Are there psychological keys to lose weight in a healthy way?
Sometimes attempts to lose weight are doomed to failure despite diet and exercise. As we saw in a previous article on psychonutrition , a large part of this failure is due to inadequate emotional management. There are many people who are looking for “miracle diets” to lose weight quickly and without any sacrifice. Unfortunately there is no miracle diet that does not put health at risk. In this article we are going to try to give you a series of psychological keys to lose weight in a healthy way and to maintain your ideal weight.
The arrival of good weather, like the beginning of a new year, usually brings with it the purpose of improving physical fitness, which is why you can end up resorting to the so-called miracle diets , in order to lose weight as quickly as possible without make great efforts.
Unfortunately, today there is no miraculous diet with which you can lose several kilos a week without putting your own physical and… psychological health at risk? Unfortunately, few of the people who embark on these types of diets are aware of how miracle diets can compromise their psychological well-being.
Leaving aside the possible physical imbalances caused by this type of diet (decrease in muscle mass, imbalances in metabolism, risk of low blood pressure or sugar, etc.), on a psychological level, this process will lead the person to increase her body dissatisfaction by not achieving the expected results, perpetuating her bad relationship with the usual diet and leading her to set diet cycles that generate frustration and discomfort as it is a momentary solution resulting from an unattainable goal.
Thus, the use of these cyclical diets is a reflection of an inadequate emotional management and an erroneous criterion about how the relationship with food should be: a constant struggle between the will to maintain a silhouette classified socially as beautiful and the pleasure that provides intake.
How do miracle diets affect psychologically?
Unfortunately, this fight often damages both physical and psychological health. On a physical level, nutrition experts explain that the great food restriction -with the consequent drastic weight loss- makes the body become energy-efficient, so it learns to spend fewer calories so as not to run out of reserves before the return of the scarcity, producing the well-known rebound effect when resuming the habitual feeding . It should be noted that most of the weight lost with these diets corresponds to water and muscle mass, which will be recovered in the form of fat, preventing shortages.
On the other hand, seeing that it is not possible to lose weight in a definitive way affects the emotions, and can lead to a negative emotional state and a deficit of self-efficacy by not being able to maintain self-imposed discipline, which leads to the loss of esteem.
This situation, in turn, can lead to an up-and-down relationship with food, as low self-esteem reduces the chance of dieting success . Thus, the person can end up combining increasingly demanding diets with episodes of overeating due to anxiety before the prohibition itself or emotionally negative episodes. All these diet cycles, in addition to generating an obsession with food, can negatively affect social life , since they do not adapt to it and can lead to avoiding outings that imply a different diet than what they themselves they demand.
Keys to start changing your diet.
Many people consider that by following a certain diet for a specific period of time they will lose weight permanently without taking into account that, without changing their habits, it is most likely that they will end up regaining the lost weight (as happens to around ninety percent of people in the next five years after dieting).
Although some research indicates that it takes between twenty and thirty days to create a new habit, it is not a stress-free process, as these restrictions and new eating behaviors can lead to anxiety and even sadness when experiencing a sensation loss caused by the veto of some foods. Therefore, it is essential to consider the motivations you have to lose weight , so that visualizing yourself with better health and physique is encouraging enough to continue the diet.
The motivations to lose weight.
Obviously, motivation without an action plan is useless, making it necessary to set clear and realistic goals about modifying the diet. To determine these objectives, it is essential to know your own eating habits, so making a record of meals during, for example, a week, as well as the thoughts and feelings that these provoke before, during and after eating can be useful to increase the level of consciousness about what is ingested and why it is done (to distinguish if it is eaten due to physiological or emotional hunger ).
This record can help identify factors associated with food, that is, if there are certain behaviors or situations associated with eating (eg smokers often associate coffee with smoking).
When to seek professional help?
As mentioned above, to maintain weight loss it is necessary to propose long-term changes. In this sense, it is convenient to monitor the level of physical activity , since it is not the same to lead a sedentary life and complement it with sports to spend a large part of the day active, since it influences metabolism and the level of energy exhaustion.
Sometimes it is advisable to put yourself in the hands of a nutritionist , so that he can design a personalized diet, since each person has different needs and it is not advisable to follow someone else’s diet, since the results will not be the same.
Likewise, it can be very useful to go to the psychologist when you have problems losing weight despite being on a diet and exercising , since it can be due to emotional problems that prevent you from maintaining the diet in the long term and lead to an increase in intake (p eg stress or depression). In this sense, the psychologist can also help you promote self-control and teach you to stand up to savor food more through Mindfulness , so you will feel satisfied with smaller servings.
Psychological strategies to lose weight in a healthy way.
Find out about changing your diet.
Although it is always advisable to change eating habits with the help of a nutritionist, there are people who prefer to do it gradually without external help. In this case, it is essential to look for reliable sources of information on the Internet and / or in magazines, making sure that it comes from a dietician-nutritionist or a dietetic technician. Also, knowing the properties of food will help raise awareness about the importance of controlling the amount of food.
Control the diet you have at home .
