How to Get to the Root of Emotional Eating or Food Addiction

How to Get to the Root of Emotional Eating or Food Addiction

In my last post, I talked about emotional eating and how to get to the root of the problem. Today, I want to finish up my thoughts on this all-too-important subject. But before I offer you my insights and practical tips, I just want to discuss briefly what I mean by food addiction.

Usually, when you hear the term “food addiction,” do you picture someone with a huge belly and eating a much bigger portion of food than he or she can stomach? Well, that is one form of food addiction, but there are other forms of food addiction, such as when you binge eat a certain “comfort food” when no one else is watching (as in the example of my own binge-eating of chocolate), or when you munch on snacks throughout the day even when you are not hungry.

Even for “health junkies,” piling up on food that is supposed to be healthy for you could be a form of addiction, too. It is not so much the type or amount of food that you eat, but the feeling of obsession and loss of control over when to stop eating, that makes food addiction what it really is.

In all of these cases, the food is like a pacifier that calms down your nerves or fill a void in your heart. This is different from mild and temporary cravings for a particular type of food, which are caused by an imbalanced nutritional profile and could be rather easily curbed by feeding yourself with food containing the micronutrients that your body has been deprived of.

Replace food with cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex — it is still a form of addiction, because you are compelled to reach out for these things “by default,” without really connecting your real physical and emotional needs and finding the “solution” that will fulfill those needs.

Food, or any of those substances or activities, are thus used as a shortcut to reach a feel-good/pain-free state. But what it actually does, is to delay the onset of emotional discomfort or pain. The effect is that more and more food or the addictive substances are needed to help bring your mental and emotional state to a higher level of satisfaction.

In fact, the sight (or smell) of food gives us a squirt of the pleasure hormone, dopamine. Dopamine helps us focus our attention, makes us think more clearly and helps us move faster and more effectively. Once we actually start eating, serotonin kicks in. Serotonin makes us feel happier and less stressed. We relax, our mood improves and our minds can turn to less important things than eating). That’s a simplified, biochemical peek behind food addiction. The situation gets worse when the food itself triggers intense addictive responses in the brain. A common example is sugar — and all the processed food with sugar hidden in it.

In my last post, I suggested listening to your raw emotions. Listen to them when they start bubbling up and giving you any kind of discomfort, breathe into them and let them ramp up so that they’ll eventually dissipate.

Acknowledging the pain or suffering whenever it occurs — and then allowing it to surface — is one of the steps toward emotional liberation. I believe that is the solution to the deeply rooted problem of food addiction.

Once you have gotten used to this initial process, it is time to figure out what lies underneath the pain or suffering. This is a crucial step, and the process of identifying where the pain comes from is different for each individual, so don’t expect to “get it” right away after reading this post.

From my part, I’m just going mention a common thread, or a hint: Look into your childhood or even early childhood, at a time when we lacked the intellectual capacity to make sense of certain things that happened to us. In order to “survive” and to feel safe, we would interpret certain events and make up stories that could be totally not grounded in reality.

Nevertheless, such interpretations are hardwired into our subconscious and lead to certain false beliefs that are self-defeating. If we have experienced certain “traumatic” experiences — even though such experiences are usually not considered traumatic from the adult perspective — it is highly likely that such memories are carried over subconsciously throughout adulthood.

One common effect is that the child would experience low self-esteem, insecurity or self-hate throughout his or her life. When such false beliefs have formed yet not identified, it becomes extremely difficult to feel a consistent sense of happiness or inner peace. Depression, anxiety, self-hatred and other emotional pain thus become a prominent feature in this person’s day-to-day life. An easy and convenient way to deal with this pain is to reach out for food — especially food that gives you a quick boost in your dopamine level.

I highly recommend you to look into CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences study, which delineates the various childhood experiences that could have life-long effects on a person’s physical and emotional health. Some of the factors may surprise you — traumas don’t necessarily take the form of physical abuse. They can be in the form of emotional abuse (verbally or through emotional neglect), sexual abuse, parental separation or divorce, death of a parent or close relatives, plus other behavioral problems such as substance abuse and violence in the household.

After identifying the sources for your pain and suffering, it is time to create a new “story” to replace the one that wasn’t based on reality. This new story will form the basis of how you feel about yourself. A lot of times, the stories we’ve made up in our childhood have to do with our inadequacy — “I’m not good enough” or our inherent self-worth — “I’m not lovable.” It is extremely important to replace those thoughts with positive self talk and a new belief system.

