Food is Medicine

This week marks a full 6 weeks since I stopped taking medication for high blood pressure. I attribute my being able to do this to 6 months of a low carbohydrate/healthy fat way of eating and a weight loss of over 25 pounds. I cannot tell you how much of a miracle this is to me! I had pregnancy induced hypertension with both of my now adult children and have struggled with my blood pressure ever since. After watching my mother lose her ability to walk due to a massive hypertensive stroke, I became determined make some positive changes in my lifestyle to improve my health. I have spent at least the last 4 years trying to exercise my way to better health. During that time I used interval running to train for and complete 44 Half Marathons. Not only did I continue to need blood pressure medication, but I also managed to put on about 10 lbs! It was not until I took the focus off exercise and switched to a way of eating that keeps my insulin levels low that I was able to see significant positive changes in my health. The fact that I am no longer requiring blood pressure medication is testimony to the impact that eating real whole foods and limiting processed carbohydrates can have on a person’s health.

Because I am also prediabetic (diabetes runs rampant in my father’s family), during my previous attempts to get healthy I was very careful to avoid desserts. However, I continued to eat a diet dominated by low calorie processed foods (like sugar laden protein bars and baked gluten free chips) and low fat foods in an attempt to keep from gaining weight. Boy did I have it all wrong! In an act of desperation last fall, I tried a popular weight loss plan that featured portion controlled meal replacements and one meal a day of green vegetables and protein. While I lost a few pounds doing this, what I learned was that any diet that reduces your carbohydrate and caloric intake will lead to short term weight loss if you stick to it. However, I also learned that I did not want to be told exactly what to eat for the rest of my life. You see, I really love to eat and I need to be able to eat and enjoy real food! I just needed to find out not only WHAT to eat but WHEN to eat in order to improve my health. I also needed to learn how sleep, stress levels, emotional eating and exercise fit into a healthy lifestyle. As I have made these discoveries, I have shared what I have learned in this blog.

I am so ecstatic to be medication free at the age of 64 that I am highly motivated to continue to do the things that got me here. Long term health is not a quick fix, it is a series of decisions we make every day. After 6 months of learning to make good decisions, I am convinced that with a little guidance, each one of us can take control of his or her own health! Toward that end I have developed the following lifestyle tips that I shared in part in an earlier blog. I consider them the guidelines by which I plan to live the rest of my life. Just as Hippocrates said hundreds of years ago, food truly is medicine!

Dr. Moore’s Lifestyle Tips to Promote Wellness and Avoid Disease

  1. Avoid added sugars, white bread, potatoes, pasta and deep fried foods as well as ALL junk food. There is a reason it is called junk! Ditch sugary drinks and fruit juices and drink more water! You are better off eating an orange with its fiber than drinking the orange juice.
  2. Increase your intake of non-starchy vegetables and green salads. Make berries your preferred fruits. These are less likely to spike insulin levels. Insulin is a fat storage hormone.
  3. Include a small amount of lean protein (fish, shellfish, lean meats, poultry, nuts, and eggs) at each meal.
  4. Incorporate foods containing healthy fats into your meals. Some examples of such foods are salmon, avocados, olive oil, olives, eggs and nuts. Healthy fats are important to satiety and controlling hunger. Consuming healthy fats at mealtimes will help you to stop snacking between meals.
  5. Time restricted eating – stop eating 2-3 hours before bedtime and eat breakfast only when you are physically hungry.  Your first meal of the day is still breakfast (breaking your fast), regardless of how late you choose it eat it. These periods without food result in lower levels of insulin which will help to prevent fat storage. This is a very gentle form of intermittent fasting.
  6. Try to get least 30 minutes of exercise most days, preferably BEFORE eating. This allows your body to rely on your stored fat to fuel your exercise. This can be as simple as taking a brisk walk. Try to vary your workouts to include cardio, strength training and flexibility training.
  7. Eat intuitively rather than recreationally. Eat only when you are physically hungry and stop when you are full. Practice portion control.
  8. Sleep 7-8 hours each night. Proper rest is important to control not only your insulin levels but also your hunger and fullness hormones. Try to reduce the amount of stress in your life by setting boundaries.
  9. Move around more during the day. Do not sit when you can stand. Take the stairs over elevators and escalators. Just because there is a people mover or moving sidewalk available does not mean you have to use it! Get an activity tracker and aim for 10,000 steps a day.
  10. EAT REAL FOOD!! When eating out choose whole unprocessed food and ask that your food be prepared simply and in a healthy way. Better yet, whenever possible, try preparing your own healthy meals at home! This way you will know EXACTLY what you are eating.

