Bingeing, emotional eating, and mindless snacking are major causes of weight loss relapse. But why does it happen? In a study published in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, Susan Kayman and colleagues set out to discover the difference between women who took off weight and kept it off successfully (maintainers), and those who took off weight but eventually regained it all (relapsers). They found many differences between relapsers and successful maintainers, but one stood out like a sore thumb…

emotional eating and mindless snackingRelapsers were emotional eaters who lacked skills to respond to and cope with stress and unexpected problems.

While almost all of the women reported stressful issues or problems, there were major differences in the way the relapsers and maintainers coped with their problems.

Very few relapsers used problem-solving or confrontive ways of coping with their problems as compared with maintainers.

Instead, they were more likely to use emotion-focusedor escape/avoidance behaviors for coping such as eatingmore, sleeping more or just wishing the problem wouldgo away.

Relapsers reported using food to make themselvesfeel better when they were upset. They also attributedweight gain to unexpected or unpredictable stressfullife events.

Maintainers, by contrast, confronted their problemsdirectly and looked for alternative ways to cope withthem (other than eating)

These included relaxation techniques, meditation, exercise,focusing on productive work, seeking social support, getting professional help, or talking out theirfeelings with other people they trusted.

This by the way, confirms previous research in the area of addiction recovery which found that a person who has made a successful behavior change will return to a previous negative pattern if a stressful situation occurs and no coping skills have been developed to deal with it.

Another big difference between maintainers and relapsers was conscious awareness (or lack of it)

70% of relapsers ate unconsciously in response to emotions.

Maintainers, on the other hand, were vigilant and conscious of EVERYthing:

  • They were conscious of the quantity and type of food they ate
  • They were conscious about the amount of activity that they needed personally to maintain their weight
  • They consciously worked to “keep in shape” after they reached their initial goal
  • They were conscious that they felt uncomfortable in their clothes after they gained even a little weight such as a few pounds after a vacation
  • They intentionally wore close-fitting clothes to keep themselves aware of their bodies, which prompted them to exercise more eat less if their clothes felt tighter.

From these findings emerge two of the very first steps that are absolutely necessary for you to end emotional eating and prevent diet relapse:

1. Develop greater conscious awareness
2. Develop alternative behaviors and coping mechanisms for dealing with stress and emotions

It takes courage to directly confront your problems and strength to overcome them, but you can’t even begin to solve a problem unless you are aware you have one. It all beginswith AWAREness.

One of the best ways to increase conscious awareness of your eating habits is to keep a nutrition diary or do electronic food tracking at least once in your life for a period of at least 4-12 weeks.

Many people are catching on, as reflected in the popularity of sites like My Fitness Pal, which let you log in your daily food intake, while others keep extensive written journals.

People who are struggling with relapse and weight regain, but who refuse to admit that calories are important, who find keeping journals to be too much like work, or who don’t at least find some other way to raise their awareness about what and how much they are eating, are likely to continue to struggle.

Your friend and coach,

Tom Venuto

PS As you can see, based on research in both obesity and psychology journals, and as your own instincts probably have already told you, emotional eating is not a “women’s tabloid magazine” type of topic that can just be brushed over lightly. It is very real problem, and it affect smen as well.

Fortunately, there are numerous real solutions for ending emotional eating. You now have two of the first and most important steps.

If you’d like to learn more, I highly recommend checking out the book, Five Principles for Burning Fat, Building Lean Muscle, Ending Emotional Eating, and Maintaining Your Perfect Weight.

Subscribe to the Burn the Fat weekly newsletter and get my ebook, "The 20 Best Fat-Burning, Muscle-Building Recipes Of All Time" FREE!
Your email is safe with me!