As you work on the past traumas, it is all too common that the experience becomes painful or even unbearable. But whenever the pain becomes overwhelming, go back to the 90-second rule to process your raw emotions until each one of them eventually dissipates. End the process with soothing, loving self-talk, as if you were talking to your own dear child — in this case, talk to your precious inner child with love.

The next step is to try to understand what the pain and suffering has done for you in terms of life lessons. I call it embracing the pain.

Lastly, after “making friends” with the pain, you can finally let go of it and send it off so you can free yourself emotionally.

I encourage you to earnestly go through this process step by step, and see if your need to reach out for your “pacifier” reduces over time.

Of course, as I mentioned, the process of identifying where your specific pain comes from is a highly individual one. It also may not be a linear one as there may be layers upon layers of traumas and pain. If you are serious about resolving your emotional eating or food addiction problem, I encourage you to seek out the help of a licensed therapist who can guide you in the right direction. There is an increasing number of therapists who help patients with emotional eating issues. So they would be especially helpful to you.

Lastly, eating the right types of food that heal your gut is also of paramount importance. That’s because 90% of our serotonin receptors are found in our gut, and so when our gut microbiome is in balance, our happy hormones will function probably and we’ll be less likely to seek out the thrill of non-stop eating to feel happier. Eating right for your blood type is, in my view, the best way to heal your guts and balance your mood. If you’d like to work on the dietary aspect of your food addiction, contact me to see if you could use my help.

What Lies Underneath Emotional Eating or Food Addiction

What Lies Underneath Emotional Eating or Food Addiction

In my last blog post, I talked about how I overcame my chocolate addiction. In the months that followed, I had some relapses but finally was able to kick this habit for good. I wanted to wait to write a follow-up blog because I wanted to make sure that this transformation is real and is there to stay. I’m happy that it is.

While going for extrinsic ways to curb my appetite for binge-eating chocolate — such as switching to 100% dark chocolate and making myself accountable to my audience — did help a great deal with my success in kicking the habit, what made the change permanent was a long and difficult personal journey, in which I dug deeper into my soul and found out what the emotional root of this unhealthy habit was. I listened.

I listened to the raw emotions that filled my body whenever I had the urge to reach out to my preferred food of addiction.

I sat down and allowed myself to process those emotions.

What I meant by “emotions” was the physical sensations our body experiences, not the interpretations of those sensations. When we are confronted with a certain experience, our body (autonomic nervous system) will respond with a certain set of physical reactions before we attach a “story” to what we are sensing.

For example, when treated in a way you don’t like, you may sense that your pulse rate is increasing, your heart may start to race, your breath may get shorter, you may break out a cold sweet or your hands or even the entire body may start to shiver. I call all of these and other heightened physical sensations “raw emotions.” Of course, you may also experience positive sensations but my focus in this post is on the negative emotions as they are the ones that often trigger us into emotional eating.

How do those sensations make you feel? My guess is that they make you feel uncomfortable.

What is your response when you feel uncomfortable? Let me guess again: run away from the discomfort.

Escaping from uncomfortable emotions is an extremely common route that people take in order to feel better. After all, we all want to feel good, don’t we?

What would you do when you are trying to run away from the emotions that are pounding at your door?

For those of us who have been struggling with emotional or binge eating, reaching out for comfort food — especially if they are readily accessible or available — seems to be the easiest choice.

In fact, it seems to be a “safe” choice. It is safe because you’re not going to substances that have a bad reputation and that would cause you to feel like a “bad person.” Substances like drugs, alcohol or cigarettes.

However, these are all “coping mechanisms” by nature. By the same token, some people choose gambling or sex as a way to cope with their discomfort.

Now, it may seem under-stated to call it “discomfort” if a person is trying to use any of the above measures to get away from it.

It may feel more like “pain” or “suffering.” That’s true, when you have added the layer of “feelings” to your physical sensations. At this very subtle and often undetected juncture, you are basically creating an interpretation of your emotional experience. For example, when someone you are close to has done something that violated your personal boundary, you start to feel your heart racing and your head spinning. You are sensing the emotions of anger and disappointment. The feelings of anger and disappointment are your interpretation of the event. What that person has done does not match your expectation of the kind of behavior you have in mind for this particular type of relationship. If it was a stranger, you may have felt differently, or, if you feel the same type of feelings, the intensity of the feelings may not be the same.

What I’d like to suggest, is for you to pay attention to your raw emotions as soon as they show up — regardless of the feelings, or interpretations, that follow.

