HealthSmart Q & A-8

Dear HealthSmart,

I live alone and when I’m bored or feeling down I instantly go for a snack to entertain or comfort myself. Is this emotional eating? How can I kick this habit?

HealthSmart asked Dr. Sumati Gupta, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology at Barnard College. Here’s her response:

All of us engage in emotional eating at some point or another when the eating that we’re engaged in isn’t for the purpose of nutrition and we’re eating exclusively to feel better emotionally, whether we’re relieving stress, loneliness, boredom, sadness, etc. Emotional eating stems from celebration and positive emotions as well. We eat in excess when we’re with family or celebrating a holiday or important milestone. Generally, the idea is that we should eat in a structured way, which can be difficult with a busy lifestyle. It’s important to ask the question “Am I hungry?” before engaging in eating. If you recognize the eating is triggered because a certain emotion, try to find another way to cope with that emotion. If you’re bored, read or listen to music, if you’re restless, take a walk, if you’re lonely, call a friend. If these strategies prove hard, try replacing your unhealthy comfort foods with better options, such as a cup of tea, fruit, or vegetables, and practice portion control. Once you’ve finished, evaluate if you really still need that bowl of ice cream or bag of chips.


Dear HealthSmart,

I’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea and plan to start using a CPAP Machine. How do these machines work, and does more than one model exist?

HealthSmart asked Dr. Nancy Collop, M.D., Director of The Sleep Center at Emory University. Here’s her response:

CPAP Machines have been applying the same method more or less since they were introduced in the early 1980’s. They work similarly to a hair dryer, with continuous positive airflow that blows through a six-foot tube into a mask worn by the patient to prevent the floppy part of their airway from collapsing at night. There are numerous different models of CPAP Machines, varying mostly in terms of the mask type: fitting over the nose, fitting over the nose and mouth, or a “pillow” that sits under the nose and plugs into the nostrils. Patients choose the models that they are most comfortable with, if at all.  The amount of air pressure coming through the mask can be adjusted by the person prescribing it via study, and can also auto-adjust in some models. Most CPAP machines come with a humidification system so it’s not hot, dry air coming through the tubes. Since not one model works for everyone, patients typically rent machines for 9-12 months and then purchase them afterwards. Some companies will allow patients to try a model for thirty days. Luckily, most insurance companies will cover CPAP Machines, but you should verify this with you provider.


Dear HealthSmart,

I want to begin taking birth control pills but I worry about the numerous potential side effects listed on ads. What side effects do women commonly experience?

HealthSmart asked Dr. Anna Glezer, M.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at University of California, and Reproductive Health Psychiatrist. Here’s her response:

I would say that the majority of women who use birth control report no side effects. There’s a minority of women who experience negative side effects, and a minority who experience positive side effects. With all forms of birth control that use hormones, excluding the copper IUD and condoms, each woman will find they react differently. Some women report weight gain, lowered sex drive, deflated mood, or feelings of anxiety. With all of these reported side effects, it is hard to determine direct causes because many of these side effects are common fluctuations in a woman’s life. With the hormonal IUD, there are commonly reported physical side effects, such as unpredictable menstrual bleeding in the first few months after insertion, which can take months to level out, and intense, painful cramps during menstruation with the copper IUD.


Do you have questions on health or wellness you’d like answered by the nation’s leading medical researchers? If so, you can send to HealthSmart is a national newspaper column from the Washington News Service in DC. Due to demand, we are unable to reply to all inquiries. Responses through the column are no substitute for care from physicians or other medical professionals.

Copyright Ellen James Martin 2021


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