Emotional vs. Conscious Eating

From the Show: Talk Fitness Today
Summary: Have you ever had one of those days when you just couldn't get enough of your favorite comfort foods? That's the very definition of "emotional eating."
Air Date: 3/21/18
Duration: 22:54
Host: Lisa Davis
Guest Bio: Hollis Lance Liebman
Hollis-Lance-LiebmanHollis Lance Liebman has won national body building competitions, trained celebrities like Hugh Jackman and Jane Lynch, and worked as a fitness magazine editor and photographer.

He has published twelve books on exercise and anatomy, including 1,500 STRETCHES: The Complete Guide to Flexibility and Movement.

He lives in Los Angeles, California.
  • Book Title: Complete Physique Your Ultimate Body Transformation, Eat Clean, Burn Fat, Build Lean Muscle
  • Guest Facebook Account:
  • Guest Twitter Account: @hllpac
Emotional vs. Conscious Eating
Have you ever had one of those days when you just couldn't get enough of your favorite comfort foods? Perhaps you had a bad interaction at work or a fight with your significant other.

That's the very definition of "emotional eating."

"Emotional eating is when we use food to make ourselves feel better. It is basically eating our feelings; seeking instant gratification. We sometimes live in a cold callous world and we want to feel," explains Hollis Lance Liebman. 

So, when we are stressed or anxious or tired or sad, we often turn to food for comfort. And, let’s be honest, eating these foods can feel amazing. But, only for a fleeting time. And then we are stuck with guilt, which can spur the cycle all over again.

Liebman says you can combat emotional eating with conscious eating. 

"What you want to get to is focusing on eating when you are truly hungry. Eat when you are supposed to, small meals throughout the day, which drives you to the core of nutrition's purpose: fortifying oneself," advises Liebman.

Listen as Liebman joins host Lisa Davis to discuss the difference between emotional eating and conscious eating, the types of foods (and frequency of meals) you should incorporate daily to optimize your body's function, and other helpful nutrition and fitness tips.

Emotional vs. Conscious Eating with Hollis Lance Liebman

This episode of Talk Fitness is in partnership with The Vitamin Shoppe, where knowledgeable health enthusiasts are standing by to help you thrive every day.

Lisa Davis (Host): I am so lucky to get to do this show Talk Fitness Today because I get to talk to fantastic people and one of them is the wonderful Hollis Lance Liebman. He is back. We are talking about his book Complete Physique Your Ultimate Body Transformation Eat Clean, Burn Fat, Build Lean Muscle. If you missed our last interview, you can go to and on the home page you will see Talk Fitness Today, just click on the graphic and you can listen. We talked all about the book. Today, we are going to talk more about the book. We are going to talk about the mental side of things. We are going to talk about emotional overeating and conscious eating and all kinds of good stuff so Hollis, welcome back.

Hollis Lance Liebman (Guest): Oh, thank you for having me and again, Happy New Year to everybody. Thank you again, for having me.

Lisa: It’s so good to have you on. You know Hollis, you mentioned in our last interview that you had been bullied as a kid and I was picked on a lot. I was very skinny. I mean skinny, skinny, skinny and very uncoordinated and I know I have mentioned this before, but I think I might have mentioned this with you in another interview we did, but I not only got picked last, but they fought over who got stuck with me. So, I was – and I went to school with the same kids from kindergarten all the way through high school and it really sucked because it seemed like no matter what I did, how I changed, I was still just like that uncoordinated nerd kid. And it really affects your self-esteem and I remember eating peanut butter sandwiches at night and trying to gain weight and this and that and then my mother used to like hide junk food because she was super healthy but then that lead me to bad habits and it’s interesting how the self-esteem and my long story is trying to get to the fact that it’s very easy to become an emotional eater when you have all these things going on in your life and so I was curious about if that was something that happened to you or was it more that you turned to the body building because I know you mentioned that because of the bullying?