Next, sit with those emotions. Breathe into them—to acknowledge their existence. Breathe out — to let them out of your emotional body.

You see, when you sidestep this process, your physical body will internalize the emotions and store them somewhere physically, until one day, when those emotions are repeatedly so many times that you can’t stand them anymore, that they start to scream at you through different forms of physical pan or diseases (“dis-eases”).

There is a “90-second rule” about emotions. What the rule says, is when you feel a certain emotion and stay with it while letting it run through your body for 90 seconds without any judgement, it will dissipate by itself. This is one of the most powerful things you could do for your health!

According to Jill Bolte Taylor, author of “My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey,” if we are aware that emotions take 90 seconds to surge through our systems, we can simply allow them to naturally pass and flush out. If we choose to fight the emotions instead, we will emphasize them further and then we will need to fight them again and again. By then, the emotions will have become an “illustrated story” in our mind and will have the power to control us.

Try this 90-second rule out for yourself, and share with me how you feel in the comment section below!

In my next post, I will go even deeper and share with you a complete, step-by-step process of how to resolve emotional eating/food addiction for good.

How I Overcame My Chocolate Addiction

How I Overcame My Chocolate Addiction

I have a confession to make: For years and years, I was a chocoholic. Even though I ate only dark chocolate — anywhere from 65% to 85% dark, still, being a Non-secretor, sugar wrecks havoc in my body real easily. (Sugar is an “avoid” for the Non-secretors of all blood types, but Type O Non-secretors are most prone to Candida infections.) Even though I knew it, it was hard to get rid of the habit, until I consciously made two decisions.

The first decision was to be aware of what lied behind my addiction. I paused to take notice of what ran through my mind and how I felt whenever I reached out for my chocolate bar. Without exception, it was always a feeling of loneliness or angst that drove me to reach for the chocolate. What were my needs at that moment? Well, I never thought about it, but this mindful exercise revealed to me that it was the need to have some sort of comfort food to make me feel less lonely, less stressed, less anxious….. Right! I turned to food that would light up the serontonin receptors in my brain and give me a quick sense of pleasure! And then I thought, well, chocolate was beneficial. Why not?

Well, this comforting thought soon gave way to cold sores, weight gain and candida flareups. I knew that whenever these symptoms cropped up, I had to stop!

The second decision was to put myself in a situation where I would be accountable for my action.

So I shared my struggles on a YouTube video and then I announced my intention to quit sugary chocolate in my private FB Group.

In a matter of two weeks, I was able to totally forget about sugared chocolate as I transitioned myself to eating only a small amount of 100% chocolate daily. That caused me no negative health issues at all! And now, I don’t even eat it every day–only a tiny piece once in a while.

It dawned on me that announcing my intention to others rather than keeping it to myself has a special effect on my action. When I did that, I was putting myself out there and holding my action accountable to you all. It’s as if you were witnesses of my promise, or commitment, to my own health goal.

Now imagine how it would help you if you had a “health buddy” to cheer you on and hold you accountable for your progress. Can you think of someone who can do that with you? Whether it’s weaning off of sugar addiction or going out for a daily jog, having a “health buddy” will get your enthusiasm firing and help you sustain your efforts.

So, today’s suggestion is for you to find that buddy among your friends or family members. Tell them one goal that you would like to reach and ask them to hold you accountable by checking in with you regularly how you are progressing.

If you can’t think of anybody who is willing to be your partner in health, consider having me as your personal coach! Click here and chat with me about it.

Video Transcript

Hi, everyone. This is Louisa the Eat Right Chef. Today,  I want to talk to you about sugar and some practical ways to wean off of it. And some of you might have read in scientific literature that sugar is one of the most active, active substances there is. And in fact, I’ve seen a scary image of the brain and it shows that the part of the brain is activated when we have eaten sugar is the same part that is activated when people take cocaine.

So it’s the area in the brain that gets this high from eating sugar and it triggers an addictive reaction. And today, you know, the majority of processed food contains some form of sugar. And it is the best way to keep people going back and buy more and more and eat more and more. And this in turn leads to the epidemic of obesity without people actually being aware of it.

Well, what I want to really talk about today is some practical ways of weaning off of sugar. And I would just take myself as an example, because I have been such a sweet tooth all my life. And, yes, one of the things that sugar contributes to is cancer. Now, while I didn’t have cancer, I had developed several huge tumors inside me.

