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Emotional Eating with Tricia Nelson: Rational Wellness Podcast 90

Tricia Nelson discusses Emotional Eating with Dr. Ben Weitz.

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Podcast Highlights

2:00  Tricia is an emotional eater and she tends to gain weight really easily. Her weight used to fluctuate up and down a lot. She would gain and lose so much weight that she had four different sized pants in her closet.  She tried many weight loss and exercise programs and even went to an eating disorders therapist, but nothing worked long term.  Eventually she found someone who could help her really get to the underlying problem and heal herself.  This is the basis of the system she has developed and she has been using for the past 30 years to help others overcome emotional eating.

5:13  To determine if you are an emotional eater, you can take this quiz: https://www.healyourhunger.com/are-you-an-emotional-eater-or-food-addict/.  People who are  emotional eaters are people who are using food for emotional reasons to really avoid feelings. They’re using food so they can escape themselves and escape experiences they don’t want to feel.

8:50  Most people who are emotional eaters are physically addicted to sugar and carbohydrates. This physical craving makes it incredibly hard for them to control how much they eat.  It’s physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual all in one.  They usually do better on a lower carb, paleo type of eating plan.

10:59  Emotional eaters typically have neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin, that are depleted and out of balance.  Emotional eaters are prone to anxiety and tend to be worriers and over-thinkers and carbs tend to calm them down. It is helpful for emotional eaters to have their hormones and neurotransmitters checked and have them balanced. Sugar excites the opiate receptors and that’s how its so addictive. If they stop eating sugar for even a few days, they’ll go through withdrawal. They have to be detoxed off of sugar.  The best way is abstinence and avoid sugar completely. But it’s hard to find foods without sugar. Tricia does feel that stevia is the best sweetener if you are going to have one–it’s God’s gift to emotional eaters.

17:02  Emotional eaters are typically medicating themselves. There are 3 primary reasons why people over eat, which she calls the PEP test. The P stands for painkiller, which means they are eating over emotional pain. The E stands for escape, which means the emotional eater uses food as an escape. The P stands for punishment, which means that the emotional eater is prone to guilt and they are constantly beating themselves up over things they have done or not done. They tend to graze all day long, so to break the cycle it is important to have 3 meals and not snack. Intermittent fasting where you skip meals and purposely go 14 or 16 hours without eating is probably not a good idea for emotional eaters.

24:47  To stop being an emotional eater, you need to have a community, and Tricia notes that her Heal Your Hunger program gives people a lot of community. Tricia has a program called 10 Weeks to Freedom From Emotional Eating, that contains modules to teach people learn about emotional eating.  They learn about the emotions underneath, but there’s also a big element of community where they have live phone calls weekly together. People all around the world who have the same problem. There’s such healing in being with other emotional eaters. This is such, as I said before, such an isolating condition. We think we’re the only ones. Emotional eaters tend to be givers and bad at taking care of themselves, so Tricia teaches them self care habits and to put themselves first.

27:51  You also have to know what your real underlying problem is and change the way you interact with the world. Even if you lose the weight, if you don’t address the underlying emotions that are the causes, you’ll gain the weight back.  Emotional eaters, who are generally women, tend to be people pleasers and they tend to get their self esteem from outside of themselves, from doing extra at their job and from trying to please others.  Emotional eaters are always doing and giving and neglecting themselves. They have to value themselves and take care of themselves and put themselves first. They have to speak up and put boundaries on their time.  Emotional eating is not really about the food.  Emotional eaters reach for food to clam them down. You have to do the inner work and this inner journey of healing your emotional self. Meditation is the number one thing you can do to calm your inner mind. Prayer can also be very helpful and reading spiritual literature. Writing in a journal can also help to get your thoughts and feelings out and release some of your anger.

 

 



Tricia Nelson is an Emotional Eating Expert and the author of Heal Your Hunger, 7 Simple Steps to End Emotional Eating Now and is also the host of the Heal Your Hunger podcast. She can be contacted through her web site, HealYourHunger.com.

