Watch for my new book: Eight Keys to Ending Emotional Eating

Forthcoming from W.W. Norton, Co.

Dr. Howard Farkas, psychologist and president of Chicago Behavioral Health, offers individual therapy for emotional eating and binge eating disorder.

Chicago Behavioral Health, LLC

Our goal is to help you make the psychological and behavioral changes necessary to improve your health and quality of life.

Our approach with every new patient is to establish a comfortable rapport in order to begin a collaborative effort toward finding a solution to their concerns that is realistically achievable, effective, and tailored for the individual.

We view therapy as a guided process that supports autonomy, rather than a directed program that requires compliance. While we feel that practicing the skills learned in therapy is beneficial, any therapy-related work that the client would do between sessions is the product of a collaborative discussion rather than a homework assignment that the client is directed to complete.

We view change on a large scale as a product of changes in small, individual choices that are made by being fully mindfully aware of our behavior. Changes at this micro-level are the building blocks that add up to change on a global level.

Motivation and a positive mindset are necessary components of adopting a healthy lifestyle and a fulfilling life.

In our view, all behavioral and emotional responses are reactions to experiences and events that may be interpreted in different ways by different people, or at different times by the same person. Therefore, a primary focus in therapy is on how individuals interpret these events in their own way. Helping people to identify their unique cognitive filters and learn to challenge interpretations that lead to counterproductive responses is key to our therapeutic approach.

Our primary focus is the treatment of emotional eating and binge eating disorder. If you have concerns about emotional eating, or have questions that we can help you with, please contact us for a consultation today. You may also call or email us to schedule an appointment.


Dr. Howard Farkas is the founder and President of Chicago Behavioral Health, LLC. He is a licensed clinical health psychologist who has been working and teaching in the field for over 20 years.

Dr. Farkas helps people with emotional eating and other psychological and behavioral issues by helping patients recognize and overcome the psychological barriers that affect their motivation and follow-through in their efforts to change. As an interactive, solution-focused therapist, his therapeutic approach is to provide insight and practical feedback to help clients effectively address personal life challenges. He integrates complementary methodologies and techniques to offer a highly personalized approach tailored to each client. With support and understanding, he works with each individual to help them build on their strengths and attain the changes and personal growth that they are committed to achieving.

Dr. Farkas is on the faculty of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, where he works with medical students as a tutor and group facilitator in the Problem-Based Learning program. He also teaches a course in the Division of Clinical Psychology graduate program entitled, “Motivation and Self-control in Health Behavior.” Dr. Farkas serves on the advisory board of Segmedica, Inc., a medical market research firm, and has served as a business psychology and leadership consultant to several Fortune 500 companies.

“My primary focus is helping people who struggle with emotional eating and binge eating behavior. Over the years I have worked with hundreds of patients who struggled with emotional eating and binge eating disorder. As a result of these experiences, I developed an original approach that is based on my understanding of the causes of this behavior. This approach has been very effective and I have begun teaching it to other therapists who have also reported success in using it with patients who struggle with emotional eating. My approach to therapy is a product of my personality and philosophy about change. By nature, I am active, involved, and engaged when I interact with people, so my style in therapy follows from that.”



Ph.D in Clinical Psychology,

Northwestern University, 1990

BA with Honors in Psychology,

New York University, 1980





Treatment specialization includes:

  • Treatment for emotional eating, binge eating disorder and other eating disorders
  • Psychological approaches to weight loss and long-term weight management
  • Pre-bariatric surgery assessment
  • Pre- and post-bariatric surgery behavioral and adjustment counseling
  • Psychotherapy for depression and anxiety
  • Stress management
  • Executive wellness coaching

Our Mission

We are behavior change specialists who help our patients carry out their doctor’s recommendations to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

We specialize in helping people who struggle with emotional and compulsive overeating to understand the connection between their experience of stress and their lack of control over their eating.

Our goal is to help to reduce major risk factors for preventable illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

We treat the whole person, using a team approach and outside consultants as needed, to  enhance cognitive and behavioral change.

We facilitate self-care and empowerment of patients with chronic conditions through education about their condition and lifestyle modifications to help manage it.

We conduct and keep up with scientific research to discover the most effective approaches to patient care and to remain leaders in our areas of expertise.

We serve as an extended psychological, nutritional, and educational support service for physicians and other providers in their ongoing efforts to provide the best patient experience and outcomes.

The motivation to overcome emotional eating

Understanding the connection between eating and stress helps motivate patients to focus on the cause of the problem rather than the effect, and to develop more effective strategies to overcome their reliance on food as a short-term coping mechanism.

We use an innovative, proven approach to help people overcome the psychological barriers that have gotten in the way of previous efforts to make these changes.

We take into account more than just the target behaviors that you want to change; we help you understand how you view yourself, your life, and your role in it to help you deal with the causes of these behaviors.

As educators and researchers, we investigate psychological models of behavioral self-control, motivation for healthy lifestyle change, and the causes and treatment of patient non-adherence.

