Friday, January 19, 2018
Health

Afraid to lose control around favorite foods? Here's help

It's normal to crave food.

But it's not normal to fear it.

The anorexic may be the most extreme example of fearing food, but many people cope with the fear that they won't be able to control themselves around food, particularly foods they crave.

Janet is a good example of this. "I'm afraid if I have M&M's in the house, I won't be able to stop eating them so I never allow them in the house," she explained. "Why is it that other people can have foods like that around and be in control when I can't?"

I knew that Janet could have the type of control that she admired in others, but she was convinced she was different. Fortunately, Janet was game to try an experiment. She had already made a great deal of progress with eating and weight in our work together, so she trusted me to try something new with her.

I instructed Janet to make sure that she had a small serving of M&M's after dinner every day, without fail.

After a week, Janet returned.

"I've done what you said,'' she told me. "But I don't seem to want that many M&Ms each night."

"Okay," I said. "Keep doing the same thing, but now, if you don't want as many M&M's, you can decrease the quantity. But, if you really don't want M&M's that day, that's okay, too."

The following week, Janet had this to say: "I don't really want M&M's much anymore. I find that I can have them in the house without feeling like they have control over me. I have some occasionally and that's enough."

"Did you feel it would happen this quickly?" I asked.

"Not at all," was her response.

So what happened? Was it magic? Truth is, it's simply psychological logic.

Although Janet had let go of a lot of rigid thinking about food and dieting, she had hung on to one rigid food rule. Since chocolate was her favorite food and she thought of it as fattening, she felt she had to strictly forbid herself to have it or lose control.

As soon as she did this, it was like saying to herself, "Don't think of pink elephants." It was a guarantee that she would overvalue M&M's and think about them more. This over-focus on the feared food increased cravings and made natural control impossible.

Why did the simple treatment work? Reversing the psychological messages from "I must not eat chocolate" to "I will have chocolate each day," the psychological deprivation that has been built up with time begins to go away. In turn, the food's value begins to diminish to where it should be naturally — still a favorite food, but not something that has to be consumed as if you'll never get it again.

The result is real enjoyment of chocolate again, feeling relaxed while eating it, reaching a feeling of satisfaction after a reasonable portion, and reclaiming natural control.

And once the psychological deprivation is gone, you have choices rather than a compulsion to eat. You can choose to eat the chocolate or not eat the chocolate.

In the "old days" you felt you had to eat it all right away because you knew you would be forbidden it later.

Janet is finally free of her fear of losing control of M&M's. "If I'd known I could get this under control in this way, I would have done it long ago," she said.

Not everybody trustingly dives into letting go of self-defeating habits. But once you do just that, the progress is rapid. Then you can go about enjoying food with celebration and natural control.

Dr. Lavinia Rodriguez is a Tampa psychologist and expert in weight management. She is the author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management." Send questions to her at [email protected]

Comments
This 66-year-old is about to run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents

This 66-year-old is about to run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents

When Robert Owens’s father was 75, he gave his son some advice. "He said, ‘You know, son, the sad part is when you get old they just put you on a shelf and you become irrelevant. Fight to stay relevant. Fight to stay in the game, otherwise they will ...
Published: 01/18/18
5 things we learned about Trump from his medical checkup

5 things we learned about Trump from his medical checkup

Five things we learned about President Donald Trump from Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the doctor who oversaw Trump’s first medical checkup in office. SLEEP Trump doesn’t get much shut-eye. Jackson guessed that Trump snoozes four to five hours a nig...
Published: 01/17/18
A century after the 1918 pandemic, science takes its best shot at flu

A century after the 1918 pandemic, science takes its best shot at flu

WASHINGTON — The descriptions are haunting. Some victims felt fine in the morning and were dead by night. Faces turned blue as patients coughed up blood. Stacked bodies outnumbered coffins. A century after one of history’s most catastrophic disease o...
Published: 01/17/18
A popular school fundraiser is just ‘junk-food marketing to kids,’ experts say

A popular school fundraiser is just ‘junk-food marketing to kids,’ experts say

For 43 years, schoolkids and their parents have clipped the labels from cookie bags and cracker boxes as part of a popular rewards program called Labels for Education.Through this and similar programs — think Tyson’s Project A+ or General Mills’ Box ...
Published: 01/17/18
Pinellas is at the center of a rise in Florida flu outbreaks

Pinellas is at the center of a rise in Florida flu outbreaks

Feeling a little sniffly or scratchy or stuffed up? It may be the flu, and you don’t want to wait around to see a doctor this year. This is not the time to write off flu-like symptoms, Tampa Bay area health officials and doctors warn. The influenza v...
Published: 01/16/18

CDC says ‘There’s lots of flu in lots of places.’ And it’s not going away anytime soon.

A nasty flu season is in full swing across the United States, with a sharp increase in the number of older people and young children being hospitalized, federal health officials said Friday.The latest weekly data from the Centers for Disease Control ...
Published: 01/12/18
Mease Countryside Hospital begins $156M expansion project

Mease Countryside Hospital begins $156M expansion project

SAFETY HARBOR — Mease Countryside Hospital is launching a $156 million expansion to build a four-story patient tower with all private rooms and a four-story parking garage.The tower will include 70 private patient rooms, a 30-bed observation unit, cr...
Published: 01/11/18
Flu shot? This is why you should still get one this year

Flu shot? This is why you should still get one this year

This year’s flu season is shaping up to be a bad one. Much of the country endured a bitterly cold stretch, causing more people to be crowded together inside. The strain that has been most pervasive, H3N2, is nastier than most. And, we’re being told, ...
Published: 01/11/18
He was 21 and fit. He tried to push through the flu — and it killed him.

He was 21 and fit. He tried to push through the flu — and it killed him.

Kyler Baughman seemed to be the face of fitness. The 21-year-old aspiring personal trainer filled his Facebook page with photos of himself riding motorbikes and lifting weights. He once posted an image of a kettlebell with a skeleton, reading: "Cros...
Published: 01/11/18
Serena Williams tells scary story of childbirth complications

Serena Williams tells scary story of childbirth complications

The image on the cover of the February issue of Vogue features Serena Williams proudly showing off her adorable daughter.The story she tells of the changes wrought on her life by the arrival of Alexis Olympia, whom she calls by her middle name and ...
Published: 01/11/18