Archive for September 6, 2018

Emotional Eating

It’s the reason why so many diets fail: We don’t always eat just to satisfy hunger. Many of us also turn to food to relieve stress or cope with unpleasant emotions such as sadness, loneliness, or boredom. And after eating, we feel even worse. Not only does the original emotional issue remain, but we also feel guilty for overeating. No matter how powerless you feel over food cravings, though, there is an answer. By practicing mindful eating, you can change the emotional habits that have sabotaged your diet in the past, and regain control over both food and your feelings.

What is emotional eating?

Emotional eating (or stress eating) is using food to make yourself feel better—eating to satisfy emotional needs, rather than to satisfy physical hunger. You might reach for a pint of ice cream when you’re feeling down, order a pizza if you’re bored or lonely, or swing by the drive-through after a stressful day at work.

Occasionally using food as a pick-me-up, a reward, or to celebrate isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But when eating is your primary emotional coping mechanism—when your first impulse is to open the refrigerator whenever you’re stressed, upset, angry, lonely, exhausted, or bored—you get stuck in an unhealthy cycle where the real feeling or problem is never addressed.

Emotional hunger can’t be filled with food. Eating may feel good in the moment, but the feelings that triggered the eating are still there. And you often feel worse than you did before because of the unnecessary calories you’ve just consumed.

No matter how powerless you feel over food and your feelings, it is possible to make a positive change. You can find healthier ways to deal with your emotions, learn to eat mindfully instead of mindlessly, regain control of your weight, and finally put a stop to emotional eating.

The difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger

Emotional hunger can be powerful, so it’s easy to mistake it for physical hunger. But there are clues you can look for to help you tell physical and emotional hunger apart.

Emotional hunger comes on suddenly. It hits you in an instant and feels overwhelming and urgent. Physical hunger, on the other hand, comes on more gradually. The urge to eat doesn’t feel as dire or demand instant satisfaction (unless you haven’t eaten for a very long time).

Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods. When you’re physically hungry, almost anything sounds good—including healthy stuff like vegetables. But emotional hunger craves junk food or sugary snacks that provide an instant rush. You feel like you need cheesecake or pizza, and nothing else will do.

Emotional hunger often leads to mindless eating. Before you know it, you’ve eaten a whole bag of chips or an entire pint of ice cream without really paying attention or fully enjoying it. When you’re eating in response to physical hunger, you’re typically more aware of what you’re doing.

Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied once you’re full. You keep wanting more and more, often eating until you’re uncomfortably stuffed. Physical hunger, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be stuffed. You feel satisfied when your stomach is full.

Emotional hunger isn’t located in the stomach. Rather than a growling belly or a pang in your stomach, you feel your hunger as a craving you can’t get out of your head. You’re focused on specific textures, tastes, and smells.

Emotional hunger often leads to regret, guilt, or shame. When you eat to satisfy physical hunger, you’re unlikely to feel guilty or ashamed because you’re simply giving your body what it needs. If you feel guilty after you eat, it’s likely because you know deep down that you’re not eating for nutritional reasons.

Identify your emotional eating triggers

What situations, places, or feelings make you reach for the comfort of food? Most emotional eating is linked to unpleasant feelings, but it can also be triggered by positive emotions, such as rewarding yourself for achieving a goal or celebrating a holiday or happy event. Common causes of emotional eating include:

Stuffing emotions – Eating can be a way to temporarily silence or “stuff down” uncomfortable emotions, including anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, resentment, and shame. While you’re numbing yourself with food, you can avoid the difficult emotions you’d rather not feel.

Boredom or feelings of emptiness – Do you ever eat simply to give yourself something to do, to relieve boredom, or as a way to fill a void in your life? You feel unfulfilled and empty, and food is a way to occupy your mouth and your time. In the moment, it fills you up and distracts you from underlying feelings of purposelessness and dissatisfaction with your life.

Childhood habits – Think back to your childhood memories of food. Did your parents reward good behavior with ice cream, take you out for pizza when you got a good report card, or serve you sweets when you were feeling sad? These habits can often carry over into adulthood. Or your eating may be driven by nostalgia—for cherished memories of grilling burgers in the backyard with your dad or baking and eating cookies with your mom.

Social influences – Getting together with other people for a meal is a great way to relieve stress, but it can also lead to overeating. It’s easy to overindulge simply because the food is there or because everyone else is eating. You may also overeat in social situations out of nervousness. Or perhaps your family or circle of friends encourages you to overeat, and it’s easier to go along with the group.

