Psychology of losing weight

Posted on: 19 March 2014 by Lynda Shaw

Dr Lynda Shaw looks at comfort eating and offers some common sense reasons to lose weight.

Psychology of losing weight

We know the UK is heading for a serious obesity epidemic but most people aren’t overweight because they are uneducated about food or just greedy, many eat because they are trying to feed their soul. 

At 50 plus it’s no different. Many of us have put on weight when our children fly the nest, or when we are concerned about redundancy or our finances. If we don’t also attempt to understand the emotional issues around over-eating then we will never really stop the epidemic and on an individual basis won’t be able to help ourselves.

For instance, when we feel down we may try to cheer ourselves up with a ‘little treat’ rationalising it as a reward for something we have done or got through. The reward systems in the brain will signal ‘more please’ and we find ourselves overeating. If this is the case, try to find something else that can act as a reward, such as flowers, a bubble bath or a walk somewhere nice.

If you have found yourself carrying extra weight that you don’t need and have decided to slim down, a good place to start is figuring out whether you have any negative thoughts and emotions which lead to unhealthy eating behaviours. For example, are you reaching for the biscuit packet when you feel lonely, or eating a bigger meal than you need to feel ‘comforted’? Trying to address these issues first may really help.

Identify which eating patterns and habits are unnecessary and unhelpful. For example have you got into the habit of eating early but then needing to eat something later as well? Changing habits takes time and varies from person to person. Consistency is the key, so change small behaviours and stay focused. Gradually these little changes can become permanent.

Think about the food you are eating, and consider how it will benefit and nourish you before you eat it. Nourishing yourself with food is as important as nourishing yourself emotionally.

Focus on a change of heart, as well as a change of mind. In addition to the rational reasons to lose weight, get in touch with your deepest, heartfelt anxieties and desires. Knowing what is driving you can help you become healthier and keep you motivated.

Don’t use the word ‘diet’. It represents denial which is far too negative and often leads to us craving what we can’t have. Instead replace this word with ‘healthy eating.’

  1. Visualisation is a great tool to help with motivation. Spend some time each day visualising how you will look in six months or a year when you are at your ideal weight. Imagining the great way you will look and feel will help keep you on track. Put a great photo of yourself when slimmer on the fridge!
  2. Set yourself small, realistic and manageable goals with your weight loss. There is nothing more de-motivating than feeling like you’re failing. But succeeding can be the most motivational way of continuing with what you’re trying to achieve. Celebrate when you reach your goals. Promise yourself a treat when you get there – such as a new item of clothing for your slimmer body, or a fun day out.
  3. Try not to compare yourself to other people. Everyone’s body is different, so focus on your natural healthy body weight rather than someone else’s. Keep that as your target and don’t get disheartened.
  4. We sometimes eat more because we are over tired. Recognise this if it’s happening to you and get an early night instead.

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