One sure-fire way to lose weight

Want to lose weight? Quit heading for the fridge every time you’re upset

In one New Zealand study of 225 overweight women following healthy eating programs, only those who learned stress management strategies lost weight.

People without weight problems don’t eat when they are upset, reports HealthSmart this month. In an October 2012 issue, The Satisfaction Diet, the health bible suggests that focusing on the physical satisfaction that healthy food delivers helps us escape the trap of emotional eating.

Stress, boredom, fatigue, grief or frustration often lead emotional eaters to the kitchen, but Dr Judith Beck, president of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research, says people without weight problems handle their distress in other ways. “They distract themselves, or they simply tolerate the distress. It’s not only important, it’s essential to learn how to handle distress without eating.”

According to a study from University College, London, emotional eaters don’t head for healthy foods when they’re upset. When they’re distressed, their brains scream Feed Me and they head for high-sugar, high-fat, high-kilojoule stuff like sweets or cake instead of the banana or apple in their fruit bowl. Here’s how to break the vicious cycle:

Manage your stress levels
In one New Zealand study of 225 overweight women following healthy eating programs, only those who learned stress management strategies lost weight. If you notice that you are eating for emotional reasons, learning to let go of stress can help change that. Try meditation, mindfulness, increased exercise, deep breathing, or time out with friends who make you feel lighter. Alternatively, make some dramatic changes to your life to eradicate the degree of stress in your life.

Identify the emotional trigger
When you suddenly feel compelled to eat, notice how you’re feeling and get smart at differentiating between stomach and emotional hunger. “Emotional hunger is usually experienced in the mouth, throat or upper body,” Beck says. “Usually it’s for a specific food or food type. For example, when people are upset, they rarely, if ever, would have a craving for carrots or milk.”

Recognise real satisfaction
Rating your hunger and satisfaction levels can help you enjoy meals more and help you avoid the overeating that comes from emotional hunger. Use a hunger scale – with 1 being “incredibly hungry” and 10 being “totally stuffed”. Plan to stop eating when you’re at about 5 or 6, or comfortably full.

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