Roger Gould, M.D.  

Specialties: Mental Health, Wellness, emotional eating

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Emotional Eating: What Your Closet Says About You

Jul 09, 2014 - 3 comments

emotional eating


Weight Loss

"Thinking instead of eating." This is the mantra we often refer to, and work consistently on, in the Shrink Yourself Program. And it really is the foundation on which lasting weight loss and emotional eating control are built.

It sounds simple enough, doesn't it? Four words. Replace one action with the other. Then put into practice.

Why, then, are so many of us not doing it?


I've been around long enough to know that "thinking instead of eating" doesn't last 24/7, and that as human beings, we will all have our moments of weakness. The point to realize, though, is that once you cross that mental threshold, once you actually put into action "thinking instead of eating" a few times, it won't be lost, and you'll always be able to come back to it and strengthen it.

Think about that for a moment. By completing this task just a few times and experiencing the calm self-assuredness that comes with it, you'll now be able to keep it within your grasp for the next time.

In short, your mind will have seen a new way to look at food, and new habits will be ripe to be born.

String that together, say, once-a-day...maybe five-times-a-week..even thirty-times-a-month, and suddenly you've got a lot of avoided binges under your belt. A lot of candy left in the wrapper. A lot of unwanted pounds avoided.

And it all comes down to one simple word...



"I started cleaning my closet and giving away the clothes I would never wear, and plan to buy clothes that fit, after I lose all the weight I want to lose."

This "closet story" is one I've heard countless times over the years. And it usually arrives in someone's mind once they experience the power of "thinking instead of eating."

Your closet is a powerful place to define your intention. By looking in there, you see the complete history of your weight fluctuations. In there, you make the decision about what to wear, what to save and what you hope to wear.

Your closet can say, "I really don't believe I can ever be in control of myself and lose the weight I want." Or it can say, "I've experienced the confidence that thinking instead of eating provides, and I'm now making room for my better self."

Either way, the closet can be a physical manifestation of your intention. A place to set your goal into action.


Throughout all of this I make every effort to stress the word "experience." Like anything, I can sit here and prattle on about how powerful and wonderful something may be. But, just like driving a car for the first time, or falling in love for the first time, the power of the experience can only be measured by the person experiencing it.

My words can do none of it any real justice.

And so I hope you'll take a chance on yourself and pause long enough the next time you're tempted to binge in order to experience "thinking instead of eating."

The Pocket Hunger Coach is a wonderful tool to help you do just that.

This is Driving Your Emotional Eating, No Doubt About it

Jul 02, 2014 - 1 comments

emotional eating


weight control

Emotional eating is the single biggest cause of obesity. And doubt is one of the primary emotions driving that.

When doubt arises in you, you feel a sense of powerlessness. It's an awful feeling, a sense that this problem is far bigger than you, and so naturally you do the one thing that brings you relief from the doubt-monster...

You eat.

So, what is this doubt exactly? In a nutshell, it's doubt about your own self-worth.

What You Doubt About Yourself

Over the last three-decades I've come across some very specific examples of self-doubt with patients. Perhaps you can identify with some of these:

Doubt about whether...

    You are good enough.

    You are fake or not.

    You love enough.

    You are smart enough.

    You are pretty enough.

    You are perfect or talented or ambitious enough.

    You are kind enough.

    You are too jealous or competitive.

    You are a good enough daughter or sister.

The essence of doubt comes from you measuring and comparing yourself to some standard. Something you've come to view as an appropriate benchmark. Half of this doubt turns out to actually be good (it doesn't make you eat); the other, not so good.

Good Doubt

Good doubt uses a standard that's based in reality. It keeps you striving in a positive and healthy manner. e.g. "Have I put in enough preparation for my upcoming test?" or "Perhaps I could've spent more time listening to my husband last night" or "I may not have performed at my best at work yesterday."

Good doubt signals us to put in more effort so that we might become better at something worthwhile. It also allows for natural lapses and failings, timeouts for leisure and fun, and is an essential part of ongoing intelligent decision making.

Bad Doubt

Bad doubt uses a standard that's based completely in your mind. A part that's disconnected from the processes of daily life. Perfectionism is an excellent example. The reality is that it's impossible for a human being to be perfect, and therefore an impossible standard to meet. You're beaten before you even start.