Hollis: I don’t think I’m unique that much in regards but many of us have been bullied. I think it what we do with it in our life. Look at you now with this very successful show you have so here you are. I don’t know where your bully is today, but here you are. So, for me it was never to get revenge on the bully, but I just thought it was so cool that I just learned at a very young age that our body is the one thing we have control over. Maybe because of all the He Man cartoons I watched and GI Joe and subconsciously all the muscles were implanted in my brain but when I saw a friend that I grew up with work out one day, I never knew he had muscles and I was like wow, where did that happen from and I just thought it was so cool that all the anxiety and fear because let’s face it, that’s what bullying does. I could put that energy somewhere else into a war against myself and I used that word war because it was a war a positive way of letting out all this angst and terror and horror into a positive thing of bettering myself and I just think that body building, the gym, writing, whatever your listeners might fall in love with is a very positive thing to displace negative energy and I was fortunate to be able to marry my two loves of life, the body building and writing and here we are and I have this book.

And I learned from the master on writing Robert McKee the famous author of Steering, to tell the truth. He signed my book tell the truth and I asked him what’s the greatest lesson you can teach and that’s what he wrote and when I write, I am always telling the truth, even when I do my children’s books, I’m still trying to tell the truth even if it is fictional medium. Tell the truth to me means let it out, pour your heart out, be real because somebody is going to feel as you do and it’s going to resonate with somebody else. And tell the truth, I think writing is a very powerful, beautiful medium that can touch people and people know when you BS them and they know when you are being real. And life is too short, why not be real.

Lisa: You know, I do want to have you on my other show to talk about your children’s books I have been meaning to say that. So that’s exciting. Yeah so, for you, I wish I had had that. To me, what happened is when I was made fun of for being unathletic, rather than being like well I’m going to prove to them I’m athletic; I was just like okay, I guess I’m unathletic. And this is back in the 70s and 80s, so I just kind of turned away from it and it wasn’t until I was 17 that I started swimming. My family joined this club that had a pool and I was like wow, I’m really good at this and it kind of shocked me because I just thought I was such a loser and I was never good at anything in that regard, anything athletic and I thought wow, I wish I had discovered this sooner. So, I’m so glad that you were able to go to the gym. I know you mentioned in our last interview about your mother taking you to the Y when you were 13 and that’s when you started getting into working out. Whereas for me, I just I shied away, and I think that’s such a shame when that happens to a kid where they are not encouraged because they are told they are no good. So, it’s complicated.

Hollis: Well, yes, however I would say to me I don’t think it’s as important as when we discover our passions but rather that we do. So, whether you discover it at 13 or 25, you are doing it. And some Oscar winning actors and actresses started their careers very late and some early. And I think the point is, that we discover these things. In my case, I would probably be dead or in jail if I didn’t discover body building. I’m joking. But no, not really. But a positive place to displace my frustrations as a youth. And I was no different, but millions of people go through this, so I think what I’m trying to say is if you find a passion, something you care about, something that makes you put foot A in front of foot B every day, you owe it to yourself to take it to its fullest extent or explore it. You never know where it might lead. And I think that’s very important.

Lisa: Yeah, that is true. And my love of swimming, is what led me and also my parents are very health conscious and led me to want to work in the health field and there are a lot of other reasons too as well, but that was sort of that impetus and you’re right. I mean, I was 17, it wasn’t like I was 110 so I did discover it. But I want to go back to the emotional eating. Because I think that’s something that a lot of people struggle with. Let’s talk about that and talk about the mental side of things too and your book.

Hollis: Well, yes, the mental side of things basically to me is about fortifying the self, it’s about in my case, with these books these fitness books, I’m always trying to outdo myself and tell the truth. So, fortifying oneself in anyway that one can. For me that might equal taking a photo from my last shoot and saying I’m going to look better than that. It could mean being strong when you are going out with someone or friends that don’t follow your lifestyle. I have been on many dates where I have to eat in the middle of perhaps making out or whatever and it’s about being true to you. So, the mental state is to me it’s just about what can you do to ensure your own success and as I said earlier, I think if you fall in love with something you owe it to yourself to see it through. I was so dead set on bettering the book I did prior to this that I was willing to do almost anything, turn over any stone, leap any height I needed to do to do so.

