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How to Stop Emotional Eating

By Denise Foley

Did you buy six boxes of Girl Scout cookies this year because you couldn’t say no to the world’s cutest 7-year-old in a Brownie uniform? Did you take that extra helping of your sister-in-law’s whole wheat carob cake because you didn’t want to hurt her feelings? When your BFF is waffling over ordering dessert, do you agree to share it with her even though you don’t want it – and then match her bite for bite?

If you could answer yes to any of these questions, you may suffer from sociotropy – the scientific term for having the need to please others. While that might make you the right candidate to broker peace in the Mideast, excessive niceness is a recipe for excessive girth. And it’s only one of the character traits that can lead to unhappy mornings on the scale.

We all know the major triggers of emotional eating: anger, loneliness, rejection, guilt. Most of us, at one time or another, have taken out our fury on a bag of crunchy corn chips or tried to beat the blues with a pint of cookie-dough ice cream. But new research shows that certain personality types are also prone to making a frosted donut a chosen alternative to therapy. Besides the sociotrope, there’s the thrill seeker and the worka-choco-holic – and each type needs different strategies for coping without the extra calories.

The People Pleaser: You Eat for One, But It’s Not You

In a recent experiment at Case Western Reserve University, researchers screened volunteers for their “gotta be nice” qualities, then invited them to a meeting with a staff member (actually an actor) who casually passed around a bowl of M&M’s. When the bowl came their way, students who’d scored higher on the sociotropy scale dug in, taking more than the students who were less concerned with others’ comfort or with matching how many the actor ate. “They didn’t want him to feel bad by eating fewer,” explains study head Julie Exline, Ph.D.

We often eat more when we’re around those who are eating a lot – that’s one reason studies show that people whose friends are overweight are more likely to be heavy themselves. “Then, if you have a people-pleasing thing going on top of that, you’ll feel even more pressured to follow others,” says Exline.

After overeating comes depression, and not just because you can’t zip your jeans. “When your motivation is to please other people, you’re letting them tell you what’s important to you,” says Exline. “I describe it as ‘silencing your own voice.’ ” The goal, then, to avoid piling on those unpleasing pounds, is to find that voice.

1. First, Consider What You Want 
If you’re not truly hungry, “Lay on praise, then state your boundary,” suggests Karen R. Koenig, a psychotherapist and author of Nice Girls Finish Fat. You might say, “Those pastries look delicious, but I’m so stuffed from lunch that I’m going to take a pass.” You can smile at that cute Brownie, give her the money for two boxes of cookies, then ask her to donate them to troops overseas. 

2. De-nice Yourself…A Little 
Of course, you’re going to be fighting an enemy that has outposts in your head, as writer Sally Kempton famously said. Even if you were the biggest tomboy on the block, you probably grew up believing that caretaking was in your future, if not somewhere in your genes. “But changing isn’t as hard as you may think,” says Koenig. “It’s really about learning a new life skill.”

Practice saying a (polite) no to the salesperson on the phone (start with the robocaller if you’re a tough case), then work your way up to strangers offering samples in a store and coworkers tempting you with holiday goodies. After that, you’ll be ready to take on your cousin when she pushes a second helping of pie at you.

Are you eating out of boredom? The Thrill Seeker: You’re Bored and Want Candy

What you probably want is a jolt of dopamine, says Susan Carnell, Ph.D., research associate at New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital. That’s the brain chemical that drives excitement, pleasure, and motivation – including the motivation to eat. “The dopamine system evolved with the very purpose of making adaptive things like eating feel rewarding so we wouldn’t forget to do them.”

These days, says Carnell, drugs, thrill seeking, and food cravings have hijacked the brain’s reward system, leading to addiction, accidents, and overeating. Recent studies have found that ingesting sugary, fatty foods sparks dopamine production in the brain in much the same way drugs like heroin do, lighting up the neural reward center in imaging studies. “It’s just a matter of degree,” says Carnell. “Food gives a relatively mild high compared to skydiving and heroin. But it’s the easiest route to reward.”

Surprisingly, there’s not a lot of research on boredom eating, but a small 2011 Bowling Green State University study hints at how prevalent it is. In the study, 139 young men and women reported eating out of boredom more than out of other states of emotion linked to overindulging, such as anxiety or depression.