After repeated attempts to lose weight, followed by regaining the lost weight, and often more, you may tend to view yourself as “doomed to fail.” You may feel incapable of finding the discipline or self-control that is needed to make permanent changes.

The reality is, you have not lost the capacity for self-control; you are simply looking for it in the wrong place.

It’s simple cause and effect. Distorted perceptions and maladaptive patterns of thinking are the cause, the unhealthy behavior is the effect. You can’t change the effect without first changing the cause.

If you do try to change the behavior while ignoring the cause, the results will not last long. That is why diets usually fail, and why lasting behavior change is so difficult.

Our philosophy about change

We view a Goal as something you have the potential to directly control.

We view an Outcome as the effect of exercising that control.

Weight loss and reducing health risks are outcomes, not goals.

The goal, in our view, is behavior change; especially the ability to stop compulsive emotional eating. The obstacles to achieving that goal are psychological.

We take an active, problem-focused and goal-oriented approach to help you overcome those obstacles and achieve healthy lifestyle change.

With that accomplished, not only will you lose weight and feel better, you will also reclaim a normal and healthy lifelong relationship with food.



For individual psychotherapy, sessions are typically 50 minutes. If you wish to schedule an appointment with Dr. Farkas, please send a message through Contact Us form to inquire about his availability.

You can also book an appointment here:
Make Appointment

Regular Hours
Monday – Friday   8:00 AM – 6:00 PM


We accept Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance only.

As a courtesy to our clients, we take care of all claims submissions for insurance, and co-payments can be charged to a credit card on file in our secure system.


Please fill out the Client Intake Form and bring it to your first session.

Client Intake Form

Reduced Fee

There is a sliding scale for those who are unable to pay the full fee. Please let us know at the time you request an initial appointment if you think the fee will be a problem, and we will discuss the options available to you.

Cancellation Policy

If you do not show up for your scheduled therapy appointment, and you have not notified us at least 24 hours in advance, you will be required to pay for session.

Contact Questions?

Please contact us for further information.



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Chicago Behavioral Health, LLC

Please note: We are not affiliated with Chicago Behavioral Hospital

866 943 9977

155 N. Michigan Ave.
Suite 760
Chicago, IL 60601


Dr. Farkas speaks about the importance of moderation and balance and how self-deprivation caused by dieting can actually lead to emotional eating.

Dr. Howard Farkas, President of Chicago Behavioral Health says he “helps people overcome emotional eating and other unwanted behaviors.”

Eight Keys to Ending Emotional Eating

by Dr. Howard Farkas

Forthcoming Spring 2017 from W.W. Norton and Company, New York

Pre-ordering will be available soon!

Please complete this sign-up form if you would like to be updated


Read Sample Below

Eight Keys to Ending Emotional Eating


She was the last of the group to arrive. Meagan’s friends were taking her out to celebrate her new job offer after a long period of unemployment. This was her favorite restaurant but she couldn’t afford to eat here since she lost her job over a year ago. She also expected that she wouldn’t be eating out again for some time because she was planning to start a strict diet the next day. She was determined to lose the weight she had gained over the past year and start her new job with the self-confidence that she expected weight loss would give her.

By the time she arrived, the server had just taken her friends’ orders and asked Meagan if she wanted some more time to look at the menu.

“No thanks, I know exactly what I want,” she replied.
Meagan had been there before and knew that one of the best items on the menu was the Cajun salmon, seasoned with a perfect combination of spices and blackened just right. She was never able to replicate that on her own and she was looking forward to having it again. It was also important to her that it was one of the lower-calorie options available.

As the server turned to enter the orders in the computer, Meagan asked her to wait. She just saw someone at the next table get the fettuccine Alfredo and decided to have that instead. She’d never ordered that before, partly because it looked too heavy on the cream sauce, although she did once taste a friend’s and thought it was nothing special; certainly not worth all the extra calories.

So, what was going on?

Meagan told me this story during our first therapy session. Even before this experience, she had noticed that every time she began a new diet, she’d soon sabotage it by binge eating. The incident in the restaurant felt similar to her and it confirmed her sense that there was more to overcoming her struggle with weight loss than a simple determination to diet.

She recognized that there was an emotional component connected to eating that was stronger than any willpower she could muster, and she suspected that even losing a lot of weight wouldn’t take care of that. While searching online for help with emotional eating, she found my name and saw that I specialize in this area. She made an appointment to see me.

When she finished telling me what happened, I asked what inspired her to change her order at the last second. Her response wasn’t surprising because I had heard it many times before. Nevertheless, it continued to mystify me.

What she said was, “I just wanted to be bad.”

One of the most difficult puzzles in all of psychology can be simply put: Why do people choose to do things that they know they will regret? Shouldn’t we choose to act in our own self-interest if we have the option? This is the problem of self-control that could come up any time you find yourself having to make a choice to delay some satisfaction for a future benefit. The consequences of poor self-control can negatively impact very important areas of your life, like health, relationships, education, career success, and financial security.

