Finding Freedom from Emotional Eating

Stress and a hectic lifestyle can affect our eating patterns and food choices.  The stress hormone cortisol increases appetite and may ramp up the motivation to eat. This can make you crave “bad” carbohydrates which will give you an energy boost followed by a crash. This will leave you hungry for more foods like sweets and fatty, salty foods. This vicious cycle can lead to mindlessly overeating and eating when you are not even hungry.  

Try these suggestions to break the stress eating cycle:

Break the cycle, don’t feed emotions with junk food. High-carb, high-fat foods trigger the brain’s feel good response, so over time we start to rely on these foods to find emotional relief.  Unfortunately, the long-term result of this habit of eating leads to more emotional distress and chronic health issues. 

It may be time to replace your current eating rituals.  If a certain time of day or certain emotions such as overwhelm, sadness, frustration or boredom trigger food cravings, try to replace that automatic response with something else.  Practice deep breathing, enjoy a cup of green or herbal tea, or recharge your body with a brisk walk or some relaxing stretches.  Take a pause and become mindful of your true needs. Automatic urges will subside when you take a minute to focus on your true desires.  Take a breath and focus on your future.  If your true goal is peace, a smaller waist, a healthy heart, or just looking and feeling your best everyday…  what is a better choice to get you there?

Find ways to relieve stress and balance your emotions without overeating.  The practice of meditation reduces stress and helps you become more aware of everything you do.  The practice can be as simple as taking just a few minutes each day to sit comfortably, tune into your breath, and let tension go with each exhalation. When you notice your mind wandering just return to your breath. Through mindfulness practices such as meditation we become more aware of internal messages and listening to our body. We can then understand when we are truly hungry and the foods that will nourish our body rather than eating on autopilot or because we feel anxious, sad, lonely or bored.

Exercise is meditation in motion. Regular exercise can reduce depression and anxiety, increase self-confidence, and relax you.  Even one session of exercise can improve your mood. Consider adding yoga or tai chi which directly combines the elements of exercise and meditation.

Make sure you are getting adequate sleep.  Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.  Lack of sleep affects appetite regulation and increases stress on your mind and body. Allow time to unwind before bed with a bedtime ritual that could include things such as reading a good novel, relaxing with a cup of chamomile tea, or enjoying a lavender and Epsom salt bath or foot soak.

Through practicing mindfulness, we will have improved health and sleep.  Mindfulness is about calmly accepting the present moment, and it leads to a state of balance. It means maintaining a moment by moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and our surrounding environment through a gentle, nurturing lens.

Nourish your body with whole foods. Consume adequate amounts of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates during each meal and snack.  This ensures you stay satiated and balances blood sugar levels.  Generally, this means choosing whole foods such as nuts, whole grains, raw vegetables and fruits. Avoid foods that are packaged, high in sugar, or fried.  One of the fastest ways to calm unhealthy food cravings is by eating protein.  Protein helps curb your hunger longer and won’t give you the crash that sweetened and refined foods do.

Find new comfort foods. Do not stock your kitchen with your favorite indulgence foods, the unhealthy foods you crave in times of stress. Discover healthier versions of the foods you crave and keep them on hand. If you have a craving for soda, replace this with fruit-infused mineral water.  If you crave cookies or ice cream replace this with berries and cream or an apple with nut butter.  Your taste buds will adapt, and these new comfort foods will leave you feeling satisfied and energized.

Be kind to yourself. Find ways to incorporate mindfulness practices and relaxation into your daily routine. Learn to recognize true hunger and satisfy yourself with whole, nourishing foods. These suggestions will not only help you manage stress better but will also reduce your risk for chronic disease.

-Diane Duvall, CLC, CHHC, CPT

Diane Duvall is a Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine.  Our Internal Medicine Practices an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine to prevent chronic disease and promote health and wellness. We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive,Suite A, Atlantis FL 33462.  Phone: 561) 432-8935 Visit and Follow us on Facebook

Take Care of Yourself This Holiday Season

The holidays are such a joyful time of year.  The season is filled with festive parties, decorated malls and coffee shops brimming with the scent of pumpkin spice.  Make a plan now to prioritize self-care and stay focused on all you have to be grateful for during this season. By planning ahead and staying focused you can avoid the overwhelm that many of us feel during this busy time of the year.