Older studies, approaching boredom from a slightly different direction, have suggested a connection between having what scientists call a “novelty-seeking personality” and being overweight. In a review from Washington University in St. Louis, obese people were more likely than thinner folks to be novelty seekers; they also had great trouble dropping pounds. One reason: Being high in novelty-seeking can make you more likely to overeat as well as to try and enjoy drugs. Cocaine, a cupcake – it’s all the same when you’re looking for a kick.

Joking aside, if your life seems like one big yawn, there are things to do other than hitting the fridge.

1. Seek Out a Thrill 
Make a list of activities that can fill in the boring blanks. “To stimulate your neural circuitry, it has to be something that makes you feel excited and motivated,” says Carnell. You could, for example, take a class. Dopamine is the chemical that fosters learning and memory, so the novelty of doing something new scatters the chemical throughout your brain. Whether it’s knitting or scuba diving depends on you and the level of excitement you think you need.

2. Shake Up Your Life Regularly 
Get off the bus at a different stop and hoof it the rest of the way to work, checking out the sights you’ve only seen from a window. Plan your dream vacation or home-remodeling project in detail, as if you’re doing it soon. Need to lose weight? A single program may not help you, particularly if you get bored counting calories, carbs, or points. So try one and, after the thrill’s gone, try another. Likewise, alternate physical activity – walking one day, Zumba the next.

Busy lives can contribute to weight gainThe Worka-choco-holic: You’re Overworked, Overwhelmed – and Overeating

Those are the “three O’s” that are the downfall of driven women, says psychologist Melissa McCreery, Ph.D., which explores how women’s busy lives contribute to emotional eating and weight gain. The “O’s” can all lead to stress eating. “But there’s more to it than stress,” says McCreery. “Women who balance many responsibilities struggle with putting themselves first. It takes time. Food is an easy Band-Aid, while real self-care can be more time-intensive.”

But solutions come in many sizes – and even small changes may be enough to avoid the extra pounds that can come with extra work.

1. Think “Doable” 
You don’t want to add more stress to your life. For example, take five minutes to transition between work and home. If you know you won’t find quiet – everyone will be “starving” or clamoring to tell you about his or her day – sit in the car and listen to music or meditate before going into the house.

2. Connect With Yourself 
When you’re stressed, take five again – five seconds – before digging into the Nutella. “Ask yourself what’s going on and if there’s anything else you want to do besides eat,” says McCreery.

Make a list of small breaks that don’t involve chewing: calling a friend; playing a game on your cell phone; tossing a toy for your dog.

3. Say It Out Loud 
A recently published Greek study found that people who were trying to learn a new skill did better when they spoke to themselves using cue words. When you’re stressed, voicing your plan to do something other than eat – “I’m going to sit down and read for five minutes” – will change the direction of your thoughts, says McCreery. “It takes you off autopilot and puts you more in control.”

If that doesn’t work, instead of blaming yourself, be curious. Think about what went wrong and what you could do next time. Overachievers are smart; harness your own wisdom, and you’ll find your answers there.

Getting enough sleep can deter emotional eatingGo to the Mattress

No matter what your personality, if you’re tired, you’ll be tempted to look for a quick hit of energy – the kind that lives in vending machines or behind drive-through windows. Many of us know this from life experience, but now, using brain-imaging technology, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, have confirmed that people who have been sleep-deprived suffer impairment in the parts of the brain involved in making appropriate food choices. The solution: Make sleep time sacrosanct. When you can’t log enough hours, try these next-day tricks: Give your brain a rest every 45 minutes or so. “No matter how busy you are, you’ll be more productive if you take breaks,” says psychologist Melissa McCreery, Ph.D. And find other quick ways to boost energy – move around, go outside for some fresh air, or listen to upbeat music on your iPod.

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Doctor: Parents should lose custody of obese kids

Photo credit: AP | Stormy Bradley, left, and her daughter Maya, 14, are seen, in Atlanta. Maya, who is 5'4" tall and weighs about 200 lbs., is part of an anti-obesity ad campaign in Georgia. (July 11, 2011)

CHICAGO (AP) — Should parents of extremely obese children lose custody for not controlling their kids’ weight? A provocative commentary in one of the nation’s most distinguished medical journals argues yes, and its authors are joining a quiet chorus of advocates who say the government should be allowed to intervene in extreme cases.

It has happened a few times in the U.S., and the opinion piece in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association says putting children temporarily in foster care is in some cases more ethical than obesity surgery.

Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Harvard-affiliated Children’s Hospital Boston, said the point isn’t to blame parents, but rather to act in children’s best interest and get them help that for whatever reason their parents can’t provide.

State intervention “ideally will support not just the child but the whole family, with the goal of reuniting child and family as soon as possible. That may require instruction on parenting,” said Ludwig, who wrote the article with Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and a researcher at Harvard’s School of Public Health.
“Despite the discomfort posed by state intervention, it may sometimes be necessary to protect a child,” Murtagh said.

But University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Art Caplan said he worries that the debate risks putting too much blame on parents. Obese children are victims of advertising, marketing, peer pressure and bullying — things a parent can’t control, he said.

“If you’re going to change a child’s weight, you’re going to have to change all of them,” Caplan said.
Roughly 2 million U.S. children are extremely obese. Most are not in imminent danger, Ludwig said. But some have obesity-related conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, breathing difficulties and liver problems that could kill them by age 30. It is these kids for whom state intervention, including education, parent training, and temporary protective custody in the most extreme cases, should be considered, Ludwig said.

While some doctors promote weight-loss surgery for severely obese teens, Ludwig said it hasn’t been used for very long in adolescents and can have serious, sometimes life-threatening complications.

Should Parents Lose Custody of Obese Kids?

“We don’t know the long-term safety and effectiveness of these procedures done at an early age,” he said.
Ludwig said he starting thinking about the issue after a 90-pound 3-year-old girl came to his obesity clinic several years ago. Her parents had physical disabilities, little money and difficulty controlling her weight. Last year, at age 12, she weighed 400 pounds and had developed diabetes, cholesterol problems, high blood pressure and sleep apnea.

“Out of medical concern, the state placed this girl in foster care, where she simply received three balanced meals a day and a snack or two and moderate physical activity,” he said. After a year, she lost 130 pounds. Though she is still obese, her diabetes and apnea disappeared; she remains in foster care, he said.

In a commentary in the medical journal BMJ last year, London pediatrician Dr. Russell Viner and colleagues said obesity was a factor in several child protection cases in Britain. They argued that child protection services should be considered if parents are neglectful or actively reject efforts to control an extremely obese child’s weight.

A 2009 opinion article in Pediatrics made similar arguments. Its authors said temporary removal from the home would be warranted “when all reasonable alternative options have been exhausted.”

That piece discussed a 440-pound 16-year-old girl who developed breathing problems from excess weight and nearly died at a University of Wisconsin hospital. Doctors discussed whether to report her family for neglect. But they didn’t need to, because her medical crisis “was a wake-up call” for her family, and the girl ended up losing about 100 pounds, said co-author Dr. Norman Fost, a medical ethicist at the university’s Madison campus.

State intervention in obesity “doesn’t necessarily involve new legal requirements,” Ludwig said. Health care providers are required to report children who are at immediate risk, and that can be for a variety of reasons, including neglect, abuse and what doctors call “failure to thrive.” That’s when children are severely underweight.

Jerri Gray, a Greenville, S.C., single mother who lost custody of her 555-pound 14-year-old son two years ago, said authorities don’t understand the challenges families may face in trying to control their kids’ weight.

“I was always working two jobs so we wouldn’t end up living in ghettos,” Gray said. She said she often didn’t have time to cook, so she would buy her son fast food. She said she asked doctors for help for her son’s big appetite but was accused of neglect.

Her sister has custody of the boy, now 16. The sister has the money to help him with a special diet and exercise, and the boy has lost more than 200 pounds, Gray said.

“Even though good has come out of this as far as him losing weight, he told me just last week, ‘Mommy, I want to be back with you so bad.’ They’ve done damage by pulling us apart,” Gray said.

Stormy Bradley, an Atlanta mother whose overweight 14-year-old daughter is participating in a Georgia advocacy group’s “Stop Childhood Obesity” campaign, said she sympathizes with families facing legal action because of their kids’ weight.

Healthier food often costs more, and trying to monitor kids’ weight can be difficult, especially when they reach their teens and shun parental control, Bradley said. But taking youngsters away from their parents “definitely seems too extreme,” she said.

Dr. Lainie Ross, a medical ethicist at the University of Chicago, said: “There’s a stigma with state intervention. We just have to do it with caution and humility and make sure we really can say that our interventions are going to do more good than harm.”