I realized that sugar had a lot to do with it, and my diet in the past. Before I switched to the Blood Type Diet, my diet mainly consisted of a lot of pastry, bread, cakes, noodles, pasta, you know, all these starchy things that also contain sugar, as well as drinks like coffee that contains sugar.

I thought that putting brown sugar in it was okay, that brown sugar was healthier. But it’s not, it’s doing the same thing to your body as white sugar. Well, except maybe a little bit more natural, but you know, the effect of cane sugar and other forms of sugar that I wasn’t aware of, especially high fructose corn syrup, which is in a lot of processed food,… anyway, so that way of eating was feeding it to my tumor big time.

When I realized what happened to my body, I stopped eating sugar. It was very, very hard because sugar can be found in so many processed foods. So I had to change my diet completely, and I started to cook for myself everything that I ate. Gradually I was able to get rid of most processed food in my diet.

Now, when it comes to sweet stuff, there is one thing that has been the most difficult for me to wean off of, which is chocolate. And it has been something that I’ve allowed myself to eat. In Dr. Peter D’Adamo’s book, “Eat Right for Your Type,” he did mention eating dark chocolate is okay, and moderately, you know, within the portion that’s allowed. And, so I have been eating 75%, 80% dark chocolate, and it has served me well because it fulfill my need for some dessert, and it’s still beneficial. The cacao is beneficial, for me, and for most types actually. Now, the problem starts when I would go to my chocolate bars at times of stress or because of loneliness, problems in relationships or in other areas of my life. It’s kind of like emotional eating. It’s my comfort food. So I go to it and because of the sugar content in it, once I started, I kept on eating it, until maybe half a bar was finished. Some of you may experience this and may find it difficult to put down the bar and you may eat until the whole bar has gone.

This is not uncommon. So one way for me to try to control myself is to really slow down and ask myself, what is it that I’m craving for it that I’m compensating my need by eating this chocolate bar? Then I’d do some deep breathing, and really leaning into that emotion that is affecting me at the time. Doing something that distracts me helps.

But, as long as the bar is there, it’s very easy to go to it. So recently I have decided that I don’t want to have anything chocolate bars with sugar in it, even if it’s dark chocolate. So I have consciously tried to look for 100% percent chocolate. They’re not easy to find, but you know, , I found them and you might find different brands in your supermarket.

I found these in my food co-op and this is a really nice 100% cacao artisan chocolate. So let me show you the inside, there’s a little booklet and I’ve tried it. It tastes really, really amazing, rich, and then here’s another one, 100% cacao from Ecuador. And then there’s a 99% chocolate here.

This one is kind of hard and is actually for baking, but you know, you can chew on this and it gives you a kick! There is caffeine in chocolate, so I suggest that if you don’t want to have trouble sleeping, then try not to eat it at night. Yeah, so that is one way for me to wean off of sugary sweet chocolate.

It seems to work because I actually can’t eat that much 100% dark chocolate. It kind of satisfies me and, I forgot to mention that, sometimes when you crave chocolate, it’s probably because your body is lacking in magnesium and chocolate has magnesium in it.

Magnesium is a mineral that’s responsible for hundreds of enzyme reactions in our body. So it’s very, very important. And, you know, maybe taking a bath with epsom salt would help in that aspect. You can try that as well.

Just one more thing before I sign off. There are chocolate bars that say “sugar-free.” So recently ordered some as an experiment. It’s called “Skinny Me,” Belgian chocolate squares, no sugar. And when I received that, I found that the ingredients contain dextrin and erythritol. Okay. Any kind of alcohol from sugar and dextrin comes from corn. They are not good. You know, anything derived from corn is inflammatory. So avoid those. I have not touched those since I received them. Anyway, so here are some tips and the idea is, if you want to get out of a habit, do it gradually. And work with different aspects of psychology and nutritional deficiency, as well as have a strategy to replace what you’ve been addicted to with something else that gives you a similar mouth feel or satisfaction, but does not contain harmful ingredients. So that’s my tip for the day.

Turning Around Diabetes with the Blood Type Diet

Turning Around Diabetes with the Blood Type Diet

Diabetes runs in my mother’s side of the family, so I am very aware of the possibility that I might get it too. Already in my 20s, I experienced hypoglycemia and frequently felt light-headed and dizzy when I hit blood sugar lows. I wasn’t aware at that time that hypoclycemia was a precursor to Type 2 Diabetes.

Luckily I started eating right according to the Blood Type Diet and SWAMI in my mid-30s and I am confident that I’ll be able to prevent it. In fact, it is possible to reverse diabetes even if you have it.

