Counselling and Psychotherapy for
Body, Mind and Spirit

Ina Stockhausen, MTC

Ina Stockhausen R.P.C. offers spiritual counselling and body psychotherapy or somatic counseling in Burnaby and North Vancouver.

binge eating

That would be a logical conclusion to come to if you happen to watch the latest Nabisco Cookie commercial for the “Chips Ahoy Chewy Gooey Cookies”  because… “they are crammed with joy.”

low serotonin levels can lead to sugar cravingsIn these times of stress many individuals struggle with increased depression and anxiety. As you may know, when you’re depressed, your serotonin levels are low. Low serotonin levels in turn trigger cravings for refined carbohydrates like cookies or chocolate.

When advertising helps instill the belief that a cookie is “crammed with joy” is it any wonder that the rate of emotional eating related weight gain is also on the rise?

Let’s not forget that children watch TV as well.
(The cookie commercial is geared towards children)  Between the age of 4 to 10, children develop  their ability to think. How many of us think to point out to a 6 year old that a cookie is actually not crammed with joy? To the average adult it is just advertising that we tune out. But somewhere in our brain and somewhere in the developing brain of our children this message gets logged.

So let me repeat my earlier question. Is it any wonder that emotional eating, Food Addiction and obesity are on the rise?

If we take another look at the connection between serotonin levels and cravings we also need to remember that low serotonin levels affect how you feel about yourself. Anyone who has ever felt depressed will recall that they weren’t exactly bursting with self-esteem at the time.

One of the most common grievances accompanying low self-esteem that clients share with me is their fear of weight gain and feeling too fat.

It is a dilemma. Sugar does raise serotonin levels momentarily, so it would appear that the Chips Ahoy Chewy Gooey cookies are indeed “crammed with joy”.

Personally I think I would like the ad better if it ended with one of those rapid monotonous voices we recognize from drug commercials which could say “Some side effects may apply. Eat with caution when depressed. The intense flavor may trigger binge eating, overeating or continuous grazing until the box is empty. After effects may include and are not restricted to weight gain, self-loathing, feelings of powerlessness”.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with Chewy Gooey cookies. As I always say to my clients:
There are no forbidden foods as long as you eat mindfully. So the next time you have a cookie, do enjoy and savor the smooth creamy fudge in the middle.

Then consciously take a breath, connect with your body and check in to see if you really want another cookie. Perhaps you do. If you find yourself eating  more than a whole handful, ask yourself what you are really hungry for in this moment.

animals can help with depressionIt may well be that you are looking for a little bit of joy. And that is ok. But remember that you can make a choice. You can eat more cookies, or take another breath, put down the cookies and take a moment to remember what else gives you joy. Maybe you like to hug your pet, kiss your child, play a game, do some gardening…

Now check in again with your body. What is truly going to meet your need for joy in this moment?

No matter what choice you end up making, be present with yourself and give yourself permission to truly savor the moment and your chosen activity.

Beware of advice that is designed to distract you when you want to overeat. Some time ago a client came to me seeking help to get her spending under control. She was afraid that she was well on her way to becoming a shopaholic.

Originally she’d been seeking help for overeating and binge eating. Internet research had led her to a blog post where the author was suggesting that the next time one felt lonely, depressed, angry or sad, one shouldn’t take a trip to the refrigerator but a trip to the mall.

Skeptical at first but wanting to find a way to control her binge eating, my client gave the advice a try.

One day, just when she was about to devour the rest of a birthday cake in her fridge, she decided to get in the car instead and head over to Winners.

What a combination… the thrill of shopping while saving money!

It seemed to work…because when she left the mall she was in a great mood and the frustrations of the previous hours were momentarily forgotten.

The advice my client had found on the internet, suggested retail therapy to shift her mood combined with a “catch and release” technique.

Essentially, had my client followed the instructions “properly” she should have returned to the mall the next day with all her purchases and receipts in hand to get her money back.

Alas, here the plan failed. It seemed a shame to take some of the things back… besides, she was busy the next day. Thus time passed, until the next shopping spree. Shopping continued to leave her feeling thrilled and in a good mood until guilt started to set in.

While her fridge stayed full and her pants were becoming loose, her closet was swelling at an alarming rate…becoming a secret treasure cove filled with items never worn.

Her credit card bills were climbing sky high. Money that had been set aside for other important purposes had been spent.

The good feelings about herself were more and more ephemeral, being drowned out by the tireless voice in her head berating all her faults.

