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       Volume I - January 8, 2010

Help! I'm Overeating and I Want To Stop!
by Alice Osborne

You can tell what I’m dealing with sometimes, by what I share with you. And I figure I’m pretty average, meaning there are likely others out there with the same struggles. So since it’s that time of year again when the gorilla pull of cravings for sweet holiday foods can prove overwhelming (no matter HOW solid our commitments to eating a nutritious diet are), I thought this topic might be helpful for all of us.

I found this information on one of my favorite sites, Care2, and author Delia Quigley nails it for us. She says that while confronting holiday temptations may be more than mere mortals can endure, we create the environment that puts us right into that place we have no business being. “Your heart says no, no, while your brain says Oh what the heck, why not have just a little and then I will never eat chocolate, cookies, cake, candy, again," Delia explains. (Has this lady been following me around?) It’s those little white lies we tell ourselves that start the whole snowball rolling down hill. So Delia suggests we step out of the box and change our perspective so we can modify behavior enough to get through the holidays without too much damage to the waistline.

Here are four fairly common scenarios that illustrate why and how we overeat, and Delia’s advice on what to do about them. See if you relate to any of it — I sure do.

1. Emotional Eating: “I am really struggling with food, I’m back to my old eating habits and as a result my weight is up and my energy and self-esteem are down. I know I need to just do it, but I’m really resisting.”

Take a moment, seriously now, stop, sit down in a quiet place and ask yourself why you are resisting? Are you angry with someone? Bored with your life? Frazzled beyond the normal? Is food just placating something deeper that needs to be addressed? Answer the questions of why first, and then begin to consider some alternatives to overeating (such as dealing with the unpleasant situation, becoming more active in your life, reducing the stress and making time for yourself). Most importantly, get back into the kitchen and create some healthy body balancing meals.

2. Sugar Blues: “I just got word that I am pre-diabetic and I know it is from eating sugar and refined carbohydrates. How do I get my blood sugar back to normal?”

America, 2010, tied up with a candy cane bow and weighing in with 125 pounds of refined sugar under each belt. Sugar makes food taste good, and makes you feel good by raising your brain chemicals, serotonin and beta-endorphins to a dramatic high. Problem is what goes up, must come crashing down, producing unstable blood sugar levels with a nasty mood in the bargain. It’s best to raise your blood sugar gradually by using healthier forms of sweeteners in moderation.

It’s not necessary to go cold turkey and cut out sugar altogether, unless a medical condition demands you do so; instead, incorporate sweeteners such as DVO’s Blue Agave (my favorite on the list) organic maple syrup, unrefined honey, rice syrup, stevia and xylitol into your holiday desserts. Then bring these with you to work and/or social occasions to share with others. “Be the change you want to see in the world” may have been Gandhi speaking about peaceful resolution to conflict, but I have always understood it to mean everything that I do in my life, including the food I share with others during the holidays.

3. Work Stress: “I need to really get back on track with my eating habits. Work continues to be insane and three weeks ago we had another lay off and 14 people lost their jobs. The two absolute devils for me are decaf coffee and sweets.”

Here’s another instance when taking a moment to sit and observe your fear and anxiety can reveal some profound insights and solutions. You might begin by asking yourself what is the worst that can happen? If the worse thing is that you lose your job, can you see it as an opportunity disguised as loss? Visualize the kind of life you could create for yourself if you were not working insane hours under a constant threat of being laid off. Once you see that you can survive the worst your imagination has to offer your nervous system, can find some respite and you can stop pushing down your fears with food.

4. Pleasure-Pain: “I was sick, in pain, going through chemotherapy, and the doctor told me not to worry about what I ate, so I just let go of all my discipline and now, 30 pounds later, I feel worse than ever.”

Let’s face it, food is instant pleasure. Brain chemistry responds to this pleasure chemically, emotionally and physically within seconds of placing that morsel into your mouth. In fact, the research on chocolate alone has it increasing endorphins in the brain that mimic feelings of being in love.

The good news is that we need pleasure in our over stressed lives, the bad news is we suffer when the pleasure is removed. The cycle of desire and loss is a classic teaching in some religions. The Buddhist defines “suffering” not just as a physical pain of the body, but also the discontent our minds are afflicted with most of our waking day. The immediate pleasure of food becomes an habitual exercise in confronting our discontent. Rather than give in, let the thought of eating pass you by. A thought lasts a mere 1/25 of a second and it is only when we grab on to that fleeting thought and follow it all the way to our chocolate stash, do we allow our cravings to control us.

Finally, consider meditation. It is a powerful tool we can use to attain freedom from the habits of our minds. However, the liberation does not happen overnight. It is a matter of practice, effort, awareness and staying present to our actions that will bring about results. The greatest battles we face in life are always with ourselves, and our relationship to food is a constant reminder of how we can live with integrity in the world. When I am confronted with foods I find difficult to resist I tell myself that I am free to eat that piece of chocolate, or second helping or whatever it is that calls me so strongly, but I choose not to do so right now. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, or even an hour later, but by then the thought has passed and my mind is engaged elsewhere.

As said earlier, I think Delia has me nailed. How about you? If you struggle with overeating and an addiction to sweets, then maybe we ought to talk about it throughout this coming year and see if we can’t support one another in developing some new habits. Your thoughts? We can chat in the forum or you can email me at Let’s get a handle on this issue!

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