Be Blessed,

Yvonne Moore

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.”

3 John 1:2 (NLT)

Why Fad Diets Don’t Work

What follows is the second in the series, “What I Did Wrong.” A quick look at my home bookshelves or inside my Kindle would tell you that I have been a lifelong professional dieter. As I said in an earlier post, I have lived my entire adult life in fear of returning to that obese teenager who was ridiculed in gym class. You name the weight loss strategy, I have tried it. As a medical student and resident I received little to no training in nutrition. There was no google back then so the bulk of what I learned about weight loss came from books and magazines. Whenever I committed to a plan, I would lose weight. Most of us can lose weight regardless of which diet we choose. But just like the contestants on The Biggest Loser – almost all of us gain it back!

As Dr. Jason Fung explains in his book, The Obesity Code, most calorie restriction diets are doomed because our bodies try to protect us from completely wasting away by lowering our basal metabolic rates and making us hungrier. It takes fewer calories to move a smaller body so even our exercising becomes less effective. Along comes the dreaded plateau and we become disenchanted with the diet and go back to the eating patterns that made us overweight in the first place! At this lower metabolic rate we often end up gaining even more weight when we return to our previous eating patterns. Unless you have chosen a plan that you can continue to live with over the long run, weight regain is practically inevitable. This fact lets us yoyo dieters off the hook. It is not our fault, we have been sabotaged by our own bodies!

News flash! DIETS DON’T WORK. For example, most of us have ingrained in our psyche to avoid fat and have tried a low fat diet. Go down the aisle of any grocery store and you will see product after product of low fat processed foods. If you look closely, however, you will see that the makers of most of those products have taken out the fat and replaced it with sugar. Ironically, since all of these low fat foods have been available, we as a nation have gotten fatter and fatter. We have been deceived by the food industry into thinking that fats makes us fat when it is actually sugar (and those foods that turn into sugar) that makes us fat. Sugar in all its forms triggers the release of insulin which not only works to keep our blood sugar from getting too high, but also encourages our bodies to store the excess sugar as fat! Many of us who have spent years eating “diet” foods have damaged our bodies response to insulin and have to produce more and more of this fat storage hormone to keep our blood sugar at normal levels. This is known as insulin resistance. Those of us who have this insulin resistance have a harder time losing weight.  There is much controversy about the multifactorial causes of obesity but there is no disagreement that long term weight control involves keeping insulin levels low.

So rather than going on diet after fad diet, why don’t we seek out a lifestyle that will keep our insulin levels low on a long term basis. As a Pre-diabetic, I have come to understand that my struggles like many of yours came down to the effects of high insulin levels triggered by low fat diets, too much sugar and other starches and what I like to call recreational eating. I was able to keep my weight barely in the normal range with exercise and portion control. However, it was not until I made changes in my lifestyle to keep my insulin levels down that I was finally able to see a significant change in not only my weight but my overall health and sense of well being. At the age of 64 I am fitter than I have ever been and my energy level has markedly increased! It is never too late to turn the page on an unhealthy lifestyle!

After 6 months of tweaking my own behaviors, this is now my forever lifestyle.

Dr. Moore’s Lifestyle Tips to Promote Wellness and Avoid Disease

1. Avoid added sugars, white bread, potatoes, pasta, and deep fried foods as well as ALL junk food. There is a reason it is called junk! Ditch sugary drinks and fruit juices and drink more water! You are better off eating an orange with its fiber than drinking the orange juice.

2. Increase your intake of non-starchy vegetables and green salads. Make berries your preferred fruits. These are less likely to spike insulin levels. Insulin is a fat storage hormone.

3. Include a small amount of lean protein (fish, shellfish, lean meats, poultry, nuts and eggs) at each meal.

4. Incorporate foods containing healthy fats into your meals.  Some examples of such foods are salmon, avocados, olive oil, olives, flax seeds, eggs and nuts. Healthy fats are important to satiety and controlling hunger. Healthy fats at mealtimes will help you to stop snacking in between meals.

5. Time restricted eating – stop eating 2-3 hours before bedtime and eat breakfast only when physically hungry.  Your first meal of the day is still breakfast (breaking your fast), regardless of how late you choose it eat it. These periods without food result in lower levels of insulin which will help prevent fat storage. This is a very gentle form of intermittent fasting.