Don’t wait until the last minute.  Plan ahead for the expenses of the season.  Writing down your financial goals for the season will help you avoid overspending.  Keep track of your spending regarding things such as decorations, gifts, travel and meals.

Eat well to feel good.  Stay focused on eating whole, natural foods.  Enjoy the holiday festivities but always fill your plate with vegetables first and enjoy your favorite foods – just in smaller portions.

Make a list. The holiday season is a wonderful time to enjoy gatherings with family and friends.  Have a planner or appointment book to organize all of your to-do’s and events to keep you on track and on time.  As your appointment book fills up you will have to choose what events and tasks are most important to you.  Sometimes having to say ‘no’ is an important part of self-care.

Holiday Self-Care Checklist:

  • Take a walk in nature
  • Incorporate relaxing essential oils
  • Get quality sleep
  • Have a home spa day
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Declutter an area in your home
  • Be grateful & practice positive thinking
  • Plan something fun for yourself
  • Get connected with friends & family
  • Lighten your spirit with laughter
  • Watch your favorite movie
  • Do yoga or stretch at night
  • Enjoy a relaxing cup of tea
  • Listen to music
  • Stick with your exercise plan
  • Indulge in moderation
  • Practice Deep Breathing


-Diane Duvall, CLC, CHHC, CPT

Diane Duvall is a Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine.  Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine to prevent chronic disease and promote health and wellness.

Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Suite A, Atlantis FL 33462.  Phone: (561) 432-8935 Visit and Follow us on Facebook

10 Ways to Increase Your Happiness Every Day

Do you start your day feeling happy and positive about life? Scientific research is showing us that positive thoughts and emotional states have a profound effect on our health and how we perceive, think, feel and perform. We all know that positive emotions feel good – and it’s no wonder since they actually help all of our body’s systems to synchronize and work better.

So how can you cultivate more positive emotions and happiness in your life? Happiness is actually a state of being. It’s an overall sense of well-being, joy or contentment. This kind of true happiness flows through your entire being. It brightens your life. It’s the inner glow that fills your soul, that brings color and light to all your experiences.

Here are ten ways to increase your overall sense of happiness every day:

Choose Happiness. If you don’t like the way you feel you can always choose a better feeling thought or a better response to a situation. Decide how you most want to feel and consciously cultivate those feelings within yourself during your day.

Practice Gratitude. Take time to notice and reflect on things you are grateful for every day. Appreciate even the simple things. The regular practice of gratitude includes such benefits as strengthening the immune system, increasing positive emotions, and helping you feel more alive.

Share a Smile or a Hug. Research has shown that our facial expressions can influence our mood. Even smiling for a brief time can make you feel happy. Hugs balance out the nervous system and stimulate release of the “feel good” hormone, oxytocin. Hugging for an extended time also lifts your serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness. Share a smile and perform small acts of kindness and see how good you feel when you help others.

Replace Worry with Positive Expectation. Anticipate that good things will happen. Imagine the best case scenario that you could experience. Positive expectations can lead to a more positive life. Expect more things to be grateful for and you will attract more things to be grateful for.

Empower Yourself. Keep your thoughts and words positive and uplifting. Write out positive affirmations about yourself and your life. Meditate on your favorite scriptures or inspirational quotes. You can put up post-it notes or write out your quotes on index cards to keep with you. Ask yourself empowering questions. Instead of asking, “Why am I so tired?” ask “Why am I so happy and full of energy?” This will immediately change what your brain focuses on. When you change the question, you change your results. It changes your perspective which will change your actions which will change your life.

Try New Things. Break out of your routine. Start a new hobby, walk down a new street, try that new breakfast café. Plan that weekend getaway to renew and refresh.

Have Things to Look Forward to. Make future plans for things you will enjoy and savor the anticipation. One of the keys to happiness is having something to look forward to. Don’t forget to plan for small pleasures in your day-to-day life. Plan the massage, trying out that new restaurant with a friend or taking that bike ride in the park.

Take a Deep Breath. Deep abdominal breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which guides our body from stress to relaxation. By training yourself to breathe slowly and deeply in a mindful state on a regular basis, you will notice a shift in your energy level, your mental clarity and overall well-being.

Strengthen Your Relationships. Many research studies have shown that satisfying relationships are associated with better health, greater happiness and even a longer life. This effect is not limited to romantic relationships. Close friendships and social connections with family and the community can also help your health and happiness.

Care for Your Body. Nourish yourself with whole foods, water and sufficient sleep. Be sure to include plenty of physical activity and exercise. Exercise has been shown to increase happiness in many ways. Exercise helps to clear your mind, reduce stress and increases the release of the feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins trigger positive feelings and can be accompanied by a more energizing outlook on life.

Do something nice for yourself today. The true key to happiness is in doing your best to create joy in as many moments as you can.

Diane Duvall, CLC, CHHC, CPT

Diane Duvall is a Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, M.D., Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine. Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine to prevent chronic disease and promote health and wellness.


Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Suite A, Atlantis FL 33462. Phone: (561) 432-8935

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Stress Management Means Better Health

Managing stress is a very important aspect in our road to good health.  We are so overwhelmed with our frenzied lives that we don’t stop for a moment and take a deep breath and clear our minds.  We find it difficult to make positive steps because our minds are overwhelmed and overstressed and in a tizzy.  It is hard to see a way forward when we are running in circles looking at everything that must be handled in our hectic lives.  The upcoming holiday season adds to the load in so many different ways. This chronic stress promotes a chemical environment in our bodies that promote disease or at the very least we are ill at ease.  When this frenzied state is a permanent part of lives it has a long term negative impact physically, mentally and even spiritually. We exhaust our reserves.

So how do we manage our stress?

All the previous letters I sent are part and parcel of stress management.  Eating right, exercise, sleep management and time management all have a positive impact on our bodies.  Conversely, not paying attention to these matters have a negative impact.

The question is, where do we start?

Let me make some suggestions…

  1. Take a deep breath.  Step back and identify the problem at hand.  Then look for a solution and move forward.  Taking that few extra seconds is always helpful.  I use this technique all the time when I am dealing with stressful patients.
  1. Practice deep breathing. I advise my patients to take deep breaths at least 5 times every 1-2 hours.  We don’t realize how quick and shallow our breathing gets when we are stressed.  We send signals to our brain that we are in danger even though we are not and our bodies go into the classic fight or flight mode.  The stress hormones rev up. In contrast deep breathing signals peaceful surroundings and no danger and thus sends positive signals.  There are a lot of smart phone apps that can be helpful to walk you through this practice.
  1. Mindful meditation. Controlling your thoughts and bringing it in line with your values is very important.  After all, we are what we think. Clearing your mind of negative thoughts and feelings and replacing them with positive outcomes of where you want to be in life is an important way to get our stress under control.  There are different techniques that are out there that you can try.   If one does not work then try something else.  There are many also many smart phone apps that can help with this practice too.
  1. Make a list. We are the sum of many parts and each area in our lives require actions to support it.  For example I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, doctor, employer, church elder, etc…  Likewise all of you have many roles.  There was a time when I was overwhelmed by it all.  Then I started making lists under different categories.  For example: personal health, family, home, work, church.  Then I listed items under each category.  Once this list got started I organized them according to priority.  I made appointments for myself to get personal care in.  The tyranny of the urgent got less as I started to work on things in anticipation.  With a lot of time and persistence my life is now in control.  Nothing happens overnight.  You have to take one forward step at a time but you have to do some thinking to know where you are going and what you want to accomplish to get there.  The list never gets shorter but it organizes our mind and this gives a lot of relief to our stressful lives.
  1. Learn to say NO where appropriate.  All things that are good are not necessarily the best or profitable.  Pick things to do that promote the health and well-being of you and your family.
  1. Make a decision to take care of YOU.  Then think of ways to incorporate it into our lives.  Trying to be healthy should not stress you out.  As the new year comes we all resolve to be skinny.  Don’t make that resolution, it is doomed for failure. Instead:
    • Decide to start incorporating healthy foods into your diet, you have been given the right tools.
    • Decide to add exercise into your life, just start with 5 minutes if that’s all you can do.  That is great.  But know eventually where you want to be.
    • Decide that you want to reduce the unwanted clutter in your life whether it is a cluttered life of fruitless activities, cluttered paper and junk in your home or a cluttered mind of negative thoughts.  Whatever it may be start with a small action or idea.

Truth is I can go on and on….

There are many roads to a healthy and beautiful lifestyle that will help us to age gracefully and maintain our functionality.  Pick one idea and build on it and with time a healthy transformed life can be in your future.

That is what I hope and pray for every one of you.  A transformed life that will carry you into the future and help you meet the challenges of life with grace and peace.

Best regards for a healthy future, Dr. Abraham