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The Reason Why Gastric Bypass Surgery Doesn’t Work

Why gastric bypass surgery doesn't work

by Lisa Tisdall

Gastric bypass surgeries are temporary physical fixes to a long term mental/emotional problem! If you think the surgery is a cure-all, think again. The crazy thing is some people are gaining more weight on purpose so they can qualify to even be considered for the surgery. How sick is that?

My aunt had gastric bypass surgery last year. She was so excited about the new body she was going to have after the surgery. She just couldn’t wait for her new life to begin. This was an answer to her prayers. So she thought!

Up until then, my aunt had not exercised a day in her life. She never followed a sensible eating plan, nor did she want to. By the looks of them, none of my family had ever sacrificed anything in the way of food. The doctors had filled her head with “results” that were only possible, not even probable. Her children were totally delusional about their mom’s weight and had danced around the issue so much that my aunt was in total denial. And guess what? True to form, she gained the weight back in eight months. Why?

The answer: you can’t build a house on a foundation made of sand. If you don’t deal with what is underneath the surface of your emotional behavior toward eating and exercise, you will go right back to the beginning, no matter what you take out or do to your body. Surgery or no surgery, there is no cure-all for being overweight. However, there is a solution — do you want to hear it? Here it is:

  1. Decide how you are motivated.
  2. Determine your underlying reasons for your eating and exercise behaviors or lack thereof.
  3. Develop the best support system to promote your own personal success.
  4. Deal with the emotions behind your eating patterns.
  5. Dedicate yourself to an exercise program.

Maybe the surgery works in the short run. And maybe that will buy you some time and give you some inspiration to start exercising and eating better. However, surgery is not a means to an end! It doesn’t change your head; it only changes your stomach. If you do decide to have the surgery, please understand that without deep changes in your thought process and exercise habits, the gastric bypass surgery “results” will not stick.

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Need help creating a workout plan for your specific weight goals and health needs? Consult with DrAkilah El and get your new Calorie Burning Workout Regimen TODAY!!! http://www.celestialhealing.net/weightlossintro.htm

10-year-old Fitness Guru Known as The “Workout Kid” Turns Heads

Yesterday I did an article about an elder taking the fitness world by storm. Now it’s time to show you the youngest. Meet C J Senter

C.J. Senter may or may not be the next Tony Horton or the next Barry Sanders, but he is definitely the next 10-year-old to watch.

Granted, when most people hear “child prodigy,” they rightfully raise an eyebrow and wonder who is pulling the strings. Add a workout DVD by a fourth-grader with sculpted muscles to the mix and “cute” can turn to “concerning.” But it turns out the story behind “C.J. The Workout Kid” is a lot more inspiring than insidious.

C.J. started working out five years ago when his football coach told him and his teammates to go home over a weekend and get some exercise. He did some push-ups and sit-ups and loved it. Not too long after, he saw a P90X infomercial and loved that too. He’s been working out ever since. C.J. does his own routines three times a week, after school and homework, and he’s given new names to some old and boring moves, like the burpee, which involves a squat, push-up, and jump. C.J. calls that one the “shredder.” He even teaches a class of (mostly older) kids at the gym near where he lives in Locust Grove, Ga.

“It feels great,” C.J. says by phone from his Georgia home. “I love staying fit and healthy.”

But wait a minute. Research shows kids shouldn’t be touching weights until at least age 15.

“I don’t use weights,” C.J. says.

Not even bench press?

“I don’t bench press,” he says. “It’s not good for kids.”

Surely he’s on some insane diet, right? His dad feeds him wheat grass and cow brain, perhaps?

“I’m not on a diet,” C.J. says. “I eat everything.”

Disbelieving? So is Carlos Senter — C.J.’s dad. Carlos has spent most of his son’s life in shock, ever since C.J. somehow climbed out of his crib — at seven months old.

“It was two, three o’clock in the morning,” Carlos says, “and boom! My wife would go look in his room and here he comes, crawling out. He would go into the refrigerator, too.”

Carlos can’t quite figure out how his son got to be so fit. He says his relatives put on muscle easily, but not this easily. C.J. has an older brother and a younger sister who don’t really love sports as much. And Dad isn’t exactly chiseled like Terrell Owens. In fact, he admits C.J.’s work ethic has shamed him and his wife into getting into better shape.

“He doesn’t really eat candy,” Carlos says. “I have no idea why.”

