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Free Prevention Tool For Emotional Eaters

Have you ever decided to lose weight and eat healthy only to find one hand at the bottom of a bag of chips and the other one scratching your head?

If so, you’re not alone. Mindless and emotional eating -out of boredom or stress instead of physical hunger- is a complicated issue that can have many triggers. Many emotional eaters say that tempting situations -like seeing their favorite chocolate in the pantry- can cause them to temporarily lose sight of their health goals.

Where does temptation hide for you? Is it the chocolate ice cream in the freezer? Or the pantry that contains the pretzels? To give your healthy intentions a fighting chance, print our STOP sign and place it in the kitchen where temptation hides for you. It should be on eye-level so that you’ll see it when you’re searching for a snack.

Click for print version

Apples… Awesome To The Core

There is definitely a core of truth in the old adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. Did you know that regularly biting into an apple can help prevent cancer and even help with weight loss? Nature’s perfect candy is endlessly versatile and touts a long list of health benefits. October is National Apple Month, so we have a variety guide and recipes for you plus plenty of reasons to bite into an apple today!

Selection Tips
Most of your favorite apples are in season right now, meaning you’ll get the most health benefits and the finest flavor. For the freshest, most delicious apples, make sure you buy local where possible. The shorter the time from orchard to fruit bowl, the better!

The selection of apples in a grocery store can be daunting. Which is tart and sweet? Which is better for pies or salads? Download this variety guide from the U.S. Apple Association and you’ll always get the apple that suits your palate and purpose.

Click to download a PDF version

Health Benefits
There is a long list of studies suggesting links between apple consumption and disease prevention. Here are just a few of the possible health benefits of apples:

  • Excellent source of dietary fiber. A French study found that diets with the highest total dietary fiber and nonsoluble dietary fiber intakes were associated with a significantly lower risk of several heart disease risk factors, including overweight, elevated waist-to-hip ratio, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
  • Healthy source of antioxidants, which have been linked to disease prevention.
  • May boost weight loss. Researchers from the State University of Rio de Janeiro found that overweight women who ate the equivalent of three apples or pears a day lost more weight on a low-calorie diet than women who didn’t add fruit to their diet.
  • A growing body of evidence from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell suggests that eating apples and drinking apple juice can be beneficial when it comes to improving brain health and diminishing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Quercetin, a flavonoid found naturally in apples, has been identified as one of the most beneficial flavonols in preventing and reducing the risk of pancreatic and prostate cancer.
  • A series of studies at Cornell University have evaluated the direct effects of apples on breast cancer prevention in animals. The more apples consumed, the greater the reduction in incidence or number of tumors among test animals.
  • Research from the UK reports that children of mothers who eat apples during pregnancy are much less likely to exhibit symptoms of asthma, including wheezing, at age 5.
  • Researchers from the University of Denmark have discovered that apples and apple products could give the health of your intestines as well as your immune system a boost – by increasing the numbers of good gut bacteria.

Allan Borushek, The Calorie King, reminds readers that for calorie control, it’s best to consume your apples (and other fruits) mainly in the fresh state rather than as juice. Juicing concentrates the sugars and calories.  Example: 2-3 fresh apples makes one 8-oz glass of apple juice.

Eating fresh fruit also preserves beneficial fiber that is largely discarded by most juicers. The fiber also has a filling effect and provides greater satiety which keeps hunger at bay.

Open this PDF for more information and sources.

Recipes

With thanks to the folks at the U.S. Apple Association whom have kindly supplied information and recipes for this post.

Easy Ways To Eat More Fruit & Veggies

Vegetables & fruit provide amazing health benefits, but most of us simply don’t eat enough of them. September is ‘Fruit & Veggies – More Matters Month’ and the perfect time to find ways to increase your fruit & veggie intake. Now, we understand that you might not jump for joy to munch on carrot sticks, but there are many ways to get more fresh produce into your daily fare. It’s easy, fun and so worth it for the feel-good factor!

10 Easy Ways to Eat More Veggies

  • Toss a handfull of spinach or kale and some avocado to breakfast smoothies.
  • Add chopped mushrooms, diced bell peppers, chopped mushrooms, shredded zucchini, grated carrots, pumpkin and onion to pasta sauce, meatloaf, burger patties, casseroles and omelets.
  • Substitute a sandwich wrap or tortilla with leafy greens. Sturdy leaves like collards or kale are great for wrapping.
  • Make stuffed baked potatoes with corn kernels, green onions and diced red pepper.
  • Canned beets can be added to chocolate cake, brownies, and muffins – not only does it make the cake moist, it also adds fiber! And how about making frosting with avocado?
  • Make a salsa to accompany grilled chicken or fish using diced tomato, diced avocado, finely chopped green onions (or diced red onion), chopped chilis, and fresh cilantro.
  • Spice up a homemade turkey burger by topping with slices of onion, bell pepper, and some sweet chili sauce.
  • Remember that herbs are leafy greens too! It’s easy to grow your own herbs and they make a healthy, flavorful addition to meals. You can add cilantro to rice dishes, make a basil pesto and sprinkle dill on your salmon!
  • Try this much-healthier version of potato chips; kale chips! Lightly coat in olive oil, sprinkle with salt for a delicious snack.
  • Make your own delicious dip from mashed avocado, low-fat plain yogurt, chopped chilis, lemon juice and chopped fresh cilantro – serve with crunchy carrot sticks and crisp red pepper chunks.

