Most people who are interested in losing weight have had various attempts, tried numerous diets, and maybe even had success (for a period of time). I cannot tell you how many times I hear in my practice… “I just need to go back to XXXX diet, it worked for me before,” “I just need to do XXXX, it always works for me.” My answer is consistently that NONE of those strategies have worked, because here the person is again looking to lose the weight they gained back (and usually then some). I have been there!
It is not that the strategies don’t work. We can all learn, or have learned, the steps it takes to lose weight. Eat cleaner, watch macros, count calories, know your calorie range, exercise, move more throughout the day, etc. These are of course important tips and necessary to lose weight, and there are multiple effective weight loss programs out there (I use such tools too and will share my strategies on this site). Yet, until we change our psychology around weight loss, and our lifestyles in general, we will struggle to lose the weight – or struggle to keep it off long term.
I have been through multiple attempts to lose weight over the years, before and between babies, throughout graduate school, during my children’s multiple hospitalizations, through highly emotional times, and with wanting to give up (on more than just weight loss!) numerous times. When my second child was born and it was clear the road ahead would again be stressful, I knew I needed a permanent change. Something inside me clicked that day, and at 250 pounds I knew I needed to get serious about changing my psychology and my lifestyle toward health, or I would be nearing 300 pounds by the end of the year (and I currently stick around 145 pounds and have successfully for three years!).
The problem with the psychology behind weight loss, and what makes diet attempts fail, is that our thoughts, emotions, and the way we react to those things, have a dramatic impact on how we manage our lives and whether we stick to our goals. Our thinking patterns pose multiple concerns for weight loss. For example, one common style of thinking is black and white/all or nothing thinking. Here is how this can go (one of many examples)…
- Thought: “I have to follow this diet consistently, every single day, with no cheating. I need to restrict to the lowest possible calories (because that has worked before!), and some days I’ll even try to eat less than the recommended amount because maybe that will make the weight come off even faster.”
- Emotion: frustration due to not eating anything I like or crave; emotional lability due to not having enough caloric intake to sustain cognitive/emotional health; sadness that losing weight is so hard and so depriving; anger about how high my weight is, how hard this process is, and at others because it seems less hard for them; fatigue over the process in general and because the body is under-nourished and possibly overworked with too much exercise.
- These thoughts and emotions often lead to gaining back any weight lost, giving up too soon, lowered self-worth because it feels like another attempt has failed, and a feeling weight loss is impossible.
Weight loss is not impossible, and it does not have to be painful! Yes, it is not easy. Yes, it takes hard work and self-discipline! But these can be accomplished with enjoyment in the midst. Weight loss will be the most successful when we take our time, learn to understand ourselves, find the middle ground, allow leniency with our plan, and make true and consistent changes within ourselves and in our daily lives. Such changes simplify the process, allow for focus on other things, reduce the obsession with weight, and lead to lasting change over time naturally.
Our emotions will always be there, and they are powerful behavior changers, for the better or the worse. We cannot predict what stress life will bring, what obstacles will get in our way, and what event in any day can tip emotions to the negative and make giving up seem like the best option. Learning to understand yourself through this journey, understanding what your obstacles are, what changes your emotions, and what leads to your reactions, is the key toward working through anything that comes your way and staying successful. Life is not about perfection (striving for perfection is just a gateway to anxiety!), and we will make mistakes or let ourselves down; but this is never the time to give up! Trial and error, examining ourselves, re-examining values, and learning from mishaps or losing track along the way is hugely important in making lasting positive change.
As a licensed practicing psychologist I help people navigate their lives and understand and change their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors every day. I focus a large part of my practice on weight management and healthy living, and I spend much of my free time researching these areas to provide even more support to my patients and to continue on my own healthy lifestyle path (it’s also a passion of mine and therefore a healthy hobby toward my own life wellness/balance). I see the need consistently to reach more people with this information, and research shows the more frequent contact individuals have with healthy information the better their success. I intend to take my wealth of knowledge related to fit psychology and put it here to help others on the path toward healthier living.
Please come back weekly (or more!) for a variety of information, tips, and exercises related to the psychology behind healthy living. I will also provide a glimpse into my life and how I stay successful, as this is again and again requested; and although the journey is easier once the weight is off, the psychology behind those behaviors is always there. I too must continue to be self-aware and use these same tips, exercises, and strategies to stay where I have worked so hard to get.
Please bear with me while I continue to build this site and navigate the technology (which is a new endeavor for me!)
I hope my knowledge and experience can help you find a strategy that works!