Stress – Ever notice how stress makes you hungry? It’s not just in your mind. When stress is chronic, as it so often is in our chaotic, fast-paced world, your body produces high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol triggers cravings for salty, sweet, and fried foods—foods that give you a burst of energy and pleasure. The more uncontrolled stress in your life, the more likely you are to turn to food for emotional relief.

Find other ways to feed your feelings

If you don’t know how to manage your emotions in a way that doesn’t involve food, you won’t be able to control your eating habits for very long. Diets so often fail because they offer logical nutritional advice which only works if you have conscious control over your eating habits. It doesn’t work when emotions hijack the process, demanding an immediate payoff with food.

In order to stop emotional eating, you have to find other ways to fulfill yourself emotionally. It’s not enough to understand the cycle of emotional eating or even to understand your triggers, although that’s a huge first step. You need alternatives to food that you can turn to for emotional fulfillment.

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating is a practice that develops your awareness of eating habits and allows you to pause between your triggers and your actions. Most emotional eaters feel powerless over their food cravings. When the urge to eat hits, you feel an almost unbearable tension that demands to be fed, right now. Because you’ve tried to resist in the past and failed, you believe that your willpower just isn’t up to snuff. But the truth is that you have more power over your cravings than you think.

Take 5 before you give in to a craving

Emotional eating tends to be automatic and virtually mindless. Before you even realize what you’re doing, you’ve reached for a tub of ice cream and polished off half of it. But if you can take a moment to pause and reflect when you’re hit with a craving, you give yourself the opportunity to make a different decision.

Can you put off eating for five minutes? Or just start with one minute. Don’t tell yourself you can’t give in to the craving; remember, the forbidden is extremely tempting. Just tell yourself to wait.

While you’re waiting, check in with yourself. How are you feeling? What’s going on emotionally? Even if you end up eating, you’ll have a better understanding of why you did it. This can help you set yourself up for a different response next time.

Learn to accept your feelings—even the bad ones

While it may seem that the core problem is that you’re powerless over food, emotional eating actually stems from feeling powerless over your emotions. You don’t feel capable of dealing with your feelings head on, so you avoid them with food.

Allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable emotions can be scary. You may fear that, like Pandora’s box, once you open the door you won’t be able to shut it. But the truth is that when we don’t obsess over or suppress our emotions, even the most painful and difficult feelings subside relatively quickly and lose their power to control our attention. To do this you need to become mindful and learn how to stay connected to your moment-to-moment emotional experience. This can enable you to rein in stress and repair emotional problems that often trigger emotional eating.

Young woman on sofa with popcorn

National Eating Disorder Awareness Month

  • As many as 20 million women and 10 million men experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives (Wade, Kelski-Rahkonen, & Hudson, 2011)
  • The average age that eating disorders begin:
    • Anorexia Nervosa: 19 years old
    • Bulimia Nervosa: 20 years old
    • Binge Eating Disorder: 25 years old
      (Hudson, Hiripi, Pope, & Kessler, 2007)

What causes the development of an eating disorder?

There is no “one cause” of eating disorders. Eating disorders may develop as the result of a combination of biological, psychological, social, and familial issues.

Types of eating disorders Types

  1. Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS), and Binge-Eating Disorder. 

Anorexia Nervosa Symptoms:

  • Not maintaining body weight at, or above, a minimally normal weight level based on age and height
  • Having an intense fear of weight gain, even when underweight
  • Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight
  • For post-pubescent females, the absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles
    (American Psychiatric Association, 2000)

Bulimia Nervosa Symptoms:

  • Binge eating, which consists of the following:
    • In a specific period of time, eating substantially more food than others in a similar period time, and under similar circumstances, would eat
    • Feeling no control, or a lack of control, of the binge eating session
  • Engaging in behaviors in order to prevent weight gain
    • These behaviors may include self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, and/or enemas
  • The binge eating and inappropriate behaviors occur at least twice a week for 3 months
  • Overly concerned with how one’s body shape and weight affects self-worth
    (American Psychiatric Association, 2000)

Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)

Eating Disorder NOS has a combination of symptoms from the category of eating disorders, but does not meet the criteria of a specific eating disorder.

