FEATURE — Oh boy, it’s here: the time of year where the intensity of the Southern Utah sun reminds us to switch our winter gear out for T-shirts, tank tops, shorts and swimsuits. For many of us, it’s the ultimate reminder to lose a few pounds, and that’s almost always a big can of worms.
If you have worked to lose weight time and time again in the past and have not yet been successful in keeping it off, you may feel that there’s no hope for you or maybe that you haven’t tried the right meal plan or exercise program. You may even research the latest diets, scan social media fitness influencers or ask your thin friends their secrets.
This may seem difficult to believe, but decades of clinical trials show that tailored diets and exercise programs usually yield only short-term results. The ketogenic diet is the most recent diet program to take a serious place in the spotlight. But despite bestselling books and the excitement created by social media influencers, clinical trials show that the keto diet manifests no superiority over other calorie-reducing diet plans. In addition, long-term studies show that the keto diet is no more successful at keeping the weight off than other programs.
It’s likely that the answer to your weight problem will not be solved by mere restriction. If you have never had a diet plan work for you long-term, you’ve probably been looking at weight loss the wrong way.
Most weight loss regimens rely on “discipline” as the solution for sticking to a program. The problem with discipline is that it suggests that there is something you truly want but must put in great effort to avoid. With this in mind, we can be disciplined for a period of time, but at some point when we want a piece of cake, whether we feel we have earned it or not, we will eat it.
If we ate the cake because we lost discipline, we feel shame, and either slowly or quickly, we let the diet go to avoid the negative feelings. If we ate the cake as a reward, the brain can become confused about our ultimate intentions, and it may ask for more sweet rewards in the future, leading to diet breakdown.
Willpower is essential to achieving any goal, but in the game of losing weight, there’s a much more effective place to put your willpower than discipline. In the 1903 classic book “As a Man Thinketh,” James Allen was so right when he wrote: “A change of diet will not help a man who will not change his thoughts.”
So what is the difference between people who do not generally overeat and those who do? The first group does not eat to fill an emotional void or stifle painful feelings. The second group does. Overeating and compulsive eating nearly always hold their roots in emotion and past experience.
For success in losing weight and becoming healthier, you’ll need to shift your focus from wanting to look or be a certain way to understanding nutrition and exercise, why it is that you overeat and what you need for your emotional healing.
Emotions can get the better of us in a variety of ways when it comes to weight issues. We eat to avoid stress, because we aren’t receiving enough love or because of past traumas, failed relationships or childhood fears. We all come to the table with a variety of emotional issues, but food is devoured as the most common universal band-aid. And then when the weight piles on, we eat because of that too.
Because old or current emotions drive our overeating so heavily and with all of the specified weight loss plans out there, there is really only one plan for losing weight for life, and it’s found in these three steps:
Locate the emotional reason (or reasons) you’re overeating, address them and heal them. To find the root issues holding you back, you may want to try some mindfulness meditations, do some research on common reasons for emotional eating and gift yourself honest self-reflection.
Is this easier said than done? A qualified therapist can do wonders to help you unpack and deal with your weight loss baggage, or a clinical hypnotherapist like myself can help you to locate and heal the problem in a deep meditative state.
Nutrition and exercise
Learn about nutrition and exercise and envision your future habits. If you have never delved into the world of nutrition, caloric intake, healthy fats and sugar levels, you might benefit from visiting a registered dietician who can help tailor a plan specifically to you. If you don’t have the funds on hand to pay for professional help, there are plenty of great dieticians with helpful content on social media and YouTube.
Put your learning into life practice. Be diligent but patient, and continue to nurture yourself emotionally. Keep going, push past any failures and focus on your successes. Healthy weight loss does not happen all at once, but it’s the kind of weight loss that lasts for life.
The journey of health isn’t always the easiest to begin, but a year from now, you’ll be glad you took your first step today.
Written by ERIN DEL TORO, certified clinical hypnotherapist at True North Mind Management.
This article was first published in the May/June 2021 issue of St. George Health and Wellness magazine.
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