10 Easy Ways to Eat More Fruit

  • Salads don’t have to be made just from veggies – try adding sliced pear, apple chunks, grapes, mango or berries.
  • Add a few handfuls of berries (fresh or frozen) into pancake batter.
  • Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on your kitchen counter or dining table.
  • Stuff apples with dates, dried apricots and walnuts and bake in the oven for a tasty dessert.
  • Freeze grapes, mango chunks and banana pieces for a cool, sweet treat.
  • Make an energizing drink by blending apple, ginger, carrot and orange.
  • Add grapes, strawberries, dried fruit, or sliced pear and apple to a cheese platter.
  • Use up overripe bananas to bake a banana loaf or muffins – add some raisins for extra sweetness.
  • Stew apples or pears and serve on breakfast cereal, or serve with low-fat yogurt and sprinkle with low-fat granola for dessert.
  • Add banana to an oatmeal breakfast. Great sprinkled with cinnamon!

10 Special Tips To Get More Fruit & Veggies Into Your Kids’ Meals

  • Involve your child in the meal preparation from recipe selection, to shopping, chopping and serving. It will make them feel involved with the foods on their plate and more interested in trying them.
  • Grow vegetables and fruit in the garden or in pots and let your children help with the gardening and harvesting. It will help them understand where food comes from.
  • Challenge your family to try a new veggie or fruit every week.
  • Use up overripe bananas to bake a banana loaf or muffins – add some raisins for extra sweetness. Or how about some bran muffins with grated zucchini and carrot? Kids love baking!
  • Canned beets can be added to chocolate cake, brownies, and muffins – not only does it make the cake moist, it also adds fiber! And how about making the frosting with avocado?
  • “Hide” chopped mushrooms, diced bell peppers, chopped mushrooms, shredded zucchini, grated carrots, pumpkin or onion to pasta sauce, meatloaf, burger patties, casseroles and omelets.
  • Stuff baked potatoes with corn kernels, green onions and diced red pepper.
  • For a healthy after-school snack, top a slice of whole-grain bread with sliced tomato, sliced mushrooms and some diced lean ham, sprinkle with a little grated cheese and broil until bubbling.
  • Add half a sliced banana or a sliced apple to a peanut butter sandwich.
  • Puree fruit and freeze it in popsicle molds for a sweet frozen treat.

Written by Wendy Post and Rawinia Gregory.

Willpower; Will It Work?

When you decide you’re going to lose those extra pounds, you’re buzzing with enthusiasm and determination. You have a salad, say no to that chocolate muffin, fueled by your newfound willpower. But as time goes on, your determination wanes and junk food somehow finds its way back onto your plate. And there you are; back where you started. Many people feel disappointed with themselves for falling off the wagon. But are they just lacking discipline? Do they just need to “toughen up” to reach their goals?

If you’ve ever been disappointed with yourself, take heart. The fact is, willpower is simply a weak ally in the war against temptation. It’s not you that lacks staying power, it’s willpower itself. But there are things you can do to stay on track when motivation wanes.

What is willpower?
Willpower is defined as “energetic determination.” It’s a state of mind born of a desire to improve or change something we do, and that can be a good thing. But it’s all too easy to treat willpower like a magic spell – just believe that your state of mind is enough to make you change behaviors or resist temptation and “poof!” all desire to eat that bag of Fritos disappears. (We wish!)

Willpower is a diminishing resource
But it doesn’t work that way. Studies testing the durability and dependability of willpower to change behaviors, to avoid temptations, or to tackle major projects have shown that willpower is a diminishing resource. Researchers at Case Western Reserve University concluded that you cannot employ willpower for too long or for too many tasks, because it does not remain constant. In fact, it weakens with use. They showed that the strength of willpower diminishes in direct proportion to how much it is used and that the more an individual relies on willpower, the less available it becomes. Given these findings, it is easy to see why the ability to consistently say ‘no’ is so short-lived.

Oh, sweet (gooey, chocolatey) memories
Willpower also fails because it can’t match up to the power of human memory. Like the memory of biting into one of mom’s chocolate-chip cookies.

When you see or smell one of your favorite foods, you are besieged with stimuli that stir up your senses and your emotions, taking you back in time to when you last sunk your teeth into that gooey chocolate-chip cookie. (And didn’t it taste goooood?)

