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-   -   how did you stop using food to numb your emotions? (http://www.lowcarbfriends.com/bbs/main-lowcarb-lobby/781941-how-did-you-stop-using-food-numb-your-emotions.html)

starryblu 08-28-2012 05:34 PM

how did you stop using food to numb your emotions?
ok...so i know how to make good food choices. i'm great at understanding nutrition, how food works in your body, etc etc. i shop low carb, cook low carb, and get really excited about it!

but....just give me a bad day...and it's all out the window. i have been an emotional eater for probably--well, i guess about 40 years, if i'm going back to my young teen years. i feel like that's when i became eating disordered. i have given up drugs and cigarettes, and conquering my need to eat to console myself is so much harder than any struggle i've had in the past.

soooo....i would love to hear how any of you have dealt with this problem. i have literally begged therapists to help me. food and weight loss is mostly what i talk about with my shrink. i feel like i'm failing miserably, but i'm not sure what to to from here.

can anyone give me coping techniques? i'm feeling so upset and desperate. i need a new outlook...but i'm so stuck in my bad habits.

so what do you do to keep yourself from falling back on food?

svenskamae 08-28-2012 06:05 PM

Have you tried working through Julia Ross's books, "The Diet Cure" and "The Mood Cure"? She recommends supplements that can help with mood problems and cravings. Maybe they would help you.

Personally, I find doing intermittent fasting helps (in my case, eating in an 8 hour window only). Then, when I'm done with dinner, I'm done for the day, and since having a snack isn't an option, then I can't eat just because I'm bored or sad at night.

Maybe you could try adding in some new good habits, like journaling about how you feel, or progressive relaxation, or yoga breathing and meditation, or qi gong, or taking a warm bubble bath or long shower, to calm yourself and try to feel better, during those times when you would normally reach for food (but aren't hungry).

When I'm upset, I try to be "away" by sleeping or listening to a book on CD in a dark room with my eyes closed or reading a book or watching a film--and not combining those activities with food. When I'm angry, I turn to exercise like long, fast walks or working out on an elliptical machine. Or I call my sister or a friend and try to get verbal support from a person instead of food, or snuggle with my affectionate cat.

I think the reason that I don't do much emotional eating is largely because I've developed a repetoire of non-food related things to do instead, and don't let myself combine them with food.

I know that one can't just switch off habits easily, but maybe if you try to do some of these things to comfort or distract yourself, you'll find that they can increasingly replace turning to food for comfort or to numb your feelings. I hope this helps, and I'm sorry you are having such a hard time. :console:

Bobbin 08-28-2012 07:09 PM

The hardest thing to figure out: What to do with your emotions when you stop eating them. :confused: I'm actively working on this myself, so it'll be good to read all of the responses for ideas. So far I've experimented with breathing/meditation exercises, stretching, journaling, being alone and listening to music and/or sleeping -I've just joined a gym to start working out to help burn off stress, too. I haven't gone yet mind you, but I intend to once I get over this horrible cold. Good luck to you!! :shake:

fiddlejen 08-28-2012 08:15 PM

Have you tried the Beck Diet Book? It addresses all sorts of different issues that cause a person to toss their diet out the window, including emotional eating. It's a very Useful approach, it actually has specific techniques for how to overcome specific diet difficulties. It does not advocate a particular diet... oh, hmm, I think it was reissued in several different variations, one does include a diet-plan... but basically what it's about, it techniques to be successful on any diet, which includes techniques for overcoming issues such as emotional eating.

Gabby1 08-28-2012 09:35 PM

Honestly, I come here to the LCF Board. The folks on here are better than any therapist I have ever had with regard to eating issues (not to mention good recipes, good stories, etc, etc). My experience with therapists is like yours... I sense that many are not very good at dealing with food issues, or maybe they are just uncomfortable dealing with them. And so many times they never even address the eating itself. As I told my husband once, it's as if an alcoholic went into AA-- and instead of dealing with the drinking they all want to fix all the emotional issues that lead up to the drinking first. Not so effective.

If I am upset and not at my laptop? I find journal-ing super useful. Swimming. Zoning out with a book. Talking to my husband or my mom or my besties. Shopping (like at Walgreens or someplace where I cant get into too much trouble). If I were religious I might go into a church and pray/meditate?

Gabby1 08-28-2012 09:40 PM

One more book recommendation. Oddly enough Dr. Phil McGraw's book (The Ultimate Weight Solution) is pretty insightful. He basically takes all of the tenants of cognitive behavioral therapy and applies it to eating behaviors. You could probably buy it used on Amazon.