Dr. Ben Weitz is available for nutrition consultations specializing in Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders like IBS/SIBO and Reflux and also specializing in Cardiometabolic Risk Factors like elevated lipids, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure and also weight loss, as well as sports chiropractic work by calling his Santa Monica office 310-395-3111.



 

Podcast Transcripts

Dr. Weitz:                            This is Dr. Ben Weitz with the Rational Wellness Podcast, bringing you the cutting edge information on health and nutrition from the latest scientific research and by interviewing the top experts in the field. Please subscribe to the Rational Wellness Podcast on iTunes and YouTube, and sign up for my free eBook on my website by going to drweitz.com. Let’s get started on your road to better health.  Hello Rational Wellness Podcasters. Dr. Ben Weitz here, thank you so much for joining me again today for another episode of the Rational Wellness Podcast. For those of you who enjoy listening to it please go to iTunes and give us a rating or review so more people can find out about the Rational Wellness Podcast.

Today I’ll be speaking with Tricia Nelson about emotional eating, the reason why so many conventional nutrition weight loss program fail for so many clients. Including, I’m sure, some of mine.  As a functional medicine practitioner I find myself often getting caught up in intellectual left brain discussions and even arguments about which diet plans are most effective for promoting weight loss and also for health, but seldom do I spend a lot of time thinking about the various emotional reasons why people eat. Tricia Nelson lost 50 pounds by identifying and healing the underlying causes of her emotional eating. Tricia’s an emotional eating expert and author of the number one best selling book Heal Your Hunger: Seven Simple Steps to End Emotional Eating Now. She’s also the host of the popular podcast, The Heal Your Hunger Show. Tricia, thank you so much for joining me today.

Tricia Nelson:                    It’s so awesome to be here. Thank you, Ben, for having me.

Dr. Weitz:                         Great, great. So can you tell us a little bit about your own personal journey with emotional eating?

Tricia Nelson:                    You bet. Yeah, all my work comes really from my experience having first been an emotional eater and then I spent 30 years helping other emotional eaters. It started out I think as far back as I can remember. I was obsessed with food and loved to eat, so food was like a big deal to me. It’s important to everybody, but to me it was super important. So I love to cook, I love to eat, I love to serve food to others. It was all I thought about. Unfortunately, I was one of those people that gain weight really easily so I would have this roll on my tummy that I’d scrunch up in my hands and have these terrible thoughts like cutting it off like you’d cut the fat off a side of a steak. I’m like, “I wonder if I could do this, it’s just fat, right?” Thank God I didn’t try that. I thought about getting a disease, like some crazy disease where I’d automatically lose weight and I wouldn’t have to try.

Dr. Weitz:                          Start eating parasites.

Tricia Nelson:                    Oh, God, no. And then I even thought about joining the Army where I’d be forced to go through bootcamp because I hated to exercise. So I was out there, I was thinking some pretty crazy thoughts just because I was that out of control with food. I couldn’t control my weight and really the amounts that I ate, so I was frustrated. And I tried a lot of different things. I tried pills, and potions, and lotions, and of course weight loss programs and exercise programs, and 12 step programs. I even went to an eating disorders therapist. I put in a really good college try in doing something about my weight and my eating and nothing I tried worked for any length of time.

I would always … I knew to lose weight, I would lose weight, but I’d always gain the weight back. I had like four different sized pants in my closet because I never knew what size I was gonna be. It was really a painful and very private struggle for me. It was obvious that I was overweight, but people didn’t know … I carried it well and I was happy generally on the outside, so people didn’t know what an internal struggle it was for me. And it is very … For most people it’s a very isolating thing, so I didn’t know what to do about it and what happened was I found someone who could really help me. What I began to learn is that my problem had nothing to do with food and everything to do with emotional eating. Really those underlying causes is what was driving me to crave the ooey gooey chewy foods and to crave unhealthy amounts.

When I started really going to the heart of the matter that’s when I began to lose weight and keep it off. It’s really about … And my business is called Heal Your Hunger because it’s really that deeper hunger that people … If they’re emotional eaters they really need to heal. As I said, for 30 years now I’ve been blessed to be able to share my system for overcoming emotional eating with people around the globe.

