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Often we eat at the wrong time because we're not following physical cues but emotional ones. The body is a wise instrument that will tell us when and which foods we need to eat, but we are often out of touch with these natural signals. When we are babies, our bodies give us clear hunger and satiation signals that we receive without interference, but the older we grow, the more we stop using food strictly as a fuel and begin to attach extra significance to eating.

The "Oy! or Joy "Response. A lot of us turn to food unthinkingly when we're having a rough day and looking for a way to feel better. Powerful associations between food and love stem from our earliest memories of being held and fed at the same time by our mothers. As adults, when we don't feel loved we often turn to food, using it as a tranquilizer. The phrase we use to describe many of the foods we grew up with, "comfort food," says it all. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, chocolate pudding, and pie are not just easy to swallow; they evoke images of a simpler, easier time in the protective environment of our family and first home. Indeed, "motherhood and apple pie" are almost synonymous in the American consciousness.

All of us go through difficult times. We lose a job, a loved one dies, a relationship ends. Overeating can be a way of dealing with these losses. Sometimes, deep-rooted traumas are the cause of overeating. For example, eating to excess and the resultant weight gain may be a subconscious strategy for protecting oneself against unwanted sexual interest, especially for those who were once victims of sexual abuse. Dr. Jane Hirshman, author of Overcoming Overeating and a founder of "antidiet" groups that help people recover from compulsive eating behaviors, suggests that we reach out for food because "we cannot sit with ourselves through the moment of difficulty. Many people don't really have eating problems—they have 'calming problems.' They use food to calm down." The problem, of course, is that food is not a healthy antidote for anxiety.

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