, I went back to work, and made it through the rest of the day without feeling any pull from the chocolate.

This week, in our seminar, we explored the false promises of these sugary and fake foods.  They tell us that they will meet our needs, when really they just make us want more of them and less of what our minds and bodies really need.

When we look beyond the confusion of the labels and marketing of fake food products, it’s crystal clear that simply eating real food when we are hungry is the way to nourish our bodies.

So, why can’t we implement this knowledge and eat only real food only when we’re hungry?

Why are we lured in by these fake food products, often when we’re not even hungry?

The Top Ten Reasons We Eat

Here are ten of our favorite reasons to eat.  Do any of these sound familiar to you?

1. I am tired

I am tired, so I think I’ll eat something.

2. I am procrastinating

I don’t want to do this, so I think I’ll eat something.”

3. I am happy

I am happy! Let’s eat!

4. I am sad

“I don’t want to deal with these feelings, so I think I’ll eat something

5. I am thirsty and need water

My body is sending me a signal that it needs something, I’d better eat.

6. I am with people

Here we all are with all this great food! Let’s eat!

7. I am alone

I am alone—no one will see me eat this.

-OR-

“I am lonely, maybe eating something will make me feel better.

8. I feel stuck

I don’t see any other way to meet my needs right now, what can I eat to feel better?

9. I see food

Oh, that looks good! I wasn’t even hungry, but I think I’ll have just one.

Our seminar participants came up with many more favorites, including: I’m bored, It’s family tradition, I’m stressed, I’m rewarding myself….

But, here’s the one real reason to eat that will actually meet our needs:

10. I am hungry

I am looking forward to a nutritious, satisfying meal.

Separating the Truth from the Lies

Here’s the lie in the first nine (or so) reasons to eat:

I can fix the problems in my life or make the good things better in my life by eating.

We can eat and eat and eat until we feel stuffed, but are never satisfied. Eating for these reasons can never satisfy us because we are not addressing the real issues.

Here’s the truth in the last reason, number 10–eating because we are hungry:

“My body is ready for nourishment. I am going to honor it and give it what it needs. I am going to be satisfied because I am eating for true hunger and giving it real food.

When I eat for any reason other than hunger, more often than not, I turn to the fake and sugary foods which lie to my brain and lie to my body that they can meet my needs and that what I really need is more of these “foods.”

How to Interrupt the Cycle

The key to interrupting this cycle and developing healthier behaviors is to become aware of the cues that precede our reach for the unhealthy/unnecessary stuff, insert ourselves by asking a few questions, and provide ourselves with a different option that satisfies our true needs.

The last chapter of Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit offers a helpful formula. I highly recommend this fascinating collection of stories and case studies, which illuminates how habits develop and the enormous consequences that can result.

I also highly recommend Susan Albers’ Eating Mindfully for an in-depth exploration of the habits that trap us in emotional eating cycles and strategies to return to mindful eating.

Here are the three questions I’ve learned to ask myself when I feel the urge to grab something to eat:

  1. Am I hungry–do I feel like eating real food?

If I am thinking about eating fake sugary food items, and I can’t think of something healthy and nourishing that I want to eat, the chances are high that I am looking to eat for reasons other than true hunger.

  1. What do I need right now?

If I can’t think of something nourishing that I want to eat, I can ask myself what I am actually feeling and needing. More often than not, I am feeling tired or procrastinating doing something I know I need to do but don’t want to do.

  1. What options can I give myself?

When I want to reach for junk food, I am usually in a situation where I feel I can’t meet my needs otherwise—usually at work. But there is always something I can do to interrupt this cycle. If I am tired, I can close my eyes and breath for a few moments and commit to giving myself time to rest or meditate when I finish a project. If I am looking for distraction, I can set a time for 5 minutes, go on a walk, listen to a podcast, call a friend, etc..

In each case, I can interrupt the cue-reward cycle with a question and an option. Then, I can invite myself to wait until I am actually hungry to eat and offer myself real food first.

Taking a minute to check in by asking myself these questions and giving myself other options dissolves the seeming desperate urge to eat foods I don’t need and enables the overall health and well-being I desire–one mindful choice at a time.

Please share with us! What have you found to be most helpful as you strive to eat mindfully?