So, the mental process is sometimes you have to go to a place that is maybe a little dangerous or a little scary to you in order to harness the will and the strength and the power to get things done. And that’s okay. I think, is basically the great challenge of how good can I be. Very few of us in any endeavor, any endeavor, baseball, race car driving, authorship, whatever it might be, in my case, with my parents and I do believe I had the greatest parents ever, they were, I believe they found out how great a parent could be and I just think to me, that’s a big thing in life is whatever endeavor, how great can I be and when you fortify yourself with all these questions, how can you not succeed. That’s really one of the best things that I could say about that.

I will say this, without putting another whack down, a former book, I’m very, very proud of as well, they did not put the gorgeous female model on the cover and I begged them, and I said if you don’t because the book is for both sexes. It’s not – I feel we will lose half of our readership and it’s not getting the book out as successfully as it could. And they went and published the book and I’m thankful and it was all good, and I said to myself that no matter what it takes, in mental preparation for this book, you will have the female on the cover because she is as important as you to this book. And I fought, and I begged for it and it happened with the publisher.

So, I might be going in circles, but mentally, to your listeners, do whatever you can to make your dreams and goals a reality. It’s sort of like mental lining that armory if you will that build up and when you – let’s face it, everything in life worth having is tough, everything. And we all question why am I doing this, but when you have that checklist to go back to, the answer is so apparent and obvious, you continue on seamlessly on your journey. And to me, without the mental, physical will not follow. If you don’t have the mental down, without the why then the what is not going to happen. So, I think you got to check yourself and – it’s like when you go into a store at least for – I don’t want to sound sexist, but I think for men, when we go into Target, we go in knowing exactly what we want and generally come out with finite amount of items. Perhaps, some females go in there and maybe not knowing what they want and sometimes come out with a whole lot of items. Sometimes good by the way and sometimes the man goes oh I didn’t think of that. So, I don’t know what my point was, but just making that joke. But I think when you go into an endeavor with an exact plan, you are going to get very clear and specific in what you want, I believe you will get more out of it.

Lisa: Yeah, I think that’s such great advice. I want to go back to this okay, so you have to eat while you are making out? Okay, we have to go because it is just like because you were going to train, and you have to eat like a certain amount every hour or something because that’s what stuck in my head. And I know if I didn’t ask, the audience would be like what the hell. What’s going on with this eating while making out stuff?

Hollis: That particular, yeah, I was dating this one girl one year and when we are kissing and making out and it was great and my watch alarm, when I have had, remember those, my alarm went off on my watch and she’s like what the hell. And I swear to you, I literally, I reached under the seat and pulled out like chicken breasts and rice. And she was like are you kidding me? And I said listen, I’m going to be in basically my underwear on stage in about five weeks, I have got to get my meals in. It was a little weird. I can’t remember if we went back to kissing after that. I might have had gum or Binaca after the chicken got stuck in my teeth, but the point is that is where I needed to go to get my goals accomplished and I was at my grandfather’s funeral one time and I remember I didn’t eat for another hour and a half and I remember the whole family was there and everybody is staring at me. Now my grandfather who I was close to passed and we’re Jews and the Jews eat. That’s what we do.

Lisa: Yeah, I’m Jewish too. I get it.

Hollis: Okay, so you get it. There you go. And actually, my question to you is pastrami, corned beef or brisket if you can only have one. Which one?

Lisa: Oh, I like brisket.

Hollis: Nice choice. Good choice. It would be nice if we could both have that after this interview. Anyway, I digress. So, basically, that’s – the point of that story is you know, I stuck to my guns and I didn’t eat until I was supposed to. I wound up winning the show and again, I just knew at a young age, just do what you need to do to fortify yourself. The bully had taken so much from me. I needed to do something to build myself back up and I just learned the mental keys if you will to make things happen. I was willing to go places that other people weren’t, go distances other people didn’t think they could to get things done.

Now I know you want to get into emotional eating

Lisa: Well I have to ask you about your grandfather first because, so I’m guessing that you didn’t engage in all the food and they were like why are you not eating? Or did you pull out your chicken and rice, is that what happened?

Hollis: What happened was we are all sitting at a restaurant. I had nothing. I think I had water. That’s it. And then an hour and a half later, in the car, I remember I pulled out my yams and my chicken I think it was and I ate when I was supposed to. And I remember getting some looks, but I’ll tell you something, when you are at a body building show and you do well, in that case I won, and your father who was not only the most well versed with words, verbiage, cries. You know you did right. And that’s what happened.

