When we struggle with overweight issues and we are determined to lose weight, we often seek the advice or direct help of dietitians and / or coaches, which is not bad at all. But we rarely think about seeing a psychologist. After all, losing weight obeys the rules of physics: eat less and move more, no?
The difference between knowing and taking action
It sounds easy, but in reality, everybody knows that eating less and healthier (increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables and decreasing the intake of fat and high calorie food) and making more exercise will necessarily lead you to lose weight. The problem is not about knowing, but it is rather about putting that knowledge into action, and precisely into constant and durable action.
Habit changing and thought changing
When we talk about durable action, we mean that it is not about following a strict diet for one or two months. A durable action is in reality a change in our habits on the long term. I always say to my clients that it is much better to lose weight slowly than too quickly. It can be easy to lose weight quickly, but then it is also easy to gain the same weight again and even more.
Habits are often like automatic programs we follow without necessarily paying attention to them. Talking with a psychologist already helps you verbalize those programs and become aware of them. With my clients, we usually discover a lot of sabotaging thoughts that are hidden but directly related to their relationship with food, their body and life in general.
Food and emotions
We all give a meaning to food, and especially when we eat too much. I just have to ask my clients who consult me to lose weight and all of them have already a theory about why they eat too much. Everyone is different, but I hear things like:
“When I’m stressed, I eat a lot, and it makes me feel good”
“I like eating with other people, and I eat a lot, I get a feeling of warmth and love”
“My work is very stressful, and I like to eat a lot in the evening to feel relaxed and finally stop thinking about work”
“Food has a feeling of home, and security”
The same comforting thoughts and emotions we can get from eating, sometimes turn into destructive thoughts like:
“I ate too much, and that’s why I am fat.”
“I feel very bad now and I hate myself.”
At that point, the inner critic voice lights up and the self-blame starts. We can get so sad and depressed about our situation that we can only feel good again by eating too much once more. And that can be the cycle where we are trapped.
And often we cannot escape this cycle, because we experience thoughts like:
“It does not matter if I eat that now.”
“I will never lose weight anyway.”
“I deserve this candy because I had such a hard day.”
I call those kinds of thoughts “sabotaging thoughts”. The only way to get rid of them is to first detect them, become aware of them, accepting their existence, and then slowly start to replace them with new and different thoughts that will induce new different emotions.
If you want to start somewhere, I highly recommend to practice Mindful eating.
I already wrote about it here: “The art of eating mindfully”