Whether it’s eating something we don’t really want, or buying something we don’t need, we often engage in some form of unwanted behavior. Why should we be tempted to do something that we don’t really want to do? In this book I’ll propose the concept of a “transgressive motive,” a motive that can be seen as the driving force behind many behaviors that people engage in when they know they’ll regret it later.

While the transgressive motive may apply to many types of impulsive behaviors—like sudden outbursts of anger, compulsive shopping or gambling, binge drinking or procrastinating—here we’re going to focus on emotional eating. In most books about emotional eating the emphasis is usually on figuring out what’s bothering you, often expressed by the old chestnut, “It’s not about what you’re eating, it’s about what’s eating you!”

Okay—that’s clever and true enough. But everyone can identify something that’s “eating” them, yet it may have little or nothing to do with this particular behavior problem. The question remains: Is there a specific type of emotional trigger that leads to an unwanted behavior like binge eating? If so, what’s the link between the trigger and the behavior, and how can they be disconnected?
As in any detective novel, one can always round up the usual suspects: stress, anxiety, loneliness, depression. Many people overeat when they’re happily celebrating too, as Meagan was doing that evening. But to find the real culprit, a good detective tries to understand the motive. Meagan was clear about hers: “I just wanted to be bad.”

In order to overcome unwanted behavior, it’s necessary to understand why such feelings occur. Is there such a motive to be bad? If so, how can we explain it? I strongly believe that it’s not enough to simply identify and somehow change the feelings that trigger emotional eating. A coherent understanding of the motivation that drives emotional eating is essential in order to address the problem and that’s the piece of the puzzle missing from most other books on this topic. I wrote 8 Keys to Ending Emotional Eating to fill that gap.

What motivates unwanted behavior like emotional eating? Over the past decade that I’ve been thinking about this question, the research in the area of motivation and self-control has exploded. Before ever going to the search sites for psychological and medical research, I put the search term “unwanted behavior” into Google. I got over five million hits, so I tried to narrow my search to “understanding unwanted behavior.”

I could hear the virtual crickets chirping. I got fewer than fifty hits, mostly about training puppies. There may be other ways to interpret these search results, but the explanation that seems most plausible to me is that unwanted behavior is a common problem that’s poorly understood.

The human struggle with impulse control has been told in stories throughout recorded history. The Bible begins with the story of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit. Greek mythology tells the story of Pandora ignoring warnings not to open the box that turned out to contain all the evils in the world. It appears to be part of the human condition that we want what we’re warned to avoid, then later regret our choice.

In The Odyssey, Homer describes how Odysseus dealt with this problem by using a technique that’s now referred to as “precommitment.” The sorceress Circe warned Odysseus to avoid the island of the Sirens, women whose voices were so alluring that passing sailors who heard their song would steer toward them and perish on the rocky shores. So Odysseus put softened beeswax in his men’s ears and made them tie him to the mast of his ship because he did not trust his own ability to resist. When he heard their song he signaled his crew to untie him, but they ignored his pleas, which saved them all from disaster.

You’ve probably used pre-commitment to cope with Sirens of your own. You may have asked a waiter to remove a basket of bread from your table, or a sales rep to stop bringing donuts to your office, or a coworker to please keep the candy dish off her desk. You may not think of your efforts as heroic, but your challenge is even more difficult: Odysseus could have steered clear of the Sirens, but you can’t avoid food.

This problem isn’t unusual, nor is your interest in seeking advice to help you deal with it on your own. In the United States alone there are over a hundred million dieters, and eighty percent of them prefer a self-directed program. As a result, there is a glut of self-help books available to help these dieters, whether their goal is weight loss or improved health.

If such books already flood the market, why add one more? My answer is that this is not a diet book; it’s about overcoming emotional eating. Even if weight loss is your ultimate goal, it can only be achieved over the long-term if you first change your tendency to use food to cope with emotional issues. Without that, as you have probably experienced, any weight that you lose by dieting is almost certain to come back.

My goal in writing this book is to reach out to a wider audience and extend the work that I do as a therapist beyond the confines of my office. I was fortunate to have found an approach that has been very effective in helping people whose problems with eating range from those who frequently turn to food as an outlet for stress to those suffering from eating disorders like bulimia and binge eating disorder. This book is my way of offering that approach to anyone who may have similar struggles with food.

In 1951 the social psychologist Kurt Lewin wrote, “There is nothing so practical as a good theory.” I wrote this book in that spirit, not simply to present a new theoretical perspective on what drives unwanted behavior, but to use that theory as a hands-on guide that will help you take practical steps to end your preoccupation with food and manage your eating behavior for good.

Emotional eating is a way of dealing with an unconscious need unrelated to food. In this book, I’ll explain what that need is and I’ll outline coping strategies to respond to it that are far healthier and more effective than emotional eating. I’ll help you understand why the impulse to eat can feel so compelling, despite your genuine desire to eat well. Once you have that new understanding, you’ll be better equipped to regulate how you eat without restrictive diets, deprivation, and self-denial.