Dr. Weitz:                          How does someone know if they’re an emotional eater? And as a doctor, how do you determine that someone is an emotional eater?

Tricia Nelson:                    That’s a great question. I think as a doctor it’s really important to listen for people who are complaining about being out of control around certain foods, they can’t stop eating certain foods. I actually have a quiz that I give to doctors if they use my program in their practice, which gives their patients emotional support to go through my program, which helps them follow through with the doctor’s protocols. I have a quiz, and I also have it on my website, and it’s are you an emotional eater or a food addict. Basically my feeling is most … I think as a population or as a species we are emotional eaters. We have an emotional attachment to food, which makes us want to eat. It feels good, it’s comforting, it’s a nice experience.

But the people who are actually emotional eaters in a more dangerous level, they are people who are using food for emotional reasons to really avoid feelings. They’re using food so they can escape themselves and escape experiences they don’t want to feel. So that’s when it becomes a habit and really gets out of control. So I always say it’s a spectrum. Everybody’s an emotional eater. On the lower end is emotional eating, and then it basically depends on the consequences. Whether somebody can’t stop it, they feel out of control regularly, they’re chronically overweight no matter what they do. And then on the high end of the spectrum is really food addiction, and I was a food addict for sure where I would literally binge and I could pack away 4000 calories in a sitting. I’d get a bunch of carbs, and ice cream, and brownies, candy, whatever and sit in front of my favorite TV show and just go to town. That’s serious addictive habit where then I don’t want to go out and be with friends, I don’t want to be seen at the beach, forget about it.

So it really starts to effect your life and your choices. People can lose their jobs because of their weight. Either they’re being discriminated against because of their weight or they’re not showing up for their job. They’re hungover. Literally, you can have a sugar hangover, a binge hangover. You don’t want to go to your job, you’re depressed. So many … I feel like so many people who complain of depression are emotional eaters and they’re just … They’re in that terrible cycle of overeating where they hate themselves. They hate themselves and they hate their lives because of what they’re doing with food. It’s so shameful and so dark. It can get really dark, just like an alcoholic with alcohol. So that’s really where it’s in the addiction category or placed on the spectrum.

So my quiz, to answer your question, that’s a great place to start in finding out where are you on the spectrum? And where you are is gonna determine what actions you need to take.

Dr. Weitz:                          So that quiz will tell you whether you’re an emotional eater or a food addict?

Tricia Nelson:                    Absolutely, yeah.

Dr. Weitz:                          Okay, great. And can you send me that link?

Tricia Nelson:                    Yes, I’d be happy to.

Dr. Weitz:                          Okay. So what does it mean physiologically if somebody’s addicted to food? What exactly is happening inside their … Is it in their nervous system, or in their …

Tricia Nelson:                    Yeah, my experience is most people who are emotional eaters are having a physical reaction usually to sugar. So most emotional eaters, not all emotional eaters. There are some that binge on protein, on big slices of meat, but most emotional eaters in my experience definitely have a carb addiction. A carb and sugar addiction, which is essentially a sugar addiction, right?

Dr. Weitz:                         Yeah.

Tricia Nelson:                   And they just can’t leave it alone. They swear off of sugar, and then they … All it takes is one bite to set off that cycle of craving. And it is a physical thing, and I’ve been through it where if I eat sugar, if there’s even sugar in a salad dressing or something it makes me more prone to want more or crave more because it’s definitely a physical reaction. If people are more sensitive to sugar than the average person, and I know for myself I’m very sensitive to alcohol as well. I cannot drink alcohol without over drinking alcohol. I feel like it’s the same … It’s really the same reason I can’t eat sugar is because alcohol is the most refined form of sugar anyway. So it’s definitely a physical thing where it sets up a craving that makes it incredibly hard for somebody to control how much they eat.  So it’s physical, and emotional, and mental, and spiritual all in one. But definitely the physical aspect is something to definitely pay attention to because I find that if I eat more of a paleo type diet and not eating-

Dr. Weitz:                          Lower carb approach?

Tricia Nelson:                    Yes.

Dr. Weitz:                          Yeah.

Tricia Nelson:                    Lower carbs is gonna make it so much easier to stay on a healthy plan because I’m not teasing my body with carbs and sugars that make it harder to say no.

Dr. Weitz:                          Interesting. I was reading one of your blog posts where you talk about some of the neurotransmitters like dopamine, and serotonin, and glutamate. Can you explain how these effect emotional eating?

Tricia Nelson:                    Probably not as well as you could. But definitely people who are emotional eaters typically do have neurotransmitters that are off. They’re depleted and they are seeking, that’s where that carb craving will come in, needing the serotonin effect. Plus, I find that emotional eaters are very prone to anxiety and so we tend to be worriers and over thinkers, and that’s where that carb element can help as well is it calms us down, it gives us that sedative effect that we really need. There are better ways to get it, like through meditation, and prayer, and walking and things. But that quick fix of that carb craving often is on account of some depletion in neurotransmitters.

Dr. Weitz:                          Do you ever test or try to evaluate neurotransmitters to see if that’s part of the mix?

Tricia Nelson:                    I definitely recommend it to people, but that’s not my forte.

Dr. Weitz:                          Right, okay.

Tricia Nelson:                    So I’m not a doctor, I’m really an emotional eating expert, and I know that can be part of it. I think it’s really important for people to get their hormones checked, their neurotransmitters checked, because that can definitely support somebody in healing. But my experience is if somebody’s chronically overweight or chronically struggles with their weight that’s not gonna fix them. Getting that stuff in line is not the full picture. If they do that and they get the support for emotional eating then you’ve got a much more complete healing package.

Dr. Weitz:                          Right. Can you explain how some foods excite the opiate receptors in our brains in the same ways that pain medications do?

Tricia Nelson:                    Well, I just know from experience, like I was talking about with sugar, definitely it effects the reward center in our brain where literally it’s been proven that sugar is as addictive as heroin. For the very same reason where you feed that reward center, it gets all lit up, and then you need to keep doing it to the get that same level of happiness or sense of fulfillment and excitement. And just like heroin or another drug in the effect on your brain you need more of it in order to get that same hit, that same effect, which is why it’s a progressive condition just like it is with alcohol, just like it is with drugs. Where you need more of that sugar, you need more of that carb effect in order to achieve the same thing. And you can get withdrawal symptoms just like you would a drug as well. You take it away from the mouse … They’ve proven, you take sugar from mice and their teeth chatter, their hearts are racing. They’ve got the same withdrawal effect that drugs have on the body as well.  So I’ve experienced all of that. Not my teeth chattering, but I’m just saying that sense of withdrawal. Definitely headaches, lethargy, things where if I’m detoxing off of sugar it’s not pretty for a few days. There’s four days of hell of detoxing off of sugar because I was addicted, no question about it.

Dr. Weitz:                          How do you detox off of sugar?

Tricia Nelson:                    Well, my experience is abstinence. The only way to do it, you don’t want to really titrate it, you just stop eating it. But know that … Maybe some people go through more serious withdrawal symptoms. For me it’s always been a headache and needing to drink lots of water, so that’s what I recommend to people. But definitely supplementation as well is super, super helpful. It’s the hard way. That’s the best way is doing it the hard way and just quitting cold turkey. But I really teach people about looking at their labels, checking their labels and making sure they’re not getting sugar that they don’t even really … When people are trying to be good and there’s sugar or corn syrup in their salad dressing or their spaghetti sauce it’s so depressing because here they are with all full intention wanting to be sugar free but there’s so much sugar and so many hidden sugars in the foods that we eat that they’re shooting themselves in the foot and they don’t even know it. It’s like, jeez, you know? Here I am trying to be good and I’m still getting screwed by even-

Dr. Weitz:                          It’s so hard to find foods without sugar like you’re talking about. Salad dressings and sauces. I was just looking for some … My wife wanted some hemp protein powder and almost every product on the market had some sort of sugar, even if it was just a little bit of stevia. She said, “Just get me hemp protein powder.” It was hard to find one that didn’t have any sweetener.

