Q. What role do emotions play in binge eating?
A. We often hear about “emotional eating,” in which people turn to food in times of emotional turbulence or distress. But in looking a little deeper, we see turning to food – as in the case of emotional eating, compulsive eating, and/or binge eating – is an effort to not feel. Food becomes a way to avoid dealing with negative or painful emotions. Feelings like loneliness, grief, anger, fear and anxiety can be uncomfortable and difficult to name. Often, they coincide with an increased heart rate, a racing mind, and an emptiness in the chest. The dopamine spike that comes from eating can temporarily soothe these uncomfortable feelings and offer a sense of escape. Eating food for enjoyment without overdoing it starts with facing the source of your distress. A therapist can help you mindfully acknowledge, accept, and find healthy ways to soothe difficult emotions. This work can feel uncomfortable at first. But it can lead to a sense of freedom and vitality that is well worth the effort.
Q. Ever since my husband’s stroke, we’ve had difficulty communicating. Do you have any tips?
A. Stroke often causes a language impairment known as aphasia. You can help your husband in several ways as he recovers. First, treat him like a competent adult. While it may help to simplify your speech, don’t talk down to him. Express one idea at a time and reduce competing sounds. Be patient and allow him time to get his words out. Avoid finishing sentences for him unless he signals this would be helpful. Secondly, be open to other forms of communication such as gestures, pictures, writing, or even drawings. Confirm that you and he have understood each other. “Yes” and “no” questions can be a good choice. Just be aware that persons with aphasia sometimes say “yes” when they mean “no” and vice versa. Your best resource in aphasia recovery is working with a competent speech-language pathologist, who can help you both develop skills and strategies for effective communication.
Q. My infant daughter accidentally scratched my eye with her fingernail a few days ago, and now I think I may have an infection. What should I do?
A. A scratched eye (cornea) can be an irritating, if not painful, ordeal. Symptoms may include pain, redness, light sensitivity, and watering. You may even feel like you have something in your eye. As best as you can, avoid rubbing your eye until you can see a doctor. In the meantime, apply a good lubricating drop, such as Systane, for symptom relief, and remove contact lenses for at least a week. Don’t cover your eye – for example, with an eye patch – as this may increase pain and prolong healing. To protect your eye from infection, a doctor or eye care professional will prescribe you an antibiotic ointment. You can also use antibiotic drops, but if you go this route you should continue using lubricating drops too. Both urgent care and optometry/ophthalmology offices will be able to treat your injury.
Q. I am concerned about having loose skin after my gastric bypass surgery. Can cosmetic surgery help?
A.Absolutely, and with beautiful results. Many people love the results of their gastric bypass or lap band procedure, but are unhappy about the loose, sagging skin left behind. For these patients, we often recommend what’s called a belt lipectomy, or “body lift.” This procedure trims and tightens skin at the abdomen and hips, as well as on the thighs and buttocks. Depending on the patient’s goals, we might also recommend an arm lift, thigh lift, and/or liposuction. Although the incisions may be large, a skilled cosmetic surgeon will ensure scars are as unobtrusive as possible. For the most beautiful, natural-looking results, choose a surgeon who is highly experienced in these procedures. Also, consider asking to see before and after pictures so you can better understand your surgeon’s artistic capabilities.
Q. Is osteoporosis reversible?
A.You can reverse osteoporosis, but you and your physician will need to evaluate and correct a few factors. Good vitamin D and calcium levels are critical for maintaining bone strength as you age. If your current levels are low, you will need to supplement your intake of these important nutrients – either through diet, supplements, or a combination of both. If your condition is severe enough, however, supplementation may not be enough. In this case, your physician may prescribe you one of several medications available to help strengthen bones over time. The good news is, with consistent treatment, your annual bone scans should show improvement over time.