When faced with the food you are so ardently trying to deny yourself, it’s very hard to resist the temptation to indulge, because memory overwhelms you. Willpower has some serious forces to battle with and if you rely on it for too long, it will weaken and eventually fail.

So… now what?
If you can’t rely on willpower, what can you rely on to resist temptation? The answer is so evident, that you’ll slap your forehead for not thinking of it! Here it is… drum-roll please… Limit what you allow to bombard your senses. Keep the tempting food out of your way, and you won’t have to use up your willpower resisting it. “Out of sight, out of mind” is the golden rule for avoiding diet disaster foods. It means that if it’s not in plain sight, if you can’t see it or smell it, it won’t bombard your senses and entice you into eating. Of course, you can’t avoid every encounter with tempting foods, there will always be parties and trips to the mall, but you can control what is in your house, which is statistically the most likely environment for calorie-control slip-ups.

Our advice to you is to remove all “temptation” foods from the house right away. Give that food to the neighbors, throw it in the trash, anything you can to get rid of it.

Foods to keep out of sight and out of mind include:

  • Any food that you know you can’t limit to one serving.
  • Foods that are primarily refined carbohydrates and sugar.
  • Foods that you use to manage stress or uncomfortable emotions.

If you are reluctant to get rid of certain foods because you may inconvenience the family, remember that unhealthy food is unhealthy for everybody. If you really believe that you are depriving other people in your house of cookies, candy, or junk food, they can always eat them away from the home.

If you are out and about and come face-to-face with an “out of sight, out of mind” food, then you may need to draw on some willpower to say “no”. However, remember that saying “no” is just a good habit. And the more it becomes a habit, the less you need to rely on willpower.

Ref: Peter Doskoch, Angela Priris, ‘Willpower: Why it wanes’, Psychology Today, March/April 1997

Written by Wendy Post, Anna Delany and Pat Fiducia.

Coping with Emotional Eating

Hunger doesn’t always come from the stomach; the mind can be an equally-powerful trigger when it comes to the urge to eat.

For example, many of us get “hungry” when we feel a need to ease feelings of discomfort. This sort of hunger has nothing to do with providing our bodies with energy. It is a powerful psychological hunger that takes on a life of its own and exerts control over our behavior – and it can lead to serious weight-control problems.

The good news is emotional eating can be conquered!

What is emotional eating?

When we use food in response to situations or feelings that make us feel uncomfortable or dissatisfied it’s called emotional eating. Does this scenario sound familiar to you?

You’ve had an awful day at work. A co-worker holds you responsible for a mistake you know he made and your boss wants to speak to you about it tomorrow. You are so angry about it, but you can’t argue for fear of getting fired. When you get home, you open the refrigerator. You’re not really hungry, but you feel like eating something. You look around. There are some carrots. No, you don’t want those. Celery? No, that’s not it. Ice cream? YES! Maybe you’ll have just a little. Mmmm, it’s good. Perhaps you’ll have a little more… before you know it, you’ve finished the tub!

In situations like this one, something happens while we’re eating to make us feel relief. Although we’re not consciously aware of it, for a brief moment, all bad feelings are suspended and we feel soothed.

Of course, many of us occasionally engage in eating that has nothing to do with physical hunger, but is prompted by emotions or situations. For example, on your best friend’s birthday you might eat a piece of cake to be sociable even if you are not hungry. Or when you’re feeling bored, you might treat yourself to a couple of your favorite cookies. This occasional use of food to celebrate or comfort is okay. However, if you frequently eat when stressed, bored, or upset, then your emotional eating is problematic.

Am I an emotional eater?

Almost everyone is an emotional eater of some sort, but emotional eating can be viewed on a continuum. Rare occurrences of emotional eating are not a problem, but repeat episodes do need attention, and severe emotional eating usually requires the insight and aid of an eating-disorders specialist. Viewing emotional eating on a continuum then, the question to ask is: Where do you fit in – is your emotional eating rare, occasional or constant? If you almost always use food in one or more of the following situations it is likely that your emotional eating is problematic.

  • I turn to food when I am frustrated
  • I eat after an argument
  • When I feel bad about myself I eat
  • When I am bored I eat too much
  • If I anticipate a lonely weekend I stock up on junk food
  • I keep eating even after I am full
  • When I feel unappreciated I eat lots of junk food
  • I eat when I am depressed
  • I eat when I don’t know what else to do
  • I eat junk food when I am feeling uncertain

Gaining control through fulfillment

How do you find fulfillment in your life?