She realized, that she was feeling as poorly as she would feel after overeating. Shopping was definitely not filling her longing to feel good about herself nor her desire for connection. She had only succeeded in trading one unhealthy coping mechanism for another one, just as damaging.

Shopping addicts tend to shop when they feel depressed, lonely or angry. (If you’re wondering whether you’re suffering from Shopping Addiction, read more information here and feel free to contact me for a complimentary consultation).

If you’re trying to overcome binge eating, please realize that distracting yourself with some other compulsive activity is not the solution. Switching from bingeing to shopping did not help my client deal with her feelings of emotional pain.

Given her timely cognizance around this fact however did jump start something positive.

She reached a different level of awareness around her bingeing.

She was clearly able to identify when she was about to eat for other reasons than hunger.

This process of stopping – even if just for a moment – while resting in a place of mindfulness is the first step towards healing binge eating and overeating.

There is an exciting wave of mindfulness sweeping across North America. Ever since Geneen Roth has appeared on the Oprah Show and Oprah has endorsed the content of her new book “Women, Food and God” women and men have found motivation and courage to examine their relationship with food.

I am thrilled at how well Geneen’s Book “Women, Food and God” compliments my coaching course “Stop the Weight loss Boomerang – How to Stop Yo-yo Dieting and Emotional Eating”. Geneen uses a body-centered approach which is very similar to how I work and I am recommending her book to anyone with a desire to examine their emotional relationship with food.

So if you’re about to binge….rather than heading to the shopping mall… head to the bookstore 🙂

In Canada, we have our own “James Oliver”. Rose Reisman is one of this country’s leading authorities on the art of eating and living well.
She recently discussed her desire to change the way Canadians eat in the Vancouver Sun.

Her goal is timely. Canadians today are heavier than ever before with the rate of obesity skyrocketing. According to the Canadian Health Measures Survey, during the 2007-to-2009 period, just fewer than 38% of adults were at a healthy weight. About 1% were underweight, 37% were overweight and 24% were obese.

In some ways, this is a curious phenomenon, because we live in a society that has an obsession with weight. Thin is in, Fat is out!  Public sympathy is offered to those suffering from Anorexia while Bulimia and Binge Eating are motive for public shame.

Might one assume then, that potentially every third person struggles with feelings of frustration, low self-esteem or shame because they are overweight?

That is a possibility. There is a societal stigma attached to obesity.  Being fat is synonymous with laziness and a lack in willpower. Being fat means being visible and invisible at the same time.

Many individuals who struggle with weight have no lack in willpower and are certainly not lazy. In fact, most of them have gone and successfully completed numerous diets and exercise programs. They have deprived themselves of pizza and cake and have run many miles on the treadmill.

And they have lost weight. Over and over again…. because in between their periods of dieting and exercising, the pounds lost somehow piled back on … and then some.

I am thrilled, when I see authors like Rose Reisman affirm that losing weight is not about dieting.

Losing weight is about healthy nutrition and exercise….AND it is about addressing the root cause of what happens during those “in between” periods of dieting.

95% of diets fail because of Emotional Eating. In order to lose weight, it is necessary to re-evaluate one’s relationship with food and weight. Someone who uses food to cope with life’s challenges and stress in their life, has to find other ways to deal with overwhelming emotions.

Over the years of working with and supporting clients who struggle with Emotional Eating and Eating Disorders, I have found that most issues are in some way connected to a lack of communication.

Pain and grief aren’t expressed, boundaries aren’t articulated, feelings of loneliness are stuffed down, a desire for recognition remains in the realms of silence and anger is repressed for the sake of harmony.

Sometimes these emotions aren’t even expressed to the Self. An excellent first step to stop emotional eating is a conversation with yourself. One way to engage in such a dialogue is journaling.

The next time you are standing in front of the fridge, hoping to find something that will make you feel better, consider grabbing some pen and paper and start writing.

What is going on? What emotions are you feeling? What have you wanted to say to someone but didn’t because you wanted to avoid negative consequences? There are many resources available to help you learn express your needs, desires and feelings in a safe and healthy way.

Coaching and counselling are other options to help heal old wounds or fears connected to communicating with others and setting boundaries.

Silence can make you fat. To make Canadians more healthy, Rose Reisman recommends sharing at least one wholesome meal a day, with upbeat conversation. I second that and encourage many conversations upbeat or serious, where everyone has a voice, and speaks and listens with an open heart.