Roger Gould, M.D.  

Specialties: Mental Health, Wellness, emotional eating

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How to Stop an Emotional Eating Episode (Part 2)

Jun 03, 2014 - 0 comments

emotional eating


stop emotional eating


control emotional eating

An emotional eating episode arises when you are confronted by difficult feelings. Feelings like loneliness, anxiety and anger. These are feelings you believe you can only manage (numb, avoid, deny) by eating. And the reason you maintain this false belief is due solely to the catastrophe predictions you make that overwhelm you in the moment.

Let me state that a different way: It is only because you feel overwhelmed by the catastrophe predictions you make when you're under emotional stress that you continue to eat emotionally.

In my previous post I identified the four triggers that spark these difficult emotions in you. They are:

    Feelings triggered by Events.

    Feelings triggered by Relationships.

    Feelings triggered by Unprovoked Feelings.

    Feelings triggered by Self-doubts.

In order to now identify your own catastrophe predictions, you'll need to refer to the list of feelings you created from last week's post. Doing this will enable you to see how you almost automatically turn your difficult feelings into catastrophe predictions.

#1 Catastrophe Predictions For Feelings Triggered By Events

Here are the typical catastrophe predictions (overwhelming fears) in this category:

    It's just too much for me to handle; I'll fall apart.

    This is just the beginning of a deluge of problems that will swamp me.

    This is a sign that my life is going to fall apart.

    I am being tested and I am going to fail.

    If this keeps up, I will just give up and curl up into a ball.

    I give up; it's just too much stress.

    I have to run away as fast as I can.

Take the particular event(s) and feeling(s) from your original list and tack on one of the of the above lines to complete your catastrophe prediction.

e.g. 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. When I get home, I can't stop myself from bingeing."

#2 Catastrophe Predictions for Feelings Triggered by Relationships

The catastrophe predictions that accompany the feelings triggered by relationship friction have to do with the outcome of that relationship. From the following list of predictions ask yourself which ones you have tried to manage by turning to food. Again, you'll be using the feeling(s) and relationship(s) from your original list.

    I would lash out in anger

    I would burst into tears

    I would say or do something I regret

    I would melt into a puddle

    I would feel guilty forever

    I would never trust again

    I would lose the relationship

    I would quit or be fired

    I would hurt or damage the person beyond repair

    I would never forgive myself

e.g. "When I feel rejected by my boyfriend, it makes me feel angry as well as jealous of my sister, who is happily married. I'm afraid I'll lash out in anger at my sister. That combination of jealousy and anger is what makes me eat. I eat so angry words don't come out."

#3 Catastrophe Predictions for Feelings Triggered by Unprovoked Feelings

These arise from feelings like anger, loneliness and sadness that cannot be linked to a specific relationship or event, and usually strike when you're least expecting them (when you're driving, reading etc).

Go over the list of catastrophe predictions below and use your own life experience to choose the appropriate one.

    I'm not as good as I want to be and there's nothing I can do about it.

    It'll last forever unless I can figure out a way to get rid of it quickly.

    It'll lead to despair or the inability to do anything if I don't stop it quickly.

    I'll "explode," "evaporate," "disintegrate" or not be able to handle the emotion in some other way.

    My life is ruined; I have screwed up.

    I'll never be able to trust anyone again.

    I'll never be able to do anything right or be successful.

    My mind will just stop working and my thinking will never be clear.

    There is an endless ocean of tears inside me that will start flowing and never stop.

    I'll never be able to make a decision again.

e.g. Sometimes late at night when no one else 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.

#4 Catastrophe Predictions for Feelings Triggered by Self-doubt

The next time you're feeling self-doubts, and feel the need to run to the fridge instead of pause and think, see if you are thinking one of the false statements from the list below.

    This is the real me I have been hiding.

    If this is what I am, then there is no hope.

    This means I am a damaged person and no one will want me.

    This makes me unloveable.

    This is the reason I have to hide from the world.

    There is no fixing this.

    A person like this doesn't deserve anything.