#034 Free Healthy Habit Tracker App

September 15th, 2014 by
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Dr. John Day’s Free Healthy Habit Tracker App

Do you dream of being able to maintain excellent health, lose weight, or reverse a medical condition? The key to living the life you want is to begin making small and lasting changes now.

But how?

Over the course of my career, I have worked with thousands of patients who’ve shared the struggle I once faced: reclaiming our health. Those who track their daily habits are the ones who successfully make the changes and reverse their medical conditions.

For me, tracking my behaviors remains the single most effective tool in successfully accomplishing my goals. To help you succeed in your health goals, We’ve created a free web-based app for you to begin using today:

Dr. John Day’s Free Healthy Habit Tracker App

Benefits of  Tracking

Here are three key benefits of using this app:

1.  Customized Success Plan

Do you know what changes you need to make to succeed in your health goals?

We’ve designed this app based on the proven daily habits of the China Longevity Villagers who model the lifestyle that I and many patients and colleagues have adapted to find a new level of health, including: weight loss, reversing medical conditions, dropping medications, better sleep and more energy.

2. Awareness = Power

Do you know what you are actually eating or how much you move each day? Do you know what triggers cause your current unhealthy habits?

Studies show that you likely eat more and move less than you think and that you mindlessly engage in behaviors that are detrimental to your health.   Tracking your behavior is one of the first keys to success because it brings awareness to what you are actually doing, giving you power to make changes.

3.  Rewards

Rewards reinforce good behaviors, turning them into good habits.  As you track your daily habits, you will earn medals within the program.  Enlist a friend–support and reward one another as you progress.

The overwhelming majority of my patients find that once they started tracking their behaviors, they can then begin to set and actually achieve goals.

Tracking their achievements rewards and reinforces their new behaviors. Over time, these new behaviors became new habits. These new habits translate into a new level of health, including: weight loss, reversing medical conditions, dropping medications, better sleep and more energy.

How it Works

Let me show you how to get this free healthy habit tracker app and how it works.

First sign up for this free online app here:

Dr. John Day’s Free Healthy Habit Tracker App

Once you have signed up for this program, here’s how this free healthy habit tracker app works:

1. Daily Email Reminder

You will receive an email daily reminding you to record your results for the day.  If you don’t see it in your inbox, check your spam folder.

2. Be Consistent at Filling Out the Daily Survey

Answer all 11 questions. You can earn medals based on how many days you fill this out. In general it takes 1-2 months to develop a new habit. Thus, you can earn a bronze medal for filling it out 7 days, a silver medal for 21 days, and a gold medal for 60 days.

3. Graph Your Results

There are graphs and charts where you can see your results.

4. Real Food First

To better understand the “Real Food First” questions of the daily survey, please read our article on Real Food First.

5. Get a Pedometer

To answer question 6, you will need a pedometer. To learn more about good pedometer options, including free options for your smart phone, please visit the resource page of my website.

6. Spend Time Outside

You may be curious why I want you to track whether you spend at least 20 minutes outside or not (question #7). The reason is that medical studies show the following benefits for people who spend time outside:

-Weigh less as the morning sun lowers hunger hormones

-Have higher vitamin D levels

-Sleep better from the effects of natural sunlight on the brain

-Are more physically active

-Are happier, better able to concentrate, and heal faster

7. Practice a Random Act of Kindness Daily

For question #8, people who are able to reach out and help others enjoy many health benefits which include the following:

-Live 28% longer

-40% less hypertension

-Less heart disease

-Less stress

-Happier

8. Be Grateful

For question #10, people who are grateful enjoy remarkable health. For example, grateful people experience the following:

-Less stress

-More optimism

-Better sleep

-Less heart disease

-Stronger immune system

-Less depression

-Live longer

9. Set a Bedtime Alarm Clock

The last question, #11, may appear somewhat strange at first glance. I have found that one of the biggest problems to not getting enough sleep is staying up too late for whatever reason–watching TV, working on a computer, or playing on our phones.

To get enough sleep, I recommend setting a bedtime alarm. The rules are quite simple, when the alarm goes off it is time for bed. We should all try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night to ensure optimal health.

I hope you find our free healthy habit tracker app as valuable as I do. Please share with me your experiences using this tool and any suggestions that you have.

Here’s to a life filled with real food, real living, and real happiness!