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The Food-Mood Connection

Food is often connected to our emotions, something that can lead to serious weight problems.

For instance, many of us eat when we're happy, or sad or under stress. Often, these emotional triggers become patterns.

In the fourth week of its "Weight Off With The Early Show" series, Dr. Louis Aronne suggested ways to break the cycle of eating out of frustration, anxiety, loneliness or boredom. He also offered Liz Gardner, the weight loss participant from Gresham, Ore., some ways to break the food/mood connection she has been struggling with.

If you are following the Weight Off plan, Dr. Aronne suggests considering the events, feelings and situations occurring before, during and after eating. By thinking about the events that trigger eating, you can learn ways to disrupt eating patterns.

Here are Dr. Aronne's suggestions:

Separate eating from other activities. If you sit in your chair, watch TV, or read the morning paper while eating every day, you will feel like eating during these activities, irrespective of physical hunger.

Consider eating as a pure experience. Nothing else should be done while eating and every bite should be tasted. Activities become a distraction from eating. You get all the calories, but only part of the pleasure. These are calories wasted, not tasted. Other relevant factors during eating include speed of eating and rate of chewing.

Follow an eating schedule. Just by changing or planning an eating schedule or controlling the number of times you eat (especially if you tend to skip or delay meals and overeat later) can make a difference.

Limit the places where you eat. Places can be associated with eating. Some people can eat anywhere. They eat standing up, sitting down, at the kitchen counter, in an easy chair, lying in bed, or driving a car. Best yet, select one place in your home where you will eat. Do all you eating there, but do nothing else (not playing chess nor paying bills, etc.)

Dr. Aronne says, "Experts agree the following five behavioral techniques can break the mood/food relationship and help you lose and maintain your weight."

1. Set realistic goals to prevent disappointment and a sense of faiure that could lead to breaking your diet. Dr. Aronne says, "Make sure your goals are achievable. If they are not, it could lead to depression or disappointment for failing and in turn lead to cheating or quitting your weight loss plan."

2. Make intermittent goals. In other words, again don't make an unrealistic goal of walking 50 blocks. Instead, make your goal for one block, and then from there decide if you'll walk another block.

3. Keep food record. Record everything you eat. It could get as detailed as when, where, and what you're doing while eating. This way, you can keep track of how many calories you have in your food account. It's the single most effective behavioral tool to losing weight.

4. Avoid a chain reaction. Some of us eat because of a behavior we're used to doing and continue to repeat. For example, we get stressed which leads to eating a cookie, which means falling off the weight loss plan, which leads to depression or which leads to eating more or all of the cookies. It's a chain reaction. In this case, break the chain with a non-food reward. Instead of a cookie, treat yourself to a hot bath or some other activity.

5. Reward yourself for doing well too, but NOT with food. Instead of a candy bar, buy a favorite CD or take the afternoon off.

Dr. Aronne reiterates these are ways to break the mood/food cycle. They will help you become more conscious and sensitive to issues, and to act on them

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