Lisa: That’s incredible. Well, I think – I mean it sounds like no matter what we are doing, we have to have that mindset and we have to stick with that even if other people are going to give us funny looks. But let’s talk a little bit about the emotional eating. What advice do you have for people, because that can be tough?

Hollis: Sure. Well let’s define it. Emotional eating is when we use food to make ourselves feel better. And it is basically eating our feelings, or instant gratification and you know we do this because we live sometimes in a cold callous world and we want to feel. When we are stressed or anxious or tired or sad, we want to [inaudible][00:13:44] and let’s be honest, great food feels amazing. But only for a fleeting time. And then we are stuck with often guilt. I used to do a thing where I would cheat on my diet and there I’m using that word diet and that was when I thought back then being a diet and not a lifestyle and I would say – I would punish myself and I know some people do this. I would say okay Saturday night you are going to cheat, you are going to eat, you are not going out tonight. And I would like eat so much I would get myself an upset stomach and I would not allow myself to go out. And it is basically yo-yo syndrome, punishment. I was good all week, I was perfect all week and then punishment and I think to help people, we have to stop even now it’s brand new 2018, right. We have to set goals high, but we have to not over-expect things. We have to do 40 miles an hour from the start. We have to do things slow. It’s okay to wish and want, but I think to over project oneself is going to set one up for failure.

So, what I like to do is to eat clean, whole foods, non-processed foods, most of the time and a couple of times a week; I will have a cheat meal. Cheat meals are quite big and that’s a whole other story in and of itself, but the point is, something really to look forward to. But what we want to get to is focusing with that and that is when we basically eat when we are hungry. We eat when we are supposed to, small meals throughout the day which drives us to do well through life, energy, so with that, you are burning fat and a big throwaway of conscious eating is obviously being aware is the first step but again, back to the mental acuity, is fortifying oneself. So, how long does it take to really after learning to cook rice in a rice cooker. I have a grill in the backyard. I throw chicken breasts on there, they are done in minutes. I microwave some vegetables. It may not be the healthiest way but look, we are all busy and it’s quick. It doesn’t take long to put clean foods together. That armed with the knowledge we talked about earlier about okay, you are at work, let’s say you didn’t bring food with you; there are always eateries around us and we can learn real quick about a healthy alternative in almost any kind of restaurant. So conscious eating is how we are supposed to eat, eating when we are hungry, when we are due and not rewarding ourselves with potentially damaging poisonous food for instant gratification. Two big differences in eating.

Lisa: It is, and you mentioned the small meals. So, what do you recommend to people? Like how many meals a day?

Hollis: I recommend to people and I always have an analogy because at first when I tell people they go really. A bridge is sturdiest not with two points but with four or five points pillars that support the bridge. So, four to five small meals throughout the day. Well that’s great Hollis, but I’m not a body builder and that’s a lot of food. If you are not hungry, you can always drink calories. So, if it’s breakfast and you are in the – you got to run, you have to take time for kids and get to work, you can always drink a protein shake if you just don’t have time or are not in the mood for eggs and traditional food. You must eat to lose and that’s where a lot of people go wrong. They will skip breakfast, or they will have a high glycemic, high sugar coffee beverage thing and maybe some kind of scone or something. All sugar basically or maybe even eat or not eat, have a light lunch, what happens at night. They eat everything. And if you by thinking ahead, by fortifying the bridge with a stone pillar in the morning and then eat less throughout the day, you eat evenly, and your energy will be up, so we must eat to lose and that’s huge.

Lisa: Now do you recommend having like a healthy fat, some sort of healthy carb and healthy protein at each of those small meals?

Hollis: Oh, yeah, I recommend at least a gram of protein per pound of body weight. So, if someone weighs 135 it should have in my opinion, 135 grams of protein a day, split throughout evenly each meal. So, what does that come out to? Thirty, thirty-five grams of protein something like that. But yeah, done slowly throughout the day. So anyway, to answer your question, I would have a protein at every meal, because protein is what we are. Everything else is energy. Everything else is movement. Fats and carbs are the other two big macronutrients are just energy. But protein be it vegetarian or animal, is what we are made out of. That’s our flesh. That’s our composition. So, therefore, we need to take protein in and again, I can’t say it enough, everything else is energy. So, I’ll have like a protein and then a complex carb for energy. So, say a rice, a quinoa, beans, brown rice or yams, something that is clean, non-processed, and will give us a sustained energy and of course I like to include in there yeah, the fat could be salmon or lean beef or sometimes I’ll put – sprinkle on some almonds on there and also have a fibrous carb, so broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, cauliflower, something like that that will help with digestion, you know fiber and digestion. And there you go. That’s really what a plate should look like.

