She was gaining weight again

A week or so ago I called a woman who had been a client of mine several months earlier about her emotional eating problem. She had used the Lefkoe De-conditioning Process to get rid of all the triggers we could find and the Lefkoe Belief Process to eliminate all the relevant beliefs.  For several months after our last session she had been eating normally and healthily and had been losing weight.

But instead of hearing that the weight had continued to fall away, she told me during my follow-up call that she had gained back all the weight she had lost and was eating badly again.  I asked her why she hadn’t called me and asked for help.  She said she didn’t know why she hadn’t called

In a situation like this, there are two possible explanations: First, what we had done hadn’t worked.  Second, it had worked and there was some other explanation.  I decided to check out the second possibility first.

I asked her to tell me everything about her life for the past few months.  She told me that she had had knee surgery last December and had been unable to walk, much less exercise for over two months.  That could partially account for the increase in weight, but it wouldn’t account for overeating and unhealthy eating.  For example, she had totally stopped drinking Pepsi for several months but had gone back to several bottles a day.  She was eating pizza for dinner frequently.

Almost in passing she mentioned that after she realized that she would be unable to exercise—which meant to her that the constant weight loss she had been experiencing probably would stop—she had the thought: What’s the use.  I’ll never lose weight no matter how hard I try.

That was a new belief that partially explained the re-emergence of her eating problem.  So she eliminated that belief.  During the session she found and eliminated another, older, belief that had contributed to the problem: Even if I lose weight, no one will ever be interested in me, so why bother.

When we talked the following week she told me that she was not consciously doing anything different, but she was drinking far less Pepsi and had stopped her overeating.  She noticed that she would unconsciously go to the pantry, look in, then realize that she wasn’t hungry, and close the door and walk away.

In a second session a week later she told me why she had not been eating healthily during the prior couple of months.  Because she was unable to shop and cook for herself because of the foot surgery, she ate whatever her children brought home—usually pizza—and wouldn’t ask them to buy her something healthier and less fattening.

The beliefs she identified and eliminated that caused this behavior included: I can’t count on other people.  I’m not worthy.  I have to do it on my own. These beliefs explained by why hadn’t asked her children or friends to buy the food that she normally purchased for herself.

A few days later I received the following note from her:

“I just want to thank you again.  It is awesome to experience hunger!  Before, I was eating all the time and never got hungry.   I’m so happy.  I feel in control of myself again.   I thought if I called you, I was a failure, but now I see how we can still take on bad beliefs that we need to get rid of.  I won’t wait next time.    Thank you again.  I appreciate you so much!”

So although her “relapse” could have meant that the de-conditioning and the belief eliminating hadn’t worked to stop her emotional eating problem, on further investigation we discovered that what we had done previously had worked—and there was a little more that needed to be done.

Don’t ever give up hope. It is possible to totally stop your emotional eating problem.

For more details, please see my eBook, The Secret to Ending Overeating For Good, at  You also can get answers to specific questions at my office, 415-884-0552.

Copyright © 2011 Morty Lefkoe

Why Are Sweets A Particular Problem For Emotional Eaters?

Many emotional eaters don’t care what they eat when they are triggered with a negative feeling.  They eat whatever they can find in the kitchen because they have been conditioned to eat.

Other emotional eaters specifically crave sweets.  They will eat non-sweets if that is all that’s available, but they prefer sweets when they have been triggered (or when beliefs drive them) to eat.

Why emotional eaters prefer sweets

There is research that explains why many emotional eaters prefer sweets.  In a Newsweek article (June 25, 2009), Kate Dailey described some of the research.

“The desire for sweetness is hardwired into humans—give babies a little sugar on their lips and they’ll smile. That’s because up until the advent of artificial additives, sweet flavors signified calorie-dense foods. …

“Whether one likes the taste of sugar a little or a lot, sweet foods react with everyone’s brains in the same way—by producing a rush of chemicals, including dopamine, which creates an opiate-like effect. ‘In Sweden, sweet-tasting foods like sugar solutions are used as anesthetic to do minor surgeries,’ says Dr. Kampov-Polevi.  Sugar water is also used in the US on babies for minor procedures like blood draws.”

Consider why emotional eaters eat when confronted with negative feelings. As I’ve described in detail in prior posts, they want to escape those feelings by going numb.  To the extent that sweet foods, in particular, numb us somewhat, then sweet foods would be the most effective type of food to give an emotional eater what she wants.

Sweets reduce anxiety

Further research indicates that in addition to numbing us, sweet foods also create positive feelings that serve as a pleasurable distraction, thereby effectively reducing the stress that is caused by most negative feelings.

Dr. Charles Raison, at Psychiatrist at Emory University Medical School, points out that, “In addition to stimulating brain reward centers, sweet food markedly affects stress hormones in ways likely to provide a sense of temporary reprieve from anxiety.”  That is precise what emotional eaters want.

One of the most impressive studies to demonstrate how sugar reduces stress was reported on by UPI just a few months ago (November 10, 2010).  The wire service story states:

“Eating, sex and other pleasurable activities provide more than enjoyment, they reduce stress by inhibiting anxiety responses in the brain, U.S. researchers say. [Emphasis added.]

“Yvonne Ulrich-Lai, a research assistant professor, and James Herman, professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience, both at the University of Cincinnati, and colleagues also indicate that these reduced-stress effects continue for at least seven days.

“’These findings give us a clearer understanding of the motivation for consuming “comfort food” during times of stress,’ Ulrich-Lai says in a statement. ‘But it’s important to note that, based on our findings, even small amounts of pleasurable foods can reduce the effects of stress.’

“Twice a day rats were provided access to a sugar solution for two weeks. The rats with access to sugar had reduced heart rates and stress hormone levels ….

“Rats fed a solution artificially sweetened with saccharin showed similar stress reduction responses, as did rats given access to sexually responsive partners. But sugar supplied directly to the stomach did not blunt the rats’ stress response, the researchers say.

“’This indicates that the pleasurable properties of tasty foods, not the caloric properties, were sufficient for stress reduction,’ Ulrich-Lai says.”

While it might be somewhat harder to stop eating sweets than other foods, it still is possible to de-condition eating so that it is no longer the main way emotional eaters deal with negative feelings.  Moreover, it is possible to eliminate the beliefs and conditionings that cause the negative feelings.  And even most importantly, it is possible to learn to live with negative feelings without having to do anything to “cope” with them.

For more details, please see my eBook, The Secret to Ending Overeating For Good, at  You also can get answers to specific questions at my office, 415-884-0552.