Stress and Eating (cont.)

MODERATOR: Can we really become carb "addicts" or are we just fooling ourselves to justify the fact that carbs taste good?

CRAWFORD-CLARK: I think that some people react differently than others to carbs. My daughter calls herself a "pastaholic." She loves to eat pasta. My husband loves to eat bread. I have to keep an eye on him during communion at church to make sure he doesn't get a bigger piece than he's supposed to.

I believe -- though I haven't seen any research on it -- that part of that is due to genetic wiring. However, there has been some research that shows that certain foods can increase the serotonin in your body, and that can make you feel calm and can also make you feel a sense of power.

I don't look at weight issues as an addiction, although there are components that are very similar. That's why part of your problem, if you have a weight issue, is you get so much advice from people who have no idea what you're going through.

The original name that I wanted for my book was The Tears No One Sees. If you have a long-term weight problem, I'm sure you can understand what that means.

Back to your point about carbs and addiction. There may be foods initially that you find it more difficult to eat a normal amount of or a healthy amount of. Initially you may want to monitor how much of that particular food that you eat so you're not eating more than you're aware of.

MODERATOR: What are some examples of the way people abuse food?

CRAWFORD-CLARK: I think it's probably more beneficial to think of it in terms of using food instead of abusing food. If you can spend some time thinking about the purpose that's served from eating or not eating, then you're more likely to take care of your needs in other ways.

For example, if someone is using food because they feel like life is out of their control or feel powerless, we know that a bowl of ice cream or a pie or a pizza or whatever they choose, is only a temporary fix. However, if you identify "I'm eating this because I feel like I have no control" then you can develop a plan where you can gain more control in your life. That might be learning how to be assertive.

Many people with weight issues have trouble setting boundaries with other people. They're often caretakers for others, will do more than they get, and are often afraid of saying "no" for fear they'll hurt someone's feelings.

Yet if this sounds like you and you don't learn how to say "no" in a healthy way, not an aggressive way, you're going to continue to use food to meet that purpose, at least temporarily, of feeling in control.

In other words, I can control what goes in my mouth, and no one can stop that. Unfortunately, more and more people are developing eating disorders, which is a disease. And overeating or eating for emotional reasons can start out within their control, but gets to a point where it's not.

Another client, a man who was in construction, shared with me the purposes of why he was overeating, and it was very understandable from an emotional standpoint as to how he became overweight.

He had spent his life in very physical work and been in very good shape until he was in an accident at his job. As a result, he could no longer work. He felt very overwhelmed and weak and like a failure because he couldn't support his family. He was on the verge of losing his job, and angry all the time, which came out sideways at his family.

Instead of taking care of himself emotionally, he ate. When he finally understood the connections he began looking at his life differently, thinking about retraining in a different career and gaining control. That's another example of needing to know why you're using food in order to stop that cycle.

MODERATOR: If we determine that we really are using food as an unhealthy way of avoiding dealing with emotional turmoil, what steps can we take to stop doing so?

CRAWFORD-CLARK: There are many things you can do. I outline the process that I use in my book Body Sense and I have other ideas on my web site, www.forgetaboutdiets.com.

You can also begin to work with a therapist in your home town to look for some of these hidden connections that drive people to use food, but you need to be a good consumer, making sure the therapist has some experience in working with people successfully with a similar goal.

I think the most important thing you can do right now is to throw away your shame and guilt because I hope you have a better understanding of why the problem has developed.

Often I tell my clients that guilt is their middle name. They feel guilty for everything, and guilt is one thing that can pull them back to food. If there are emotional issues underlying weight problems, then another diet isn't the answer. You really need to focus on making the connection and get the past off your plate.

MODERATOR: Ms. Crawford-Clark, do you have any final comments for us today?

CRAWFORD-CLARK: Stay encouraged. When you have the right connections and tools you can win your battle.

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