Psyconutrition: When despite exercise and diet you cannot lose weight

Psyconutrition When despite exercise and diet you cannot lose weight

What is psychonutrition?

Psychonutrition is a new tool that has more and more prominence in today’s society. It was born as a fusion between psychology and nutrition, which seeks to achieve the physical and emotional well-being of the subject. Psychonutrition tries to achieve its objective by promoting healthy eating habits, which are born from the understanding of one’s own emotions and thoughts.

Psychonutrition and the problem of overweight in today’s society.

It is estimated that around half of the Spanish population is overweight. So it is not surprising that obesity has become one of the main public health problems in the developed countries of the 21st century. That is why it is important to develop new tools to prevent it, such as psychonutrition. This interest in promoting normal weight is due to the fact that obesity can cause numerous health problems (type 2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, heart attacks, bone and joint problems …).

Various studies have found that ninety percent of neurotransmitters are synthesized in the intestine. This means that the inadequate nutrition of this one can generate corporal problems. As if this were not enough, it has been found that diet is closely related to mood, being able to alter brain faculties (eg concentration).

However, despite knowing the various problems that an unhealthy diet can generate, there are not a few people who cannot follow a diet and maintain the change in eating habits. This is because indicating only the foods to eat may be insufficient for certain people , since nutrition does not provide the necessary psychological strategies with which to manage the emotional distress caused by the change in eating habits.

In fact, around ninety percent of people who have embarked on a weight loss process have ended up regaining it within a period of five years, which is why this blog post is dedicated to analyzing what psychological factors influence and hinder weight loss.

(1) – Psychonutrition helps maintain weight with a healthy diet

Why can’t you lose weight despite being on a diet and exercising?

Why can't you lose weight despite being on a diet and exercising

Since obesity has multifactorial causes, it is essential to know the genetic, metabolic, psychological, social and environmental factors that can hinder weight loss. The following are the most common problems:

  • Eating unhealthy food or without considering the proportions:  All foods provide calories, so it is essential to take into account the necessary proportions to eat, moderating the consumption of all foods, including those healthy or small (such as nuts or olive oil, which are highly caloric).
  • Abusing smoothies : Since liquids don’t reduce hunger as much as solid foods, one may end up drinking a lot of sugary sodas, juices, nectars, smoothies, or alcohol without realizing it.
  • Count only the calories : Knowing the origin of the calories is more important than the number of these, since, p. For example, although trans fats have the same calories as omega 3 for every gram, trans fats induce metabolic changes that lead to obesity, while omega 3 can help you lose weight.
  • Follow unhealthy diets : A highly restrictive or unhealthy diet does not provide the body with the necessary nutrients for its proper functioning, causing the metabolism to slow down and, therefore, complicating the weight loss process (if the increased anxiety before excessive restriction has not caused the abandonment of the diet).
  • Taking certain medications : Some drugs (corticosteroids, antidepressants, or anticonvulsants) can reduce the rate at which the body burns calories, increase appetite, or cause fluid retention.

Other factors

  • Have hormonal problems or changes : Hypothyroidism, polycystic ovary syndrome or insulin resistance make it difficult to lose weight. Also, it has been found that during perimenopause about 75 percent of women gain between four and ten kilos.
  • Quit smoking : Since nicotine accelerates the burning of calories, some people can gain weight when they quit smoking, since their caloric expenditure becomes lower.
  • Being exposed to a large amount of fast food advertising : Different studies affirm that there are obesogenic environments, that is, they stimulate obesity, thus increasing the risk of being overweight or obese.
  • Have chronic stress : Stress increases cortisol secretion, stimulating glucose production and increasing fat storage in cells.
  • Having psychological problems : Setting unrealistic goals, lack of motivation, a low mood or dissatisfaction with body image can be the origin or cause of unhealthy eating, favoring overeating or food restriction. It should be noted that overeating can also occur as a way to calm anxiety or by not overcoming a traumatic event, p. ex. mourning for a relative.
  • Do not apply changes in lifestyle : Failure to follow the guidelines proposed by the nutritionist, being inconsistent or leading a sedentary life are factors that directly affect the effectiveness of the diet.
  • Maintain an unhealthy lifestyle : Lack of hydration, sleeping less than seven to eight hours a day, or focusing on cardiovascular exercise will not help weight loss.

(2) – Psychonutrition seeks to implement a healthy lifestyle

The relationship between emotions and nutrition: psychonutrition.

Genetics and metabolism are not the only factors related to body mass index. In fact, the choice of the quantity and quality of food is closely related to the capacity for emotional management. When it is deficient, eating habits worsen in negative psychological states (eg anxiety or depression). That is why the union between emotions, attitudes and eating behaviors converge in the formation of this new way of working.

Psychonutrition supposes an interdisciplinary work, where the psychologist and the nutritionist work together deepening in everything that affects the problems of the person. This treatment addresses the symptoms from a holistic view of health, combining the physical, mental and social dimensions of the individual. This guarantees a higher success rate by assuming individualized treatment.