~PaperMoon~ 08-28-2012 10:55 PM

My eating was never emotional thank God, it was just an addiction to sweets and carbs, the more I ate the more I craved. I was always the type to lose my appetite when upset or stressed. So once I broke the addiction to sweets and carbs and really got it into my head how unhealthy eating that ways was, and how much the extra weight can affect your health, I just stick to the new normal and more healthy way of eating. When I'm upset or stressed I listen to music, read or watch movies or sleep.

Janknitz 08-29-2012 12:41 AM

I second the recommendation for Julia Ross' books. She addresses the underlying neurological underpinning that triggers these emotions.

I think you need to deal with the neurobiological issues first and then you can more easily address the emotional aspects themselves.

Dezi 08-29-2012 02:26 AM

I'll have to get back to you on that one.

Still do?

3fatcats 08-29-2012 03:55 AM

I used to eat eat for any reason years ago. Sad, bored, angry, whatever. I got tired of it. If I went to the fridge to eat, I'd start asking myself questions.

Are you REALLY hungry?
If not, then WHY are you eating again?
Will this help fix you boredom/pain/anger?
Will you be more mad at yourself after for that 5 minute "fix" that you just ate?

NOw I tell the hubs I need a "time out" and go for a run. It really helps.

Avicenna 08-29-2012 04:43 AM

I think it's something you just have to decide to do even if it is hard for a while.

As an intermittent step... this isn't helpful from a psychological angle, but for the sake of weight loss or avoiding weight gain... you could always change the type of food you turn to for stress eating to things that are not as bad for you, like carbonated or flavoured water, berries, sugar free chocolate, etc., so while you'll still be eating more than you need, at least it won't all be out the window... Like I said, it doesn't solve the problem but it's better than nothing.

flatferenghi 08-29-2012 05:42 AM

who says I DID stop?
the trick is to stay on plan in spite of these emotions, which will plague us all our lives. Unless we are like DATA, and we can turn our emotion chips off, or we are Vulcans, we must be on the alert. when someone is pushing our buttons, go for the really rich low carb foods. Of course, it does not have to be anger, it can be joy, sadness, humor, anything. Love & Profits: FLATFERENGHI

gammazach 08-29-2012 05:49 AM

When those emotions run you crazy, jump into something you like to do hobby wise instead of food, whether it be a book, needle work, running, going to a movie,just remove yourself from your stressing factor and do something fun. I usually get busy with household chores, work through them and then relax with a good mystery or my embroidery for a new grandchild due in February!!!! Good luck!:shake:

JanetA 08-29-2012 05:52 AM

I found lots of good coping strategies in the book, 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself. I haven't even finished the book, but I have an arsenal of strategies from it. Every time I use one, I jot down what caused the impulse to overeat, and what strategy I used to cope with it. Very quick journaling; it has been eye-opening.

girondet 08-29-2012 06:15 AM

Have you noticed anything that helped you before with this? I find that if I just make sticking to my WOE a priority, I automatically do fall into other behaviors to soothe or distract myself. It helps me to get out of the house or call a friend, take a walk, and I do tons of walking, stretching, yoga,Pilates, dancing, etc just right in my own house while watching tv or listening to a podcast. It helps distract me and gets rid of restless, nervous energy. The podcasts that reinforce my resolve are great.

Later I congratulate myself on how well I've been handling my problems/emotions without overeating. I hold on to my success as though it's kind of a talisman that makes me ever stronger, healthier, in charge of my life. Nowadays eating junk to feel better starts eroding my self esteem right away. I'm not saying I'm perfect, but i'm NOT going there again, I remember the old days too well.

You'll beat this. Good ideas from folks here will help.:hugs:

valentine319 08-29-2012 07:00 AM

I'm trying to adopt the philosophy, "I am allergic to these foods". I guess I find it easier to handle if I go the allergy route (as I do with bananas, very allergic). For example, I am allergic to flour, it makes me hungry constantly, I feel bad when I eat it and bloated.

As someone else reminded me. Find what works for you. I also agree this board is so valuable in helping us figure this out.

clackley 08-29-2012 07:15 AM

Recognizing that a bad day = stress. Stress = a physiological response to 'shore up'. 'Shoring up' is the bodies attempt to prepare for hard times.

