emotional weight loss

The emotional elements of weight loss

The weight-loss struggle affects so many of us these days. Even many kids are overweight and some are even obese, given the standard American diet we’ve come to know and love. It takes patience, time, and knowledge to approach weight loss in an effective manner. It also takes a certain self-awareness, one that comes with age, because the emotional elements of weight loss are very real. There are many reasons we struggle with weight loss, and not all of them are physical. Building emotional intelligence that promotes sustainable health and long-term wellness is also a big piece of the puzzle.

Motivate yourself to change your lifestyle

When it comes to losing any amount of substantial weight, an overhaul of how you’re living is typically necessary. Because of the bad habits that got us here in the first place, a complete lifestyle change is needed.

Healthy weight loss demands that we change what we eat, how much we eat, and even when we eat. It begs a certain attention towards physical and even mental exercise and stamina. It seems like a lot to handle, and it is! So how do we muster up (and sustain) the kind of motivation necessary to make these necessary lifestyle changes? The answer lies in addressing our psychological baggage. For better or worse, we’ve all got it. And for some of us, it’s sabotaging our weight-loss efforts in a major way.

Deal with negative self-talk

Because our weight is deeply connected to our psychological health, there’s a good chance negative self-talk is at play if we’re overweight or obese. We may not realize how negative our inner dialogue is until we slow down and pay attention. If we don’t, we can get lost in our negative self-talk — so much so that it distracts us from actually sticking to our healthy eating and exercise routines. Dealing with negative self-talk first and foremost means cultivating self-awareness.

Cultivate self-awareness to understand how you see yourself

This is where a soul-searching journal comes into play. You’ll need to spend plenty of time self-reflecting. If you have a negative view of the way you look, why might that be the case? Do you compare yourself to others? Were you bullied when you were younger — for your weight or other reasons? Do you turn to food in times of emotional stress to self-soothe? If so, when did that coping mechanism begin? Is it a learned behavior you picked up somewhere in your childhood or was it something you discovered as an adult?

If this sounds like a lot of work, you’re right. And it may not be something you can do on your own. Don’t be afraid to seek the help of a professional therapist if necessary. You can’t make changes without understanding why you are the way you are. Awareness is always the first element of any kind of transformation. With time, you’ll figure out who you are and why you tick — at a deeply emotional level. Then you can make the gradual changes necessary.

Don’t put yourself in a box

It’s normal to think of ourselves as someone who has a weight problem. But labeling ourselves in this way can set us up to fail because we’re locked in fear. We fear that we’ll gain the weight back even after all our hard work because we identify as someone who has a weight problem.

Tools such as therapy and journaling can help you gain perspective on your inner dialogue and help you see if you’ve put yourself in this kind of box. If it’s a belief system you’d like to rid yourself of, consider working with a professional therapist or life coach to develop a healthier new self concept.

Balance pleasure, stress, and eating habits

Stress, pleasure, and food are all interconnected. It’s a natural biological reaction to try to reduce stress via pleasure. No human wants to feel stressed, so we turn to alcohol, cigarettes, sex, food — you name it — in order to turn off whatever’s ailing us. When we do this, we’re simply trying to leave our state of fight or flight, and turn on the relaxation response instead. We just haven’t found the healthiest means of doing so. Using food to calm ourselves gets us into trouble. We overeat, eat the wrong (comfort) foods, and create weight-loss obstacles in the process.

What we need to do is find healthier solutions for stress, and healthier means of pleasure. Some ideas: a hot bath with relaxing aromatherapeutic essential oils, a regular meditation and yoga practice, deep breathing techniques, listening to music, a creative practice, taking a walk in the park, spending time with a pet, going for a swim, getting a massage, or simply calling a friend to vent. Make a list of positive actions you can take to help reduce stress.

Studies suggest that various types of relaxation training can help with weight loss by helping ease depression and anxiety, as well as addressing emotional eating habits. Finding pleasurable activities that aren’t related to food will help free ourselves from our dependency upon food as a means to cope with stress.

Manage expectations

One aspect of expectation management is to realize that when and if we reach our weight-loss goal, it won’t cure the rest of what ails us. In other words, weighing in at a certain number isn’t a cure all for life’s difficulties. So often we make up fantasies in our minds about how great things will be when we hit a certain milestone. The truth is, there is no panacea for life’s struggles. And while we think we’ll be happier once we weigh exactly what we want to, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Studies have shown that obese and overweight women who lost 5% body fat were no happier after they lost weight. In fact, they were twice as likely to feel depressed after their weight-loss journey. Could it be because they expected to be happier on the other side of the mountain, only to find they weren’t?

Meeting our weight-loss goals will have lasting positive effects on our mental and emotional health, but it isn’t a cure-all. Emotional issues such as negative self-talk, negative body image, stress, depression, anxiety, relationship issues, or work problems will still need to be addressed on their own. Reaching your target weight won’t take care of these things for you.

Join a weight-loss support group

Some of us love doing things on our own. But when it comes to big changes — the ones that last a lifetime — we might need a little help along the way. Weight-loss support groups abound. If joining a support group sounds like a good idea, find one that addresses the emotional elements of weight loss. When you do, you’ll discover we all deal with similar issues. This can boost morale and self-confidence, knowing there’s nothing wrong with you at all! You’re only human. Joining a support group can lead to new friends and confidants, and help you feel less alone on your journey. You never know who you’ll meet or what you might discover.

Journal about your food choices

Another way to change your eating habits for the better is to keep a food diary. This isn’t the kind where you simply keep track of every single morsel of food you eat. This is one that serves as a deep excavation of your eating habits.

Don’t just write what you eat, write down why you’re eating. Are you actually hungry, or bored or anxious? Write about the foods that bring you comfort. Note the ones that make you feel good. Ask yourself why certain foods make you feel good. Is it because they’re truly nutrient-rich foods? Or are these foods that aren’t supporting your weight-loss goals? Why do you eat them? Do they bring back memories of your youth? Do they bring you pleasure and ease stress? These are some of the excavating questions to ask yourself. Let your pen answer freely, without judgment.

Know that you deserve to feel your best

You’ve really got to want to lose weight in order to do it. If you know in your heart that you deserve to look great and feel great, you’ll be motivated from deep within. While there are a million weight loss-tips out there, no amount of information will do the work for you. It’s you who has to implement those tips. And changing your habits and behaviors to implement these tips requires your values, your beliefs, and your feelings as your biggest cheerleaders on the sidelines. In other words, it’s your psychological makeup that drives the show.

We have to believe we can positively impact our health through weight loss. We have to value health and well-being. We have to feel that we deserve to be healthy, even as we age. If we don’t believe we can take control of our health, and if we don’t feel and think we deserve whole-body wellness, no weight-loss program will do the job for us. All of it takes work. But, in the end, it’s worth it!

At Elite Physique, we believe an equal balance of nutrition, activity, rest, and confidence is the foundation for achieving a healthier you. Our personalized weight-loss programs are custom tailored to help you meet your goals and to address the underlying factors that can make weight loss difficult. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation!

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