Have you been on a roller coaster ride trying to lose weight permanently? You are not alone, but this is not another article suggesting that you need to be a certain size or a look a certain way to be healthy or happy. Happy healthy bodies come in many shapes and sizes. If you do want to drop kilos there are plenty of articles on lifestyle changes to support you on that journey.
The thing is, losing weight is often not the issue for many people. The issue is keeping it off. It isn’t just a matter of going back to old eating or lifestyle habits, because what you may be doing is going back to old emotional habits.
Bella has carried extra weight for most of her life, sometimes a little more, and sometimes a little less. The last time Bella lost a lot of weight through self-care, exercise and careful eating, she dropped 34 kgs. When her partner cheated on her it rocked how she felt about her transformation.
“I had felt great, healthy, strong but also vulnerable. I think not having the extra weight on, which had always been my ‘go to’ excuse for why life went wrong or things hadn’t worked out for me, made me feel even more vulnerable and over time I regained a lot of the weight I’d lost. It was like wrapping myself back up in a well-worn security blanket,” Bella says.
Nearly 65 per cent of dieters return to their pre-dieting weight within three years, according to Gary Foster, Ph.D., clinical director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Program at the University of Pennsylvania.
We currently live in one of the most emotionally stressful, unbalanced times in civilisation.
Many of us are overworked, overextended, have too many responsibilities, are constantly distracted, and as a result many people are out of balance physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
If we have emotionally stressful things popping up in our life, it doesn’t take much to set us over the edge and ever more out of balance than we already are to begin with. The bigger the emotional stressor, the more likely someone is to neglect their workout routine or turn to food, alcohol or recreational drugs for relief and then our body wears the results.
Corinne* has been a Weight Watcher’s member four times, and described herself as the “classic yoyo dieter.” She feels as though food is like a drug for her.
“When I’m feeling low I use food to alleviate the mood. When I’m happy and enjoying life I heighten the experience by consuming delicious food. I’m a social drinker at best and it’s as if I use food the way others use alcohol,” Corinne tells.
Corinne has no problem with the mechanics of reaching her ideal weight. She is au fait with portion control and regular exercise, but when she reaches her goal maintaining the healthier lifestyle seems impossible. She cannot lose weight permanently.
After explaining to her GP that weight loss feels like an internal fight in her head, Corinne was encouraged to see a therapist.
“We need to unpack my childhood food problems and the fact that we had very little to eat sometimes. I’m really hoping we can get to the bottom of it all and find a way for me to take care of myself and my health,” she says.
The emotional effects of large weight loss should not be underestimated according to Dr. Armando Gonzalez, AKA Dr Mondo, a licensed Psychotherapist, academic researcher and renowned speaker on the psychological side of weight loss.
“When someone loses a large amount of weight, one of the biggest disservices we do as a medical community is we don’t give them the expectation that this weight loss is a major life transition,” tells Dr Mondo.
He equates this transition to having a new child, getting married or divorced or relocating your life.
Your new habits may affect your relationships, or impact your social life as you make the required adjustments but if you don’t dig to the bottom of why you make these food choices, you may simply be slapping on a Band-Aid.
“For many people, they are only treating the symptom of obesity, and they’re not yet getting to the root cause of why they’re emotionally eating,” Dr Mondo says.
“I have found time and again with my research with contestants from NBC’s The Biggest Loser, and through my experience with working with hundreds of people going through weight loss transformations that in order to be successful at keeping the weight off long term you must shift your focus off of keeping the weight off and off the scale and on to your internal journey.”
That internal journey begins by understanding that the issue is not that you love cake. It’s possibly because you aren’t loving yourself enough.
“When you interview people and you ask them why they want to lose weight, they say it’s because they want to have better relationships. They want to stop being people-pleasers. They desire lives where they actually go after their dreams. They dream of getting off the sidelines and getting back into life.
“My belief is that people need to start doing that on day one of their weight loss journey because they’re worthy of it. There should be no number on the scale that dictates whether or not people are worthy of living out their dreams, whether or not they’re worthy of love, or whether or not they’re enough. They’re worthy right now,” says Dr. Mondo.
“In order to have a body that is healthy, you must love the person on the inside first.”
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