Taking a Bite out of Emotional Eating

Kimmel & Associates e-Letter

An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates

Volume 8, Number 8

It is August and summer is almost over. Children are returning to school, vacations are ending, and we prepare for the Fall. We hope that you are refreshed and motivated for a productive and meaningful year. In this August E-letter, we provide information about Emotional Eating, our Ask the Doc question is about internet dating, and our email of the month is about the benefits of exercise. We hope you find the enclosed information helpful. As always, we appreciate your questions and feedback.

Practice News

Testings. If you are concerned about your child’s school placement for the next school year, this would be a good time to have them evaluated. Recent questions from parents have ranged from should their child be retained to whether they are gifted to whether they have a disability that can qualify for accommodations at school. Our practice does different types of evaluations to help answer those questions and information about these evaluations can be found on our website. If you have more specific questions, please contact Dr. Kimmel who would be happy to answer them.

Research Study. We are pleased to announce that we are currently participating in a four month research study with Life Extension Institute assessing the effects of cognitive therapy, nutritional supplements, and medications on weight management in overweight individuals. Dr. Kimmel and Denise Champagne have been conducting cognitive therapy groups for a sample of 40 subjects who will be followed by three physicians. Preliminary results indicate early success for those subjects who are in the study. For more information, contact our administrative assistant, Jillian, at 954 755-2885.

Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. For several months now, we have been offering the Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. Sometimes referred to as the Divorce Class, it is required by the State of Florida for all parents divorcing or separating even if not legally married. We have provided this course many times and have designed it as a 4-hour, one-session presentation that focuses on ensuring that parents protect their children from the effects of divorce or separation by setting aside their differences and focusing on the children’s need for both parents in their lives. The course also provides information about divorce as loss, gives an overview of the Florida laws and statutes related to divorce and custody issues, and offers information on how children react to divorce based on their ages.  The course is offered live on a flexible schedule, based on the availability of those attending the course.  Please contact our Administrative Assistant, Jillian, at 954 755-2885 for additional information.

Low Cost Counseling. Denise Champagne, M.S., is offering low cost counseling as a mental health intern. She is currently seeing patients and is available to take on new patients. This allows those individuals who cannot afford treatment to obtain it and allows her to complete the required number of additional clinical hours for full licensure. If you or someone you know is in need of counseling but just cannot afford it, please call the office and ask for Denise. All treatment provided by Denise will be reviewed and supervised by Dr. Kimmel.

Qualified Supervisor
. Dr. Joel Kimmel has been certified by the State of Florida to supervise mental health counselors seeking supervision to meet the licensing requirements. If you or anyone you know needs a qualified supervisor to meet these requirements, contact Dr. Kimmel for further information.

Handouts from previous e-Letters can be found on our website. We invite you to read and download them if desired.


Our E-Letter this month focuses on Emotional Eating. We often eat not only to satisfy hunger but also when we are stressed, angry, anxious, disappointed, have relationship problems, or when we are just plain bored. We turn to food for comfort, to relieve our emotions, and sometimes as a reward. Both positive and negative emotions can trigger our seeking comfort food. Emotional eaters eat to make themselves feel better, just like drug users who take drugs to feel better. They eat to fill emotional needs not just their stomach. Eating is their primary coping mechanism and patterns of eating develop when stressed. Ironically, emotional hunger can’t be filled with food. Initially, eating may make you feel good but it doesn’t solve the emotional situation. In fact, it often leads to feeling guilty because of all the unnecessary calories that have been consumed.

Emotional eaters have specific comfort foods they eat to obtain a good feeling. Ice cream, chocolate, cookies, and pizza are the most common comfort foods. People in good moods tend to prefer pizza or steak. Sad people tend to eat ice cream and cookies and bored people eat potato chips. Often, people eat but don’t even taste what they are eating.

The difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger is easy to recognize if you pay attention. Emotional hunger comes on suddenly and quickly. Physical hunger occurs gradually. Emotional hunger needs to be satisfied immediately. Physical hunger can wait. Emotional hunger needs to be satisfied with a specific food. Physical hunger allows you to choose from different options. In emotional hunger, despite a full stomach, you continue to eat. In physical hunger, you stop eating when you feel full. Emotional hunger can cause you to feel guilty about eating. Physical hunger does not.

To reduce and eliminate your emotional hunger, it is important to recognize and be aware of your emotional eating triggers. Keep a diary of what you eat and why. Ask yourself what emotions you are having and what do you do about them. Face your issues and resolve them rather than avoiding them by eating. Learn and practice relaxation and other stress reduction techniques. Exercise regularly and keep yourself from being bored. Socialize with others and avoid isolation. Distract yourself when you have an emotional craving for food and keep junk and high caloric foods out of your home. Most importantly recognize and deal with your emotions.

We offer the following information on Taking A Bite Out Of Emotional Eating:

“I don’t stop eating when I’m full. The meal isn’t over when I’m full.
It’s over when I hate myself”— Louis C. K.

What to Know!