Emotional eating is ultimately about a lack of fulfillment. When you are dissatisfied with your life and don’t feel worthy, you eat to fill the absence and to distract yourself from your discontent. One of the best ways to address emotional eating then is to find fulfillment and learn how to be happy with yourself and your life. Easier said than done, of course! But here are some pointers in the right direction:

  • Turn to others – Instead of always trying to meet your needs yourself, learn to ask for help. Isolation and emotional eating go hand in hand, so keep in touch with supportive friends and family and call them when you sense a bout of emotional eating might be about to happen.
  • Fake it ‘til you make it - There’s surprising power in pretending. Get out of the “I have no control” mode and get into “I do have control of my life and my eating” mode. Even if you don’t believe it at first, your behavior has a way of catching up with your self-talk and your emotional eating will be easier to control.
  • Find purpose and meaning – Make sure your life is filled with things that mean more to you than food. Maintain good friendships, take an art or music appreciation course, volunteer for a neighborhood project, campaign for a cause you believe in – anything that gives you a feeling of purpose and connects you to the rest of the world.
  • Be thankful - At the end of each day, list three things you’re thankful for. You won’t need food to feel better if you are fulfilled, have more fun, have a sense of purpose, and are aware of the small pleasures in your life.

Gaining control through understanding yourself

Simply being aware of your emotions and how they can lead to destructive eating patterns is an important step in learning to control emotional eating. Awareness begins when you get in touch with your feelings and how they relate to your eating habits. The best way to do this is to maintain a daily journal.

  • When you write in your journal, identify the situation and the feeling that makes you want to eat. For example: “When John yells at me, I feel ______.” If you can’t identify the feeling, state that, as in: “I don’t really know what I am feeling.”
  • List the foods you eat for each situation. Write down how you feel both before and after an eating episode.
  • Be aware of the physical damage of your emotional eating by writing how many calories and excess grams of fat you eat during an emotional eating episode, alongside your description of the eating episode.
  • Remember to be kind to yourself. Your journal is an opportunity to become more aware of your feelings, thoughts and actions, not an opportunity to ‘beat yourself up’ or judge yourself harshly.
  • Be sure to finish every journal entry with a positive reminder of your worth. Help to change your self-talk by writing something like: I accept myself in my entirety, just the way I am today, even though [I overate; ate compulsively etc].
  • Treat yourself as you would someone you love. Say or write: I forgive myself, I know I’m doing the best I can.

Remember that although the associations between food, comfort and security are largely unconscious, the actual decision to eat is always a conscious choice. There is always an all-important deciding moment when you make a decision to eat. Be aware of that moment and acknowledge that you are making a decision to eat or not to eat.

Gaining control through action

A bubblebath – the calorie-free comforter!

Gaining control over your emotional eating through action starts by deciding not to eat in response to a difficult emotion or situation and then by finding something else to do instead. It is helpful to have a list of instantly-effective methods of control for when your emotional “hunger” hits. You can build a repertoire of “band-aid” diversions from eating and write them in your journal. For example:

  • When I feel angry I will not eat. I will listen to some music.
  • When I feel lonely I will not eat. I will treat myself with a candle-lit bubble bath.
  • When I am worried about something, I will not eat. I will go for a walk.
  • When I am disappointed about something, I won’t eat chocolate cake. I will drink a cup of my favorite tea.

Other diversions might include calling a friend, watching a movie, gardening, or doing some housework.

Although it is important to control your eating, you don’t need to deprive yourself. Limit, but do not eliminate, some of the foods you crave. When you crave a piece of chocolate, first ask yourself if you really want it. If the answer is yes, then enjoy a few pieces. Eating balanced and good-tasting meals with enough fat, protein and carbohydrate will also help to fill you nutritionally and physiologically, and minimize cravings.

Exercise is also an excellent way to manage emotional eating. To keep weight off and calm the emotional storms that compel you to eat, try taking a daily 30-minute walk.

Through action, reflection, and awareness you can start to take control of your emotional eating and make positive steps toward finding fulfillment in your life. It’s a challenge, but you’re worth it!

Contributions by Anna Delany

July 4th – Time to Eat, Drink, Be Merry and… Count Calories?

Counting calories this Independence Day? Come on! It’s the 4th of July. Time to let loose, slosh back another beer, and buff up with beefy burgers, right?

Not so fast. Who said Independence Day was about stuffing your face like a gorilla in a banana plantation and drinking as if attached to an intravenous beer-drip? Besides feeling like a beat-up box of fizzled-out firecrackers the next day, you know your weight-control motivation will be hard to pick up again.

Then again – you don’t want to be a party-pooper either. So can you enjoy your favorite celebration foods and not go too overboard with the calories? We think so! Just a few swaps here & there and you can halve your calorie intake without even breaking a sweat! Check out these smart swaps:

Hot dogs

Usually you… Grab a pack of franks, cook, place in a bun with mustard, ketchup, onions, and relish, and eat. Not exactly an epicurean epic. The condiments don’t do you much harm, but to be frank about the frank – ouch! A teeny 2 oz wiener can pack a 180 calorie punch, with 17 grams of fat to boot (that’s over 25% of your daily fat intake). At 385 calories, 18g fat, 45g carbs, this little dog’s bite is worse than his bark.

