Emotional Eating

The air conditioner is broken, the repairman didn't show up and the thermometer stands at 96 degrees in the shade. Or the dinner date you've been anticipating all week has just been canceled. To console yourself when you're sad, lonely or have just had a really bad day, you pull out the chocolate-chip cookies and dive into the rocky road ice cream, right? It is so easy to use food to comfort yourself when things aren't going well.

If you do, though, you not only won't feel better for very long, but after your blood sugar goes awry and the postbinge guilt takes over, you'll feel really awful. There are other ways to deal with a bad day, and some tricks you can use that will help you do so in a healthy way. So let me offer a few practical responses to situations in which you need to assuage an emotional hurt or alleviate big-time stress:

• Treat yourself to an acceptable food. This isn't the best answer because it reinforces the idea that eating is a way to remedy emotional pain. But at least it won't leave you with the guilt of a bad binge to deal with on top of everything else.

• Log onto our website at www.atkinscenter.com or the many other Atkins-friendly sites and chat rooms on the Internet and interact with someone who understands your situation. Looking to another person for emotional support is much better than looking to a bowl of ice cream for it!

• If you're at home and feeling lonely, go, out to a movie (ignore the concession stand), a friend's house or the local bookstore. Getting involved with something interesting or entertaining can cheer you up or at least distract you from the compelling urge to eat.

• If you like to cook, make yourself an Atkins treat (see the "Food and Recipes" section starting on page 367) and put it in the refrigerator where it can save you when temptation strikes in the future.

• Call up a friend and talk. This is when an "Atkins buddy" can be a godsend.

• Get some exercise! Are you groaning? How I wish I could teach you the emotional payoffs of exercise. Simply walking, for instance. On a day when life has thrown you some punches, go out for a brisk walk. I guarantee that when you're done, your problems will seem more manageable. By walking fast, you lower your levels of adrenal chemicals, you oxygenate your system and you release brain-soothing endorphins.

• These natural chemicals actually relieve stress, stabilize your appetite and thereby minimize cravings.

• Recite the principles of the Atkins Nutritional Approach. Remember them from Chapter 1? You will lose weight. You will maintain your weight loss. You will achieve good health. You will lay the permanent groundwork for disease prevention.

That last suggestion deserves a more extended discussion.

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