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How Emotions Make You Fat

ice-375361_1920Are you one of those people who gains weight just looking at food? And no matter how many different diets you try the weight always comes back. It could be that emotions are throwing you off track. Even if you think you are not an emotional eater, emotions are affecting the way your mind and body relate to food.

It’s Not All In Your Head

Emotions are not just in your head, they trigger physiological reactions which can be seen as relaxation or tightness in muscles, as well as comfort or  pain in the body. When you’re happy your muscles relax, when you’re stressed your muscles tighten up and this often causes pain and other physical problems.

One of the most emotionally sensitive parts of the body is the digestive tract. According to Harvard Health Publications the brain and the gut are so intimately connected that they should be viewed as one system. That’s why when you’re nervous you might feel “butterflies” in your stomach, or being upset may cause you to feel nauseous or lose your appetite.

Understanding the Mind-Body Connection 

Chronic stressful emotions can cause symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, lack of appetite and compulsive eating. Each person is unique in how their body relates to anxiety and stress. One person may find it hard to gain weight as a result of constant anxiety, while another finds it difficult to lose due to life’s daily stressors.

According to Jon Gabriel, founder of the Gabriel Method for weight loss, “if you are overweight, it is because your brain has a reason for it. If you try to force yourself to lose weight anyway, you are waging war against your brain.” So the key is to understand how your body interprets stress and how that relates to your digestion and your eating patterns.

The brain can interpret stress as danger you need to be protected from, so it demands that you eat and store fat.  It will also slow your metabolism so that you can gain weight as quickly as possible. In an effort to protect you, your brain may fight your best efforts to become thin. It may take some work, but you can learn to understand how your mind, body and emotions work and how they effect your relationship with food.

Emotional Intelligence and Weight Loss

I recently came across a book called, ‘EatQ, Unlock the Weight Loss Power of Emotional Intelligence’ by Susan Albers, PSY.D. I did not think I was an emotional eater until I started reading this book. I realized very quickly that everyone eats emotionally, it’s part of human nature. We use food to celebrate, to comfort, to heal, and it gives us pleasure. We are designed to enjoy eating.

On the other hand, lack of food can definitely cause stress and pain. In the book EatQ, Albers explains that some people have a greater degree of discernment over how and why they make food choices, while others react quickly to food triggers. She talks about identifying the moment of decision, and offers techniques to change your eating patterns and relationship with food.

One thing that’s absolutely clear is that to lose weight and keep it off requires lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes include reducing stress. Stress and weight gain are related to so many health problems including high blood sugar. So, to regain health and wellness we have to look at our emotions and their relationship to food.