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

The Next Step

Once you've put together your list of catastrophe predictions, you're ready to move onto the next step of seeing your catastrophe predictions for what they really are: Black and white thinking...distortions of reality that won't really ever happen.

It's this examination of the facts that will empower you to finally stop running away from your feelings by turning to food. It's a big part of what we work on in the Shrink Yourself Program. And it's this next step that I'll be covering in next week's blog post.

And Remember

When all is said and done, if you truly believe your catastrophe predictions, then you'll have to conclude that you are hopeless and powerless to change (not realistic).

If you question your catastrophe predictions, however, you are suddenly in a very different position: A position of power and possibility, where real change is a choice you make (or not) by using your intelligent mind instead of your mouth and stomach.

Either way, the decision, and ultimately the power, is always yours to claim.

How to Stop an Emotional Eating Episode (Part 1)

May 29, 2014 - 0 comments

emotional eating


Avoid Emotional Eating


stop emotional eating

Emotional eating occurs when you stuff down your difficult feelings with food. Facing your feelings, therefore, is the first step in stopping an emotional eating episode, and there are 4 skills you'll need to work on in order to start doing that:

    Accept your feelings.

    Read and interpret what your feelings mean.

    Understand where your feelings lead.

    Master the art of controlling and regulating the intensity of what you feel without being overwhelmed.

This blog post will draw from actual exercises we use in the Shrink Yourself program where we guide emotional eaters step by step through the process and teach them how to deal with stress and difficult feelings in an much more empowered way.

Let's start, then, by identifying the four kinds of feelings that trigger an emotional eating episode for you.

Feeling Trigger #1: Events

Volatile events have the potential to ignite your feeling phobia. Start by looking over the list below to identify any events you've encountered in the past few months that sparked your emotional hunger. Be sure to write down the uncomfortable feeling(s) that accompanied the event and made you want to eat instead of feel.

e.g. "When I'm dealing with my sick parent, it makes me feel exhausted. And after getting back from the hospital, I can't stop myself from binging."

    There's stress or dissatisfaction at work.

    I am not focused on something or there's a lull in my day.

    I feel challenged or pressured.

    The stresses of my life seem totally overwhelming.

    There's a lull at work.

    I have a free moment at home.

    I'm dealing with bills or financial problems.

    I have to work too long without stopping.

    I'm watching television.

    I am driving.

    I am in a meeting.

    I am with my family.

    I am in a room full of people.

    I am working.

    It's cloudy or raining.

    I'm under pressure.

    I have to take care of someone.

    I am alone for too long.

    I am forced to be in a room that I find uncomfortable.

    I have to do something new.

    I'm ready to go to bed.

    Demands are made by my children or family.

    I have a sick parent.

    I have an unsympathetic spouse.

    I have financial burdens (mortgages or taxes).

Feeling Trigger #2: Someone Else

Friction in relationships is the most common source of uncomfortable feelings. Look over the list below and identify the three biggest relationship frictions you've encountered recently that produced uncomfortable feelings in you and the powerful urge to eat.

"I get set off and want to overeat when someone..."

    Criticizes me

    Betrays me

    Misunderstands me

    Smothers me

    Judges me

    Deprives me of material things

    Manipulates me

    Takes their anger out on me

    Accuses me

    Neglects me

    Ignores me

    Competes with me

    Embarrasses me

    Ridicules me

    Discourages me

    Treats me like a child

    Compares me to others

    Threatens me

    Withdraws love from me

    Rebels against me

    Invades my privacy

    Lies to me

    Doesn't trust me

    Pressures me

    Underestimates me

    Takes me for granted

    Opposes me

    Clings to me

    Expects me to be perfect

    Scolds me

    Wants me to feel guilty

    Excludes me

    Overprotects me

    Doesn't respect me

    Blames me

    Overindulges me

    Scapegoats me

    Disappoints me

    Talks down to me

    Intimidates me

    Is unfaithful to me

    Overpowers me

    Insults me

    Insists on their way

Now write down your trigger statement based on your own three triggers.

e.g. "When I feel criticized by my husband, it makes me feel angry as well as jealous of my sister, who is happily married. And that combination of jealousy and anger makes me eat."

