In this excerpt from her new book, Dr. Ro’s Lose Your Final 15, the popular weight loss and health expert you’ve seen on the Dr. Oz Show shares a whole new approach to taking off those last, stubborn pounds for good!
Ready to start dealing with the various kinds of feelings and automatic reactions that trigger emotional eating? Use my step-by-step plan to understand how to restructure the thinking behind the eating.
Step 1: Take a Mindful Moment
We respond automatically to feelings of hunger. We feel hungry, we go to the refrigerator, we grab a piece of cheese or a tub of Ben & Jerry’s, and we gobble it up—all without thinking or analyzing our feelings or actions. By slowing that process down, you can begin to take control of emotional hunger. The first step toward reducing emotional eating is stopping yourself anytime you feel hungry, analyzing your feelings, and determining whether your hunger is originating from your stomach or your mind.
Instead of reflexively running off to the kitchen, I want you to take a few minutes to think about your hunger and determine whether its origin is emotional or physical. This isn’t difficult, although it does take a commitment to mindfulness, a promise to yourself that you’ll slow down and look at your feelings and actions almost as an outsider would. Ask yourself: What do I really want? Do I really need food or something else?
When you experience a feeling of hunger, sit down, close your eyes, and ask yourself:
▪ What am I feeling?
▪ Do I feel physically hungry? Am I having hunger pangs? Has it been 2 to 3 hours or
just a few minutes since I ate last?
▪ Did the hunger come on quickly, or has your stomach been rumbling for a while?
Emotional hunger tends to come on quickly. When you have a craving, a couple of things happen. You anticipate positive reinforcement when you eat—that is, you expect to feel better and to eliminate negative feelings, such as sadness, anger or loneliness.
However, those good feelings may not occur at all, or they may be immediately overridden by even more negative feelings, such as guilt and shame. If you realize you’re not physically hungry, take a minute to think about what’s going on in your head.
▪ Are you experiencing a difficult situation, such as an argument with your boss or a frustrating exchange with a friend?
▪ Are you angry or happy, relieved, or joyful?
▪ Are you bored or lonely?
Analyze your feelings and really try to label them so you can understand what’s behind
them and the action you’ve become accustomed to taking when you feel them. First, ask yourself if you’re hunger come on quickly, or has your stomach been rumbling for a
while? Emotional hunger tends to come on quickly.
Now, ask yourself what you’re thinking of eating. Are you answering the call of the chocolate bar or are thinking you’ll grab an apple? This is important because emotional hunger tends to cause cravings for specific foods—such as chocolate cake or salty snacks—rather than healthier choices, such as fruits, vegetables, or a handful of nuts.
When you’re physically hungry, you’re more likely to look for a healthy meal orsnack, rather than an indulgence.
As you work to cope with cravings, try to cut back on visual-craving creators, such as
TV ads. If you’re watching your favorite show, jump onto the treadmill or jog in place or do squats, lunges, or triceps dips on a chair instead of viewing commercials. Pay close attention to the external triggers that influence your desire for food.
After spending a couple of mindful moments examining the source of your hunger, you’ll be better prepared to make a thoughtful choice about whether and what to eat. But before you do that, I want you to grab a pen (or your smartphone) and try Step 2.