Tricia Nelson:                    It is so true. I do love stevia. I always say stevia at least is not triggering physically, generally speaking. But it isn’t easy to find anything that’s unsweetened. But for an emotional eater who loves sweet, and I am one, I always say stevia is God’s gift to emotional eaters because at least there’s something that doesn’t have an adverse side effect but you still get the sweet taste.

Dr. Weitz:                          Right, yeah. Yeah, no, I don’t really have a problem with moderate amount of stevia. It seems to work fine for me and most of my clients. So how do you differentiate between emotional and physical hunger? When does it become emotional? How do you know?

Tricia Nelson:                    Well, I think it’s really important that … First of all, emotional eaters are typically medicating themselves. I’ll go into that a little bit and then I’ll answer your question more directly. There are three primary reasons why people really eat, or over eat, or the three primary emotions that they eat over. One, I call it the PEP test. So the P stands for painkiller, so they’re eating over pain, and that’s emotional pain. It doesn’t have to be pain like, “Ah, I’m dying.” But uncomfortable feelings, like you’re in a job that’s not really the right fit for you so you’re kind of miserable every day that you go to work. Or you’re in a relationship that’s really trying, like really hard and stressful. So that creates an emotional pain, and that’s what people medicate over. They’re just not happy, they’re not fulfilled, and they’re very uncomfortable over some situation. Perhaps they have a death in the family or something, so there’s some emotional pain that people are anesthetizing with food.

The E is the PEP test stands for escape. So sometimes emotional eaters, it’s like … Emotional eaters are typically super responsible, so if you’re an alcoholic … Wherever there’s an alcoholic there’s usually an emotional eater. So you have an alcoholic who’s totally irresponsible and blowing off appointments, just messing up the family structure, or rhythm, or whatever. But then you have the emotional eater who’s always there picking up the pieces, super responsible, always on time to work. That’s how emotional eaters typically are, but it gets tiring because we’re always do gooders. We’re always doing the right thing and we get so tired. Eating is like our escape. It’s like I want to shut the world out, I need me time, right? So we got our TV, we get our favorite goodies, and we want to the world to go away. Often times that’s on account of fear too. Emotional eaters have a lot of fear, so a lot of times we’re eating to escape fear as well. It’s like life is overwhelming to us.

The last letter P in the PEP test stands for punishment. Emotional eaters typically are very guilt prone. Because we’re emotional eaters we’re very emotional, so we typically feel things at a deeper level than your average person, so we typically feel guilty over things. We’re constantly beating the crap out of ourselves for things we’ve said, things we’ve done, things we haven’t done. Often times food is a way for us to punish ourselves. It’s like we want to escape just the self flagellation that goes on in our head, but we also want to punish ourselves as well. So these are the three primary drivers is I would say pain, fear, and guilt.

So back to your question about how do you know if you’re emotionally hungry or physically hungry? People are typically grazing. Emotional eaters are good grazers where we’re eating throughout the day because wherever there’s food it’s like we’re totally drawn to it. So if we’re at work, work places are the unhealthiest places for emotional eaters because everybody’s bringing in their leftover from the party to the kitchen, right? That’s all in the kitchen. Or there’s candy jars throughout the office. All day long we’re grazing, we’re eating, our hands are in the candy jar all the time. So we’re eating all the time, and what I say is one of the best ways to know whether you’re physically hungry or emotionally hungry is to not graze but eat three meals with nothing in between. I call it three meal magic.