You know on an intellectual level that you do not need to shore up. Recognizing this as a trigger and finding new coping strategies for dealing with a physiological stress response is the key. But mostly to remember that it is not your emotions but rather your body that is the root of the response to a bad day.

lterry913 08-29-2012 08:26 AM

I guess what has helped me is the fact that I finally realized that I felt sooo much worse when fat and sad than when thin and sad...being overweight was not worth using food as a drug or therapy any more...I just had to face that everyone...yes, everyone has pain and suffering in their life and they nor I needed to try and numb the pain with food...after all it was a vicious cycle and I felt worse being fat and sad...I realized that I can not control the tragedies life throws my way, but I can control what goes into my mouth. Take control of you so you can be there for yourself and others who rely on you.
All that said I think the book mentioned above is a good one to read because it deals with supplementing for deficiencies and facing what is causing these issues...any step to figure this out is your first step in taking CONTROL of you.
Be strong and stay in control of you.

~PaperMoon~ 08-29-2012 04:20 PM

Another way to mentally turn stressful behavior around is to say to yourself, whatever is stressing you is something out of your control or else you would fix it instead of stressing over it, so just focus that stress into fixing something you CAN control which is your eating & weight. Think of it like that. You can't control the situation that's stressing you but you CAN control what goes in your mouth. So mentally turn the stress around by fixing what you CAN control, and that's what you are eating. :)

Kateee 08-29-2012 07:55 PM


Originally Posted by starryblu (Post 15905461)
can anyone give me coping techniques? i'm feeling so upset and desperate. i need a new outlook...but i'm so stuck in my bad habits.

so what do you do to keep yourself from falling back on food?

:welcome: starryblu :shake:

Here's what helps me with falling back on food :)

I take 5-HTP, and Vit D3, and Fish Oil.... google "serotonin effects of low carb eating" for more info.

I only take the 5-HTP when I'm wanting to nervous eat. Or if I'm highly stressed...It helps calm me down.

I also keep a food journal, and I write down every bite taken and the time eaten...It keeps me aware of my food intake...makes me stop and realize what the heck I'm doing.

We need at least 15 minutes of sunshine a day. Sunshine and Vit D3 helps with moods...I walk the dog, garden, or ride my bike to combat nervous eating. Just getting outside everyday for 15 minutes gives me a better outlook for the day.

I'll play a exercise DVD...it makes me feel better knowing that I accomplished something. Check your local library for them. Leslie Sansome has some walking ones that will get you moving...

If I can't stop myself from reaching for food....I'll have a bunless cheeseburger, or bacon, or HB eggs or Deviled eggs w/horseradish sauce..or meatballs... high fat foods :yummy:

I meditate daily....google "meditations for weight loss"....you can get one daily in your email when you sign up.....the meditations for women is another good one...I'm sorry I don't know how to link for you :(

google breathing techniques to calm you and relax you....don't laugh, but I bought a pack of balloons from the $Tree, and use them...I inhale through my nose, exhale into the balloon, not breathing, holding awhile, than repeating....I do this four times in a row...it helps with high blood pressure too...

I also find if I don't plan out my daily menu for the whole day, I'm always at the fridge door eating. So PLAN*PLAN*PLAN

I also have a gratitude journal, and list each day, five things that I'm grateful for....

:high5: this is what works for me

starryblu 08-29-2012 08:01 PM

wow what an awesome bunch of replies!! so many great strategies, outlooks, advice! i am so excited to be reading this thread, it has given me so much hope :D

i plan to go back and read through everyone's posts more thoroughly, there is so much good stuff posted here, and i want to think through and process it all. make so notes to myself so i won't forget! it's wonderful how a person can feel so lost, and then ask for help/input etc...and then feel so good and positive when reading all the suggestions of so many great people.

thank you all most sincerely. you will probably hear more from me lol...takes me a bit to think and process sometimes. i am so excited to put some of this stuff into action!!

thanks again, so very much!

cfine 08-29-2012 08:20 PM

You have gotten great advice and probably don't need anymore but I'm going to interject anyway because this has been a big problem for me too. When I first started LCing, I did take several of the supplements that are recommended in Julia Ross's book that has already been mentioned. They really helped me to get through the first couple of months.

After that, NOT emotional eating had become a habit. When I feel down, I do something, anything really besides eating. I finally figured out that eating is not going to make the problem or depressed feeling go away. It's just going to make me feel bad about myself. I don't take the supplements anymore because I don't feel the need for them. It's a wonderful feeling to finally, for the first time in my life, be in control of my eating habits.