One study found that when fruit was placed in a pretty bowl near house keys or next to the cash register in a coffee shop, people tended to go for a banana over other foods that, although they were more appetizing , were less accessible (eg a chocolate ice cream). This shows that people opt for more accessible products, not only depending on how rich they are.
In this sense, it is important to reduce temptations at home, trying to go to the supermarket with the list made and without being angry or hungry, since, in the first case, you will tend to buy a greater number of products and, in the second, to buy those more sugary (logically, it is preferable to avoid going through these sections).
On the other hand, it is not advisable to bring the food source to the table, as it will tend to increase the intake despite not needing it (in this regard, it is important to remember that the stomach takes approximately twenty minutes to inform the brain that it is satiated).
Plan and distribute the intake in a balanced way throughout the day .
There is a tendency to think that the fewer calories you eat, the more you lose weight, but the truth is that when you go a long time without eating, voracious hunger appears, which predisposes you to the consumption of unhealthy foods, causing a spike in blood glucose and causing you to feel hungry again in a short time.
To avoid eating more than desired due to the stress generated by changing habits, it is advisable to eat more than usual (at least four, depending on the schedule and lifestyle) and in smaller portions. Of course, skipping meals to try to compensate for excesses is not a recommended strategy either.
Vary the diet .
Being on a diet does not imply that you have to eat the same menu every day or that it should be presented in an invariable way. This, like prohibiting the total intake of certain types of foods, will only serve to increase anxiety about eating and discourage continuing the diet.
It is important to eat healthy foods that are palatable (eg gazpacho instead of chard). On the other hand, chopping products that require chewing (eg nuts), drinking water or milk, having fruit or yogurt or chewing gum are good options when you cannot resist the temptation to eat, as they are highly satiating at the same time. healthy time.
Have a healthy lifestyle .
Avoiding stress and getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep will help you lose weight. Also, drinking six to eight glasses a day will avoid the confusion between lack of hydration and hunger. Regarding physical exercise, it is important not to do it in order to compensate for a poor diet, since exercise does not help you lose fat when more calories are ingested than are expended.
Do pleasant activities .
To escape from day-to-day problems and stress, it is essential to take care of yourself on an emotional level. These activities are like nice little gifts that encourage self-care, causing well-being. It is not about doing special things, but about daily actions such as listening to a record, going to the gym, dressing up differently, meeting a friend, reading for a while, cooking a new dish, etc. In addition, doing these activities after meeting the proposed objectives (eg, going for a run) will probably serve as an incentive to continue doing them.
Communicate the decision to lose weight .
Transmitting the desire to lose weight will not only strengthen one’s commitment to diet, but it can also serve to promote a healthy eating style, which others can adopt, so that it can serve to receive extra support in the face of the temptation to give up. the new lifestyle. In this sense, it is important to avoid losing weight while another person becomes a competition.
Don’t give up going out .
Leisure activities usually involve meetings where you have to avoid excess food and temptations such as alcohol or sweets. However, not having a social life will not only negatively influence one’s mood, but also not having contact with the day-to-day reality will delay the necessary learning to deal with these types of situations.
Do not get carried away by momentary pleasure .
When in doubt about whether to eat or not, apart from following the advice given in the entry on how to overcome emotional hunger , it is convenient to consider whether eating said food will make you feel better about yourself or if it will help you achieve your goals or to solve your problems, weighing the benefits and drawbacks of skipping the diet.
One way to avoid temptations is to prepare properly for them. For example, when you are looking at tasty food (such as a donut) you can imagine that you are actually looking at a piece from a pop art exhibition, which can help you not to recreate the food you are looking at.
Another example would be eating a small amount of different appetizing foods instead of trying not to consume any, since the latter is much more difficult to carry out and, if you do not, you will tend to try everything without control.
Learn to identify sabotaging thoughts.
In this sense, it is important to learn to deal with negative thoughts and that “all or nothing” attitude related to diet, trying to be realistic and being aware of the goals that have been achieved related to healthy eating (p. (eg having planned the menu, not having bought foods rich in salt or sugar, having rejected a certain appetizing food during a dinner away from home).
It is important to replace thoughts about a tasty food (eg cake) with thoughts about less appetizing foods (eg whole wheat bread), as well as trying to think about the benefits of continuing with the diet and changing activities to distract attention.
Don’t blame yourself for skipping your diet .
Having a poorly structured diet that leads to starvation for most of the day will increase the likelihood that you will end up overeating at night. Whether skipping the diet was due to a planning problem or as a way to alleviate negative emotions, it should not be seen as an excuse to abandon the diet, but rather it should serve to learn from what happened, applying different strategies. These can range from planning the different meals of the week on a single day (so as not to stray from the menu or starving) to using relaxation or distraction techniques (to control emotional hunger).
Don’t obsess over weight .
To assess your own evolution, it is preferable to pay attention to how the clothes feel, since multiple factors influence weight (eg the hormonal cycle, the food that has been consumed, the time of day, if you have gained muscle and even stress level). On the other hand, it must be taken into account that to achieve the desired silhouette, it is not enough just to have willpower, since genes play a very important role and realistic limits must be established so as not to lose health.
Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.