Lisa: Yeah. It makes a lot of sense. It definitely does, and I think it – you know you mentioned the rice cooker. I can tell you how to make four different types of grains in a rice cooker. You can buy frozen vegetables, you can have chicken breasts that you cook on Sunday and have – chop them up and have them in your fridge. You can get different recipes for different types of healthy sauces and put it over. I mean there are things you can do. I’m not saying it is super easy, but it takes a little effort, but once you prep and once you learn how to do that; you are not just going to go to those foods you used to go to because you are going to have something made in the house.

Recently, my 13-year-old daughter, she’s always hungry. Constantly and this is endless. And so, the other day I felt bad I was sick all last week and so I usually have stuff all prepped in the fridge and I didn’t and she’s looking around and she’s like Mom, you have no – we have no real food, we just have these bars or these protein drinks and like where’s the real food. I was like, okay, okay, I’m sick, I’m doing my best. But I dragged my ass sick ass and went to the store and got some real food and did some cooking but it’s funny because I mean I should be happy I guess that she wants real food, right. But yeah, it can – things come up, it’s not always easy. But it’s definitely worth doing.

Hollis: Well you know what, I can’t speak of that experience. I don’t have the blessing of having children yet. I hope one day, but my point is that that’s cool that you did that and I – you went that effort to do that. But I also think it’s important that also being realistic as well in another regard in that sometimes mommy just doesn’t want to go to the store and cook. But, one thing I get excited about is finding little spots. Where I just moved, they have a chain I never heard of it called Captain Yates, and I’m not trying to give them a commercial here but it’s a fish place and all this fried stuff that looks amazing, but they have a dish in there, it’s rice, green beans and tilapia and I always tell them that’s what I want. I don’t want oil or butter, or any butter spray and they do it for me and they put Cajun spice around there and it takes ten minutes. It’s like 9 bucks and it’s fast. So, my point is learn about food establishments around you when you don’t – when mommy doesn’t want to go to the store and cook, which was good of you, and learn to eat out because it will be a huge dividend in your corner in regards to nutrition. And that’s in the book.

Lisa: Yeah that’s true, I mean there are times, yeah, everything is in this book. I mean this should be called like the complete book of health. You don’t need any others. Other than mine, which is coming out this year.

Hollis: I like that.

Lisa: Mine’s about clean eating for sexual health and also about connection, but that’s another story. Anyway, Hollis, we always have such a good time. The book is Complete Physique, Your Ultimate Body Transformation Eat Clean, Burn Fat, Build Lean Muscle. And you know I love having you on is I love how conversational it is and I feel like I kind of got off topic here and there but yet, I’m hoping that it’s fun for people to listen to because I’m having a blast and I just it feels natural. You are just so easy to talk to. So, tell us all the ways to find you.

Hollis: Likewise, I feel exactly the same.

Lisa: Good.

Hollis: or will have everything about me. which people thought was a wash service at first, I don’t know why, but I’m here to help people with their physiques. Whatever, has everything about me.

Lisa: Awesome. Alright Hollis. Well you can find me if you go to healthmediagal1 on Twitter, you can find the show Talk Healthy 2day on Twitter, Talk Healthy Today podcast on Facebook. has Talk Healthy Today and Talk Fitness Today which we are doing obviously, and I just want to mention those shows were created by AIM Media, they do Clean Eating Magazine, Vegetarian Times, Muscle and Performance, Yoga Journal and so much more. So, check them out as well. I want to thank everyone for listening and stay well.

This episode of Talk Fitness was produced by The Vitamin Shoppe where trusted health enthusiasts help you thrive every day. Visit one of 800 stores across the country or head to Vitamin for all your wellness needs.

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