Q&A with Arlene B. Englander, LCSW, MBA, Author of Let Go Of Emotional Overeating and Love Your Food: A Five Point Plan for Success

1. What is your book about and why did you write it?

“Let Go Of Emotional Overeating and Love Your Food: A Five Point Plan for Success” is meant to help those who’d love to eat what they like yet be able to stop just at the point of satisfaction without overeating. By learning the difference between healthy eating (which is eating for pleasure and the satisfaction of hunger) and emotionally overeating (eating to distract ourselves from painful thoughts and feelings ), we can learn to eat in a healthier more satisfying way. What’s equally important is to learn to successfully cope with stress away from the table, so we can actually find more pleasure in and more control of, not only our eating experiences, but our lives, as well.

I wrote the book because as a Columbia University trained psychotherapist, with twenty years of experience and a former emotional overeater, this was good news that had taken me half a lifetime to learn. I’m excited about being able to share this message more widely to help even more people than my practice alone would permit.

2. What advice would you have for someone who uses food as a way to celebrate in life?

For many of us, even “positive” changes in our lives, such as promotions, weddings, vacations, etc., can be stressful. Why? Because change of any kind can bring new challenges and expectations and if you’re hard on yourself the pressure may be hard to bear. Even if you’re given a wonderful surprise party — voila! There you are with family and friends you may not have seen in years and now you may feel you’re expected to be the “perfect” host! Change of any kind can be stressful and sadly emotional eaters will utilize food as an escape from that stress rather than savoring what they eat and stopping just at the point of satisfaction.

3. What advice would you have for people who want to eat healthy, but are faced with social or professional pressure to eat unhealthy at social or work lunches or dinners?

There’s almost always a way to eat healthily. Choosing small portions of well-balanced foods and slowly sitting as you savor your choices is always a possibility. Filling up on salads or broth-based soups as a start, and then taking a smaller portion of foods that are less nutritious and more calorie dense is something I’ve learned to do and many nutritionists advise.

Remember you can take control! Those who dare to judge or criticize what you do or don’t eat probably have issues of their own! Brush it off lightly and politely and change the subject.

4. How can we balance eating healthy with still allowing ourselves to enjoy foods that taste good?

This approach is about learning to savor small portions of all the foods we love and expanding that list to include as many typically “healthy” foods as we can. The beauty about learning to eat intuitively, rather than being trapped by the concept of dieting, is that when all foods are allowed we are free to enjoy what we like in small amounts. We know we can do the same thing again whenever we choose without feeling that we’ve “broken our diet,” which can cause self-condemnation, stress, and guess what? The urge to emotionally overeat!

5. Why do you think that foods that taste good are often unhealthy for us?

I respectfully disagree. Most of the foods I love would be classified by most nutritionists as healthy. But when we feel that many foods are “forbidden” — I.e chocolate — we tend to crave those foods, and unfortunately abuse them by eating too much, almost unwittingly, when they’re available.

Instead of a huge Hershey Bar, I now savor one small piece of Godiva chocolate, which I eat slowly, feeling in the moment, enjoying its scent, taste and texture.

6. What are your top 5 foods you would recommend people eat to let go of emotional overeating?

My approach, as a practicing psychotherapist, is to help people successfully cope with stress away from the table so that they are free to relax, savor their food and eat whatever they like, yet stop just at the point of satisfaction. It’s important that we learn to truly accept ourselves, utilizing techniques like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to recognize negative thoughts, and compassionately respond to those so we can truly nurture ourselves. Exercise (finding fun ways to move) and other healthy habits also help.

This is a lifestyle change and one that’s pleasurable, not a matter of eating the right or wrong foods!

7. Why should we let go of our love of food if food brings pleasure and joy into our life?

We shouldn’t! The whole point of the book is that when we truly love and accept ourselves, we can love our lives and our food even more. This new type of eating, in an atmosphere of relaxation and self-acceptance is what brings real control.

Only when we feel good about ourselves are we free to relax, be in the moment, savor our food and stop ourselves from overeating.

8. Anything else we haven’t covered?

I’m so glad to be able to share this joyous message, and appreciate your interest.

Many more tips on how to do everything we mentioned above — eating mindfully, successfully handling stress, coping with challenging eating situations with friends and family, are provided in the book in an easy to remember and doable way.

About the Author:
Arlene B. Englander, LCSW, MBA, is the author of Let Go Of Emotional Overeating and Love Your Food: A Five Point Plan for Success (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers; September 2018).

Ms. Englander has been a licensed psychotherapist for over twenty years. She trained at Columbia University and is currently in private practice in North Palm Beach, Florida where she specializes in treating persons coping with eating disorders, relationship issues, depression, anxiety, grief and stress (personal and work-related). Love Your Food® is her non–dieting, psychologically-oriented program for compulsive overeaters in which clients learn to eat whatever they like, but stop just at the point of satisfaction without overeating.

Ms. Englander developed many of her theories about stress management while working at Cancer Care, Inc. where she counseled thousands of patients and families dealing with advanced cancer. She subsequently developed stress management programs for use in hospitals, law firms, and other settings. As Director of Community Education at the Holliswood Hospital, a private psychiatric hospital in New York City, which was renowned for its eating disorders program, her responsibilities included the production of educational seminars, often attended by audiences of as many as 500 professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses and guidance counselors.

Aside from her professional training and experience, Ms. Englander is also personally familiar with the issue of eating disorders, as she is a former compulsive overeater. For more information, please visit https://arleneenglander.com.