Binge-Eating Disorder has similar symptoms to Bulimia Nervosa (e.g. eating large amounts of food in short time periods and feeling a lack of control when eating). Individuals suffering from this disorder will exhibit three or more of the following:

  • Eating more rapidly than normal
  • Eating until physically uncomfortable
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Eating alone because of embarrassment
  • Feeling disgusted, depressed or guilty after overeating

Individuals with Binge-Eating Disorder do not engage in behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as fasting, dieting, excessive exercise, using laxatives, etc.

(American Psychiatric Association, 2000)

Society and culture

Media in today’s society is filled with images which skew the definition of a “healthy” body.

  • In various studies, girls and boys as young as 4 and 5 years old recognized that the unhealthy images of thinness in mass media are portrayed as ideal (as cited in Levine & Murnen, 2009).

The meaning of body image

The meaning of “body image” varies for every individual. In publications by Levine and Smolak, (2006) females interpret body image as being influenced by multiple components. These include the following beliefs:

  • Being slender is idealized in society,
  • One should fear being fat, and
  • A person’s weight and shape greatly influence their overall identity as cited in Levine & Murnen, (2009)

Men also suffer from eating disorders

Although more women than men suffer from eating disorders, men may also fall victim to the symptoms of these disorders.

Preventing eating disorders

Effective prevention of eating disorders should address the following:

  • Learning how to live a healthy lifestyle through nutritious eating and physical activity
  • Understanding that self-worth is not purely defined by physical appearance
  • Challenging society’s misleading messages about beauty
  • Developing realistic expectations of self and body image
  • Accepting one’s physical characteristics

Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI)

  • Body Mass Index (BMI) is the measure of body fat based on a person’s height and weight.
    • Underweight = <18.5
    • Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
    • Overweight = 25–29.9
    • Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater
  • BMI can be used for both men and women.
  • Be aware that the BMI scale may overestimate body fat in athletes and those who have a muscular build, and may underestimate body fat in older persons.
  • Calculate your BMI.

Children’s Anger Management Strategies That Work

Punch pillows!” is a common piece of advice children hear regarding how to manage anger. The idea behind this advice is that people have to let their anger out or they’ll explode aggressively. Unfortunately, there’s not a shred of evidence that this is helpful (Kennedy-Moore & Watson, 2001). In fact, “venting” anger tends to rehearse and intensify it.

For example, in one study, Brad Bushman angered college student participants by giving them evaluations, supposedly from another study participant, on an essay they had written. The fake evaluations were extremely critical and included comments such as “This is one of the worst essays I have read!” as well as very poor scores on numerical ratings of qualities such as organization, originality, and clarity. Next, participants either saw a picture of their supposed critic and hit a punching bag while thinking about that person (venting condition), hit a punching bag while thinking about exercise and physical fitness (active distraction condition), or just sat quietly for two minutes (control condition). Afterward, those in the venting condition reported feeling angrier and behaved more aggressively than the control group. The people in the active distraction group were less angry but not less aggressive than the venting group. Participants in the control group, who just waited, had the lowest levels of anger and aggression.

Understanding the Process of Emotion Regulation

So if punching pillows is likely just to intensify children’s anger, what are better strategies we can teach our kids? To answer that question, we first need to take a step back and look at how emotions come about. James Gross (2013; Gross & Thompson, 2007), in his process model of emotion regulation, outlines five points at which people can alter their emotional responses:

1) Situation Selection involves seeking out or avoiding situations that are likely to trigger particular emotions.

2)  Situation Modification involves doing things to alter a situation in order to change its emotional impact.

3)  Attentional Deployment means using distraction or concentrating on something to lessen or heighten emotional responses.

4) Cognitive Change means adjusting interpretations of an emotion-triggering event or judgments about an individual’s capacity to cope with it.

5) Response Modulation involves doing things to alter the physiological, experiential, or behavioral aspects of an emotional reaction, after it has been generated. Some response modulation strategies may alter the situation, cycling back through earlier steps.

Parents can help children with every step of the emotion regulation process. Take the example of a child who gets angry at a sibling for knocking over a block tower. Parents could influence Situation Selection by making sure the child isn’t tired or hungry and therefore more prone to responding angrily. Situation Modification could involve anticipating the mishap and instructing the child to move the block tower to a place where it’s less likely to get knocked over. Attention Deployment might mean suggesting a snack or going outside to distract the child from the tumbled tower. Cognitive change might involve explaining to the child that the sibling knocked it over by accident or that the tower can easily be rebuilt in an even better way. Response Modulation could involve helping the child to rebuild the tower or encouraging the child to “use her words” to ask the sibling to move over  or to help pick up the blocks.