Why not? Use low-fat wieners. Tasting is believing but there are some really, really good low-fat franks out there. For example, Healthy Choice Beef Franks have only 70 calories and 2.5 grams of fat, and (we’re willing to put it out there) they taste as good as the regular version. Turkey dogs are also a good low-fat option, though still slightly higher in calories and fat than low-fat franks. One low-fat dog with condiments totals 275 calories, 2.5g fat, and 45g carbs.

Burgers

Try a fish taco as a lower-calorie alternative to burgers

Usually you… OK, no need for details here. Patty, burger, bun, ketchup, onion equals… 433 calories, 20g fat, and 35g carbs.

Why not? Try an alternative burger recipe from the CalorieKing kitchens. Add plenty of lettuce, tomato, and onion for extra flavor, crunch, and vitamins. For an even better twist on the burger and bun, skewer some fish and vegetables, barbecue, and wrap in a corn tortilla when cooked. Add some Firecracker Salsa for a flavor boost. Average counts for one fish taco with vegetables and salsa: 250 calories, 1g fat, 28g carbs.

Baked beans

Usually you… Well, everyone’s home-grown recipe is slightly different, so in the interests of bean democracy let’s just say your July 4th beans are some version of the following: One or more heat-and-eat tins of baked beans mixed with brown sugar, molasses, ketchup, and onion powder, all boiled into a sweet, gooey brew. A half cup serving of these beans comes to 182 calories, 1g fat, and 37g carbs.

Why not? Relax and enjoy your baked beans! If you can manage to stop at a half cup serving, beans are a reasonably healthy choice. They’re an even better choice if you opt for dark beans and leave out the added sugars. Most canned baked beans already have plenty of sugar in them. If you want an even healthier alternative, try a three-bean salad or side of plain black beans.

Corn on the cob

Savor the sweet taste of grilled corn

Usually you… de-husk the cobs, pop them on the grill (no harm yet), and then (here comes the killer) butter ‘em up – with about 200 calories and 22 grams of fat! This method gets you a corny 280 calories, 23g fat, and 14g carbs.

Why not? Let the smoky barbecue flavor your corn. Believe it or not, butter smothers the naturally sweet taste of corn, rather than enhancing it. When barbecuing corn, keep in the husk or wrap in foil for a deliciously juicy cob, or de-husk and grill until golden brown for a crispier texture. Use a little salt, garlic salt, or other seasoning to further bring out flavor. If you leave the butter alone you can gnaw your corn to the cob for only 80 calories, 1g fat, and 14g carbs.

Potato salad

Usually you… put the Irish to shame with a mother of all potato salads. Potatoes by the pound, mayonnaise by the bucket, hard-boiled eggs by the hen house, a dash of mustard, some seasoning, and an obligatory string or two of celery. An average serving (1 medium potato, 3 Tbsp mayo, 0.5 hard-boiled eggs) comes to 450 calories, 36g fat, 26g carbs.

Why not? Lighten up your potato salad by using a fat-free mayo, yogurt, non-fat sour cream, or a mixture of the three instead of mayonnaise. Try using small rose potatoes with the skins on to increase the amount of fiber. You can also chop eggs into smaller pieces so you end up with less per serving. By using fat-free mayo, you’ll get down to 180 calories, 3g fat, and 35g carbs. There are also a number of excellent low-calorie potato salad recipes in the CalorieKing recipes.

Apple pie

Usually you… Start by buying fresh ingredients for the hand-kneaded crust you’re going to make and then… yeah, right! If you’re like most of us, what you really do is buy an apple pie, heat it up, and serve – disguising that store-bought look with plenty of cream and ice cream. Then you smile and say thank you when someone compliments you on your fine home cookin’. That little piece of pie, plus a dollop (or wallop) of cream, and a scoop of ice cream comes to, wait for it… 700 calories, 43g fat, and 72g carbs.

Why not? Escape to another location while everyone is chowing down on calorie, uh, apple pie and prepare for the next course… watermelon! Although you may be craving pie, once you sink your teeth into a slice of fresh, juicy, sweet, delicious, crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth, watermelon, all thoughts of… what were we talking about? Oh yes, all thoughts of apple pie will be gone. Dessert has a much friendlier face when it’s only 50 calories, 0 fat, and 12g carbs per 9 oz. slice (weight includes rind).

Grand totals

You can see the cumulative calories of a typical 4th of July menu compared to a healthier version here. Don’t forget to add any alcohol, soda, or juice calories to the totals.

Full-Calorie Menu Lower Calorie Menu
1 hot dog: 385 calories, 18g fat, 45 carbs 1 hot dog, low-fat frank: 275 calories, 2.5g fat, and 45g carbs
1 burger: 433 calories, 20g fat, and 35g carbs 1 fish taco with vegetables and salsa: 250 calories, 1g fat, 28g carbs
½ cup baked beans: 182 calories, 1g fat, and 37g carbs ½ cup baked beans: 182 calories, 1 g fat, and 37g carbs
1 corn cob with butter: 280 calories, 23g fat, and 14g carbs 1 corn cob without butter: 80 calories, 1g fat, and 14g carbs
1 serving potato salad: 450 calories, 36g fat, 26g carbs 1 serving potato salad, fat-free mayo: 180 calories, 3g fat, and 35g carbs
1 piece apple pie: 700 calories, 43g fat, and 72g carbs 9 oz. slice watermelon: 50 calories, 0 fat, and 12g carbs
Calories = 2430
Fat = 141g
Carbs = 229g
Calories = 1017
Fat = 8.5g
Carbs = 171g

Let’s Get Trigger Happy!

