If we look at client lifestyles, which I consider to be a major component of weight management, we can identify behaviours that may help assist in advising clients on changes in their eating. Certain behaviours can be defined as eating disorders and others identified as maladaptive... for example, skipping meals, emotional eating, boredom and late night eating. When I ask for food journals to be completed, I suggest that the client record, in addition to the normal food and hydration entries, document the emotions surrounding eating...maybe the feelings before, during and after. I can then look at patterns, times and types of eating in greater detail and attempt to provide solutions. Physical or homeostatic hunger can be thought of as "pangs " in the stomach and a desire to eat.

Many people deny they feel hungry but find themselves eating inconsistently with their goals. They may even refer to themselves as stress/emotional eaters, blaming lack of control on factors such as boredom, stress, willpower and habit.

We could define emotional eating as the practice of consuming comfort food or junk food in response to feelings that aren’t physical hunger. It can also be referred to as hedonistic hunger. Emotional eating can make you feel "better" if only for a short time, as it helps the release of serotonin. Carbohydrates in particular contribute to the release of insulin which in turn releases serotonin. This can have an affect on mood and appetite. Protein, on the other hand, does not have the same release effect.

Serotonin can help with mood, sleep, pain and blood pressure control. As such, clients have learned to "medicate" with carbs such as bread, cereals, potato chips and other snack foods which are often high in carbs and fat. During stressful periods in life, people gain weight and this is one reason for that.

The time of day can also impact the challenges with maintaining dietary control. My guess is that it’s mid afternoon and late at night when the most damage occurs...at other times, people seem to have great self control!

In the book "Best Weight," Freedhoff and Sharma define 2 types of emotional eaters. The primary and secondary. The majority of people could be described as secondary... insofar that they eat ” emotionally” from mid afternoon onwards. Often there is a trigger to stimulate self carb medication. Many of these eaters have light breakfasts, no morning snack and a light lunch, which can then trigger binge eating patterns later in the day. Primary emotional eaters self medicate all day in response to emotions and stressors.

We all know emotion is a powerful tool. It's often hard to think of strategies that could help everyone as each person has different triggers , situations and control levels. A better understanding of clients' needs may help and this moves towards the field of cognitive behavioural therapy.