Feeling Trigger #3: Unprovoked Feelings

Unprovoked feelings happen after a volatile event or incident with another person--rather than at the time. This means that they may arrive at a time when you least expect them. A time when your brain is trying to understand exactly what happened and what it all means.

Look over the list below and take your time to ponder what events or other people may have been responsible for bringing on any of the unprovoked feelings that sent you running to the fridge.


















Now write down your trigger statement based on your own unprovoked feelings from the list.

e.g. "Sometimes late at night when no one is around, I feel lonely and have to eat something."

Feeling Trigger #4: Self-doubt

Each one of us has our own unique vulnerabilities that trigger our self-doubts. In fact, self-doubt is the first layer of powerlessness we cover in the Shrink Yourself program and something covered extensively throughout it. It's also one of the main factors that keeps your feeling phobia alive.

Look over the list below and identify which three labels you apply to yourself when your internal critic is screaming at its loudest.

"I find I need to eat when I believe I'm..."








    Mean and cruel



    Defective or damaged in some way

    Not a whole person



    Not feminine enough

    Not masculine enough

    Not self-sufficient

    Totally lacking warmth or tenderness

    Lacking courage or strength

    Lacking talent or ability

    Lacking what it takes to deal with people

    Unable to live up to reasonable expectations

    Unable to make or keep a commitment



    Too meek





Now write down your trigger statement based on your own three biggest self-doubts from the list.

e.g. "I find I need to eat when I believe I'm unlovable. In those moments I go to the kitchen and eat whatever I can find."

Up Next

By completing part one, you'll have arrived at a point where you've identified the feelings that trigger your emotional eating. These triggers are the beginning of an emotional eating episode. The next part we'll deal with are the Catastrophe Predictions you make based on these triggers.

Join me next week as we identify those, and progress through to stopping an emotional eating episode in its tracks.

How Your Feelings Keep You Fat

May 21, 2014 - 0 comments

emotional eating



What is it about emotions that triggers overeating? Would it not be simpler, for instance, to simply face your anger or rejection and process it, rather than stuff it down with food?

The first thing to realize is that you are indeed interrupting your negative emotions instead of allowing them to flow to their natural outcome. And once you understand why you do this, you'll be in a position to take a step back and make this critical decision:

Does it make more sense for me to DEAL with these negative feelings right now, or to EAT?

At the moment, you likely don't have a say in the matter. Turning to food has been your coping mechanism for long enough that it's become automatic. And that's okay.

Feeling Phobia

Most people don't like experiencing negative emotions. But emotional eaters have an almost allergic reaction to them. It's what I call the Feeling Phobia. That's a debilitating urge to avoid negative emotions at any cost due to the fear of what those feelings might really mean and where they might lead you.

The belief that you cannot handle your feelings because of how long you've been holding them in is very normal and nothing to beat yourself up about. But let me be clear: Your feelings are the doorway you will need to pass through in order to control your emotional eating. You will, at some point, have to climb the the high-dive and take that leap of faith.

In emotional eating terms that means to stop automatically eating when negative feelings arise so that you may use your natural intelligence instead.

The Shrink Yourself program can be thought of as your guide on this journey. Fear and doubt are much easier to handle when you are expertly guided each step of the way. And, like the high-dive, once you look back at what once seemed insurmountable, it doesn't seem so scary anymore.

I'm Not Worthy

Another challenge facing emotional eaters in the area of feelings is the tendency to misinterpret them in a way that confirms you're not as worthy as you'd like to be. Something as simple as an empty email inbox or answering machine can mean nobody is thinking or caring about you.

This can also extend to external events and the actions of others, all of which make you believe (incorrectly) that you're more powerless than you actually are, and turn up the volume on what are otherwise simple emotions.

In a nutshell: It's not the feelings themselves that are the problem; it's the story you tell yourself about them, the interpretation of what those feelings mean, that gets you into trouble. These are Catastrophic Predictions. Doomsday thoughts that are simply not factual and only reflect the worst that your brain can imagine.

e.g. Instead of feeling loneliness, you see yourself as a seventy-year-old spinster with sixteen cats. Or, instead of dealing with simple anger, you're afraid you'll hurt someone.

