Rick Gallop on Emotional Eating
What role do you think emotions play in eating?
Huge! Two years ago I ran an e-clinic, mostly of women who had a BMI of 33+. Essentially we took a group of [self-confessed] hard core losers and we aimed to see what we could do with them by creating some sort of dialog through my website. I found though this that the emotional component was huge, much larger than I had anticipated. This whole question of emotional eating or what some call “food comfort”, particularly [occurs] with people who have a serious weight issue and often this stems from childhood we found out.
My wife is a professor at the University of Toronto and her speciality is childhood abuse and how it plays out in adult life; which is interesting to me as often it plays out through food. A huge number of women have had some form of trauma in their childhood, not to say [always] sexual but a lot of it is, and they turn to food as a way of making themselves feel better. The biggest single issue that came up out of the work of the e-clinic that I’ve been running is how to help them to deal with this issue of emotional eating. Secondly even when it’s not emotional it becomes habitual. What people often find is they can’t pass the fridge without opening it, because when they were eating food for comfort they were finding that was the thing they did. It became habitual behaviour, they weren’t hungry and didn’t need that emotional boost but they would just open the fridge and pick and handful of nuts or whatever they would usually snack on.
How can you deal with these emotional issues?
What we tried to do was, first of all, [have them] recognise that they are doing it for that purpose and secondly let them recognise that it’s self defeating. What happens is that you have your high GI snack, which it usually is; and you push your sugar levels up. Next there is a sugar crash; they feel awful and then the next thing they want is another sugar fix. Their weight starts to go up because of this yo-yo hypoglycaemic life they lead. That compounds their problem; because they are putting weight on now and they have these crashes every hour or two in terms of their sugar levels. So that was the first thing to point out, that this was why they were probably over weight and probably why they’re talking to me in the first place. That was more of the intellectual approach; that this is ultimately doing the reverse of what you want to do and is not helping you in the long term and is making your situation even worse. If you’re depressed now, you’ll be even more depressed with ten inches or ten pounds around your waist. The second thing was try and find other ways of making yourself feel better other than pushing up your blood sugar levels. Are there hobbies or things that you do that you get pleasure out of that you can associate with making yourself feel better? The third thing is are you sure it is emotional eating or is it just a behaviour you started maybe in your adolescence that you are still continuing to do? Those are the various stages of the thinking process. The combination of those three really had a dramatic effect. The result was that over the 13 week period that I ran this e-clinic that the women lost an average to 25 pounds and about 10 inches on their waist and hips. Which, actually, for a period of 13 weeks was quite an achievement for a group of women who saw themselves as losers. They’d tried everything under the sun, nothing had worked, they’d had failure, failure, failure and all of a sudden they’d found something here that did work for them, had a certain logic and dealt with these real issues like the emotional issue that you raised.
That’s impressive stuff but can someone who hasn’t got that level of coaching do the same?
Well we brought out a book called the GI Diet Clinic last January in the UK and Canada and it’s cleared for the States in the fall; which was literally taking that experience, using the correspondence we had with these people and my replies to the correspondence and the weekly letters that I sent out. We really tried to capture the essence of what we tried to do in that session. So that people could share that and go through this week by week by week in the book. Recognising that that is not quite the same thing but at least it’s a fairly close substitute. Then we offer an online nine month extension where this continues with a monthly letter and I in fact do go through the letters [that I get sent] and pick the key ones that will appeal to a vast number of people and put those on the web. That’s a paid website, it’s the only paid website I have which is an extension of that clinic.
Next page - The interview continues with Rick Gallop on his personal health and life