Tag: cognitive behavioural therapy

Effective CBT Tool to Help Stop Emotional Eating

effective-cbt-tool-to-help-stop-emotional-eating

How to address emotional triggers using the ABC model.

Most of us are familiar with the term “emotional eating” and it’s the number one reason why people eat when they are not hungry. I’m going to share an effective Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) tool which will help you address the triggers that lead to emotional eating.

It’s really important to be able to discern between emotional hunger and physical hunger, and to be able to address the cause of emotional eating. While the two sensations may feel very similar, it is only as we become attuned to our body that we can differentiate between them.

The biggest problem with emotional eating is that it does NOT make you feel better, less stressed, whole, or happy. Unfortunately, it has the EXACT OPPOSITE effect, and actually makes you feel worse. After eating something due to an emotional trigger you end up feeling guilty and frustrated with yourself.

There are two simple principles to help you distinguish between emotional hunger and actual hunger:

  1. Emotional hunger is a sudden and impulsive feeling.

Whereas actual hunger is gradual and doesn’t become urgent until you are starving. Typically when you are hit with an urgent pang for a particular food then some emotional trigger is involved.

  1. Emotional hunger cannot be satiated with food.

When you eat as a result of an emotional trigger, as opposed to a physical trigger, you will find that you can continue eating. You may be familiar indeed with bingeing, which is an extreme form of emotional eating. This is where you can eat the whole packet of biscuits and still not feel satisfied. Food cannot fill the emotional deficit that you are experiencing. Physical hunger is easily satiated and once you eat something the feeling of hunger is replaced by a feeling of fullness.

Like anything, the more you practice tuning into your body the easier it will be to identify emotional hunger.

How can you overcome emotional eating?

There are two simple and extremely effective steps:

  1. Awareness
  2. Recognize and address emotional triggers

The most important thing when it comes to addressing emotional eating is awareness. 

  • Put your attention right now into your body.
  • Put your attention right now in your stomach.
  • Are you hungry right now for food at this moment?
  • Every time you’re about to put food in your body, ask yourself, am I hungry right now?
  • How hungry am I?
  • What am I hungry for?

Emotional hunger is different.

Typically when you are hit with an urgent pang for a particular food then some sort of emotional trigger is involved. If you trace back your thoughts to the moment before you felt the urge, you’ll discover that there was a dialogue taking place in your mind. So many people turn to food as a way of trying to cope with something else that they are struggling with.

Whenever you feel yourself getting stressed, anxious, sad, bored, upset, or are experiencing pangs of emotional hunger I have a very effective Cognitive Behavioral Therapy exercise that I want you to use. It’s called an ABC sheet. I absolutely love this tool and find it extremely helpful in addressing emotional hunger, so please use it!

The key with this is that you must physically go through the exercise in written form. It will only take a couple of minutes and will help you recognize and address the triggers that lead to emotional eating.  

Below there is an example of a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy ‘ABC sheet’ to help you learn to address emotional eating. The first row provides the headings and the second row tells you what to do.  Try it out whenever you feel yourself experiencing the pangs of emotional hunger. Going through the process of actually writing the thoughts out is really cathartic and will help reduce and often eliminate the bad feelings.

abc-emotional-eating

Whenever you notice yourself feeling at that point where you want to eat for emotional reasons, as opposed to feelings of actual hunger, do an ABC Sheet. Whether it be boredom, sadness, emptiness, stress, loneliness, anger…or whatever the feeling is!

This very simple formula can help you overcome emotional eating:

  1. Differentiate between emotional hunger and physical hunger 
  2. Use the ABC sheet whenever you feel the pangs of emotional hunger

By now I hope you are clear on how to differentiate between emotional hunger and physical hunger, and you have a powerful tool to use whenever you feel the pangs of emotional hunger.

Over the next week I want you to really start to listen to your body and check in every little while and practice body awareness. If you recognize that you’re not actually hungry, don’t eat!

If you recognize that you are experiencing a craving due to emotional hunger, then I want you to pull out a piece of paper and go through the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy ABC exercise. It’s really important that you physically write out the exercise as opposed to just thinking it. The idea here is that you are interrupting the feelings, acknowledging, and addressing them. This will help combat the need to fill the feeling with food and will help you overcome emotional eating for good!