Within this framework, the first four steps constitute antecedent-focusedemotion regulation, because they target processes involved in the generation of emotion. The final step is response-focused regulation because it involves adjusting what people do to cope with an emotion that has already fully emerged. It’s often easier and more effective to manage emotions earlier rather than later in the process.

Seen within this context, it’s not surprising that punching pillows to try to manage anger isn’t effective. It does nothing to alter the situation or how children view it.

How Parents Can Teach Anger Management

So, how can parents help children learn to manage their emotions? Here are some guidelines:

– Put safety first

When children are very angry, they may lash out in aggressive ways. When prevention wasn’t possible, often the first step in anger management is to help children step away from the situation to calm down. This can also prevent further escalation. Out-of-control children need parents to step in gently but firmly so they don’t hurt others or break things.

– Talk things through

Once your child has calmed down enough to think clearly, let your child tell you what happened. A recent study by Wainryb and colleagues (2018) showed that just telling a narrative of an anger-inducing event can help children and teens feel less angry both immediately and one week later. Explaining the sequence of events slows children down and engages the thinking part of their brain. Express empathy so your child feels heard and comforted.

After that, you can ask questions to help your child understand other people’s perspectives and use healthy communication or problem-solving. For example, you could ask, “What could you say to him?” “How is she likely to react if you do that?” “What can we do to prevent this from happening again?” or “What could you do to make things a little bit better right now?”

Responding to children’s anger with gentleness and compassion makes it easier for children to deal with strong feelings and think things through. Angry or punitive responses to children’s anger, on the other hand, add to children’s stress when they’re already feeling overwhelmed.

– Model appropriate expression

Children learn more from what we do than from what we say. When parents respond to their own anger in aggressive ways, they not only trigger more anger in children, they also teach that yelling, hitting, or being mean are appropriate ways to behave when angry. Everyone feels angry sometimes, but we want to teach our children that it’s possible to feel angry and still treat others respectfully.

Overall, effective anger management requires that children learn to think about and manage the full process of emotion regulation, addressing the situation, their internal thoughts and reactions, and their external behavior and how that impacts other people or the situation. The strategy of punching pillows implies that anger is something that needs to be gotten rid of. It’s not. It’s a source of information about ourselves and our environment. Children need to learn to understand it and cope with it in ways that make their lives better.


7 Reasons Why Riding Improves Your Life

People who have been around horses know that these amazing creatures are the best of friends a person can have and nobody and nothing in the world substitute them. They also what benefits they get from being around horses and what does it means to touch a horse and feel the touch they give.

Horses and riding have really improved our lives in the following ways: Improves Posture, Teaches Respect, Time Outside, Horses-Assisted Therapy, Friendship, and Exercise.

Addiction vs. Dependence

Addiction is synonymous with substance use disorder, and abuse means the same thing as misuse. But the terms dependence, addiction and abuse are not interchangeable. The distinctions between the words are important to understand because addiction is often a misunderstood disease. Dependence and addiction are caused by changes to different parts of the brain. Addiction is caused by changes to the pleasure and reward system of the brain. Dependence affects different parts of the brain called the thalamus and brain stem, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. That’s why you can be dependent on a drug but not addicted to it. For example, when a person drinks alcohol repeatedly for several days or weeks, the brain adapts to the presence of the substance. He or she becomes dependent on alcohol and relies on it to feel normal. When that person quits drinking, withdrawal symptoms occur. When people who are dependent on alcohol stop drinking, they will usually overcome withdrawal after seven days. Some people are unable to quit drinking because they have a disease called alcohol addiction that makes it difficult for them to stay sober. Tolerance is another phenomenon that’s closely associated with dependence. As people become more dependent on a drug, their tolerance tends to increase. High tolerance and dependency on a substance are warning signs for addiction, but they are not the sole indicators of addiction.

Definition of Dependence

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines dependence as “a state in which an organism functions normally only in the presence of a drug.” Drugs disrupt the balance of chemicals in the brain. The brain adapts by changing its natural chemical production. As it adapts, it becomes more tolerant to the substance. Over time, the brain begins to rely on the presence of the drug to function. When someone who is dependent stops taking the drug, the chemical balance is thrown off, and the person experiences symptoms of withdrawal. Dependence can be a warning sign for addiction, but it may simply be a sign of drug abuse.