That's not to say that I don't enjoy snacking at times. When I feel like I need to snack, I do. I measure out some nuts, grab a little SF Hershey's dark chocolate bar, and I savor every last bite. I try to always save a few carbs for snacking. I don't always use them, but if I need to I can do it without feeling guilty.

I know that this is such a hard thing to overcome. I hope that you find the right strategy to help you break the cycle! LCF is the best place I've found as far as finding people who truly understand your struggles and will be there to help you through.

Auntie Em 08-30-2012 11:53 AM

To add to the super ideas which others have posted, I'll write a bit about what has helped me to feel calmer and more poised:

If I wake-up feeling "not calm", or have carb cravings or false appetite, I often take 500 gm L-Glutamine.

Shortly after arising I usually take: cod liver oil, Vit D, and 1/2 t. pastured butter, or yoghurt made from cream, or other fermented cream, iodine and selenium. If I still feel "not calm", I take myo-inositol in water, and drink some water with magnesium tablets dissolved in it.

Typical breakfasts for me: Egg yolks and homemade yoghurt, or beef bacon and liver, or braised beef bacon and egg yolks.

Supplements with breakfast which help with mental poise, for me: Evening primrose oil, E, Chromium GTF, Dong quai/Licorice root/Black Cohosh, L-carnitine, and sometimes d-Chiro-inositol. Also, extra zinc.

Lunch is some kind of beef, or egg yolks, or occasionally salmon, with a bit of vegetable, and enough animal fat to feel like smiling.

I try to follow the recommendations of Dr. Blake Donaldson and Dr. Richard Mackarness, to eat, in each bite, approx. 20% protein, and 80% fat. That is one ounce of animal fat for each three-ounces of meat. (Dr. Wolfgang Lutz had his patients putting butter on their cheese. :) )

I eat a bit less at supper, as I feel better with less protein at supper. I sleep better, avoid weight gain more easily, etc., with having breakfast and lunch be my main meals.

Supplements at supper: same as breakfast, plus a mineral complex.

I drink magnesium water throughout the day, and take myo-inositol as needed. I take other supplements, but the ones I have listed are those which show a distinct improvement in feeling poised and cheerier.

Avoiding industrial foods helps me tremendously. I don't avoid them all the time, but always feel better when I do.

Of course, no grains, no legumes, no sweet fruits, and no serious trigger foods.

Dr. Emily Dean's blog, Evolutionary Psychiatry, has been of help to me, in learning about brain function and mood, and what kind of nutrients the brain needs for optimal functioning, as well as what sorts of malnourishment cause disordered or malfunction in the brain. Neurotransmitters, endorphins, Omega 3, glucose utilizations, and other good subjects. :) She writes about the science behind what is often termed "emotional eating", a need for specific nutrients to improve neurotransmitter and endorphin functioning, and better utilization of glucose (improved insulin sensitivity, etc.), proper fats for brain functioning: cholesterol, Omega 3, etc.

The work of Dr. Richard Mackarness and Dr. Theron G. Randolph, on allergies and their manifestation in all systems of the body, including one's mental state, have been especially helpful to me. Dr. Mackarnass' book, Not All in the Mind, is a great overview of allergies and reactions to foods and chemicals, including one's mental state. Dr. Blake Donaldson's book, Strong Medicine, was of great help to me, too.

Eating liver and brains, egg yolks, a bit of muscle meat, a few vegetables and herbs, bone marrow and marrow fat, and fermented cream, with some pastured butter, has helped me to feel stronger, steadier, calmer, happier, etc. I eat a bit of other things for variety, but the aforementioned is my mainstay.

Following Dr. Richard Bernstein's Law of Small Numbers, and avoiding the foods he recommends avoiding, gave me much more poise. His recommendations for eating the same amount of carbs and protein from breakfast to breakfast, from day to day, and the same number at each lunch and supper, from day to day, has been a wonderful help to me. He recommends 6 (or fewer) grams of CHO for breakfast, and 12 grams at lunch, and 12 grams at supper. He leaves the protein amount up to individual choice, but says that it must be kept the same from breakfast to breakfast, etc., to keep blood sugar levels healthy and stable. Feeling mentally "off" can be a symptom of the blood sugar level being too high or too low. Low carb comes to the rescue with this! :)

I also discovered that eating small amounts of protein at a time, helps to keep that biochemical poise that shows itself in my feeling steady and like smiling. Too much meat or cheese, or even fish, or too many eggs, and I feel agitated, anxious, and it means too much insulin, which then means feeling hungry at the end of a meal, or shortly thereafter. (Dr. Deans posted about this insulin surge at the end of a meal, too.)


