Updated: Sep 8, 2021
"Dieting" has become our country's favorite past time. Approximately 45 million diet each year, and what's even more scary is that we are spending an average of 33 billion on weight loss products to do it. It's easy to struggle with the best way to lose weight, especially since there is so much "noise" out there feeding us conflicting information. Our country's current weight loss struggles have been blamed on too much corn syrup, lack of willpower and lack of time to prepare healthy meals, among others. While certainly, all of these reasons may influence our ability to lose weight in some way, they are not the No. 1 reason we cannot achieve weight loss success. The real reason lies within our thoughts, feelings...emotions! How many of us have felt guilty after enjoying a juicy burger? How many of us have eaten one Girl Scout cookie and thought to yourself "well I just blew my diet, so why not eat the entire box"? Who's felt so down about not meeting diet expectations that they've skipped an entire meal? This is emotional eating, and we have all done it at some point. When emotional eating becomes so prevalent in your daily regimen, so common that it creates constant barriers for you, this is when it is a problem.
Psychologists cited in a recent study released by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, stated that "understanding and managing the behaviors and emotions related to weight management is essential for addressing weight loss." Furthermore, "gaining self-control over behaviors and emotions related to eating were both key, indicating that the two go together." In other words, it doesn't matter how much you exercise or which diet plan you follow, if you are not actively regulating your emotions, including emotional stress, the weight will not come off!
So many clients come to me wanting me to create a menu for them to follow. They say, "Amanda just type out what I should be eating each day and I will follow it." When I push back on writing such specific plans for clients, it is not because I do not want to or don't know how. It is, however, because you will not learn how to successfully eat outside of the "plan" if you do not learn how to make healthy choices on your own. In those choices, I'm not just talking about choosing fish over red meat 2-3 times a week, I'm talking about learning about creating healthy emotional habits. Before specific foods are even discussed, strategies for creating healthy thoughts and feelings surrounding food must be addressed. Get on the right track to handling emotional eating by practicing...
Mindfullness - Create a culture where you are aware of your behavior and attitude surrounding food. Allow thoughts and feelings to be present without casting judgement on them. "PLEAD" with yourself, and get active in practicing mindfulness.
Practice listening for hunger cues
Learn to reward yourself with things other than food
Eat for BOTH enjoyment and nourishment, rather than choosing one over the other
Avoid overeating by listening to feelings of fullness
Do not allow feelings of anxiety to come into play with meal time; learn to separate food and stress
2. Problem solving - Identify ways you can solve your situation. Come up with a plan and "ACT" on it.
Allow yourself a moment to recognize that food and feelings are not aligned
Come up with an alternative way to handle the situation, obstacle or setback
Take charge and fix it! With practice, you will learn that the key is to be "proactive" so that next time you can ACT on the situation before it sabotages you! Here's an example: You are attending a work luncheon and anticipate being faced with unhealthy food choices. You recognize that it will be tough to stay on track, so you choose to swing by the local grocery store on the way and pick up a grab and go salad with grilled chicken. OR - you pack leftovers from dinner the night before and eat at the office before leaving for the luncheon. You grab a couple pieces of fruit and a hot tea at the luncheon instead of the other unhealthy choices available to you! And - it's a win! Situation, diverted!
3. Acceptance - Learn to accept that you are not perfect, and will make mistakes. Don't dwell on the negative. Let it go! Tell yourself that tomorrow will be better!
The best way to practice acceptance is by actively doing it. Meditate, journal or engage in techniques such as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and Tapping.
More information regarding EFT and Tapping can be found at:
Resources: "Poll of Psychologist Cites Emotions As Top Obstacle to Weight Loss." American Psychological Association. January 9, 2013. Web accessed February 5, 2018. http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2013/01/emotions-weight-loss.aspx
Matta, Christy. "The No.1 Obstacle to Weight loss." Psych Today. March 7, 2013. Web accessed February 4, 2018. https://psychcentral.com/blog/author/christym/
Mademann, Claire. Harris, M. Anderson, J. "The Undiet Revolution: Impact of a Nutrition and Mindful Eating Intervention on Eating Behaviors and Weight Loss." Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. Volume 48, Issue 7, Supplement, Page S109. July-August 2016.