What’s important about this is it’s not as a diet, it’s not a food plan. I tell my clients this, I’m like, “Do it as a way for you to get in touch with your emotions, because if you’re grazing all day, anesthetizing that pain, fear, and guilt, you don’t know what you’re feeling and you don’t know whether it’s physical or emotional. I will say, emotional hunger feels a lot like physical hunger. It’s incredible to me sometimes. But because I eat three meals and I don’t eat in between what it looks like then is that around 10 o’clock in the morning if I’m sitting there having this conversation with myself saying, “I’m so hungry.” All of a sudden I’m like, “I got to go to the refrigerator, there’s got to be something in there for me.” I have this conversation with myself and say, “Gee, Tricia, it’s 10:00 in the morning. You had breakfast a few hours ago, maybe three hours ago. You’re probably not starving like you’re telling yourself you are, in which case let’s do a little sleuthing and see what pain, fear, and guilt is coming up for you. Where are you feeling uncomfortable? What are you trying to anesthetize?”

But, see, if I didn’t have that space between my meals I wouldn’t be able to do that sleuthing work. I wouldn’t be able to know what emotions I was feeling. I would just totally convince myself I’m physically hungry, and that’s why it’s so important to put space between the meals. Not only because it’s good for your digestion, but it really does inform you about what’s going on emotionally. So I know that was a long answer, but it’s just really important that emotional eaters do put some boundaries around their meals so they can start getting in touch with themselves and their true emotions.

Dr. Weitz:                          Well, if eating three meals without snacks is good for emotional eaters would eating two meals be even better? Because now intermittent fasting is so popular and now a lot of people are skipping breakfast, and that seems to be the key to longevity.

Tricia Nelson:                    Yeah, but I say no to that if you’re an emotional eater. So the science says, “Great.” But you can still get that intermittent effect with three meals with nothing in between. I eat dinner around 5:00, 5:30 and I’m not eating breakfast till 6:30 or 7:00. There you’ve got 13 plus hours. I’ve gotten some good intermittent fasting in there.  But two meals is really a set up for an emotional eater because you got to understand, emotional eaters are great at skipping meals. We take the cake on this, pardon the pun. But emotional eaters are always trying to skip meals to try to hack their weight loss, hack the system. It’s totally a set up, and that’s why emotional eaters who skip meals are typically larger in weight than people who don’t skip meals. It’s counter intuitive. You think, “Oh, I’m gonna skip breakfast.” I’m telling you, I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I still have that little bugger in my head that’s like, “Oh, maybe I’ll lose some weight if I skip this meal.” But my body is not gonna stand for it, and neither will my mental capacity. Because what happens is we get hungry and then we’re dysregulated because we’re over hungry and we end up overeating. You don’t beat the system that way. You actually beat the system when you have your three meals, when the meals are pretty much the same amount each meal. Then you can get an idea of what full means if you’re having the same amounts in each of your three meals. But I rarely see somebody win by just eating two or one meal. It’s just getting to over hungry is not good for an emotional eater.

Dr. Weitz:                          So how do you stop being an emotional eater? What are some concrete tools that can help?

Tricia Nelson:                    I think it’s really important, first of all, to get support. I don’t find that anybody can really successfully do this alone. This is why I do what I do with Heal Your Hunger is I give people a lot of community. In my program, I have a program called 10 Weeks to Freedom From Emotional Eating, and it’s modules that people learn about emotional eating. They learn about the emotions underneath, but there’s also a big element of community where we have live calls weekly together. People all around the world who have the same problem. There’s such healing in being with other emotional eaters. This is such, as I said before, such an isolating condition. We think we’re the only ones.

Ben, in the worst, in my worst state I would literally take food that I’d thrown out and eat it. There’s some bummer things that we do that are so shameful. Let me explain that a little bit more for those who are listening that might identify. What would happen is I’d be binging, be eating all this food, and then I’d get stuffed. I’m not a puker, so I never was bulimic. I tried, trust me, but I didn’t. I just packed it on and got fat. So after a binge I can’t eat all the foods that I bought, and I’m feeling totally disgusted with myself eating to that terrible place of being completely stuffed. Then I would say to myself, “I’m never eating that again. That is disgusting. I’m never having whatever X was.” I throw X out, convinced I will never eat it again, but that’s on a full stomach, right? So little while later and I get a little bit of hunger going on I’m like, “Let me reconsider that decision.” And I go retrieve what I threw out.

