Study identifies triggers for emotional eating

Apr 08, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- How many times have you, after a particularly hard day, reached for some chocolate or ice cream? It’s common for many people, but for those trying to lose weight, it can be detrimental to their long term success, and most weight-loss programs never even address it.

They focus on choosing healthier foods and exercising more, but they never answer a key question: how can people who have eaten to cope with emotions change their eating habits, when they haven’t learned other ways of coping with emotions?
Researchers at Temple’s Center for Obesity Research are trying to figure out the answer as part of a new, NIH-funded study. The new treatment incorporates skills that directly address the emotional eating, and essentially adds those skills to a state-of-the art behavioral weight loss treatment.

“The problem that we’re trying to address is that the success rates for long-term weight loss are not as good as we would like them to be,” said Edie Goldbacher, a postdoctoral fellow at CORE. “Emotional eating may be one reason why people don’t do as well in behavioral weight loss groups, because these groups don’t address emotional eating or any of its contributing factors.”

The study has already had one wave of participants come through, and many participants have seen some success in the short term, but have also learned the skills to help them achieve long term success.

Janet Williams, part of that first cohort, said she lost about 17 pounds over 22 weeks, and still uses some of the techniques she learned in the study to help maintain her weight, which has not fluctuated.

“The program doesn’t just help you identify when you eat,” said Williams. “It helps you recognize triggers that make you eat, to help you break that cycle of reaching for food every time you feel bored, or frustrated, or sad.”

Williams said that the program teaches various techniques to help break that cycle, such as the “conveyor belt,” in which participants, when overcome with a specific emotion, can recognize it and take a step back, before reaching for chips or cookies, and put those feelings on their mental “conveyor belt” and watch them go away.

“I still use the skills I learned in the study,” she said. “I’ve learned to say, ‘I will not allow this emotional episode to control my eating habits.’”

Explore further: Is UK shale gas extraction posing a risk to public health?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Calorie density key to losing weight

Jun 08, 2007

Eating smart, not eating less, may be the key to losing weight. A year-long clinical trial by Penn State researchers shows that diets focusing on foods that are low in calorie density can promote healthy weight loss while ...

Recommended for you

Obama: 8 million signed up for health care (Update)

11 hours ago

President Barack Obama said Thursday 8 million Americans have signed up for health care through new insurance exchanges, besting expectations and offering new hope to Democrats who are defending the law ahead ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

White House updating online privacy policy

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...

Six Nepalese dead, six missing in Everest avalanche

At least six Nepalese climbing guides have been killed and six others are missing after an avalanche struck Mount Everest early Friday in one of the deadliest accidents on the world's highest peak, officials ...