Posted by: drbinder | October 22, 2011

Weight Loss Research Misses Big Component.

Maybe you’ve heard reports of the recently published study that suggests keeping a food journal is a key factor to loosing weight.   The 5 year Kaiser Permanente study found that jotting down your food and beverage consumption has two major influences on weight loss.  First, it quantifies your caloric intake and increases your awareness of how much you’re eating and drinking throughout the day.  Second, it holds you accountable for those weaker moments when indulgences override your sensibility to hold off on that extra piece of cake or handful of cookies after dinner.

Consistency also plays a particular role in diet journal success.  Participants who kept a journal 6-7 days a week lost twice as much weight than those who skipped two or more days of journal entries.

However, awareness and accountability of what and when we eat fall short of making the real connection of why 63% of America is overweight.   The conclusions drawn from this research are nothing short of important, but perhaps the next study should place more emphasis on the why, rather than just the what and when.

Experts have estimated that 75% of overeating is caused by our conscious and unconscious emotions.  So what is the connection between food and mood?

The cyclical nature of emotional eating is evident in those who use food as a distraction from their anxiety or depression, much like alcoholism.  However the relief is only temporary and the burden of your existing problems will eventually return, now added with the guilt that you are overeating to avoid them.

A slue of other factors can also add to the cycle, such as societal pressure and habitual eating patterns.  The key is identifying and separating emotional hunger from physical hunger.  According to the University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Center, several distinctions can be made from the two types of hunger.

1- Physical hunger comes gradually over time, while emotional hunger occurs instantaneously.
2- When you crave specific foods such as pizza or ice cream, it is emotional.
3- Physical hunger can wait, while emotional hunger needs to be resolved immediately.
4- Eating past the point of satiation indicates emotional eating; when you eat for physical reasons you will stop when you are full.
5- Emotional eating leaves behind feelings of guilt; physical eating does not hurt the ego.

Understanding America’s obesity epidemic may lie in revealing the cause of overeating, and not just blaming fast food chains, busy schedules, and deficiencies in will power.  So if you’re going to keep a daily food journal, don’t just count your calories, include a line of how you’re feeling at the time of each meal. Your emotional awareness will exponentially increase your progress when trying to lose weight.  The results may even surprise you.

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