  • Emotional eating is when you eat for any reasons other than hunger; a feeling triggers your eating even if you are full
  • Emotional eating is a response to depression, anxiety, boredom, stress, tension, relationship problems, disappointment, anger, loneliness and other feelings
  • We emotionally eat to make us feel better; it is using food to fill an emotional need
  • In emotional eating, food is not viewed as fuel for the body; it is seen as comfort, stress relief, a reward, or something that just makes us feel better
  • Like a drug, food that is emotionally eaten makes us feel better but afterwards makes us feel worse as the feeling is not resolved and often we feel guilty about eating
  • Ironically, emotional hunger can’t be resolved with food but with behavior change
  • Emotional hunger occurs quickly while physical hunger occurs slowly
  • Emotional hunger needs to be satisfied immediately, physical hunger does not
  • Emotional hunger is often satisfied with a specific food like chocolate, physical hunger is satisfied by many foods
  • Emotional hunger is not satisfied when physically full, physical hunger is
  • Emotional hunger can be mindless eating, physical hunger is awareness eating
  • Emotional hunger comes from a craving, physical hunger comes from your stomach
  • Comfort foods are specific foods such as ice cream, chocolate, and pizza that people eat when they have both good and bad feelings
  • Happy people tend to eat pizza or steak while sad people tend to eat ice cream and cookies, and bored people tend to eat potato chips
  • When you emotionally eat and are not hungry, the extra calories get stored as fat leading to being overweight and obesity
  • Emotional eating usually comes from:
    • Stress and the hormone Cortisol which triggers cravings for high-fat foods
    • Stuffing or repressing emotions through food which numbs the emotions
    • Boredom where food gives a person something to do
    • Feelings of emptiness and loneliness which are filled by eating
    • Early conditioning where rewards for good behaviors are given with food
    • Being around others who are eating and you are encouraged
  • Emotional eaters often use the excuses of: I’ll never be attractive so why try, I always fail so why try, and why give up something that makes me feel good

What to Do!

  • Identify your emotional eating triggers and keep a diary of what you eat and why
  • Learn relaxation exercises and other stress reduction techniques
  • Exercise regularly and often; keep from being bored
  • Distract yourself when you have an emotional craving for food
  • Keep junk and high caloric foods out of your home
  • Stay in contact with friends and develop a network of supportive people
  • Deal with your emotions rather than avoid them
  • Seek professional help if you are unable to get in control of your emotional eating

We Can Help!

Call us at (954) 755-2885 or email us at drkimmel@kimmelpsychology.com

Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates
5571 N. University Drive, Suite 101
Coral Springs, Florida 33067

As always, we would like to welcome new readers to our e-Letter. We hope that you find it informational and enjoyable. We invite you to share this e-Letter with others. If you have received this from a fellow reader, please send us your email address to include you on our list.

Ask the Doc

PS writes: I am very frustrated with online dating. I have been divorced for 3 years and have dated on and off. I have been on the popular online dating sites and have met several women. Out of all the dates I’ve gone on, only 2 or 3 had any potential for me. It seems to me that many people distort or outwardly lie about what they look like, how old they are and what they want. Some of the women I have spoken with are actually married and are looking for someone better. I was in a 25 year marriage and don’t want to play these games. What do you suggest I do?

Dr. Joel Kimmel replies: You are in a very difficult but unfortunately popular situation. Many of my clients have said the same things to me about internet dating that you have written about. In fact, some of my patients try it, give it up and then go back a few months later to see if they can have better success. They repeat this cycle several times.

I would suggest that if you continue with internet dating, set your expectations lower. It is true that most people lie about their age, what they look like and what they are after. However, there are many people who are serious about looking for caring and loving relationships. You need to be patient to find those whom you are compatible with. I suggest that like a job interview, you question each potential candidate about their background, what they are looking for, and whether they are honest about their profile. Questions about previous relationship may give you a clue about how they get along with others. If they don’t provide you with honest information in your opinion, don’t waste your time. If you do have an interest, meet them for coffee or tea to see how you feel about them. You should know quickly whether this is someone you would like to follow up with. Be careful about giving away too much personal information before you get to know someone.

You might want to try some alternatives to internet dating including your church or synagogues social groups which might include a single’s group or introductions from people whom you work with or friends who can prescreen a date. However, let them know clearly what you are looking for. Try some “meet up” or other social groups where people get together to have fun in a certain activity like playing tennis. Finally, don’t give up as finding a meaningful, caring relationship is one of life’s joys.

Email of the Month

We would like to thank Sharon R. for the following email:

The Benefits Of Exercise

  1. The elixir to long life! According to an age old study, exercise reduces the chance of a premature death.
  2. Helps you to have a lovely heart! Exercise strengthens the cardiovascular muscles and enhances blood circulation. Cholesterol is checked by the burning of those extra calories and blood pressure is regulated. Aerobic exercises have been seen to benefit hypertensive individuals and the diabetics.
  3. Makes you brainy! It promotes brain health by stimulating the formation of new brain cells thereby aiding memory and cognition. Those who exercise have a remote chance of suffering from hemorrhage and stroke.
  4. On the move for flexibility! Obesity and weight gain can be solved only with regular exercise. The more intense the exercise, the more calories that are burnt.
  5. For the smile! Exercise also helps to lift your mental health, thwart depression and keep stress at bay. It might sound ironical that exercise would rid oneself of fatigue by boosting energy.
  6. Pain for pain! Being active would reduce joint pains and injuries, and help with arthritis. Weight bearing exercises improve bone strength and prevent bone loss.
  7. For a great night! Exercise not only soothes you into a sound sleep but also energizes you for a better sex life.
  8. Last but not least, you will gain remarkable self-esteem with a well-toned body.

It is recommended that you get at least 30 minutes of physical activity, in some form, everyday irrespective of your age and gender. But, just keep in mind that however hard you exercise you should be able to carry on a conversation without panting.

Please continue to send us your comments, questions, and favorite emails for our e-Letter.

Till September…

The information provided in this electronic newsletter is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is the opinions of the writers and is provided solely for educational purposes. For mental health care, seek a qualified professional.

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Copyright © 2014 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates.