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Up until nine weeks ago, Karen Dunn was eating late at night, and she felt hopeless.
"I'm kind of shut off to the world, and I get angry, and just keep eating because I just think there is no hope, so I just eat," said Dunn, a San Diego mom struggling to lose the weight she gained during pregnancy.
"When everyone else goes to sleep, I stay up with David Letterman, Jay Leno, and I sit on the couch and say, 'I'm still a little hungry. I know I shouldn't eat that, but maybe tomorrow I'll go on a diet.' "
Now tomorrow has finally arrived. Dunn says she has found the courage to start making changes, and is embracing a healthy diet.
"I've got my broccoli, I've got my salmon," she said.
For the past nine weeks, Dunn and Lori Brown have been working with fitness trainer Jorge Cruise, the author of 8 Minutes in the Morning: For Real Shapes and Sizes . Both women said that they were emotional eaters.
More than half of adult Americans are considered overweight, and a quarter of the adult population can be called obese. For some, eating can be more about filling an emotional need rather than true hunger.
In the last nine weeks, Dunn has lost about two pounds a week, though it is sometimes three, and sometime one.
"But every week, there is always some change," she said.
Brown had also been feeling unhappy, unhealthy and fat before her weight loss. She has three children, all under the age of 5. As quickly as she cleans the house each day, they are right at her heels, making a mess. She says she is proud of being a mom, but she really wants to feel good about the way she looks again, too.
"I may not have 300 pounds to lose like some other people, but I still feel the same pain -- I am in the same hell that they're in and I want out," Brown said before the weight loss. "I feel like a failure. I'm a loser."
She has shed 22 pounds since starting her new weight-loss plan, and enjoys working out with the children.
"I'm wearing clothes that I haven't worn in so many years," Brown said. "I still have some issues. I've got quite a ways to go. [But] I'm headed back downward and losing every day."
Food as Coping Mechanism
Cruise says the idea that successful weight-loss programs have to be a combination of diet and exercise is widely accepted, but he also has to teach people to deal with their emotional attachment to food.
"So many people use food as a tool to cope with the problems of their days," Cruise said. "That is the toughest habit to break. Food is used as a tool for depression, especially for someone like Lori, who loves to eat chocolate and get an endorphin rush when her day, her kids, are getting to be too much for her."
Many dieters tend to self-destruct if they can't break the pattern of eating to satisfy emotions, Cruise said.
"They start out the day saying they won't, just won't touch the foods they know are bad for them," Cruise said. "But something gets in their way, some obstacle, and they self-destruct. They eat when they know they should not."
Dunn, who would like to lose 120 pounds, says that she turned to food when she was not feeling good about herself.
"After I had my two kids, which were both difficult births, both C-sections, I just kind of got into this depression and just let myself go," Dunn said.
For her, the key is losing weight for health reasons, she said.
Tips for Emotional Eaters
Cruise has three key tips for emotional eaters.
Tip No. 1: Get Moving in the Morning
Exercise should be done before eating breakfast, or even having coffee, so that whatever else happens that day, you have it in your head that you have accomplished something.
"It's the greatest thing to do each day," Cruise said. "Just eight minutes of exercise right when you get out of bed. Start the day with an endorphin rush, knowing that you are on the right path." Tip No. 2: Find Three Supportive Teammates
If you want to lose weight, enlist support. ``` "It's a lonely job, losing weight," Cruise said. "People often find comfort in food. Well, they should find comfort in friends and family. They need support. They should have three people that they touch base with every day in order to maintain a regimen of support." Tip No. 3: Eat Every Three Hours
The third tip is to limit yourself to only eating every three hours, without snacks in between meals. "It's all about regimen and routine," Cruise said. "Don't get off the routine. It sounds so simple but it is really very hard. They have to know that there is a time and a place for food, and the other parts of the day should be food-free. Again, [it's] all part of maintaining and sticking to routine."
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