Psychological Self-Help

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needs and feelings be reduced or handled some other way? If yes,
Overeating frequently allays anxiety and loneliness or sadness;
drinking may reduce stress or depression and give courage and "good
times;" cigarettes help us relax and, according to new evidence, may
reduce our depression. Between 30% and 60% of smokers are
depressed. Those emotions are discussed in chapters 5, 6, and 9,
which give many suggestions for handling those needs and feelings.
Over-eating, like most other problems related to feelings, can probably
benefit from self-help groups which give encouragement and focus on
reducing the stresses of life. Once you have dealt with the unwanted
emotions, your unwanted oral habits may be easier to change. 
A caution: experienced weight loss experts tell me that perhaps
50% of over-weight people simply lack knowledge about nutrition and
metabolic functions. When told what they need to eat and do
(exercise), many will do it and lose weight. In such cases, there is no
need for therapy for emotions; indeed, the excess weight may cause
emotions, rather than emotions causing weight. 
Part III: Skills
Besides knowing how to change yourself, a dieter needs knowledge
about (1) good nutrition and eating habits, (2) how to count calories
and fat calories, and (3) how to organize a good exercise program. A
lot of books provide this information. In addition, you need to
recognize overindulging and its serious consequences. Many books are
useful for overeating (Mahoney & Mahoney, 1976), drinking (Alcohol
and Health, 1971), smoking (The Health Consequences of Smoking,
1973), and drugs (Kornetsky, 1976). See recent books about low-fat
You can learn new ways to meet your needs: new social skills
could reduce loneliness better than eating. New assertiveness could
handle stress and anger better than alcohol. Deep muscle relaxation or
meditation might calm you much more than cigarettes. New values,
goals, study, and decision-making skills might make the future look
brighter than drugs or alcohol or cigarettes ever could (see chapter
Part IV: Self-concept, expectations, attitudes, motivation,
Factors at this level are likely to be major contributors to
overindulging. Examples of self-defeating expectations: "I've always
been fat...and I always will be." "I really like my cigarettes, I can't give
them up." "I can handle my alcohol." "I need a couple (really 4 or 5
and increasing) of drinks after work; there's nothing wrong with that."
If you see yourself as overweight by nature, as addicted to coffee or
cigarettes and too weak to overcome the habit, as born to be a
nervous person who needs to drink, and so on, it's going to be hard to
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