6. Try to get in at least 30 minutes of exercise most days, preferably BEFORE eating. This allows your body to rely on your stored fat to fuel your exercise. This can be as simple as taking a brisk walk.

7. Eat intuitively rather than recreationally. Eat only when you are physically hungry and stop when you are full. Practice portion control.

8. Sleep 7-8 hours each night. Proper rest is important to control not only your insulin levels but also your hunger and fullness hormones.

9. Move around more during the day. Do not sit when you can stand. Take the stairs over elevators and escalators. Just there is a people mover or moving sidewalk available does not mean you have to use it! Get an activity tracker and aim for 10,000 steps a day.

10. EAT REAL FOOD!! When eating out choose whole unprocessed foods and ask that your food be prepared simply and in a healthy way. Better yet, whenever possible, try preparing healthy meals at home. This way you know EXACTLY what you are eating.

I make no claims that the course I have chosen is applicable to everyone reading this post. However, if you have been struggling to get healthy like I was you might consider giving it a try. What have you got to lose?

Be Blessed,

Yvonne Moore

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.”  3 John 1:2 (NLT)

Stop Late Night Snacking!!!

Since I started this blog in January, I have been focused on trying to solve the mystery of why 95% of people who have lost weight, including myself, have gained it back over the next 2 years. I do not claim to have all the answers but I can share with you the some if things I know I did wrong in the past and that I am determined not to repeat this time. The first in this series on unhealthy habits is late night snacking. I cannot tell you how many nights I stayed up late catching up my electronic medical charts nibbling on large quantities of Skinny Pop or baked gluten free chips. Even something as “healthy” as skinny pop eaten right before going to bed can be hazardous your quest for good health.

Effects of Eating at Bedtime

The 24/7 availability of food in this country has created an unhealthy mindset toward food. We no longer eat to fuel our bodies, we often eat out of habit or just for fun. Aside from derailing your attempts to maintain a healthy weight, late night eating can lead to multiple other health problems.

1. Trouble sleeping. Eating late at night can keep you awake as your body tries to digest the food. This can make it not only difficult to fall asleep but to stay asleep as well. We established in an earlier blog that poor sleep causes imbalances in your hunger and fullness hormones which can lead to weight gain.

2. Acid reflux and heartburn are more common in late night eaters. Acid reflux can become severe causing inflammation in the esophagus as well as significant pain. This can lead to long term complications such as ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding.

3. Pre-diabetes and diabetes are worsened by late night eating, especially when eating simple carbs. Those foods cause a sharp rise in insulin which drives down your blood sugar making you hungry for more. We have all experienced this after eating a simple carbohydrate packed meal of Chinese food. Insulin is a fat storage hormone and that encourages your body to store fat.

4. Late night eating makes you hungrier the next morning which could trigger you to overeat at breakfast. I noticed years ago that if I go to bed full I will invariably wake up stomach growling hungry. This is because late night eating triggers the release of the hormone ghrelin which is responsible for triggering hunger after an overnight fast. Late night eating shortens the normal overnight fast that allows the ghrelin to rise as slowly as it should while we are asleep.

Breaking the Habit

It might not be as easy as you think to break the habit of late night eating. It definitely takes time, especially if you have been doing it for many years as I had. Here are a few of the strategies that have helped me.

1. Vow not to eat within 3-4 hours of bedtime. Figure out what time you need to go to bed in order to get 7-8 hours of sleep and close your kitchen 3-4 hours before that time. If this sounds suspiciously like intermittent fasting, I will address that in a future blog.

2. After your evening meal take a walk or do some other form of physical activity to promote digestion. I would not recommend anything too vigorous that might keep you awake. Yoga, pilates or a simple stretching routine work just fine. Take breaks from the tv or computer to do a household chore or two (not in the kitchen).

3. Purge your kitchen of your favorite late night foods. (See the blog on taking the junk food challenge). If junk food is not readily available, you are less likely to eat it. Healthy eating decisions start in the grocery store. If you don’t have it in your house, you can’t eat it.

4. Make it a habit to eat a satisfying dinner that will keep you from getting hungry later. When tempted to go foraging for a snack, stop and ask yourself if you are truly hungry. Listen to your stomach and not your head when it comes to eating.

5. Brush your teeth right after dinner to symbolize the end of your eating day. If the urge to eat is still strong, try sugar free gum or strong mints to squelch that urge.

6. If all else fails, go to bed a little earlier if it will keep you out of the kitchen.

The strategies to avoid late night eating that have worked for me might not work for you so try to find tricks that work for you! We are all in this struggle together to find our healthiest selves.