Definition of Addiction

Addiction is often defined as compulsive substance abuse despite negative consequences. Unlike dependence, addiction doesn’t affect every person who is repeatedly exposed to an addictive substance. A combination of genetic and environmental factors affects addiction risk. Like dependence, addiction is caused by physical changes in the brain. These changes affect the reward and motivation parts of the brain. They make people value the addictive substance and receive unrivaled pleasure or happiness when they consume the substance.

History of the Terms Dependence and Addiction

The American Psychiatric Association used to divide the term substance use disorder into two categories: abuse and dependence. Substance use disorder is the medical term for addiction. Abuse was a mild form of addiction, and dependence was a moderate or severe form of addiction. That terminology was problematic because in biology — the study of organisms — dependence refers to a physical adaptation to a substance. Today, the APA classifies substance use disorders as mild, moderate or severe. It doesn’t use the terms abuse and dependence to categorize the severity of an addiction.

Different Severities of Dependency

In general, the longer people consume an addictive substance, the more dependent they’ll become. The method of abuse can also increase the severity of dependency. For example, injecting or snorting a drug may make a person more dependent than swallowing the same drug. Injecting or snorting a drug also decreases the time it takes to become addicted to the drug because the brain feels the full dose of the drug suddenly instead of gradually feeling a smaller dose over time.

Some drugs cause more dramatic withdrawal symptoms than others. For example, withdrawal from stimulants usually results in fatigue, irritability and trouble focusing. In severe cases, withdrawal can cause depression, anxiety and paranoia. Tolerance and dependence to stimulants, such as crystal meth or cocaine, build rapidly. People who go on cocaine or meth benders often take increasing doses of the drugs to feel the same effects. Eventually, they’re so tolerant to the drugs that they’re unable to achieve the high that they desire. When they stop taking the drugs, they experience a devastating crash. However, they can often overcome these symptoms of withdrawal within a few days. Withdrawal from other types of drugs, such as alcohol and benzodiazepines, usually occurs more slowly. Abuse of these substances can cause tolerance to build quickly, but most of the time dependency gets worse over months or years. Unlike stimulant dependency, you can’t overcome alcohol or benzo dependency in a few days. It usually takes several days or multiple weeks to overcome the immediate symptoms of alcohol or benzo withdrawal. It can take months to overcome the late withdrawal symptoms of these drugs, such as sleep problems or fatigue. It’s important to talk to your doctor if you think you’re dependent on a drug because some withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening.

Determining Whether You’re Dependent or Addicted

It’s easy to determine when people are dependent on a drug. If they stop taking the drug, they’ll experience noticeable withdrawal symptoms. But it isn’t always easy to determine if a person is addicted to a drug. For example, patients who receive opioids for severe cancer pain may be dependent on opioids. They’ll experience withdrawal if they suddenly stop receiving the medication. But they aren’t addicted if they aren’t compulsively seeking the medication despite obvious harms. Determining whether opioid-seeking behavior is caused by addiction or the desire for pain relief is complicated. If people aren’t experiencing noticeable consequences of prescription drug addiction, such as family problems or job loss, they probably aren’t addicted. You can determine if you’re addicted to a drug by analyzing your behaviors. If drug use is hurting your relationships, causing problems at school or work or getting you in trouble with law enforcement, you may be addicted. If you feel cravings or withdrawal when you quit a drug but you can prevent yourself from using the drug, you probably aren’t addicted. If you think you have a problem with alcohol or other drugs, it’s important to  tell a loved that you may be addicted. They can provide support and help you find treatment to overcome your condition.

Promote National Suicide Prevention Month

We can all help prevent suicide. Every year, the Lifeline and other mental health organizations and individuals across the U.S. and around the world raise awareness of suicide prevention during September, National Suicide Prevention Month.

About National Suicide Prevention Month

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. All month, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness.

National Suicide Prevention Week is the Monday through Sunday surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day. It’s a time to share resources and stories, as well as promote suicide prevention awareness.
World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10. It’s a time to remember those affected by suicide, to raise awareness, and to focus efforts on directing treatment to those who need it most.

#BeThe1To is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s message for National Suicide Prevention Month and beyond, which helps spread the word about actions we can all take to prevent suicide. The Lifeline network and its partners are working to change the conversation from suicide to suicide prevention, to actions that can promote healing, help and give hope.