Ironically, the tendency is that, once you've established deep self-doubt based on something like perfectionism, you tend to grow and nurture it everyday by continuing to strive for it. For example...

I once treated a woman who'd been repeatedly told she was stupid by her father. She was telling me about how she became an accountant and how that proved to her that she was really stupid. She took night-school classes and graduated top of her class despite the fact that she was 40, raising a child, working full-time and English was her second language.

When I asked her how this was evidence that she was stupid, she said, "I'm hard of hearing, so I had to sit in the front row, but didn't hear everything, so I may have missed things."

Naturally, I was stunned; she overcame yet another hardship, demonstrating her considerable natural intelligence, only to turn it into evidence to support the "stupid" label her father had given her 35-years earlier.

Her deep self-doubt was simply this: If I'm not perfect, then I must be stupid.

Your Choice

When you engage in emotional eating to find relief from self-doubt, you simply create another layer of self-doubt to add to your pile: You now doubt your willpower to ever control your weight.

And, unfortunately, this will continue until the day you decide to find relief in a new and healthy way.

That new and healthy way is something we work hard on in the Shrink Yourself Program. It's a way that doesn't involve striving for impossible standards. And it's a way that promotes loving yourself, bit by bit, more and more each day to keep the self-doubt monster at bay.

As always, the choice, and therefore the power, lies completely in your hands.

Emotional Eating And The 10-Seconds That Can Change Your Life

Jun 27, 2014 - 0 comments

emotional eating


compulsive eating

Do you conduct your life reacting to situations based on impulse? That immediate feeling that floods your senses, convincing you that you're right, that you've got all the facts, and on which you base your next decision?

You're not alone.

Life is about choices. Decisions. And when the choices you make continually arise out of impulse, the results tend to leave you with undesirable results—or, put plainly—a life littered with dissatisfaction.

That dissatisfaction can apply to many areas of your life, but today we'll look at how it applies to your eating and your weight. I'm guessing you can already see the connection between impulsive reactions and emotional eating. But more on that in a minute.

The simple skill of providing yourself the space to think is one of the most valuable you can acquire. It's no accident that we're told to count to ten when faced with stressful situations. And, as cliched as the technique might sound, it's actually very powerful and highly effective.

Don't believe me? Try it.

"The Pause" is one of the key skills we work on in the Shrink Yourself Program, and is all about freeing you to access your intelligent mind. I like to think of your intelligent mind as the pearl (wisdom) and your impulses as the hard-as-a-rock clam shell not wanting to budge in allowing you access to the pearl.

Sure, you're going to have to do a little work and use some elbow grease to pry open the shell, but that's how wisdom is gained. And wisdom leads to wise decisions, which leads to positive results, which leads to satisfaction and ultimately happiness.

Let's apply this to emotional eating. The simple truth of the matter is this:

If you do not pause and think, it will be next to impossible to get control of your eating habits. Period.

If you don't engage your intelligent mind, and instead choose to react out of impulse to the stresses in your life, you'll continue to feel out of control and you'll continue to use food as a form of medication.

The potato chips instead of the growth.

Let's stop and highlight one very powerful word in all of this: "Choose."

Yes, you can choose to pause and think the next time you're stressed; or you can choose to ignore the technique and face the consequences. The results are yours to decide.

I'm not saying that the choice is necessarily easy. That's why it takes a little work. But I'm certainly saying that it is yours to make, and that each time you make a wise choice, the new pattern is reinforced, and the old pattern is weakened.

In other words: the clam shell is pried open more and more till the great pearl is finally exposed. Permanently.

Here's how one ShrinkYourself member put it:

"Every time I am successful at awareness of, and stopping compulsive eating, it builds up my self esteem and makes me stronger for the next time it comes up. I have had so many great insights from the program! And I know it is all up to me. I can feel my feelings and I can face reality, that is what it is to be an adult. I now feel like I am living as a mature adult. Before dealing with my food issues, I felt good in other areas of life, but this food issue kept me confused and feeling powerless. Now I know I can control it. I know I can look at it realistically and find real solutions to my uncomfortable feelings or just feel the feelings. The food never helped anyway! The eating just prolonged my suffering and then added to it by making food another issue to feel bad about."