Be Blessed,

Yvonne Moore

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.”  3 John 1:2 (NLT)

New Month, New Challenge

Happy First Day of National Nutrition Month!! Congratulations in those if us who completed last month’s Junk Food Challenge. I am entering month 5 of my controlled carbohydrate, no junk food lifestyle. I am down a total of 20 lbs and have never felt better!! This month let’s take it to the next level by not only ditching the junk food but by limiting caffeine and alcohol, intentionally eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and water, water, water!! Who is with me???

Be Blessed,

Yvonne Moore

“Dear friend, I hope that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” 3 John 1:2 (NLT)

Stress and Your Health

Since February is American Heart Month, I thought it might be a good idea to focus on some of the factors that affect our heart health. Stress is certainly at the top of that list. God designed our bodies to protect us from perceived threats by making our adrenal glands produce the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. This is known as the fight or flight stress response. We have all felt this when we have almost had an accident while driving. In the split second that we see that accident about to happen the adrenals spring into action. The adrenaline increases our heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure. The cortisol increases glucose, enhances brain use of glucose and curbs nonessential body functions. We may feel so shaken that we pull over to calm down once disaster is averted. Fortunately this stress response is self-limited and our heart rate, respirations and blood pressure return to normal.

What if the stressors in our lives happen too frequently or last too long or when the stressors are always present? Chronic stress occurs when the stress response stays turned on all the time. This chronic stress leads to prolonged exposure to stress hormones and can have adverse effects on almost every system in our bodies placing us at increased risk for multiple medical problems, including heart disease.

There are numerous sources of chronic stress in our daily lives. Examples of such stress include:

  • Stress related to the pressures of the demands of work, school, finances and other daily responsibilities.
  • Stress brought on by a negative life change like losing a loved one, a divorce, losing a job or being diagnosed with a life threatening illness.
  • Stress related to a traumatic experience like a major accident, assault, war or a natural disaster.

Some of the many health effects of chronic stress are outlined in this illustration. The same stress response that might be life saving in a crisis, can suppress our immune, digestive, sleep and reproductive systems when it persists over time.  In addition to medical problems, chronic stress can also lead to mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and panic disorders.

img_4089

We are all different in how we respond to stress. Some of us, myself included, experience gastrointestinal problems when stressed. Others experience headaches, sleeplessness, sadness anger or irritability. Still others turn to food for comfort and subsequently put on excess weight.

When the stress is routine like job stress, it might go unnoticed as just a way of life. Over time, the continued strain on our bodies leads to serious conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.  If you want to see an outstanding depiction of what chronic job stress can do, watch the recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy in which high-powered surgeon Miranda Bailey suffers a heart attack (Season 14, Episode 11). The combination of a stressful job, poor lifestyle choices and a genetic predisposition form the perfect storm for the development of heart disease. As an African American woman over 60 who has high blood pressure and a family history of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, I so related to the truth of this storyline.

Ways to Reduce Stress

The good news in all of this is that there are ways to manage chronic stress to reduce or prevent these adverse effects.

  1. Learn to recognize the signs of stress in your own body. Difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol use, being easily angered, having a lack of energy or feeling depressed might all be signs that you are stressed.
  2. Set goals and priorities by deciding what can be done and what can wait in any given day. Make getting a good night’s sleep a priority over “doing it all.” If you are feeling overwhelmed on your job, seek out ways to reduce your workload.
  3. Get regular exercise!!! I cannot emphasize this point enough. A mere 30 minutes a day of exercise can have a profound impact on your mood and reduce stress.
  4. Find something that relaxes you and make it a regular part of your life. It might be prayer and meditation, yoga, tai chi or a massage. Take time for hobbies, reading a good book, or listening to music.
  5. Learn how to enjoy a good laugh. Laughter really is good medicine.
  6. Stay connected with family members and friends who can provide emotional support. There is strength and healing in community!

Be Blessed,

Yvonne Moore

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.”  3 John 1:2 (NLT)

#MoveWithHeart

February is American Heart Month sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. This year’s campaign, #MoveWithHeart, encourages us to pledge 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week (150 minutes per week) to physical activity that “gets your heart pumping and leaves you a little breathless.” Take the pledge, your heart will love you for it! #Ymoore4Health

Junk Food Challenge Update for February

Today marks 3 weeks since I first posted the “Junk Food Challenge.” How is everyone doing? Since today starts a new month, I am inviting others to join in and take it to the next level by avoiding the processed “white carbs” altogether (white rice, pasta, potatoes, etc.) as well as CORNBREAD! These foods just turn to sugar once you eat them! Who is with me?