Recently, my mother’s diabetic conditions had worsened and became highly unstable, often reaching 170-200mg/dL even when fasting. Working with her to tweak her meals, exercise and sleep regime, her blood sugar level dropped drastically so that it hovers around 110-120mg/dL before meal. This took place within a two-week window and her level has stabilized since. She had been skeptical of eating according to her blood type and resisted properly following it for two years since I introduced it to her. Finally she is following my instructions to a tee (and of course, eating what I cook for her sometimes) and is surprised to see the benefits. Most important of all, she realizes that she doesn’t have to rely on drugs the rest of her life and is motivated to continue healing her body by food and lifestyle changes.

Check out the video below to find out how I guided her to turn her diabetic conditions around:

Watch the video here:

Eat Right Chef Louisa's Diabetes Video

For the complete Diabetes protocol, check out this book by Dr. Peter D’Adamo:
Diabetes: Fight It With The Blood Type Diet

If you find this article interesting and inspiring, please share away! Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter so you can get updates on my blog posts, health tips and recipes. Just fill out the form below:

Celebrating Health Coach Week

Celebrating Health Coach Week

I’m celebrating Health Coach Week and am proud to be a graduate of the Integrative Institute for Nutrition (IIN), the largest health coaching school in the world and a pioneer at the forefront of a worldwide wellness revolution. What do health coaches do? We help clients integrate all aspects of their lifestyle, balance them and ultimately improve their mental, physical and emotional well-being and decrease health care costs. Here is an excellent article that explains how health coaches can help people with chronic illnesses; and here is another article that shows how health coaches help people break unhealthy habits.

When I was studying to be certified as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, I had to learn about more than 100 dietary theories. One of the major tenets of the learning was that of “Bio-individuality,” meaning, no one person is the same when it comes to our physical needs, such as food. That dovetails beautifully with what I have experienced over the past nine years of dietary journey, during which I experimented with different kinds of diets and finally chose to adopt the Blood Type Diet as my “default” lifestyle.

While the school did not point to any single diet that is best for our bio-individuality, I know, through my own experience, and that of hundreds of thousands of others, that the Blood Type Diet (+Genotype and SWAMI) can easily be counted as the best example of a diet that supports our bio-individuality.

As a student, I was taught to work with clients and help them find out, on their own, what works best for their unique bodies. This requires a lot of trial and error, a lot of guesswork and of course, time, energy and expenses. But if you start off with the BTD system, it’s like a short-cut that allows you to skip all the trial and error that can be not only time-consuming and costly, but also result in unpleasant or even devastating physical conditions (such as how going vegan wrecked my health once upon a time!).

Having said that, there is still a certain amount of trial and error if you follow the Blood Type Diet, because it is a broad-stroke categorization of people into 4 types (and 8 subtypes). The more advanced version of it is the SWAMI, which goes deep into your genetic information and generates a unique food list that is just for you and no one else. For many people who have been on the BTD, moving to SWAMI helps make the diet even more supportive in turning on the “good genes” and turning off the “bad genes” so you will see maximum health benefits.

Still, bio-individuality as a principle is highly valuable to me, and I continue to use it to guide my work. I believe that even if we each have the blood type, genotype or SWAMI to help guide our food choices, there is still room for tweaking. In addition, there are aspects outside of food and exercise that influence our health. In fact, as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, I have learned that the physical foods we eat are actually secondary to the “primary foods” in our lives. That’s right! As much as I appear to emphasize eating right all the time, that is just the tip of the ice berg of good health and well-being. There is a lot more under the surface.

So what are those “primary foods”? Check out the following circle to find out. Both types of foods are inter-connected. When there is imbalance in certain areas of our lives as shown in the circle, we may find that we resort to emotional eating to fill the void or numb certain emotions.

The Circle of Life | Louisa Wellness

The Circle of Life

Becoming aware is the first step. The next step is learning how to trust yourself, not just how your body responds to food and exercise, but what the “little voice” in your soul is whispering to you, and telling you what to pay attention to. For if you consciously or subconsciously ignore that little voice and omit the “hidden” needs of your being, physical symptoms will eventually crop up as a loud signal for you to pay attention!

If you feel that you want to go deeper than just focusing on physical food and exercise, or if you know what’s right for you but need some hand-holding or “kick in the butt” to establish healthy habits, I am here to help you. Having someone to cheer you on and ask you high-mileage questions can make a huge difference. Book a free consultation with me and see if we’re a good fit to become “partners in health.” Click here.