Mindful Eating and the Positive Effects of CBT

mindful-eating-and-the-positive-effects-of-cbt

Just like all skills, health and well-being can be cultivated through training and practice by using mindful eating and the positive effects of CBT

Whether you’re learning to play the piano, moving from a sedentary life to an active one, or developing more effective ways to handle emotional triggers, the same type of neural circuitry is at play. One of the most inspiring advancements in recent neuroscience is that the neural pathways in our brains are ‘plastic.’ What this means is they change in response to training and experience.

Now, this is wonderful news! What it means is we’re not stuck with any set of thoughts, feelings, or behaviors if we don’t want to be. If we’re willing to commit to learning, training, and practice, we can change anything that’s not working for us.

One of the reasons I love CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is because it’s basically all about changing neural circuity. Instead of focusing on rules about when, what, and how much you ‘should’ be eating, CBT guides you through a process of rewiring yourself from the inside out. By using this rewiring process, you can begin to think differently, address emotions and other triggers more effectively, and make choices that support greater well-being.

Positive Effects of CBT

Because this change in neural pathways is based on awareness and intentional decision making, it has far reaching consequences in other areas of your life, not just eating and activity. For example, CBT guides you to identify thoughts and feelings that might be driving your desire to eat when you’re not hungry. You can then pause to intentionally decide if you’ll eat anyway, redirect your attention, or meet your real needs.

If you choose to eat anyway, instead of doing so automatically and out of habit, you’ll be fully aware of the likely outcome and can then enjoy eating mindfully and without guilt. If you choose to redirect your attention until you are hungry or meet your underlying needs, you’ll have a different experience that will propel you one step closer to your desired future habits. Whichever choice you make, you’re re-training your brain to pause in the face of an impulse or urge, weigh your options, and then consciously decide what to do next.

Pause, Think… Act

You can probably see how applicable this process can be to virtually everything else in your life – and most of my clients quickly see that connection too. For example, let’s say you notice that you feel irritated because your child’s room is a disaster… again. Instead of automatically reacting with a disciplinary yell — which doesn’t feel great and doesn’t seem to help in the long term anyway — you pause, weigh your options, and decide whether and how to respond.

Or perhaps you receive yet another email from your boss with a tight deadline with more work than you can reasonably do. Before complaining to your co-worker or sending off a return email you’ll later regret, you pause, weigh your options, and decide whether and how to respond. It’s hard to think of a situation where this process of identifying, pausing, and intentionally choosing wouldn’t be valuable for you.

However, as with most things in life, there is a catch… This type of rewiring takes training and practice. Caring for ourselves and making decisions that support our greatest interests are skills — skills that can undoubtedly be developed if we’re committed to doing the work. And, like most worthwhile life changes, the outcome is well worth the effort!

As you work on sharpening your mindful eating skills, think about what other areas of your life have you started to shift too?

The Belief That Inspires Healthy Eating and Weight Loss

Study identifies belief that could be crucial to inspiring healthy eating and weight loss


People who believe they have control of their weight — and they were not ‘born fat’ — eat more healthily, a new study finds.

Believing that DNA does not totally determine weight is also linked to higher personal well-being. The authors of the study, published in the journal Health Education & Behavior, explain:

“If an individual believes weight to be outside of the influence of diet and exercise, she or he may engage in more behaviors that are rewarding in the short term, such as eating unhealthful foods and avoiding exercise, rather than healthful behaviors with more long-term benefits for weight management.

By fighting the perception that weight is unchangeable, health care providers may be able to increase healthful behaviors among their patients.” (Parent & Alquist, 2015)

The study of almost 10,000 people found that with age, believing you are in control of your weight was linked to more healthy eating behaviour.

People who felt in control took more notice of nutrition labels on food and were more likely to have fruit and vegetables at home.

They were also less likely to eat frozen meals, unhealthy restaurant food and ‘ready-to-eat’ foods. People who thought their weight was controllable also took more exercise and had higher well-being. The study found little difference between men and women:

“Although previous research has found gender differences in weight as a motivation for exercise and healthful eating, we did not find evidence that gender affected the relationship between health beliefs and physical activity or healthful eating.

However, we found evidence that the relationship between belief in weight changeability and exercise, healthful eating, and unhealthful eating differs by age.”

The Illusion of Control: Are There Benefits to Being Self-Deluded?

The Illusion of Control
Do people always over-estimate how much they control their lives?

The ‘illusion of control’ is this: people tend to overestimate their perceived control over events in their lives. It’s well documented and has been tested over-and-over in lots of different studies over four decades.

Here’s an example: you choose an apple which tastes delicious. You assume you are very skilled at choosing apples (when in fact the whole batch happens to be good today).