And for that matter, Carlos has no idea why his son doesn’t have an attitude. “This kid will score a touchdown, take the football to the ref and act like nothing ever happened,” Carlos says. “If it was me, well, I probably would be a little different.”

But as much as the “Workout Kid” routine is working — C.J.’s DVDs are in so much demand that his dad hired a PR rep — Carlos says he gives most of the DVDs away for free and the primary objective is to help kids get off the couch.

C.J.’s primary objective has always been the same thing: make it to the NFL. He’s a running back and safety, modeling his game after another C.J. — Titans speed demon Chris Johnson.

C.J.’s already been named MVP for the state of Georgia as an 8-and-under, and last year he played in the 10-and-under group as a 9-year-old. Carlos says that the team run by former NFL running back Jamal Lewis expressed interest in having C.J. commute to Atlanta to join up, but the drive was simply too far.

High school coaches are already aware of C.J., but Carlos, who runs a local barber shop, insists on not looking too far ahead.

“As long as he’s happy,” Carlos says, “I’m happy.”

C.J. does seem happy, even though he’s a little bit tired of when kids come up to him at school and ask, “Are those your real muscles?”

The next generation of Atlanta prep football players is about to find out.

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The Real Reason For Weight Gain

Over the past several decades Americans have steadily gotten fatter. Although our increasingly sedentary lifestyles are partly to blame, a big reason for our national weight gain is that we’re simply eating more.

In the mid-2000s, government surveys show, the average American adult ate about 2,375 calories per day, nearly one-third more than he (or she) did in the late 1970s. What accounts for all those added calories?

According to a new study, the biggest single contributor to the sharp rise in calorie intake has been the number of snacks and meals people eat per day. Over the past 30-odd years, the study found, Americans have gone from consuming 3.8 snacks and meals per day to 4.9, on average—a 29 percent increase.

The average portion size has increased, too, but only by about 12 percent. And, surprisingly, the average number of calories per 1-gram serving of food (known as “energy density”) actually declined slightly over that period, which suggests that calorie-rich food has played a relatively minor role in our expanding waistlines.

“The real reason we seem to be eating more [calories] is we’re eating often,” says the lead author of the study, Barry Popkin, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “The frequency of eating is probably, for the average overweight adult, becoming a huge issue.”

Popkin blames food advertising and other marketing for the shift from three square meals a day to near-constant eating.

“It’s all about making people think they want to have something in their hands all the time,” he says. “Why are we snacking all the time and munching all the time? [Food] is there, it’s available all the time, it’s tasty. It’s not very healthy, but it’s tasty. It’s sweet, it’s salty, it’s fatty—it’s all the things we love.”

Lisa Young, Ph.D., an adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University and the author of The Portion Teller, agrees that the ubiquity of snack foods has helped drive overeating.

“You never used to see food staring you in the face when you went to…a drugstore,” says Young, who was not involved in the new research. “It’s in your face and it’s cheap. You go get a magazine, you can get a candy bar.”

To tease apart how eating habits have shaped calorie intake, Popkin and a coauthor analyzed data from four nationally representative food surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 1977 and 2006. Their analysis, which appears in the June issue of the journal PLoS Medicine, was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

The findings weren’t entirely unexpected. In a previous study, Popkin and his coauthor found that the amount of time between snacks and meals has shrunk substantially since 1977, while the amount of calories consumed from snacks has risen dramatically.

Christopher Gardner, PhD, the director of nutrition studies at Stanford University’s Prevention Research Center, in Palo Alto, Calif., says that although the new findings ring true, the survey-based approach Popkin and his colleague used has some inherent limitations.

Despite being nationally representative, the surveys didn’t follow the same individuals over time, and in some cases also used different questions and methods, Gardner points out. Moreover, they relied on the participants’ memory of what they’d eaten in the previous 24 hours, which can be unreliable.

“When people try to describe the portion sizes they are consuming, they are often inaccurate,” Gardner says, adding that similar inaccuracies may crop up when recalling and calculating the energy density of specific foods. In fact, he says, the number of meals and snacks may be easiest of all to remember and track, which may have somewhat exaggerated its importance to total calorie intake.

But Gardner, too, says that frequent—and often mindless—snacking has come to seem normal.

In our food-filled environment, Young says, “We need to be conscious of when we eat, how much we eat, and what we eat.”

Young recommends sticking with three meals a day and choosing healthy snacks (such as fruits and vegetables) rather than processed foods. “And keep your portions in check,” she says.

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