Many studies affirm what any failed dieter knows well: stress is a trigger for the consumption and overconsumption of calorie-dense, usually nutrient-weak foods. When we are stressed, we lose control of our ability to say “no” to unhealthy choices and it’s harder to stop when we feel full.
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If snacking is just driven not by hunger or a desire to taste chocolate chip cookies, but by an individual’s emotional need, as it so often is, then a relaxed, restrained, Zen-like approach to selecting snacks may be difficult to achieve.
Anyone who has eaten when frustrated, angry, bored, worried, exhausted, lonely, or depressed—but not hungry—has engaged in emotional eating
(So that makes most of us.) And for most, the food eaten is less likely to be steamed broccoli, poached chicken breast, or fat-free yogurt and far more likely to be a member of the so-called carbohydrate junk food family.
As I was walking past the Vitamin section of CVS, I heard the word serotonin pass between a young man and a saleswoman. “I can’t find any 5HTP on the shelf,” he was telling her, “…You know, the stuff that makes serotonin? I need some for stress!” She peered at the supplement stocked shelves and nodded. “We must be all out,” she responded. “But there is a health food store a few blocks away. Maybe they have some.”
To Sally (not her real name), who wrote to me recently about her 100-pound weight gain after being given antidepressant medications for fibromyalgia, the recent study carried out by a group from the Massachusetts General Hospital will come as a surprise.
Dieting may be the traditional method for losing weight. Yet more and more obese individuals are giving up counting calories and measuring their food and instead are turning to surgery. Advances in bariatric surgery over the past 10 or so years has made possible a relatively short, simple operation to turn the pouch-like stomach into a skinny sleeve that holds no more than 2 to 7 ounces of food.
My generally friendly and calm neighbor was heard complaining about the number of dogs in our building. His comments seem strange, seeing that he once had a dog himself and was often seen petting the dogs of other owners. “Be tolerant of him,” whispered another neighbor. “He just stopped drinking and has the bad mood that goes along with alcohol withdrawal.”
The woman who came to see me for weight loss, let’s call her Ann, was about 40 pounds overweight and frustrated, in her words, by, “…a lifetime of weight loss followed by weight gain.” Her problem, she thought, was that when she felt hungry she liked to eat protein because it filled her up. But then she still wanted to eat carbohydrates even though she was full from the protein.