#ymoore4health

Sleep and Your Health

One of the most important aspects of healthy living that is often overlooked is the significance of getting an adequate amount of sleep. When the good Lord made our bodies to require that we spend almost one third of our lives doing one thing, you know it must be important. Having spent most of my adult life in a career that has often left me sleep deprived, I have personally seen the adverse impact it has had on my overall health. For those of us striving to achieve a healthy weight and an overall healthy life, getting the right amount of sleep is crucial to those efforts. Here are some of the many ways that not getting sufficient sleep can impact our lives and our health.

Brain Function

Sleeping less than the recommended 7-9 hours per night can lead us to have trouble with thinking, concentration, memory and can even impact our mood. During sleep the brain forms new neural connections that help us to process information and to remember new things we have learned. Sleep deprivation can lead to impairment of all of our mental functions, including delaying our reaction times and putting us at an increased risk for accidents. In addition, being tired and sleepy contribute to poor decision making when it comes to selecting healthy foods to fuel our bodies.

Cardiovascular System

Not getting enough sleep has been linked to increased blood pressure. It also leads to higher levels of chemicals that cause inflammation in the body.  Both high blood pressure and inflammation are risk factors for heart disease. Research has shown there to be a link between insomnia and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Immune System

While we are sleeping, our bodies produce cytokines which help us to fight off infection. If we do not get enough sleep, our levels of these chemicals will be impaired leading to a decreased ability to fight off illnesses, particularly viral and bacterial infections. Not only that, but this impaired immunity can make it take longer to recover from illnesses.

Weight Management and Hormones

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is not simply a matter of calories in versus calories out. We now know that sleep deprivation is a major risk factor for becoming overweight and for obesity. Two hormones that control hunger and and fullness, leptin and ghrelin are directly affected by the amount of sleep we get. Leptin tells our brains to stop eating when we are full and ghrelin is an appetite stimulant. With sleep deprivation, we produce less leptin and more ghrelin. The imbalance in these hormones is thought to be responsible for late night snacking. The longer we are awake into the night, the more opportunities we have to overeat. An additional effect that poor sleep has on our weight loss efforts is to make it us too tired to exercise.

Another substance that is adversely affected by sleep deprivation is the stress hormone cortisol. Heightened cortisol levels prompt the body to store more fat (especially in our middle section) and to use muscle as an energy source. Cortisol can have the effect of increasing blood sugar levels which causes increased insulin production which in turn increases our cravings. This effect has been linked not only to obesity but an increased risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Here are a few tips for improving your sleep which will lead to improvements in your health:

1. Sleep in complete darkness with no television, night lights or LED lights in the room.

2. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.

3. Decrease or eliminate caffeine and alcohol late in the day.

4. GO TO BED early enough to insure that you can get 7-9 hours of sleep.

Be Blessed,

Yvonne Moore

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” 3 John‬ ‭1:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The Skinny on Exercise for Weight Loss

Make no mistake about it, regular exercise offers many benefits. Here are just a few of those benefits:

1. Regular exercise helps in the prevention and management if many diseases including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, stroke, depression, some types of cancer and joint problems. As little as 30 minutes of brisk walking most days of the week goes a long way toward keeping us healthy.

2. Exercise lifts mood. Ever heard of runner’s high? Believe me, it is real!

3. Exercise improves your energy level, promotes better sleep and improves your overall sense of well being.

4. Exercise can be a great tool to help prevent regaining weight after weight loss.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that exercise ALONE is not a very good weight loss tool. I cannot tell you how many patients over the years have come in requesting to have their thyroid function tested because they have been diligently exercising but unable to see the numbers on the scale go down. I have even had this happen to fitness instructors! As I shared in a previous blog, I managed to gain weight while training for and run/walking a half marathon a month over the last couple of years. The truth of the matter is that you cannot outrun your fork with exercise alone.

Here is the skinny on exercising for weight loss.

Let’s say you burn 700 calories in a 1 hour spin class. Later that day you go out with your girls to a birthday celebration. Surely it should be ok to have a margarita or two after that hard workout, right? As this illustration shows, those two drinks alone will replace those calories before you even order dinner. It will be as if you never worked out at all.