Do you remember the last time you were stressed, angry, or frustrated? Did you eat just because you always do when you feel that way? What about the last time you ate five of your favorite chocolate chip cookies – even when you told yourself you would just have one? And think back to the last time you were at a movie. Did you buy popcorn just because you always eat popcorn at a movie, even if you are not really hungry?

These are all examples of triggers exerting an unconscious control over you, setting off bouts of overeating. Trigger feelings, trigger foods and trigger situations can be so powerful you can almost hear them yelling “I’ve gotcha!” before you even feel you have time to stop them. However, with the right tools and strategies, they can be stopped.

Read on and learn how to recognize and control your personal triggers.

Read more :

You and your triggers

Triggers are certain foods, situations, and feelings that prompt you to overeat; they can trip you up any time, anywhere. For example, it might have always been a habit for you to eat chips when you’re stressed. This means that no matter how much weight you lose, or how healthy your regular eating habits become, there will always be a “chip-eating trigger” for you when you become stressed, unless you learn to control it.

Places, people, situations, and even seasons can trigger an eating response. For example, at the movies, you might be “triggered” to eat popcorn. When you see your mother-in-law you might automatically lunge for the cookie jar.  At Easter, it’s likely you’re “triggered” to eat chocolate.

Learning to identify and control your triggers is crucial to your weight-control success.

Everyone’s triggers are different. However, there are some fairly common ones:

Trigger foods Candy – Chocolate – Ice cream – Potato Chips – Fries
Trigger feelings Anger – Stress – Loneliness – Guilt – Anxiety – Rejection – Boredom – Helplessness
Trigger situations Watching TV – Going to the movies – Talking on the phone – Doing homework – Sitting at the computer – Reading – A relative visiting – Being home alone –

Pavlov’s dogs teach us a lesson

The Russian scientist Pavlov gave us a great example of how triggers work when he researched reflex behavior. In his research, Pavlov conducted one of the most famous experiments in the history of psychology. The strategy of the experiment was simple: a tuning fork was rung every time a group of dogs was fed. After the dogs had become accustomed to this pattern, it was rung without feeding them. It soon became clear that if the tuning fork were rung the dogs would begin to drool more than normal, even when there was no food. The dogs had learned to associate the sound of the tuning fork with food, linking a trigger (the sound) with a response (drooling). In other words, they had developed a conditioned response to a trigger.

This conditioned response is what makes you eat popcorn at a movie just because you are there, or eat certain comfort foods when you are stressed, or eat chocolate chip cookies as soon as you smell them – whether you are hungry or not. For various reasons you have either learned or are conditioned to respond to trigger foods, situations, and feelings as if you are truly hungry; you are unconsciously prompted to eat. Once you begin eating in response to a trigger, your ability to stop is very limited.

Although conditioned responses can take on a life of their own and begin to operate as if they were reflex responses, they can be undone. Unlike Pavlov’s dogs, you can think, reason, and unlearn conditioned responses; you can learn not to drool just because a tuning fork is ringing!

Stop your drooling! Turning “I’ve gotcha” into “No you don’t”

Like any behavioral change, learning how to control triggers is a process. Triggers say “I’ve gotcha!”. You need to learn how to say “No you don’t!” Here’s how:

1. Identify

First you need to identify the foods, situations, and feelings that trigger unconscious overeating for you. The best way to do this is by using a journal. You can divide it up into three sections for trigger foods, situations, and feelings, or just note everything in one place.

Write down any triggers you are already aware of and then begin to observe and record further. Notice what you eat in certain situations or places; observe the connection between specific feelings and your desire to eat certain foods; become aware of when you can’t say “no” to the second, third, or fourth helping of a food. For some people, just this awareness can be enough to control some of the weaker triggers.

Food triggers are more complex than other triggers. There are scores of associations and connections that develop from early childhood between specific foods and comfort, security, and nurturing. With trigger foods, you need to recognize and then actively break the unconscious connection between certain foods and the feeling of inner satisfaction. This often crosses over into the area of emotional triggers as well. To identify food triggers, try thinking back through your life: What have been your “comfort” foods over the years? Which foods were you taught to think of as “treats”? Which foods were “forbidden”? Which foods did you feel deprived of? Answering these questions can give you clues to what your trigger foods might be.

2. Decide

Once you have identified a number of trigger foods, feelings and situations, your next step is to decide that you are going to learn to control them. Believe in your ability to do this.

