By Patti Helsten Petrella
them. They can cause actual physical changes, such as the “mouth watering” or it may be purely a
psychological craving for food, caused by boredom, anxiety, depression or loneliness.
Many triggers escalate into binges especially during the holidays, and because everyone seems to
be binging, we don’t even see it as abnormal. Binges usually consist of overeating foods such as
cookies, cakes, candy, ice cream or even chips and dip.
These binges can be mild and occasional, or extreme and frequent. Often people are trying to
satisfy their emotional neediness with food. If binging is extreme, medical intervention is sometimes
Almost all of us have used food as a way of dealing with emotional issues, social pressure, or
situational problems. Most experts agree that most overeating is caused by emotions.
This may sound like a broken record, but you have to know yourself. You need to write down your
eating triggers, so that you will have a strategy for dealing with them. By identifying them, you can
substitute activities to distract yourself, and break the patterns that have become a habit.
Breaking these patterns will give you the freedom to lose weight, without anxiety, and give you the
power over your eating habits, rather than letting food control you.
During the holidays, it is especially important to be aware of outside influences, such as when other
people pressure you to eat. Remember that losing weight is your personal responsibility, and it is
up to you to say no. The best way to handle this is just to let them know that you are trying to watch
what you eat to lose weight, and ask for their help. If this is not comfortable, simple say, no thanks.
Physical movement is the best distraction from eating. It is hard to eat when you are actually
moving. This has the added effect of burning calories and making you more fit. Go for a walk
instead of that second helping.
Watching TV is probably the most common trigger for overeating. Most people eat half their
calories of the day in the evening. The commercials on TV are constantly telling you what food will
make your life better, even though they won’t, of course.
If you are going to watch TV, get in the habit on doing exercises while watching your favorite shows.
You will no longer be able to use the excuse that you don’t have time. If you have time to watch TV,
you have time to exercise. Plus, it will keep you from eating in front of the tube.
Some of my favorite exercises when watching TV are sit-ups, push-ups, squats, lunges, Using the
exercise bands and balls, you can include any of the exercises from lessons 5 and 6.
Another idea is to put your treadmill or stationary bike in front of the TV, and make it a habit to only
watch TV if you are exercising in some way.
The key is to break your old habits by substituting new ones. It may be difficult at first, but that is
why you must be prepared, and armed with the knowledge of your weaknesses and triggers.
Keep a food diary. This is as simple as filling out your worksheet every day. “Failing to plan is
planning to fail” absolutely applies to weight loss. One study found that dieters who planned out
their day on paper were 95 percent more likely to be successful losing weight and keeping it off.
Ask yourself these questions:
• In what situation I do usually overeat?
• What is my emotional state when I overeat?
• What is my food of choice to overeat?
• What advertising triggers my cravings?
• What are my thoughts about my overeating?
• What are some nonfood solutions to these situations?
• Will I be able to implement these alternatives to eating?
• What distractions can I use to divert my attention from my cravings?
Don’t let your failures undo your efforts. If you learn from your mistakes, they become lessons.
Lessons are important and very useful. Write down what you have learned, and use it.
Remember every time you incorporate these coping mechanisms, you undo some of the negative
eating patterns that you have established, and you reinforce some of the new healthier habits that
you are developing.
Each day is either part of the solution or part of the problem. Make today part of the solution.
This is a sample of what your food for the day might look like.
Vegetarians will substitute beans, soy products, tofu, tempeh, seitan, or other vegetable proteins
for any meat used in the sample diet.
Breakfast: Eggbeaters, vegetarian sausage link, toast made with whole grain bread, coffee
with fat-free creamer = 1 carb, 2 protein
Snack: yogurt and pineapple = 1 fruit, 1 dairy
Lunch: vegetable soup, salad, whole wheat crackers, and fruit = 2 veg., 1 fruit, 1 carb
Snack: ½ bagel with fat-.free cream cheese = 1 carb, 1 dairy
Dinner: grilled orange roughy, corn, lima beans, whole grain roll =1 protein 2 veg, 1 carb
Total = 3 proteins, 4 carbs (starchy), 4 veg, 2 fruits, 2 dairy
This is meant as a sample. We will change this daily.
For Your Spirit:
You are everything that is your thoughts, your life, your dreams come true. You are everything you
choose to be. You are as unlimited as the endless universe.
~ Shad Helmstetter