‘Emotional eating’ among topics at Colonie conference

The 29th Annual Nutritional Concerns Conference for professionals, called “Food for Thought," will b

OK. So you’ve written down your goals. You’re trying to eat less and exercise more, but you can’t seem to drop an ounce. What gives? Annette Colby, a registered dietitian who lives in Dallas, says many people who find themselves in this dilemma are emotional eaters.

“They’re using food for something other than nourishment,” said Colby, author of “Your Highest Potential.”

Colby will be one of several speakers at the 29th Annual Nutritional Concerns Conference for professionals called “Food for Thought,” from 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Albany Marriott, 189 Wolf Road. The conference is sponsored by Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Albany Saratoga, Schenectady and Rensselaer Counties. The fee is $85.

“Emotional eating is the practice of turning to food — consciously or unconsciously — to deal with feelings and emotions,” said Colby, who will discuss “Stop battling food and start embracing life.”

Colby said the negative feelings and emotions may be with you most of the day. However, it is only when the pace slows down that you notice them. Not knowing how to handle these powerful emotions, eating follows.

Setting new goals

“Part of what people have to do is learn how to set new goals in a new way and have a clear concise direction of where they want to go,” said Colby. “But their main goal is about eliminating some of the fears and beliefs that they have.”

Before emotional eaters can lose weight, Colby said they need to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and why they eat.

Colby said the main reasons emotional eaters eat include:

– Feeling disempowered to change their life.

– Feeling overwhelmed or trapped and not knowing how to move forward.

– Unresolved stress and anxiety.

– Perfectionist attitudes or fear of making mistakes or failing.

– Loneliness or boredom.

– Having a sense of insecurity.

– Feeling undeserving of the abundance and pleasure life has to offer.

– Low self-esteem.

– Eating to hide an emptiness inside.

– A sense of feeling deprived caused by dieting.

Emotional eating occurs when a person believes that they are unable to deal with their situation, said Colby.

“When those beliefs rise up, they bring a lot of disempowering emotions with them,” she explained. “My contention is when those beliefs rise up, it is so we can become aware of what we actually believe about ourselves, life and other people.”

Colby said people who feel powerless to change, use food as an attempt to feel better about themselves.

For example a person may want more success at work or a better marriage. However, because of low self-esteem or a lack of self-worth, they may be unable to see that they do have the ability to have what they want.

“Rather than staying with the feelings of disempowerment, emotional eating makes it possible to shift attention to something else,” said Colby.

Food is comforting because it offers the sensation of calmness by altering the chemical balance in the body,” she explained.

“For some people, food is reliable,” she added. “It’s always something they can count on to make them feel temporarily better, and it does.”

Other people overeat to a point of such physical discomfort it removes their focus away from their emotional pain.

“With an overly full stomach, the problems are still there, but it’s easier to focus on the tangible sensation of the fullness and the weight you have,” said Colby. “So food really does work to alleviate uncomfortable beliefs, emotions and healing. Emotional eaters want to feel better, and at some point they may realize that eating isn’t really addressing what’s going on underneath in their spirit or their soul.”

The way to stop battling food issues is to take a closer look at what you believe about yourself and your circumstances.

Finding trigger

Colby said emotional eating always has a trigger.

“It could be something as simple as having a bad day, but notice that there is a trigger that reached out and pushed your buttons,” she said. “Learn to recognize the trigger and the thinking pattern that goes with it. Then ask yourself some constructive questions about the experience, such as ‘What belief would I rather hold?’ Then take the necessary steps to plant that seed and make that new belief true.”

Colby said the more you trust that your body wants to be healthy, the more it will respond by choosing healthier foods.

“It’s really a process of starting to give back trust that you want to be alive in a healthy body,” she said. “It’s about having a new relationship with your body. You are worthy of a better life.”

Food for Thought Conference

WHERE: Albany Marriott, Wolf Road, Colonie.

WHEN: 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 16


MORE INFO: Diane Whitten, Saratoga Cornell Cooperative Extension, 372-1622

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