Having decided to learn to control your triggers your next decision will be which triggers to work on first. Only work on one or two triggers at a time – too much too soon is a recipe for failure. Once you realize you can master one trigger, you will have the confidence to tackle the others.

Choose triggers that exert the most control over you and which do the most damage. One way to determine which triggers do the most damage is to count the calories eaten while under the influence of that trigger. For example, if you always eat a huge bowl of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream whenever you watch TV, the damage could be upwards of 600 calories.  Another way to determine damage is to consider frequency; does the trigger eating occur rarely, some of the time, or too much of the time?

3. Stop

You cannot bargain with trigger-generated eating habits. You cannot fool yourself into believing that you can respond to triggers only when you want to.

The best way to control your triggers is to consistently stop responding to them. Not just for a day, a week or a month. Not just while you are trying to lose weight, but until you can control the conditioned eating habit – and in some cases this may mean permanently. True control means that you – not the trigger – decides where, when, and what you will eat.

If you have a problem with eating popcorn at movies, not responding to the trigger doesn’t mean you can never eat popcorn again. It means that to gain control of the trigger you should stop eating popcorn at that trigger place, each and every time you are there. You can certainly eat popcorn when you are hungry, just don’t eat it simply because you are at a movie. Similarly, you may find you can also eat your favorite chocolate chip cookies – if you can stop at one or two. Awareness of the fact they are a trigger food for you may be enough to stop you there. If not, you might have to avoid them altogether.

And remember: don’t go into a trigger zone on an empty stomach! Hunger makes you weak, physically and mentally. If you can anticipate a trigger situation or feeling, eat something healthy and satisfying beforehand.

4. Practice

Controlling triggers takes practice. Now that you have an understanding of triggers, put into effect what you have learned. Try these helpful suggestions for practicing trigger control.

To help you gain control over situational triggers try this journaling approach:

  • Write a statement describing the trigger situation. Phrase it in the past tense: “I used to eat while watching TV.”
  • Then write a statement in the present tense, describing the change: “I don’t eat while watching TV because I know that eating while watching TV is a trigger for me. It makes it hard for me to lose weight, so I choose not to eat while watching TV.”
  • Finally, think of alternatives and write them down: “If I am hungry I eat first, then watch TV. I don’t mix the two activities. Eating is one activity; watching TV is another.”

To help you gain control over trigger foods try this technique:

  • Write down what your favorite foods were as a child, a teenager, a young adult and now. Have they changed? For most people they do, which tells us that taste buds can change over time and with choice. Think about how you learned to like the taste of alcohol for example!
  • Prepare to change your food preferences. Choose one food to work on at a time; if you feel deprived of too many foods you may just decide it’s not worth the effort at all.
  • Eliminate that food completely from your life for at least two months.
  • After the two months, reassess. If you can walk away after eating that food without craving more or feeling deprived, then you can assume it poses no real threat and can be eaten in moderation. If you cannot eat it in moderation and feel “powerless in its presence”, then complete elimination of that food is really the only solution. You might reassess again later.
  • Write your decisions down in your journal: “I do not eat caramel-covered popcorn. It does not exist for me!” or “I can now eat caramel-covered popcorn in moderation. It has no control over me anymore.”

To help you gain control over trigger feelings give this a go:

  • Write down several of your trigger feelings and state why you respond to the food in that way. For example: “I eat after a stressful situation because food calms me.”
  • Then describe what happens after you eat in response to that feeling. For example: “If I eat when I am stressed, I feel worse after I eat, and the stress is still there.”
  • Then think of several appealing alternatives to eating when you get that feeling and put them in writing: “When I am stressed I will meditate.” “When I am stressed I will take a candle-lit bubble bath.” “When I am stressed I will go for a walk.” “When I am stressed I will garden.”

Remember when dealing with triggers to stay aware and think before you eat. Be conscious that you are making a decision to eat or not to eat. There is always a moment of decision and the decision maker is you.

Co-written by Anna Delany

Bye Bye Bathing Suit Blues

What is it about the thought of putting on a bathing suit that creates such a flood of obsessive and self-conscious thoughts and feelings? Just looking at one can cause panic to rise, and self-confidence to dip.

With this article’s tips on overcoming self-consciousness, we challenge you to do away with those bathing-suit blues this summer, and start feeling more comfortable in your swimwear.

So-long self-consciousness

Self-consciousness can stop a lot of fun in its tracks, whether it’s on the dance floor, at the beach, or elsewhere.

You know how it goes… when you go to put on that bathing suit, feelings of embarrassment, self-loathing, and shame all rush to the surface, leaving you longing for winter. Now maybe you don’t have the perfect beach body, but we’ll bet it’s not that bad! While some of your self-consciousness might be based on real issues, a lot of it is likely irrational and – because you are probably your own worst critic – highly exaggerated. No one else would spot that extra crinkle of cellulite that resides ¼ inch below and 30 degrees to the right of your left kneecap! They’re far more likely to be looking enviously at the good parts of you.

