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Weight Loss Articles

The Psychology Of Weight Loss…

While the diet industry might have us still believe that weight loss is all about maths, and the food industry seems happy to support this belief (with all of it’s fat, protein, carbs, sugars, salt and grams of fibre on the nutritional facts label), it’s simply not the truth – weight loss is not all about maths – it’s intrinsically connected to our psychology, our emotions, and our beliefs.

In some ways, it would be a lot simpler if it was just about the maths. Then we could easily get those 50 grams of protein, and 40 grams of fibre that have the right caloric load with the right minerals and vitamin needs, and we’d be all set. But there’s a way that we can be sure that losing weight isn’t just about the numbers – and that quite simply, is this: it hasn’t worked.

Now, to be fair, it has worked – for some – for a little while at least. And that’s the reality right there. Time. Because when we do go on a numbers-based-diet, the results are never truly long-lasting. In fact, 98% of people who diet, end up gaining their weight back if they do not attempt to understand the underlying psychology.

If we want to create a lasting impact on unwanted weight, then we have to step into the realm of psychology of weight loss for 3 primary reasons:

Stress

Stress has a direct impact on our ability to lose weight. When we experience stress, whether it’s the external stressors of our busy life – or our internal stressors of being unhappy with unwanted weight or eating behaviours – our cortisol (stress hormone) levels go up. When cortisol is high on a daily basis, fat storage metabolism increases. This is due to the fact that our body is in a survival response. Our body will not release weight when in survival mode, it’s going to slow down our metabolism so that we have extra energy stores in case they are needed.

If we are indeed faced with a stressful life – but still want to lose weight – we need to learn how to shift our body out of our chronic stress response and into a relaxation response. Breathing, slowing down and bringing mindfulness into our eating and life are all powerful tools when it comes to shifting from stress to relaxation.

Pleasure

This is another foundational key in the psychology of weight loss because it has a direct link to reducing stress. And reducing stress, as we mentioned above, is crucial to creating an internal environment that supports weight loss.

Pleasure is essentially a shortcut to shifting our body from sympathetic nervous system activation (fight or flight response) to parasympathetic nervous system activation (relaxation response). When we access the things in life that make us go, “aaahhhhh” in relaxation and contentment, we are turning on our supportive biological systems. When we take a moment to enjoy the aroma of our meal, we are engaging the cephalic phase digestive response, which is the very beginning of our digestive process.  The cephalic phase response alerts our digestive enzymes and digestive tract that food is on its way: “be prepared for digestion and assimilation.”

Pleasure brings us into the moment of enjoyment of our food. When we are truly in the moment of eating and tuning into our body, we are much more likely to make food choices that support our health and listen to the cues that tell us when we’ve eaten enough.

Behaviour

Weight loss tips often focus on changing our behaviour.  “Drink more water, eat more greens, cook at home, don’t  eat out, reduce processed foods,” and more. These are behaviours that change what actually gets consumed. And it’s true that behaviours are fundamental to creating healthy habits, however, underneath our behaviours are values, feelings, and beliefs. The foundation of our behaviour is our psychology.

If we don’t believe that we can actually impact our health in a positive way, it’s unlikely that our healthy behaviour will become a habit.

If we don’t feel that we deserve to be happy, we’re less likely to take action that supports and champions our health and well being.

We can be offered a list of 100 or even 1000 tips to help us lose the weight, but until our feelings and beliefs (our psychology) is in alignment with our desire to feel our best, it’s unlikely we’ll follow through with our well-intentioned health tips. We think it’s about will power, but it’s not. The Psychology of weight loss is based on the tenet that there is more to losing weight than “eat this and don’t eat that.” We are complex beings in a full-tilt world, and we need compassionate support on the deeper levels of our feelings, thoughts and beliefs when it comes to being able to release weight in a healthy way that lasts.

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Weight Loss Articles

Why You Shouldn’t Exercise To Lose Weight…

The Cumberland News ran an article recently in which John Myers, a patient who had lost over nine stone in six months at our clinic, mentioned that our treatment did not involve exercise.  The most common question I received following the article was, ‘how is it possible to lose all that weight without exercise?’

As somebody who has battled with his weight for most of his adult life, when I see an overweight person jogging or hitting the running machine in the gym my heart sinks.  In the course of my work at the clinic, I hear many stories from patients who have attended boot camps or high-intensity exercise classes where a charismatic genetically gifted personal trainer screams “I’m going to make you work hard, no pain no gain.”

If you were to attend any cardio-based exercise class you would hear a familiar message

we’ve been getting for years: As long as you get on that bike or treadmill, you can keep indulging — and still lose weight. It’s been reinforced by doctors, fitness gurus, celebrities, food and beverage companies like Pepsi and Coca-Cola, and even public-health officials. Countless gym memberships, fitness tracking devices, sports drinks, and workout videos have been sold on this promise.

There’s just one problem: This message is not only wrong, but it’s also leading us astray in our fight against obesity.

Over the last five years since I opened the clinic, I have read through more than 80 studies on exercise and weight loss. I have spoken to countless, nutrition, and obesity researchers. Here’s what I learned;

Despite the current advice, exercise is pretty unhelpful for weight loss.  While 100% of the energy we gain comes from food, we can only burn about 10 to 30 percent of it with physical activity each day.

Physical activity seems to set off a cascade of changes that affect how much you eat, how many calories you use, and, in turn, your body weight.  How these effects vary among people isn’t clear and is the subject of much scientific debate.

Don’t expect to lose a lot of weight by ramping up physical activity alone.  While exercise is hugely important for overall health, how much and what we eat has a much bigger impact on our waistline.

We have an obesity problem.  But we shouldn’t treat low physical activity and eating too many calories as equally responsible for it.  Public-Health policies should prioritise fighting over-consumption of low-quality food and improving the “food environment”.

So if exercise is not the answer, what actually works for weight loss?

At the individual level, some good research on what works for weight loss comes from the American organisation, the National Weight Control Registry.  They have analysed the traits, habits, and behaviours of adults who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for a minimum of one year. They currently have more than 10,000 members enrolled in the study, and these people respond to annual questionnaires about how they’ve managed to keep their weight down.

The researchers behind the study found that people who have had success losing weight share a few things in common: They weigh themselves at least once a week. They restrict their calorie intake, stay away from high-fat foods, and watch their portion sizes. They also exercise regularly.

But note: These people use physical activity in addition to calorie counting and other behavioural changes. Every reliable expert I’ve ever spoken to on weight loss says the most important thing a person can do is to limit calories in a way they like and can sustain, and focus on eating healthfully.

In general, a diet with exercise can work better than calorie cutting alone, but with only marginal additional weight-loss benefits.

If you embark on a weight-loss journey that involves both adding exercise and cutting calories, do not count those calories burned in physical activity toward extra eating. You would be better advised to pretend you didn’t exercise at all. You will most likely compensate anyway, so think of exercising just for health improvement but not for weight loss.