As we grow older, it becomes increasingly difficult to lose weight – and keep it off.
Not at all!
In fact, a psychologist just might be the secret weapon you need to win the war, and can help you with sensible eating from a psychological perspective.
Forget about Dieting
If you have been battling the bulge for a while, you will probably agree with the research that suggests diets may not help – and in fact may lead to negative outcomes such as:
- lower metabolism;
- decreased energy and immune function;
- lower sensitivities to hunger and fullness cues;
- increased preoccupation with food;
- increased emotional and binge eating;
- weight gain and weight regain following the end of a diet.
In order to maintain a healthy weight, a focus on nutritionally sound eating with everyday foods, small portions, and regular eating, is required.
So how can a psychologist help?
What is Intuitive Eating?
A psychologist can help you learn to practise “intuitive eating”, choosing to eat food based on your intuition – based on your feelings, pangs of hunger, and fullness triggers.
By removing the diet mentality, and being “allowed” to eat all types of foods, our preoccupation with our favourite foods is diminished. As we learn to identify our feelings, and our lowered emotional state, we can reduce emotional eating.
Studies suggest that if the desire for trigger foods is removed, the better the nutritional foods an individual would eat naturally (or intuitively). Caring for the body through careful selection of food choices, creates a congruence between the food and body connection.
By eating intuitively, the individual is more likely to have higher body acceptance, self-esteem and life satisfaction – and have lower Body Mass Index (BMI), eating disorder symptoms and body image issues.
This in turn can lead to improved wellness – lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, decreased hunger, less body dissatisfaction, less likelihood of depression, and a boost to our self-esteem.
Perhaps you have been experiencing the battle of the bulge for quite some time. You know what is like to have issues with:
- Motivation and confidences;
- Self-esteem and body image;
- Emotional eating, and emotional drinking;
- Social eating and drinking;
- Compulsive eating and bingeing.
Eating intuitively can be guided through mindful eating practices. This involves:
- being present to the food experience and not being distracted by behaviours, negative thought patterns, or influenced by social events;
- being non-judgmental to eating
- having the freedom to experience, savour, and take pleasure in all foods.
Being aware of hunger and fullness cues in the body will indicate the times to start and stop food consumption, based on what the body needs. Being aware of your feelings by noticing and overcoming emotional eating cues helps to reduce the over-consumption of sugary foods.
Psychological techniques used to guide an individual with intuitive mindful eating include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT), relaxation techniques, mindfulness, and goal setting techniques.
The Importance of Physical Activity
Of course, exercise is also important when you are trying to lose and maintain a healthy weight, and has many benefits such as:
- increasing metabolism;
- increasing energy;
- improving immune function;
- improving mood, body image and self-esteem;
- increasing mental functioning;
- improving sleep patterns;
- reducing appetite;
- increasing muscle mass and bone density;
- improving cardiovascular fitness and endurance,
However, studies show that within 6 months, over 50% of people starting physical activity drop out.
Once again, a psychologist can be your secret weapon: by providing insights into improving adherence, and therefore the benefits of physical activity.
Don’t battle the bulge alone! Make sure you get the support you need as strive to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
Author: Cassandra Gist.