Next time you feel a wave of self-consciousness coming on, whether you’re in a bathing suit or not, stop and ask yourself if you’re being overly critical. Then focus on the things about your appearance that you like, just as others do.

No one else is looking (quite so hard)

Are you too critical?

The thought that “others are watching and judging” can blow your self-consciousness out of proportion. Controlling this thought is a key to getting self-consciousness under control. Next time you start to feel that all eyes are on you, just take a step back. How realistic is this perception? Is everyone really staring at you and judging you? Are you that interesting?!

The fact is, tall or short, skinny or plump, in shape or out-of-shape, most women are self-conscious – and nine out of ten of them are self-conscious in a bathing suit. So do the other eight out of ten women really look like Godzilla? Or are they, like you, just too darn self-conscious or preoccupied with outer appearances? How about looking on the bright side of the statistics: If so many women are so worried about how they look, then they’re not really looking at you!

That takes care of the women, but what about the other half of the population? Won’t the men ridicule or judge you? Actually ladies, men are generally more likely to be ogling supermodel types than criticizing those of us who aren’t a perfect size 2. And as for that extra crinkle of cellulite that resides ¼ inch below and 30 degrees to the right of your left kneecap? “What’s cellulite again?” is their most likely response.

Remember, you are your own worst critic, but that doesn’t mean everyone else has to be: Keep your oversized ogle-goggles to yourself!

Tips for taming self-consciousness

What you do with self-consciousness is up to you; ultimately, you decide how you are going to perceive yourself. And whether it’s a “my-hips-are-too-big,” a “my-butt-wobbles,” or a “my-legs-are-like-chicken-legs” criticism, there are several ways to get the belittling under control. You can:

  • Challenge the self-talk that perpetuates your self-consciousness. Is everybody really looking at and poking fun at you? Are you really that visible in the grand scheme of others’ lives? Are your thighs the worst that anyone can imagine?
  • Develop an awareness of your own filters, both the ones that obscure your good points and the ones that exaggerate your less-than-perfect points.
  • Be realistic: So what if you’re not a flawless super model? Guess what, without airbrushing neither are they!
  • Act your age. If you are comparing yourself to the way you used to look when you were 20, don’t (unless you’re 21!). Learn to fit the body you have now.
  • Take action to change what you can. If you’ve been overeating and under-exercising and it shows, start making some changes. You can eat more wisely and exercise more.
  • Accept what you can’t change. Bone structure, age, skin tone – these things are yours for keeps. Learn to accept them and focus on those things you can change.

Back to the bathing suit

With all these ideas of how to manage self-consciousness under your belt (or should we say bikini) let’s think about the practical side of getting into your bathing suit.

When shopping for a bathing suit, choose a comfortable and flattering bathing suit in the right size that doesn’t accentuate those areas that are most worrisome for you. And when you’re trying on different suits, make a conscious effort to focus on what you like about your body instead of focusing on what you dislike.

Finally, remember that – after a comfortable bathing suit – the most important thing to wear to the beach is a good attitude. Don’t dwell on the fact that the itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, yellow polka-dot bikini is not for you. You look better in what you’ve chosen – enjoy it!

Co-written by Anna Delany

It’s Time To Tackle High Blood Pressure

May is High Blood Pressure Awareness Month – and though Spring is a busy time for everyone it’s important to pause and check on our heart health. Often we don’t think about our heart heart shaped stethescopehealth until it is too late, so let’s get in the habit of tracking our numbers early.

The Toll of Cardiovascular Disease

Did you know that cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S.?  One in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day. Sobering numbers!

A key contributor to both heart disease and stroke is high blood pressure – also known medically as hypertension. It’s estimated that about 74.5 million people in the U.S. suffer from hypertension and many don’t even know it.  In addition to stroke and heart disease, this one condition is a major risk factor for other health problems such as congestive heart failure, kidney disease, blindness and even sexual impotence. As blood pressure goes up, life expectancy comes down. Read More »

Twelve Healthy Holiday Cookie Swaps

The holidays are filled with gift giving, mad dashes to parties and lots of planning to keep everything (and everyone) on track. If you are looking for a special gift how about something homemade? Bringing a cookie platter – one that has been remade to be lower fat or calorie – is sure to be a hit.

Who says tasting good can’t be healthy? Here are twelve great options with five brand new makeovers. You’re sure to find one to please you or your gift recipient.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (New)

California Raisin Oatmeal Cookies (New)

Fennel Pistachio Cookies (New)

California Walnut Breakfast Cookie Gift Jar (New)

Walnut Cookie Hearts Filled with Fig Jam (New)

Ginger Spice Biscotti

Gingerbread Men

Oatmeal Cherry Cookies

Orange Cranberry Cookies

Snickerdoodles

Thumbprint Cookies