Another great word to consider in all of this discussion is "potential." Your potential as a human being, and for the life that lays ahead of you.

Emotional eating may add layers of unwanted pounds to your body, but perhaps the more devastating effect it has is on your potential as a human being. Choosing to eat instead of think only denies your intelligent mind its opportunity to go to work. To help you grow. To help you realize your true potential.

And to my mind, that's far too great a price to pay.

How to Stop an Emotional Eating Episode (Part 3)

Jun 18, 2014 - 1 comments

emotional eating


binge eating

Once you've become familiar with your own catastrophe predictions it's time to go about debunking them for what they really are: fiction. In this blog post I'll illustrate how to safely examine your catastrophe predictions—instead of run away from them—in order to prove that they aren't actually going to happen.

This will leave you equipped to handle future adverse events without having to turn to food, and thereby equip you to stop an emotional eating episode.

To begin with, let's map out how the catastrophe prediction process works in your life. It goes something like this:

    Something happens.

    Intense feelings arise in you.

    Your intense feelings turn into a fear/panic that something bad is going to happen (like you're going to fall apart).

    You interrupt your fear/panic by eating.

    By interrupting your fear/panic, you never examine it—you simply reinforce it. Over and over again.

It's a worn out, vicious cycle that blocks any chance of you ever learning a better way to deal with your intense feelings. And, honestly, who wants that limitation in their life?

The key to breaking this cycle, then, begins with the realization that you DO have other options besides eating. And after more than thirty-years as a psychiatrist I can safely say that most people have within them a mature response to handling the stressors in their life with wisdom rather than impulse.

It's simply a matter of quieting your mind to allow that to happen.

Reinterpreting the Rubbish

Based on the four triggers that can spark difficult feelings—events, relationships, unprovoked feelings and self-doubts—I'm going to illustrate how you can reinterpret your catastrophe predictions by using the following examples.

I'll Fall Apart

When I'm dealing with my sick parent it makes me feel exhausted. On the drive home from the hospital I start to think that it's just too much for me to handle and that I'll fall apart. Consequently, when I get home, I can't stop myself from binge eating.


I stop and analyze my catastrophe prediction. I realize that it certainly is a lot for me to handle right now, but that it's not going to be this way forever. And when I do this, the urge to eat decreases.

I'll Lash Out

When I feel rejected by my boyfriend, it makes me feel angry and jealous of my sister who happens to be happily married. I'm afraid I'll lash out at her. And it's this combination of anger and jealousy that drives me to eat. I eat so that angry words won't come out of my mouth.


I stop and analyze my catastrophe prediction. I realize that my relationship with my boyfriend has nothing to do with my sister. Once I realize this, my fear of me lashing out at my sister is removed, and with it the need for me to eat, leaving me free to think of more effective ways to handle my anger.

Endless Ocean of Tears

Sometimes late at night when no one is around, I feel lonely. I believe there is an endless ocean of tears inside me that will start flowing and never stop. And when I have that thought, I have to eat something.


I stop and analyze my catastrophe prediction. I realize that anytime I've cried in the past, I usually feel better once the tears stop. In fact, maybe it wouldn't be so bad to have a good cry and realize that yes, being home alone is in fact difficult for me.

There's No Hope

I find I need to eat when I feel I'm unloveable. In that moment I believe that if that's what I am, then there's no hope. It's in those moments that I go to the kitchen and eat whatever I can find.


I stop and analyze my catastrophe prediction. I realize that I'm certainly feeling unloveable, but that in actual fact, I'm not unloveable. It's not who I've always been, and certainly not who I'm always going to be. I realize there are other things I can do right now to remind myself of just how lovable I truly am.


Pausing and allowing yourself to examine your catastrophe predictions is crucial to your success in stopping an emotional eating episode. And, as an emotional eater, it more than likely goes against the way you've been handling your difficult emotions up to this point.

The question you have to ask yourself, then, is: Now that you have this information, what will you do with it?

Will you choose to continue living in the shadow of your past and simply allow old destructive patterns to dictate what you put in your mouth and on your hips?

Or will you take a chance on yourself, your inner strength and innate wisdom?

They say the greatest journey begins with a single step...

I can't help but agree.