Have you experienced that no matter what kind of diet or strategy you try to lose weight, it almost always inevitably comes back? Being a chronic dieter in recovery, I’ve become aware that weight management is much more complex than just eating less and exercising more. In fact, if it was that simple, there wouldn’t be such an obesity epidemic as there is today, not to mention the multi-billion-dollar weight-loss industry in Australia alone.
The missing link? Is that we are not looking at the underlying reasons of why we are struggling with weight in the first place. Having worked with clients (and myself) with a wide range of mild to severe problem eating, here are some of the most common barriers that block a healthy relationship with food and thus long lasting weight changes:
- Issues with coping with feelings leading to attempts to “stuff” your feelings down with food. Feelings can be overwhelming at times and often the “emotional eater” eats their feelings so often that they don’t even realise the feeling that led them to reach for the bag of chips in the first place.
- Thinking that being a certain weight will solve all our problems and avoiding solving our real life issues. Many people believe that achieving weight goals will mean that their relationship problems will go away, they’ll be able to be more assertive to their boss, they will feel happier and more self-confident. However, when they’ve the lost weight they usually find that their problems are still waiting for them at the other end in which case they discover that their weight quickly piles back on.
- Unrealistic beliefs about weight loss such as “I should look like a supermodel” (even though there are only a handful of these in the world) or overly restrictive diets that aren’t maintainable, that is, unless we develop a full-blown eating disorder such as Anorexia Nervosa. And when one eventually falls short of this we usually blame ourselves, feel incredibly diminished and reach for the tub of ice-cream and a bag of chips.
- Another cause of a person’s long-term struggle with weight can be stemming from unresolved childhood trauma. Adults who experienced neglect growing up usually turned to food to self-soothe and were rarely taught how to effectively soothe themselves through their caregiver. Sadly, children who experienced sexual abuse often over-eat as a protective mechanism so that a) they become less attractive to their abuser and b) they create a physical layer of protection (additional weight) as a barrier to distance.
So if you are now feeling somewhat despondent after reading this please do not despair as there is a way out of this chronic dieting and weight gain cycle. The key to long lasting weight management involves addressing your individual psychological issues that are underlying weight concerns. Don’t get me wrong eating an all junk food diet whilst going to therapy won’t work so you will also need to look at the nutrition side of things. But in order, to maintain long lasting healthy behaviours you will need to address the underlying psychological issues.
Seeing a psychologist or other health professional who is versed in problem eating can help you explore:
- Looking at any unrealistic beliefs around eating or weight.
- Triggers to emotional eating
- Processing of the unresolved adverse childhood experiences and teaching your body that you no longer need excess weight to feel ‘safe’.
- Self-esteem and body image issues
- Dealing with cravings
- Skill building such as interpersonal effectiveness, or as my clients say “Learning to speak up instead of eat up”.
- Self-acceptance and patience rather than being critical to self when you don’t get instant changes and give up.
If you would like some support to address some of your concerns, book an initial consultation or contact Julie Preston for a chat of how she can help you on 0448402954 or email on email@example.com