News flash: Losing weight requires both physical and mental discipline. If you’re only focusing on the physical aspects of this important health challenge, you’re bound to fail. Losing weight and keeping it off requires you to fight a very difficult psychological war between your desire to be healthy and your cravings for unhealthy foods.
The mental component of weight loss
Recent research suggests that 77 percent of Americans are trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain. Despite this concerted effort, nearly 70 percent of Americans are obese or overweight. What does this say about the weight loss industry? It indicates that a lot of people lack the willpower to lose weight, and the strategies currently being used aren’t working.
“It’s time we rethink our whole idea about weight loss,” says Seattle Sutton, BSN, RN, “Stop thinking physical activity will single handedly result in weight loss.” Sutton is a firm believer in the idea that weight loss happens when you make the right dietary decisions, not when you run an extra tenth of a mile on the treadmill. Progressive trainers and dieticians would agree.
The issue is that eating right and managing your daily routine has a lot to do with your self-discipline. In a society where self-discipline often takes a backseat to indulgences, getting over the psychological speed bump of weight loss is sometimes too much for people to handle.
3 Psychological tips for weight loss:
If you believe your lack of weight loss success is rooted in psychological flaws or issues, then you may find the following tips helpful in your pursuit of healthy living.
1. Discover what’s holding you back
Most people fail to lose weight because they are facing a psychological hurdle that they don’t realize exists. These hurdles typically include things like using food for comfort, being too embarrassed to go to the gym, feeling like dieting is a black and white issue or constantly comparing yourself to others. Do any of these issues sound familiar? If so, you need to deal with them before you can lose weight.
2. Try cognitive therapy
Developed by Judith S. Beck, Ph.D., Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Weight Loss is based on traditional cognitive-behavioral principles and shows people how to make healthy eating a lifestyle. The belief is that the only way to really lose and keep off weight is by making the brain look at weight loss as a part of every daily decision you make.
According to a study by the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, a randomized group that received cognitive therapy lost more weight and kept it off for over 18 months, while those assigned to a waiting list actually gained weight over the same time period.
3. Consider MB-EAT
Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Therapy — known as MB-EAT — was developed by Jean L. Kristeller, Ph.D., and is based on the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MSBR) approach that Jon Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues developed at Harvard. It focuses on learning about food and appetite so that participants can “tune into” their bodily cues of satiety and hunger.
The belief here is that mindfulness forces you to think about your hunger signals and the food you’re consuming, as opposed to just picking up a bag of chips because you’re bored. Various studies suggest MB-EAT works in many situations.
Never lose sight of your goals
There is no finish line when it comes to your weight. You can’t lose 20 pounds and relax. Once you reach your goal, you must maintain. While physical activity and food choices certainly play a role in weight management, much of the battle is psychological in nature. Focus on the tips referenced in this article and never let your guard down.