In this way, psychonutrition focuses on motivations and emotional management. Considering not only eating habits, but also those psychological variables that lead to an inadequate diet. In this sense, it is important to note that psychonutrition does not imply that you have to consume different foods depending on your mood . It is not a magic bullet either: it is a new way of working on the challenges of own weight and body image. Taking into account both health problems related to nutrition (eg digestion) and psychological problems (mood or emotional hunger).

Psychological traits and disorders make weight loss difficult.

There are numerous studies that have confirmed that there is a clear relationship between certain personality traits and disorders that make it difficult to start or maintain weight loss.

Personality traits.

The personalities of overweight people are very different, however, they usually have two common psychological traits:

  • Emotional instability : Difficulty in emotional management makes the person more vulnerable to changes, thus suffering a higher level of stress and negatively affecting their emotional stability. Thus, these people are more afraid of a world that they perceive to be more negative than it is, becoming frustrated with events that, for other people, are not of great importance.
  • Impulse control difficulty : Assuming a balanced diet and committing to physical exercise implies moderation and discipline, something that an impulsive person is not always willing to assume. So much so that it is the biggest predictor of being overweight.

(3) – Lack of impulse control predisposes to being overweight

Psychological disorders.

Among the psychological disorders we find three that stand out from the rest:

  • ADHD : Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder during childhood is significantly associated with overweight and obesity in adulthood, since impulsivity (understood in this case as poor planning capacity and loss of interest in moderating food intake) ) together with the emotional lability characteristic of ADHD can negatively affect their ability to manage emotionally and, therefore, in the correct regulation of emotional hunger.
  • Anxiety : Although it is true that acute stress inhibits appetite, when it is maintained over time it ends up becoming anxiety. In these cases, the person not only gains an appetite (especially towards foods rich in sugar and fat), but may also suffer from insomnia, reduce their level of physical exercise and increase their intake of alcohol to alleviate their discomfort, circumstances that facilitate the weight gain.
  • Depression : Different studies have concluded that suffering from depression increases the probability of being overweight or obese. This may be because the person can increase their emotional intake to alleviate their discomfort. However, there are people who reduce their intake during depressive state, however, since they tend to consume mainly fast food and sweets (reducing the intake of fruits and vegetables), they can also increase their weight or see their physical health impaired.

How can psychonutrition help you lose weight?

How can psychonutrition help you lose weight

As mentioned above, psychonutrition shows that the help of the psychologist can be key to controlling one’s own weight, since the behaviors that lead to weight gain are those motivated by the patient’s relationship with food and its management of the state of mind. Therefore, the psychologist must detect, diagnose and treat those personal difficulties related to the promotion of food health, especially recommending going to the psychologist to lose weight when:

  • The person has made numerous diets without achieving satisfactory results or has not been able to maintain them over time.
  • It is especially difficult to control the urge to eat or you do not feel that urge, ending up seeing the act of eating as “an odyssey.”
  • The person, even knowing the healthy habits, does not find the courage or the necessary strength to carry them out.
  • You have self-esteem problems or lack of motivation to lose weight.
  • The person has eating disorders or mood disorders where the symptoms make it difficult to achieve the diet.

(4) – The obsession to lose weight can lead to anorexia nervosa

  • Increase motivation and help establish an action plan : Trying to lose weight can generate some stress and anxiety, since it involves frustration, sacrifice and perseverance. Also, not getting quick results can lead to loss of motivation, ending up giving up the diet. It can even generate mistrust in the subject’s own abilities (“I am not even able to maintain the diet for two weeks”, “I will never lose weight, no matter how hard I try”).
  • Manage emotions and improve possible psychological disorders : Identifying the mechanisms that cause unhealthy food choices is the first step to be able to apply strategies that extinguish the habit of eating due to stress and help to buy and eat consciously, enjoying the food, but controlling the food ups and downs. Offering guidelines for conflict resolution and stress or anxiety management are fundamental issues to be addressed during this type of treatment.
  • Improve the relationship with oneself and with one’s own body : The stigmatization of obesity that governs society and current beauty standards can lead to a negative and even distorted body image, generating body dissatisfaction and suffering (and even rejection) for the own body, negatively affecting self-esteem by overvaluing the importance of physical appearance. Here, it will be essential to work on erroneous beliefs about food, normalizing the relationship with food and the body.

Other areas of work that psychonutrition addresses.

  • Establish healthy relationships with others : The social environment may be unconsciously favoring the weight problem, maintaining high calorie intake habits or making it difficult to achieve goals (for example, a couple accusing the other of neglecting it every time they go exercise).
  • Promote the maintenance of healthy eating habits : In this sense, it is essential to make the patient aware that weight gain or loss is not due to external factors (for example, the use of “miracle products”), but to their perseverance and moderation.
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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.

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