Can you help us understand the psychological aspect of stalling?
There are a lot of reasons why we eat, and not just food, why we either do or do not do certain actions or sort of lifestyle practices that we know might help with fat loss or just overall health. Whether that’s something like exercise or just spending time in the fresh air doing active things for stress relief, all different things that contribute either to fat loss or overall well-being. There are a lot of reasons why we either do or do not do some of these things, even when we know they would help us.For the people who are struggling with eating for reasons other than actual physical hunger or having trouble instituting some of these other practices or stopping some of the other practices you might be into, the first thing to know is that you are not alone. Everyone thinks that everyone else has this all figured out and everyone else has learned to just eat when they’re hungry and stop at the minute that they’re perfectly satisfied. No one else ever just keeps eating a little too much every time or reaches for food when they’re bored, lonely, tired, stressed out, or sad. We all do it, we all do it. It’s a very human thing, but it can get in the way of losing fat on keto if that’s your main goal. There are other things in your mind that are getting in the way of your dietary practices that can definitely interfere with trying to lose that fat.
Do you have advice for people battling with emotional eating?
The first thing I want to mention is that I think there are a lot of people, women especially, but I think this can affect men too, where sometimes we think it’s emotional eating or we think it’s a binge when the fact is, you are genuinely hungry. Especially in the keto world, we’ve been conditioned that you have to fast. You’re only supposed to have one meal a day or two meals a day or you’re only supposed to have x amount of protein. There seem to be so many restrictions and limitations on what you’re supposed to do that if you’re doing that, you might actually end up really, really hungry by the end of the day. You think you’re emotionally eating because you’re following all the rules yet you’re still hungry, so you’re eating. If you are actually hungry, that’s not emotional eating. I want people to really think about that. Are you reaching for food when you’re not hungry or are you actually hungry and it’s perfectly reasonable for you to be eating something else? Beyond that, emotional eating is sometimes purely in our mind, so to speak, but sometimes it is physiological. There is a mind-body connection. We have a friend, psychiatrist Dr. Georgia Ede. She jokes, but it’s not really a joke that your mind is fed to your body. It’s part of your body, so things that go on affect your mind, and what goes on in your mind, all of the hormones that signal appetite, signal satiety or satiation, that signal hunger. If you are facing certain emotions, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that it is instilling an actual hunger, a drive to eat that may not be truly physical, but you might feel it that way. It might manifest that way.
What about habitual eating? We’ve been taught from a young age to eat three square meals a day and eat everything on our plates. This can cause potential problems as well.
So many of us are used to eating all day long, around the clock, for reasons totally other than hunger. It’s very easy to say, “Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re satisfied,” but it’s very difficult to do sometimes.
Another area of concern is when folks eat out with friends and they feel the pressure to eat the food that’s been made for them, that they’ll offend their friends if they don’t eat what’s been made or what is available for them. Can you speak to that?
Is stress eating the same or similar to emotional eating?
We could say it’s a subset of emotional eating because we feel stress as an emotion. We tense up, we feel anxious, we feel worried, and we become hyper-vigilant – I think that feels like emotions. I do think that stress eating is emotional eating. There is a reason that we do emotionally eat – if you’re sad or you’re feeling lonely, if you’re angry, or tired. When we feel certain emotions, some people don’t want to eat. They say, “I don’t want food.” Other people eat more. Everybody is wired differently. There is a reason many of us turn to food when we feel those emotions. Some people turn to alcohol or they turn to gambling or even video games or social media. All of these things are addictions that give us a calming sense. It gives us some sort of soothing. We could speculate as to why.
Think back to when we’re all babies and you cry. What happens? Oh, the bottle, oh, there’s the snack, there’s the food. Maybe we just all grew up conditioned that food is comfort, it’s soothing. And it is, to some extent, especially if it’s high-carb food. I think it calms the mind. I’m trying to say that if people out there are eating emotionally, is it something that we want to learn to stop doing? Yes. But there’s a reason you do it. You’re not crazy, you’re not the only one. It’s a very human thing to do, I think, to seek substances or activities and actions that give us that sense of calm.
How can people get out of emotional eating?
Just doing a strict ketogenic diet, something like the Adapt Your Life method, Dr. Westman’s method of 20 total grams of carbs a day or fewer, for many people, actually stops the emotional eating or the eating when not hungry because your appetite is so well controlled and the sugar cravings go away. For the percentage of people where it works that way, that’s great. For the percentage of people for whom that magic doesn’t quite kick in so quickly, our advice is if you have to emotionally eat, don’t emotionally eat carbs. If you have to eat, if you know you’re not hungry but there’s something compelling you to eat, can you eat pork rinds? Can you eat cold sliced beef and dip it in horseradish sauce? Can you eat cold leftover chicken or bacon or some broccoli? Because even though you are still eating when you know you’re not hungry, metabolically speaking, at least that will be less harmful to you than reaching for something high in sugar or starch. Watch the full video here.