Another: you enter the lottery and win millions. You assume that this is (partly) a result of how good your lucky numbers are (in fact lotteries are totally random so you can’t influence them with the numbers you choose. Although most of us know and accept this, we still harbour an inkling that maybe it does matter which numbers we choose).

Sometimes this illusion manifests as magical thinking. In one study participants watched another person try to shoot a miniature basketball through a hoop (Pronin et al., 2006). When participants willed the player to make the shot, and they did, they felt it was partly down to them, even though they couldn’t possibly be having any effect.

It’s like pedestrians in New York who still press the button to get the lights to change, despite the fact they do nothing. Since the late 80s all the traffic signals have been controlled by computer, but the city won’t pay to have the buttons removed. It’s probably just as well: they help boost people’s illusion of control. We feel better when we can do something that feels like it might have an effect (even if it doesn’t).

A beneficial illusion?

It’s sometimes argued that the illusion of control is beneficial because it can encourage people to take responsibility. It’s like when a person is diagnosed with an illness; they want to take control through starting medication or changing their diet or other aspect of their lifestyle.

Similarly, studies find that hospital patients who are able to administer their own painkillers from https://www.ukmeds.co.uk/treatments/pain-relief/dihydrocodeine-30mg-tablets/ typically give themselves lower doses than those who have them prescribed by doctors, but they experience no more pain (Egan, 1990: What does it mean to a patient to be “in control”)a study has also shown that many people try to find how to get rid of external hemorrhoids permanently very desperately.

Feeling in control can also urge us on to do things when the chances of success are low. Would you apply for that job if you knew how little control you had over the decision? No. But if you never apply for any jobs, you can’t get them. So we pump ourselves up, polish our résumé and practice our interview technique.

But the illusion of control isn’t all roses.

To return to the discussion of lotteries, we can see the illusion of control operating in the financial markets. Traders often feel they have more control over the market than they really do. Indeed one study has shown that the more traders think they are in control, the worse their actual performance (O’Creevy & Nicholson, 2010). A word of caution there for those who don’t respect the forces of randomness.

More generally, some argue that the illusion of control stops us learning from our mistakes and makes us insensitive to feedback. When you feel you’re in charge, you are more likely to ignore the warning signals from the environment that things are not under your control. Indeed an experiment has shown that the more power you feel, the stronger the illusion of control becomes (Fast et al., 2009).

Illusion of futility

So far, so orthodox. What’s fascinating is the idea that the illusion of control itself may be an illusion, or at least only part of the story.

What if the illusion of having control depends heavily on how much control we actually have? After all, we’re not always totally out-of-the-loop like the experiments above suggest. Sometimes we have a lot of control over the outcomes in our life.

This has been recently tested out in a series of experiments by Gino et al. (2011). What they found was that the illusion of control flips around when control over a situation is really high. When participants in their studies actually had plenty of control, suddenly they were more likely to underestimate it.

This is a pretty serious challenge to the illusion of control. If backed up by other studies, it reverses the idea that the illusion of control is usually beneficial. Now we’re in a world where sometimes the illusion is keeping us back.

For example, applying for more jobs increases the chance of getting one, exercise does make you more healthy, buying a new car does make you poorer. All these are areas in which we have high levels of control but which we may well be assuming we haven’t.

This effect will have to be renamed the illusion of futility. In other words: when you have high control, you underestimate how much what you do really matters.

Panic Attacks: Study Reveals Best Type of Treatment

Panic attacks

Large study compares the effectiveness of different types of therapies for panic disorders.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is the best treatment for panic disorders, a new study finds. In addition, most people prefer therapy over taking anti-anxiety medication. Dr. Barbara Milrod, a professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, said:

“Panic disorder is really debilitating — it causes terrible healthcare costs and interference with functioning.

We conducted this first ever large panic disorder study to compare therapy types and see if one type of therapy is preferable over another.”

Panic disorders involve suffering from an extreme feeling of anxiety and fear, sometimes for no apparent reason. Panic attacks can also be triggered by many things, including irrational fears such as phobias. During panic attacks people can tremble, become sweaty, feel sick and may experience heart palpitations.

The study randomised around 200 people with panic disorders to various different commonly-used therapies. Therapy lasted for around three months and involved one 45-minute session each week.

Across the two different sites where the therapies were tested, cognitive behavioural therapy was the most effective, and only one-quarter of people dropped out.

Professor Milrod said:

“If patients stick it out and continue with therapy rather than drop out, they have a far greater chance of seeing positive results or getting better.”

The study was published in the  Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (Mildrod et al., 2015).