By: Jessica Johns-Green, LPC
Diets force change by setting strict rules but mostly create only temporary change. The underlying issues – emotionally and mentally – stay the same. Or even get worse. Cutting calories makes us focus on food more. And failure? That’s just the weight loss industry’s way of making sure you are a customer for life. The toughest first step is not to let shame and guilt force you to look away and hide. Also not to see genetics or physical health issues as insurmountable barriers. But instead to decide that you can do something about this. A change in attitude and taking care of your mental wellbeing is a route to healthy bodyweight – for good!
5 Mental Wellness Tips To A Healthy Bodyweight
- Start with love – So often a diet starts with focusing on what we don’t like about our bodies and ourselves. When it’s a decision driven by self loathing, it’s no wonder fad diets, near starvation diets and restrictive rules seem appealing. Any healthy and sustainable change comes from the realization that you are worthy – of love, happiness and health. Too often, punishing ourselves is so habitual that a compassionate approach to our body feels impossible. But if we can practice making our food choices an act of love for our bodies, what we should do becomes clearer. If this seems foreign, there may be a fear that giving love means giving in to whatever you want. Try an exercise: Imagine that your body is your much loved child. This child is depending on you to provide the vitamins and nutrients they need to be healthy. What kinds of foods does the child need – for health and for happiness. How would you provide a healthy meals for that child? There might be times the child wants a treat. When is that ok? What would you do or say to help that child eat nutritiously? The key is responsibility and compassion.
- Small shifts over a long time – We naturally think big problems require big changes. But big changes are hard to maintain and set us up for bigger failures. Eventually something will happen. A birthday, a vacation, a pandemic, a freak snowstorm. We fall off the diet wagon and since we’ve been so deprived – either eating far too little calories or missing certain foods – more often than not, we stay off the diet wagon for a while. Diets are doomed to failure because they don’t teach us the psychological skills to be healthy for life. When the diet fails, it’s not uncommon to eat far more than we normally would. Fact is, you only need small, consistent changes and patience to get lasting results. And by finding a small change that fits into your lifestyle, you’re much more likely to keep it going, even when the unexpected happens.
- Healing from abuse and trauma – Research strongly suggests that early trauma and abuse is related to obesity later in life https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938409002972. Our brains respond to trauma by setting off a sort of alarm system. We feel anxiety and fear and will naturally find ways to turn this alarm system off – to escape the danger if we can, and if we can’t, to at least numb. Our bodies are also built to feel calmer when we are full. Additionally, foods with high calories, sugar and fat set off feel-good sensors in our nervous system. Food can become the perfect way to feel better, feel safer. Especially when we have little control over the things making us feel unsafe, such as abusive families or trauma experienced as a child. As we grow and age, revisiting the trauma or being reminded of it in normal daily activities will often feel just as scary as when it first happened, setting off that alarm system all over again. Food can come to the rescue, but often eventually becomes a problem in itself. Recognizing the link and finding another way to turn off that internal alarm system is the sustainable way forward.
- Asking for what you need and want – The quality of relationships in your life has a direct impact on bodyweight. Anger, conflict and disagreements are common in any relationship, but when we don’t feel able to address these, we can be left feeling alone, resentful and powerless. Our bodies will naturally drive us to find a way to switch these feelings off somehow. For overeaters, food, fullness and the good feelings that come from binge-worthy foods send signals to our brains that we are ok, and those feelings switch off. For under-eaters, the sense of control through food restriction and the ‘high’ that comes with ketosis/starvation has a similar effect. Getting to a healthy bodyweight requires healthy assertive communication with the people around us. Learning to say ‘no’, letting others know how we feel and asking for the behavior we need from others are all essential skills of people who get to a healthy bodyweight and stay there.
- Plan for success, and for failure – Planning skills are far more important than a ‘meal plan’. The ability to look at what’s ahead in your day/week, to see what your body needs and make plans to provide it will get you much further than any diet ever could. Recognizing that you need – and deserve – healthy food to fuel your day. And that getting it won’t happen by accident. When we’re hungry and rushed, drive thru’s will win every time. Planning ahead doesn’t have to mean making food ahead of time, but it does mean approaching your day with an idea about how you will meet your needs. A key here is also plan for failure. What will you do when it goes wrong? Deciding ahead of time to learn from failures (what could I do differently next time?) and face your actions with compassion is a skill of people who lose weight and keep it off for good.
Begin Counseling at Our Center in Katy, TX
If you are ready to find help with your emotional eating, binge eating, eating disorder or body image the therapists at The Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch can help! We provide therapy to people of all ages and now offer a Healthy Body Therapy Group, every other Friday at 12 noon. To begin counseling in Katy, TX, follow these three steps:
- Contact our office to set up an appointment or to get more information about counseling, group or family therapy.
- Meet with one of our caring therapists
- Enjoy being a healthier and happier you!
Other Therapy Services We Offer
Here at The Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch we offer counseling services in areas including counseling for kids, counseling for young adults, teen counseling, couples counseling, eating disorder treatment, men’s issues, women’s issues, anxiety treatment, depression therapy, trauma counseling, family therapy, and group counseling. Our therapists strive to regularly post blogs with helpful information on a variety of mental health topics. To learn more about our therapists and our counseling services, please reach out to the Counseling Center today!