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Weight Off With the Early Show, Part 8

This week, as we progress through our weight-loss program, we explore the food-mood connection. Participants are encouraged to consider the events, feelings, and situations occurring before, during, and after eating. In other words, raising the level of analysis--starting to think about events that can trigger eating and learning ways to change them.

The first step is to discover patterns in eating behaviors and disrupting those patterns. Many people have situations, times, or activities that stimulate eating. These events become paired repeatedly with eating so that the event can make you feel hungry. For example, 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 whether you are physically hungry or not. In fact, many people do other things while eating--working on a hobby, talking on the phone, writing letters, watching TV, reading a magazine, and so forth. So, eating should be separated from activities.

And not only does eating become paired with these activities, but they become a distraction from eating, so you get all the calories, but only part of the pleasure. These are calories wasted, not tasted. Eating should be a pure experience. Nothing else should be done while eating and every bite should be tasted. Other relevant factors during eating include speed of eating and rate of chewing.

Following an eating schedule is another way of helping to eat less and think more. 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. Also, eat in one place. Some people can eat anywhere. They eat standing up, sitting down, at the kitchen counter, in an easy chair, lying in bed, or driving the car. Places can also be associated with eating, so it is important to limit the places where you eat. Best yet, select one place in your home where you will eat. Do all your eating there, but do nothing else there (not playing chess or paying bills, and so on).

Consequences are the events, feelings, and attitudes that follow eating. These things that happen after eating can determine whether eating will occur again. For instance, if you are stressed and as a result eat a cookie, the disappointment of not sticking to the plan could lead you to eat more or all of the cookies, which could lead to going off the plan.

Tip of the Day

"Keep a food record": Keeping a food record or diary of everything you eat is the single most effective behavioral tool to help you lose weight.

Food-Mood Connection

As we continue our Weight Off with the Early Show series, we explore the food-mood connection--what strong ties lie between food and our emotions. We check in and discuss the food-mood connection with Rita Clinckscales and Vonne Velez, our mother-daughter weight-loss participants from Forth Worth, Texs.

Rita's Food-Mood Connection

Rita Clinckscales (mother), 58, height 5 feet 9 inches. Rita's initial weight was 230 pounds. Her goal is to lose 70 pounds. So far, she has lost 13 pounds.
Rita says she eats when she's happy as well as when she's sad. But when she's bored it's especially bad! "When I'm really busy, I forget to eat, but it's the times when I'm at home and not busy--I'm bored--so I eat more," says Rita, and she adds," I snack a lot when watching TV or sitting at my table doing crafts."

Vonne's Food-Mood Connection

Vonne Velez (daughter), 35, height 5 feet 8 inches. Vonne weighed in at 280 pounds. Her goal is to lose 50 pounds. So far, she's lost 12 pounds.
Although things are going well so far on this weight-loss plan, Vonne says that in the past she would find herself eating when bored or when she had a bad day. "When I'm feeling sorry for myself," admits Vonne, "I will say to myself, 'I deserve this candy bar, or Pepsi or hamburger.' The are comfort foods to me."

Aronne on Food-Mood

Dr. Louis Aronne is the director of the comprehensive weight control program at New York Presbyterian Hospital and our expert on the Weight-Off series.
Food is often connected to our emotions, and this 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 to eating become patterns. "Experts agree, the following five behavioral techniques can break the mood-food relationship and help you lose and maintain your weight," says Aronne.


  1. Set realistic goals to prevent disappointment, which could lead to breaking your diet. "Make sure your goals are achievable," says Aronne. "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, don't make an unrealistic goal of walking 50 blocks. Instead, make your goal for walking one block, and then from there you can decide if you'll walk another block.
  3. Self-monitor by keeping a 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 what you are doing. It's just like keeping a checkbook so you know how much money you have in your account, but instead you're keeping a record of how many calories you have in your food account. It's the single most effective behavioral tool we have to help lose weight.
  4. Avoid a chain reaction. Some of us eat because of a behavior we are used to doing and continue to repeat. For example, we get stressed, which leads to eating a cookie, which means having fallen off a weight-loss plan, which leads to depression or disappointment, which leads to eating more or all of the cookies. It's a chain reaction. In this case, break the chain with a nonfood reward. Instead of a cookie, treat yourself with a nonfood rewrd such as taking 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.

Aronne repeats that these are ways to break the cycle of eating out of frustration, anxiety, loneliness, or boredom. They will help you become more conscious and sensitive to possible problems and help you to act to avoid them.

Aronne suggests that Rita keep busy to combat her boredom. While watching TV she should do something else, too, such as her crafts, or better yet, exercise while watching instead of eating. For
Vonne, instead of resorting to eating when she's had a bad day, she should treat herself with a nonfood reward.
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