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Thintervention’s Dr. Ramani Durvasala on How to End Emotional Eating

Written on February 18, 2011 at 3:15 pm , by

The doctor is in...(Photo by Paige Craig Photography)

In “Are You Normal About Food” from our March issue, more than half of the 2,400 women polled for the piece admitted to negative emotions after a binge (guilt, depression, sickness…). For more insight into this topic, we turned to a pro who has dealt with emotional eating and lost 85 pounds herself. Dr. Ramani Durvasala, the psychologist from Bravo’s Thintervention with Jackie Warner, told us about the reasons behind emotional eating and how to manage it.

How do you know if you’re an emotional eater?
First, examine how you talk about food. Do you use passionate, emotional terms like “love,” “obsessed” or “adore” to describe a certain snack or meal? I used to refer to food in that way and then I realized I don’t talk about much else that way ever—maybe just my kids!

A few other signals include eating in secret, feeling anxious or out of control around food, using food for a non-food purpose (such as a reward or a numbing tool) or not achieving success on several weight loss programs in the past.

Can it be “cured” or just “managed?”
Believe me, even after losing the weight, I still struggle everyday with emotional eating. I wish I could eat all that I want whenever I want, but I can’t. And that’s frustrating! Emotional eating is a lot like other addictions, and never really go away. It usually begins to develop in childhood, so you basically have to learn to deal with your triggers and preemptively plan to make good choices.

Read on for Dr. Durvasala’s five tips for emotional eaters…

Dr. Durvasala’s Top Five Tips for Emotional Eaters

  1. Keep a food diary. Don’t just note what you eat, but also where, when, why and who you’re eating with. This will allow you to identify when problems arise and pinpoint when you need to be aware of issues arising in the future.
  2. Remain aware of triggers and plan to combat them. Prepare snacks to tote along if you’re prone to pulling through the drive-through lane when in the car, or pick a table far away from the buffet spread at a party. Be mindful of the situation and ready to make good choices.
  3. Examine why you’re reaching for food. Ask yourself if you’re grabbing a snack because you’re “F.L.A.B.” — frustrated, lonely, angry or bored. If so, find a task that can distract you for five to seven minutes—ideally involving talking because you definitely can’t eat while doing so. Make a list of your favorite distractions and keep it handy when you’re likely to be tempted.
  4. Be compassionate with yourself. A healthy lifestyle shouldn’t be about deprivation. Avoid “don’t” rules for yourself. There’s no strict formula for success—just what works with your life.
  5. Ask for help. If you feel out of control with food, work with a licensed mental health expert to talk it out. A lot of times, you’ll be talking about your life, not just food. But this can help you break through eating issues.

More from FITNESS: The Food Diaries: Why We Eat