On Tuesday's show, Dr. David Katz, "Good Morning America's" medical contributor, discussed a new study that identified seven eating patterns associated with overeating and obesity. This prompted questions from viewers about what they should do if they recognize their own behavior in any of those patterns. Below, Katz answers some of the questions about eating that were submitted via e-mail.
I would like to know how to control my emotional eating habit. I especially need help between 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., which is is one of the most demanding times of my day.
Katz: First, take stock of what emotions are making you eat and then figure out if you can address them in some way other than with food. Perhaps you can meditate or listen to music? Don't ignore your emotional needs, but don't let them force an undesirable response on you, either.
Second, be sure to have nutritious snack items handy from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., such as fresh fruits and vegetables so until you can address your needs with a way other than food, you can at least address them with the most wholesome foods that get the job done.
Food Fretting Overeater
I've determined that I'm a food fretting overeater. How do I change these habits?
Katz: Food fretting means feeling guilty about eating. Instead of feeling guilty, take stock of why you are eating more than you can feel good about. Is it hunger, bad food choices or emotional need? Figure out the problem so you can determine a good solution. If you are hungry all the time, try having food handy all the time -- just make sure it's nutritious and filling food that's low in calories, such as whole-grain cereals, vegetables and fruit. If emotion is what's making you eat more than you should, then you should identify the sources and try to address them.
The bottom line is that overeating and weight difficulty do not make you a bad person! They are nearly universal. Stop beating up on yourself. Be as forgiving of yourself as you would be of your best friend if they were in this situation. Take a deep breath and try to get to the bottom of this problem, rather than wasting time and energy blaming yourself for it!
Messy Kitchen Table
My husband insists on using the kitchen table as a desk. This leads to tension, as well as to having no place to enjoy a meal. I feel as if I am in the middle of his office! How can I convince him that having a pleasant and mess-free table will lead to better eating habits and help us lose weight?
Katz: I have a couple of suggestions. One, surprise him with a really nice dinner set out on a beautifully laid table. If you both enjoy the serenity (and perhaps romance) of a nice dinner, it may make your case for you. Another option would be to talk to your husband about buying a desk. Only you know what will work given your space, time and finances, but I hope these tips prime the pump of your creativity.
I have a tough time eating breakfast and I eat a lot at night. I was told that if I ate breakfast, my night cravings would subside. I did it for two months and gained 12 pounds, so it didn't work. Any suggestions on how to stop the night snacking? I do great during the day but about 7 p.m. I start wanting sugary snacks, ice cream, chocolate, etc. I don't eat salty snacks very often, as they don't appeal to me.
Katz: First, look at sugary foods you eat during the day, and try to remove them from your diet. In other words, choose breads, dressings and sauces that are low in sugar. Drink water instead of soda. The more sugar you take in all day, the higher your threshold for it, and the more you will crave it at night.
Then arrange to have some nutritious, sweet options in your home, such as dark chocolate, sorbet or fresh fruit. Give in to your craving at night, but limit yourself to just one sweet choice. Don't cruise from snack to snack. Eat chocolate if you want, but only chocolate.
If you reduce your daily sugar intake, and reduce the variety of snacks at night, you will start to find you want fewer sweets and need fewer sweets to feel satisfied. Also, try to add physical activity to your day. It dissipates stress, which is one reason for craving sweets at the end of the day. Finally, eat nutritious foods throughout the day whenever hungry. Don't store up hunger for the evening. That way, even if you want a sweet snack, you will need less of it before feeling full.
No Time to Make Dinner
My kids are involved in afterschool sports and we often have a meet to go to and are not home until after our normal dinner time. Almost every time after a meet, the kids are pleading for fast food and I know they are hungry. If I had them wait until I got home to make the dinner they will have filled up with snacks. Plus, make-ahead dinners are usually casseroles, which are usually not that healthy. What is the best thing do in this situation?
Katz: Plan ahead to have quick-fix dinners ready to go at home. Make soups or stews in a pressure or slow cooker. Another idea is to have greens and cooked grains ready to go, then buy a roast chicken on the way home. There are many nutritious meals that can be quickly prepared. Granted, it takes some learning. But it's an investment in your family's health, so it's well worth it.
A Drug for Overeaters?
My understanding is that much of overeating is actually a disorder. People who aren't addicted to food can make the sensible choices. In my case, I quit smoking cold turkey and transferred that oral fixation to food. When I eat, those synapses in my brain fire up in the same way they do when I play video games. Is there a drug or other treatment that can interfere with this chemical process and treat the addiction?
Katz: Personally, I think the addiction can be fixed by the proper food choices, the topic of my forthcoming book, "The Flavor Point Diet." But yes, there is a drug in the pipeline called Rimonabant and it may be approved before the end of 2006.
Can Science Offer Dieters Anything New?
Is there anything new we have learned about losing weight? I have heard the same information (eat less, exercise more) for the past 50 years. With 50 years of technological advances, it seems that medical science should have discovered something more for dieters. You have patches for smokers, Prozac for the depressed, and yet there is nothing that can help a person who has trouble controlling his/her appetite. Why, after all this time, doesn't medical science have something better to offer dieters?
Katz: I think science does have new things to offer you. I have a book due out soon called "The Flavor Point Diet," which explains the neuroscience of how appetite works and how the flavors in foods can be used to reduce appetite at the source.
I think we will start to see more work related to the mechanisms of appetite and hunger and how to control them. I understand your frustration, but stay tuned and keep the faith!