Many of us turn to emotional eating when we're under pressure from work or our personal lives. Emotional eating can take many forms, it can be overeating or binging when you're feeling sad to fill a void inside, 'rewarding' yourself with junk food after a hard day, or yo-yo dieting that reflects how you feel about life (for example, overeating immediately after a breakup and then hitting a period of extreme dieting as a way of demonstrating that you're 'over it' or a 'new woman').
Sally Baker and Liz Hogan have put together a practical guide to figuring out addressing the underlying causes and associated emotions behind your emotional eating. In their book '7 Simple Steps to Stop Emotional Eating', they share the three main therapy tools ('Emotional Freedom Technique' or EFT, 'Percussive Suggestion Technique' or PSTEC, and Hypnotherapy) which they have used successfully with their clients, as two case studies in the book highlight...
Conquering Emotional Eating: Success Stories
Brent’s story – when he started the alternative therapy sessions he was on an NHS waiting list for a gastric band operation and weighed 337 lb. After the therapy he had lost so much weight that he didn’t need the operation.
A former rugby player, over the years Brent had put on a huge amount of weight becoming ‘morbidly obese’. This is why he was put on a waiting list to undergo a gastric band operation. The therapy helped him on several fronts. He stopped blaming and taunting himself for all the weight he had gained. In fact, such anger directed against himself gave him an excuse for not changing, as he turned himself into a helpless hostage to his weight problem. (Sounds hauntingly familiar as this was pretty much my own outlook as an obese teen!)
In the course of the therapy, he was encouraged to keep a ‘Food Diary', (in much the same way I took to using MyFitnessPal, an online food diary), so as to be more mindful of his eating habits. This also made him realise that he was drinking far too much alcohol which prompted him to reduce such quantity drastically.
In the end, Brent lost enough weight not to need the NHS operation. The practise nurse of his GP surgery stressed that by losing all the weight he had increased his life expectancy by 20%.
Emel’s story – when Emel started her treatment with Sally she weighed about 12 ½ stones, today she weighs 9 ½ stones.
One of the most harrowing cases in the book, Emel, now in her late sixties, was badly abused by her father and was brought up in a violent, cruel environment. Eating, especially eating sweet food, was for Emel a way of feeling protected and of getting the love she so utterly lacked. Later in life, binge-eating and over-eating helped her keep at bay the fears and anxieties caused by her traumatic past.
Her sessions with Sally & Liz have led her to realise that she wasn't to blame for what happened in her childhood and in the first half of her life. She was also able to acknowledge all the angst and hurt inflicted by her parents. Being able to look at her past with objectivity, gave Emel the courage and the strength to change the course of her life, and needless to add, it had a very beneficial impact on her eating habits.
Today, Emel has divorced her husband (at 17 she was forced into an unhappy and abusive marriage), she has sold her old house, and she belongs to a theatre group where she sings and acts. She has finally managed to achieve some long-overdue self-respect – of which she was stripped by the violence she experienced – and lives life to the full.
What I find so relatable in this case is Emel's is how a change in thought process (i.e. relinquishing blame for her childhood) has resulted in a whole new outlook on all areas of her life as a whole, rather than just her eating habits. It's this new confident and self respecting approach that will ensure continued success with maintaining her weight loss.
Techniques for Tackling Emotional Eating
Don't be put off by the complex sounding techniques, this book is written in a straightforward an conversational style, despite the many acronyms and jargon, which can only be expected of a psychology text. In the first chapter you'll read about the three main therapy tools and what they each mean. These techniques will be used throughout the book's 7 individual steps, accompanied by various downloadable worksheets, videos and audio tracks from the 7 Simple Steps website.
The 'Emotional Freedom Technique' or 'EFT' exercises may seem a little 'out there' at first, but if you take the time to understand the 'tapping' exercise (where you tap different parts of your body while taking brief time out to recognise your present thoughts, anxieties and breathing rate), you'll appreciate that it's not all that different from popular mindful meditation techniques embraced by many relaxation apps. it actually has a history in addressing post traumatic shock in Vietnam Veterans!
For the 'Percussive Suggestion Technique' or 'PSTEC' exercises, you'll need to download the free 'click' tracks, available to download from the 7 Simple Steps website (you'll need to register for free to access the various worksheets and audio downloads). The track itself will talk you through the technique but before you start, it's helpful to make a list of your body issues or eating issues and think of a particular memory that's uncomfortable for you, for example, a memory of being bullied at school. The click track will keep you thinking about that experience until it no longer holds any emotional impact for you.
The Hypnotherapy exercises also require that you download the various audio tracks on the website. These tracks aim to put you in a relaxed state so that you can visualise your goal, or feel fuller quick (or rather recognise the fact that you are full in the first place and just want to continue eating for the sake of it).
Essentially, this book is a therapy workbook. It'll talk you through the exercises and worksheets and direct you to the next stage, but it won't do the work for you! To benefit from this book, you'll need to be at the point of recognising that you're behaviour can, and needs to change and be willing to think deeply and analytically about the past experiences and thought process underlying the behaviour.
You can purchase 7 Simple Steps to Stop Emotional Eating from Amazon.co.uk in Kindle (£3.99) or Paperback format (£14.60)