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Expert: Spirituality the answer to emotional eating

Tricia and Roy Nelson teach others how to use spirituality to have a healthy lifestyle.
Tricia and Roy Nelson teach others how to use spirituality to have a healthy lifestyle.
Published Jan. 21, 2015

Recently, after undergoing extensive medical testing, my doctor diagnosed me with celiac disease and autoimmune malabsorption.

This means my body rejects gluten and cannot naturally absorb essential vitamins such as B12.

It also means I am not supposed to eat traditional glazed doughnuts, pan pizza or crescent rolls ever again.

This makes me sad. It also makes me think. Before I stopped eating gluten four months ago, I vomited back much of what I ate. My muscles were weak. My head throbbed. Frightened, I went to doctors seeking answers. I prayed for healing.

Today, at the start of 2015, I better understand the problem and what I need to do to improve my health. In many ways, I already feel better.

So why am I moping around mourning Belgian waffles?

Last weekend, Tricia Nelson, director of Roy Nelson Healing and an emotional eating expert, spoke at the Mindshare Summit in Tampa.

According to Nelson, people often use food to fill a spiritual hole.

I interviewed her about why people form attachments to food and how faith can make diet changes easier.

What do you view as the connection between healthy eating and spirituality?

Everyone in our country has too much on their plate, figuratively and literally. We are stressed about money, our health, our children, our relationships and jobs. Our minds race with thoughts of worry, and to calm ourselves we reach for food. Food is an immediate panacea, it tastes good and it's always available. As a society we have come to use food for reasons beyond sustenance. We turn to food for a quick energy boost when we are tired, for comfort when we are sad or depressed, for escape when life seems overwhelming. We want food to do for us what spirituality could do.

As a celiac adjusting to a gluten-free diet, how can focusing on spirituality keep me on a healthy path?

When a person is diagnosed with celiac and has to change their diet in a drastic way, there is a sense of fear and of deprivation. It's typical to think, "I can't eat what everyone else is eating," or "Why did this happen to me?" While these thoughts and feelings are normal, they can have a negative effect on our body and mindset. Spirituality can help us see that all things work together for good, that there is a greater plan and that we are a part of that plan, so that when things come up in our lives that are hard or seem unfair, we can realize that good will come from it.

Why do you think so many of us are attracted to eating unhealthy foods?

People think that they just like food. In his book, Love Notes from Hell, Roy Nelson talks about how eating any way differently from the way he ate would seem like starvation. What he later realized after losing 120 pounds using spiritual principles was that he overate regularly because the food was numbing his emotions. His solution, which is now known as the Nelson Method, is about addressing and healing these underlying emotional and spiritual causes.

What inspired your personal journey to health and well-being?

My journey started as a physical, emotional and spiritual crisis. I was 50 pounds overweight and couldn't stop overeating. Nothing worked for me until I worked with Roy Nelson. Roy helped me understand that my problem was much deeper than food and weight. He showed me how to heal the underlying causes of emotional eating, which changed my life.

What inspired you to help others?

After receiving Roy's help, I knew that I wanted to assist him in helping others. Now, for over 25 years, it has been such a blessing to watch so many clients heal and experience total freedom from their emotional eating, addictions and obsessions. Today Roy is my husband.

How do faith and spirituality impact your daily health choices?

Spirituality is the reason I am able to make the healthy choices that I make on a daily basis. My relationship with God has fueled me, inspired me, comforted me and helped me to be happy, so that I no longer have to reach for excess food, or the wrong foods, in order to feel good.

What brought you to the Mindshare Summit?

Being a part of the Mindshare Summit, founded by JJ Virgin, author of The Virgin Diet and the Sugar Impact Diet, has been extremely inspiring. Doctors and health practitioners on the leading edge of health and nutrition come together to share their research. Roy and I are able to contribute our expertise in emotional eating and addictions.

For more information on Tricia Nelson, visit

Contact Sarah Whitman at