Here’s another illustration for my running friends:

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one speaks volumes. In reality, exercise only accounts for about 10 to 30 percent of our energy expediture in a given day. If the workout has been particularly strenuous, it is likely to decrease our activity for the rest of the day because we are so tired. The other factor that makes strenuous exercise ineffective for weight loss is that it makes us hungrier!!! We are notoriously bad at over estimating how much more we should eat after exercise. In addition, our bodies adapt to our level of physical activity through metabolic compensation and the same amount of effort causes you to burn fewer calories over time.

It is well documented that those 10% of people who have lost weight and kept it off for at least a year did so by initially restricting their caloric intake and exercising moderately and that they continued to do both over the long run. We have to keep in mind that as we get smaller, our Basic Metabolic Rate (the calories we burn at rest) decreases by at least 100 calories for every 10 pounds we lose. That means that if you lost down from 200 lbs to 150, you cannot go back to eating the number of calories it took to keep you at 200! This is key to weight regain. This is where continuing to exercise once we have lost weight becomes important. If we return to our pre-weight loss eating habits and stop exercising, we are destined to regain the weight and may even gain more!

Successful lifetime weight management is not one size fits all. Those who are successful at keeping weight off long term have found a way to limit their caloric intake in a way that allows them to enjoy healthy foods over the highly processed, high carbohydrate, high fat and salty foods that make us overweight in the first place. They also continue to exercise at least moderately most days of the week. It is those who are willing to adopt this as a forever lifestyle who ultimately win in the struggle to maintain a healthy weight.

Be Blessed,

Yvonne Moore

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” 3 John‬ ‭1:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Emotional Eating

I was channel surfing the other day and came across an episode of Meet the Browns. In this episode Cora, a plus sized character, wanted to fit into a particular dress so she started power walking and restricting what she ate. After a few days she tried on the dress and found that it was still too small and became infuriated that all of her “hard work was for nothing.” She then proceeded to scarf down an entire box of candy! The portrayal really touched me because it reminded me of the many times I have turned to food to soothe an emotion. I, like millions of others who struggle with their weight, am an emotional eater.

Although we often are not conscious of it, emotional eating is very common. We eat when we are lonely or bored, we eat when we are frustrated, we eat when we are stressed, we eat when we are sad, we eat when we are angry – the list goes on and on. Emotional eating is not just about eating when we are down.  We also eat when we are happy or have something to celebrate. By definition, anytime we eat for any reason other than true physiological hunger we are probably eating in response to an emotion.

I have been an emotional eater since childhood. I was a latch key kid who was left alone from the time I got home from school until my Grandmother got home from work at close to midnight. I did not recognize it then, but food became my best friend when I was lonely and bored. I taught myself how to cook and became quite fond of my own cooking. I got into the habit of eating alone and as my weight ballooned I starting eating in secret – one of the most common attributes of the emotional eater. When you give in to getting that candy bar in the grocery checkout line and eat it in the car before you get home – you too might be an emotional eater.

If we are ever to overcome emotional eating, we must seek to understand why we have this love affair with food. It is a love affair with a lover who not only does not love us back but abuses our bodies. There is a reason why certain foods are referred to as comfort foods. Foods high in fat, sugar or salt activate the brain’s reward system. We actually get an increased sense of well being when we eat certain foods. Chocolate, for example, has a strong effect on mood by increasing pleasant feelings and reducing tension. If the food makes us feel better then the next time we have an intense emotion, we are more likely to turn to food again. The reality of course is that the fix is only temporary and that the guilt and the weight gain give us more problems to stress over which leads to more overeating. We need to find ways to break that cycle if we are ever to be in control of our eating in our pursuit of our healthiest selves.

One of the best ways to overcome emotional eating is to get re-acquainted with true physiological hunger and make that the only reason to eat. Observe the average 2 year old. Most of them will let you know when they are hungry and often eat a very small amount and tell you that they are full. We get disconnected from that God given mechanism of hunger and fullness when our well meaning parents demand that we “clean our plates.” Each time that we have the urge to eat we need to pause and ask ourselves if we are truly stomach growling hungry or do we just want to eat for some other reason. If we determine that we are not physically hungry, we need to find other ways to satisfy the urge to use food to handle our emotions. This concept is known as mindful or intuitive eating. When you eat mindfully you only eat when physically hungry and you do not continue to eat once you are physically full. Mindful eating takes practice but over time it can help tremendously in our weight loss efforts. Eating should not be a recreational activity. It should be a means to get fuel for the body.

Be Blessed,

Yvonne Moore

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” 3 John‬ ‭1:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