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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Emotional Eating

Presented by Dr. Monica Ganz, director of events and support groups for OH

I decided to sit in on today’s emotional eating workshop, because it’s heavy on audience participation and I thought it would be useful to see if any new information would be presented today. If you want to read about the full, prepared presentation, check out Saturday’s post.

This is more of a compilation of notes and tidbits extrapolated from today’s session.

The basic theme of the session is that everyone struggles with emotional eating in some form or another, but the key is how you handle it that determines whether it will derail your success.
Monica is big proponent of finding out your emotional eating triggers and using that knowledge to substitute other behaviors for eating. If you eat because you’re stressed out, find ways to relax yourself (bubble baths, aromatherapy, exercise, etc.). Monica uses a sound machine that lets her feel like she’s near the ocean to have alone time, because she believes we each need time for solace. One participant said she finds crafting (scrapbooking, needlecrafts, etc.) to be relaxing. An added bonus is that it keeps her hands busy, and that means she doesn’t graze or snack. Other ways participants mentioned they relax included drinking a cup of tea, doing crossword puzzles, online chatting, swimming and sunbathing and playing cards.

Another woman brought up a recent “A-ha Moment”: She’s 18 months post-op and has found herself grazing at night. One evening, she got involved cleaning her bedroom and found that it was 11 p.m. and she hadn’t eaten since dinner. It was at that point that she realized that she needed to keep herself busy in the evening to stave off her urge to snack. She said it’s frustrating to have these thinks pop up just when she thinks she has everything figured out, but Monica points out that this is a lifelong process. We’ll always learn new things about ourselves, our triggers and our needs.

For me, I’ve recently discovered that working at home has triggered me to graze at night. I’ve always been the type of person to eat at my desk, and I’m a workaholic – the two habits don’t mesh. What I didn’t realize is that when I started working from home in the evenings a few months ago, my couch became my desk. And when that happened, the urge to snack went from being something that only happened at the office to something that I had almost around the clock – because I no longer felt like I was leaving the office. Monica, who has worked from home for the last 20-plus years, said setting boundaries is the key. She’s had similar issues, which is why she has a dedicated workspace in her home and sets specific work hours so that she officially leaves the office each day. Not a bad idea.

The lone man in the group is considering surgery. He said he has a habit of unwinding in front of the computer and often eats while chatting or playing games. After asking him a few questions, Monica drew from him a big picture of his basic day. He works 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. He said he typically eats breakfast at 10 a.m., lunch at noon, a snack (like a full sandwich) at 5 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m. and then grazes until 3 a.m. some nights.

Monica explained to him that by grouping some meals so close together and then having a huge gap between others leads him to severe highs and lows in his blood sugar. Planning his eating episodes to be equally spaced apart will enable him to keep his blood sugar level and also control his portions.

The subject then turned to cravings. One woman from the group talked about how sometimes her cravings for cake or sweets are so overpowering that she goes ahead and buys the cake, eats one bite and throws it away. She knows she’s spending hundreds of dollars on food that she tosses in the garbage, but it helps her stay on track. She also talked about occasionally getting something that she takes a bite of and then spits out without swallowing it. She enjoys the taste but doesn’t worry about the calories or after-effects of eating off-program foods.

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