That, I did that so many times. I even did a video, I reenacted that whole thing on YouTube like 10 years ago and I got over … I think at this point it’s 30 or 40 thousand hits of people, and people commenting, “Oh my God, I’ve done that too.” So, so many people are living in this shame and guilt of their food habits, which are really bizarre and shameful, but you think you’re the only one. You beat the crap out of yourself and feel so bad, it affects your self esteem, it affects everything in your life. It affects your relationships, your sex life, your work life. If you think about it, it reverberates throughout every part of your life. So when you get to be on a call with people who have done the same things where we can almost laugh about it, it’s kind of funny if it weren’t so sad, you know? And it’s like it heals something inside of somebody to realize they’re not alone.

So that community is so, so important and that’s a big part of my program. The bottom line is don’t try to do it alone. You won’t be able to. You’ve got to have that community effect, but you also have to know what your real problem is. The problem with people struggling with food and weight is they’re always doing the dieting thing. It’s proven that 98% of all diets fail. 98% of all diets fail. That’s an astounding number. If you consider-

Dr. Weitz:                          And you mean especially long term, ’cause people lose weight but then they gain it back.

Tricia Nelson:                    Right, so did it work? You know.

Dr. Weitz:                          Right.

Tricia Nelson:                    And that’s the point is people always gain the weight back. If they don’t address the underlying emotions, the underlying causes. If they don’t start changing the way they interact with the world, in my book and in my program I talk about something called the anatomy of the emotional eater. These are personality traits that the emotional eater has. We have this composite of personality traits that really is the crux of the problem. It has nothing to do with food. That’s why treating it at the food level is so silly because that in and of itself is not a complete picture. That’s not gonna do it. But if somebody starts addressing these emotional qualities, qualities like people pleasing. Emotional eaters are consummate people pleasers. We get our self esteem from outside of us and from the kudos we get when we do extra at our job, or taking on an extra load.

Well, guess what? When we’re taking on an extra load of work so that people will be pleased with us we end up overworked, over tired, and then what’s gonna happen? We’re gonna end up overeating. So that’s a typical example of how we’re showing up in the world and how that’s directly effecting our eating, but it has nothing to do with eating. There’s so many, I have actually 24 personality traits that make up the emotional eater. So that’s really what we focus on is treating ourselves at a deeper level, and also really implementing self care habits. Emotional eaters are the worst at taking care of their self care needs because we’re always doing, doing, doing, giving, giving, and neglecting ourselves. So a lot of the work I do is teaching people, primarily women, those are the people usually respond most to my methods. But teaching women to take care of themselves and put themselves first. People don’t get that message, so that’s so, so important. It directly affects how much they eat and their food choices.

Dr. Weitz:                          How much is this at the root about self esteem and how you feel about yourself?

Tricia Nelson:                    It’s huge. If we don’t take care of ourselves it’s really because we don’t value ourselves. It’s like … I say to clients all the time, “Would you treat your little sweet daughter the way you treat yourself?” And the answer is, “Hell no.” Would you have your kid skip two meals hoping she’d lose some weight, you know? No, but that’s what we do to ourselves. We beat ourselves up constantly. It’s so much about self esteem, it’s so much about those core issues, because if we’re not taking care of ourselves it’s because we don’t see the value in self care because we are in that process, that cycle of self denial. Putting other people first, thinking we don’t matter.

So the upshot of people who take my programs is they start to feel better, they find their voice. One whole part of my program is about speaking up with self confidence. Emotional eaters don’t speak up. They don’t say what’s on their mind. They’re passive aggressive, they’re hoping people will read their minds. Then they’re pissed off, and resentful. And resentment is a great way to justify a binge. Like, “Screw them, I’m gonna eat myself to death.” So it’s really important that people start having better communication, and speaking up, and putting boundaries on their time, and not letting everybody come visit them where they’re slaving away for weeks on end for their guests. So many examples of life really affecting our eating habits when it has nothing to do with food.

Dr. Weitz:                          And do you find a lot of the emotional eaters end up turning to things like plastic surgery as part of this self esteem issue instead of just really liking themselves or trying to change these things?