These catastrophic predictions are a key element in the emotional eating formula which goes something like this:

Something happens...you make a misinterpretation, perhaps a catastrophe prediction, and you arrive at a powerlessness conclusion...you believe on some level that eating is the only option that you have to make yourself feel better...and so you eat.


In my next post, I'll be showing you how to start coping with your feelings, starting with these key areas:

. Identifying your feeling phobia.
. Understanding what you make your feelings mean.
. Understanding how you misinterpret things.
. Understanding how you form catastrophe predictions.
. Identifying what your powerlessness conclusions are.

I hope you'll join me.

How to Silence Your Inner Critic and Control Emotional Eating (Part 4)

May 15, 2014 - 0 comments

control emotional eating


emotional eating


End Emotional Eating

Your inner-critic Harriet's final accusation is perhaps her most lethal: #6 Everybody knows what you're hiding.

It's lethal because--as far as you're concerned--you're now hearing her harsh critical voice come through the mouths of others. People talk, and you hear what they're saying as a personal criticism--even if it isn't.

This can apply to everyone from your spouse to a co-worker to the girl at the grocery checkout.

Here's an example:

Every Hanukah, Jane and Mark would visit Mark's mother. And every year, Mark's mother would ask Jane the same question: "What did you do with your hair?"

Jane would shrug off the question but also feel bad and insecure about her hair for the rest of the evening. Last year, Jane vowed that she would not let this happen again.

When she walked into the house, sure enough, Jane's mother-in-law said, "What did you do with your hair?" Jane took a deep breath, paused, and asked, "Why do you ask?" Her mother-in-law responded, "Because it looks so lovely."

For years Jane had been assuming that her mother-in-law was asking about her hair because there was something wrong with it. Last year was indeed different. Jane didn't feel bad about herself all night, and the family had a lovely dinner. And this year, Jane is actually looking forward to seeing her mother-in-law for the holiday.

Swinging at a Ghost

Hearing Harriet's voice in others results in two possible reactions on your part:

1. Appease them to minimize their attack on you.
2. Fight back and label them dead wrong and yourself dead right.

The problem with these is that you're fighting a battle that isn't really there. You're either swinging at a ghost or blocking one. Both of which become a surefire path to losing or alienating friends, ruining intimacy with your significant other and generally becoming an isolated and misunderstood person. And these only end up leaving you even more vulnerable to your inner-critics other attacks.

Talking Back

Employing your intelligent-mind is one of the central themes we work on in the Shrink Yourself program and is exactly what's required here. Taking that all important moment to pause, think, then talk back to your inner critic using the facts will quickly render Harriet silent.

Here's how Jane's inner-dialog with Harriet could've gone all along:

Harriet: Everyone knows what you're hiding, Jane, especially your mother-in-law.

Jane: I see you out there, Harriet, and I'm not going to talk to you when you're in that disguise.

Harriet: Your mother-in-law thinks you're awful and you're not good enough for her son.

Jane: She's never said that.

Harriet: But she thinks it. You know it. I know it. Mark knows it. Everyone knows it.

Jane: I'm not listening to you anymore. I'm simply going to ask her myself.

And, as we saw, Jane did ask her mother-in-law why she always asked about her hair and discovered it was because of how much she liked it.

Way to go, Harriet. Keep up the lies.


Identifying when you are hearing Harriet's voice in others (then challenging and silencing her) allows for you to have genuine relationships with others. By filtering Harriet's noise, you hear the other person's true voice, and they hear yours, instead of the quick-to-please or quick-to-attack scripts you've used up to this point.

It's a process that starts with being aware. Not only of being aware that it's Harriet talking and not the other person, but aware that you're entitled to better in the first place. Better relationships, better intimacy and being better understood.

Harriet will have a problem with that, no doubt. But, you've now got the most important tool under your belt to handle her: knowledge.