I've probably left out something in writing about the food plan and supplements, but that's what comes to mind at the moment.

Dr. Deans did a great post on yoga and GABA, which reinforced my exercise plan. Yoga, yoghurt, and L-glutamine all increase GABA, which means feeling calmer, steadier and more poised.

Also, avoiding too much stress, such as electromagnetic frequencies, loud noises, crowds, etc., are vital for me. Dr. Mackarness addresses this category a bit in his books.

Sleep, rest, exercise, light, meditation/prayer, and community are key for me, too. :)

It's a huge subject. I've tried to be somewhat brief and still cover the basics.

Hope this helps. :)

I wish you happy success. :hugs:

jmc305 08-30-2012 04:44 PM

I never did stop my emotional eating. I still eat to make myself feel better to this day, even after over 100lbs of weight loss. The thing is to try and reach for healthier choices. For example, if the only thing that will brighten your day is cake, make it an almond flour/splenda cake. That sort of thing is what I've done from day 1 and it's the only way I could lose weight.

Kateee 08-31-2012 05:45 AM

:goodpost: Auntie Em

The Magnesium Miracle by Dr Carolyn Dean is a good read too :)

mamabear6 08-31-2012 05:54 AM

Wow there's a lot of great responses here, especially the supplements and everything.
I take 5-htp too and it really helps me stay calm. That says a lot because I'm an extremely high-strung person most days and can never seem to just chill out inside my own head. I also take a 3-6-9 omega supplement, vit D, and an abundance of other vitamins and minerals. I have a history of depression so diet and supplementation have been very key in my management of mental health.
One big thing for me that keeps me from emotional eating is staying VLC, abstaining from alcohol, and staying in ketosis. A feeling of calmness, normalcy, and rational thought are some of the gifts ketosis lends to me and I don't know what I'd do without it.
A trick for me when I DO occasionally feel compelled to feed my emotions, is to make a cup of chamomile tea and relax on the sofa or in bed with a book. The book is key, because it gets me out of my own head for a while and thinking about other things.
You can do it!

svenskamae 08-31-2012 05:10 PM


Originally Posted by mamabear6 (Post 15911213)
One big thing for me that keeps me from emotional eating is staying VLC, abstaining from alcohol, and staying in ketosis. A feeling of calmness, normalcy, and rational thought are some of the gifts ketosis lends to me and I don't know what I'd do without it.
A trick for me when I DO occasionally feel compelled to feed my emotions, is to make a cup of chamomile tea and relax on the sofa or in bed with a book. The book is key, because it gets me out of my own head for a while and thinking about other things.
You can do it!

:goodpost: I think you are my previously unknown twin sister, mamabear6, in terms of this post. :D I too love the feeling of calmness, normalcy, and rational thought that are gifts to me from ketosis (well put!); I'd never willingly give up eating this way and lose those precious things. And I do exactly what you do, in terms of "being away" in a book, with a comforting cup of tea, as a coping device. :hugs:

Auntie Em 09-01-2012 08:51 AM

Katee, thanks for your kind thoughts and for the book recommendation. :) I'll look into it. Sipping magnesium water throughout the day, as well as taking magnesium malate, helps me a great deal.

VLC, with constant amounts of carbs and protein, per Dr. Bernstein, made a dramatic improvement for me. Eating when not hungry no longer has the consequences of feeling quite out of balance afterwards. The supplements are a good help with this.

I did forget to put St. John's Wort in my previous post. It's a recent addition to my supplements, and I find it helps.

The food plan and supplements are vital, but are only part of whole plan. I have to tend all the other areas of life well, too, or the eat-to-not-feel-something can get triggered. I'm grateful to be able to eat things which help, rather than sabotage, that balance of neurotransmitters, enzymes, endorphines, hormones, mitochondria, etc. Eating for happy nerves, bones, and brain function is great. I have noticed continual improvement since going on the food plan I have now.

Best wishes to all. :hugs:

theredhead 09-01-2012 09:08 AM

You've gotten great advice here, and I'm sure something will "click" for you.

As for me, my first thought when I read your post is that this is something that takes time. You practice it, and it gets easier. I've been on this journey for nine years, and it really does get easier. Do I have days where I want to eat the wallpaper still? Heck, yeah. But I find that I automatically can keep a grip on it more times than not now. I wish you the very best!

angel247 09-01-2012 03:31 PM

I'm not sure if your spiritual, but prayer works wonders!

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