Lose weight instead of swallowing your feelings.

about four years ago, Barbara Konwinski of Wyoming, Michigan, weighed 268 pounds. “I was so angry – just angry at my life in general,” the 54-year-old mother, teacher, and wife recall. “I felt I had no power over anything.”

Although she’s ordinarily cheerful and outgoing, a series of occasions that would challenge anybody – her husband’s job loss when his company relocated, a house fire and a genuine accident including her oldest child – brought Barbara to an emotional low. And her weight to an all-time high. “Only food would appease me,” she recalls. “So I would grab a cookie, eat it and then feel worse because, in addition to being angry and frustrated with my family’s circumstances, I’d be angry with myself for eating. Then I would turn around and eat two more cookies.”

Barbara was actually stuffing her anger, something numerous women who struggle with their weight do, specialists say. This is how it works: You have a keep running in at the workplace, you open your mail to find a creature bill or your teenager rolls her eyes at you and stomps away. Your next stop is the kitchen or perhaps the staff lounge, where somebody brought in a cake. Don’t mind that you have been making a conscious effort to eat less. Down goes the cake, the leftover pizza or whatever else is around.

“We’ve learned from a huge number of patients that women often internalize their anger,” says Gerard J. Musante, Ph.D., chief of Structure House, a residential weight-loss center in Durham, North Carolina. “They use food to manage the depression, emotional hurts and reduced self-esteem that follows.”

“Individuals who swallow their anger feel, for whatever reason, that they can’t express it, so they resort to food,” says Thomas Wadden, M.D., director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school.

“The irony is, nobody enjoys eating when they’re stuffing hostile feelings,” Dr. Wadden includes. “Even if it’s delicious, you may not notice the taste or the amount you’ve eaten.”

Eating out of frustration or anger often sparks binges, which can truly pile on the pounds, says Howard Rankin, Ph.D., psychologist, and author of Inspired to Lose. Rather than eating only one or two cookies, you eat the whole bag, just to then move on to other food items. Keeping anger under wraps also is draining, because it uses a lot of energy, says Dr. Rankin. “The angry person may feel empty and very hungry, with a desperate need to eat.”

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