Tricia Nelson:                    It’s an obsession with the superficial and with a symptom. The symptom of overeating is overweight. I was 50 pounds overweight. I hated my body. And when you’re overweight you are desperate to do something. And you do, you throw money at it, you’re hoping some doctor has the magic pill, or some doctor can fix you from the outside. It’s obviously a farce, because it is an inside job. As trite as that is, it absolutely is an inside job. People get weight loss surgery, and how sad that makes-

Dr. Weitz:                         Yeah, they get liposuction when they need to lose weight, and it doesn’t make sense.

Tricia Nelson:                   Yeah, it doesn’t, because it’s not gonna do anything for your cravings. It’s not gonna do anything for that hole in your soul that you’re filling with food. So it’s so, so important to know that there’s no quick fixes and if you really do go to the heart of the matter, if you go inside and do this inner journey of healing emotional eating … If somebody stops emotional eating they’re gonna lose weight automatically. I don’t even focus on weight loss because I know if somebody starts to address what’s driving them to eat and they’re no longer overeating then they naturally lose weight and it’s not their focus. To me, that’s really the most holistic way obviously to heal this problem and it’s the long lasting way. You’ve got to have that self care, you have to have that community, and you have to do the inner work.

Dr. Weitz:                         What are some of the forms of self care that you’re thinking about?

Tricia Nelson:                   I have something called the six self care success secrets that are vital for emotional eaters and I teach them in my programs. Again, it’s hard to do this alone because even though you know these are … These things are not gonna be earth shattering, okay? They’re things everybody’s heard before, but when you’re in community with other people who are doing them it makes it so much easier because you’re getting reinforced.

The number one thing is meditation. The thing we all know we should do, right? Well, for emotional eaters it’s actually vital because we overeat because we’re stressed so much of the time, we’re natural born worried. Emotional eaters or over thinkers. Overeater or over thinkers. So meditation just takes it down several notches. I couldn’t … I wouldn’t be the size I am if I didn’t meditate twice a day, because i just helps calm me down. It basically does for me what I was looking for food to do for me. We reach for food not just because we love food but because it calms us down, it gives us that serotonin hit. It helps us even out emotionally. Well, guess what? Meditation can do that. Prayer can do that. Writing in a journal, getting your thoughts and feelings out, getting that anger out. So, so important. And speaking up for ourselves, so, so important. I always say, “Say it or stuff it.”

Other things like reading spiritual literature. Talking is an important one. We can’t stay bottled up with our emotions. We’ve got to talk and share. I also find walking to be super important. I do something called a walk-pray. It’s my own coined term, but every day I walk and I pray. I put my ear buds in my ears and I go for a walk so it looks like I’m talking to a friend, which I am, but not the friend everybody thinks I’m talking to. But basically the rhythm of walking and prayer helps calm me down. It brings me down several notches. It helps me not have to worry, and it gives me exercise at the same time. But not exercise where I’m beating my body up hoping to force it to lose weight, it’s really more meditational, just meditative and calming. So that’s an important tool as well.  So those are my six self care success secrets, and they make a huge difference for people who are nervous, and anxious, and reaching for food constantly to calm themselves down. They’re probably not even aware of it. They think they just like food like I did, but once somebody starts on this journey, they start to become aware of how emotional their food choices are.

Dr. Weitz:                         Great. Excellent, Tricia. For those listening or watching who’d like to get a hold of you what’s the best way for them to contact you?

Tricia Nelson:                    HealYourHunger.com. H-E-A-L, healyourhunger.com.

Dr. Weitz:                          That’s great.

Tricia Nelson:                    Yeah, and my quiz is on there so they can take that emotional eating quiz.

Dr. Weitz:                          Okay.

Tricia Nelson:                    Find out where they are on the spectrum.

Dr. Weitz:                          Great. I’ll throw that in the show notes on my website as well.

Tricia Nelson:                    Great. Thank you so much.

Dr. Weitz:                          Okay, yeah, enjoyed this talk. I’ll talk to you soon, Tricia. Thank you.

Tricia Nelson:                    Take good care.

 

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