I’ve been thinking about writing a post on emotional issues and diets, or more accurately how your brain and emotions get in the way of our desire to eat healthily. It’s clear to me that many people just don’t or won’t or can’t seem to consistently keep eating in a way that they say they are committed to. I’m not talking about really difficult emotional problems that could require therapy to deal with, or people who may be on medications that mess with weight and appetite – I’m thinking of the normal everyday person who is successful in many areas of their life, however when it comes to a ‘diet’ or more accurately healthy eating / lifestyle, they do well for a while and then go back to old habits, put the weight back on, feel bad and is racked with guilt, and beat themselves up for being a failure. Not to mention hating themselves for going back to where they started. (Or worse – go and see a nutritionist / dietitian, and then put nothing in practice.)
One of the problems with going backwards when you lose the plot with weight loss is that you often end up further behind than where you started. With just about everything else in life that doesn’t happen. For example if you start an exercise programme and then stop, you have built up your muscles and body memory, when you jump back into exercise you catch up faster to where you left off. If you make a mistake at work you still have a lot of accumulated knowledge that led up to that point, so you fix up your mistake and move on – you might stall rather than go back to the beginning. That certainly doesn’t happen with weight loss, as when we give up – we go back to the way of eating that made us overweight and re-gain the kilos. Dis-heartening to say the least!
How do I tackle this subject? It is such a huge topic! I’m going to throw a lot of thoughts out there, hopefully it will make some sense. I’ve been working on this post for some time and it’s got bigger and bigger – so I’m going post in sections.
I recently went to a weekend workshop just for women, led by Dr Libby Weaver, a pretty amazing nutritionist, who earned her PhD studying the poop of kids with autism, and found some really interesting links between gut flora and brain dysfunction. Fascinating – but that’s another topic.
The weekend was just for women, about our bodies, lifestyle and a huge amount on nutrition. I love learning from other nutritionists, in fact I often learn as much from other nutritionists who deal with real people and real issues on a daily basis, as the nutrition texts. Plus it was fun to have me time out for a whole weekend!
Libby discussed many factors that need to be taken into account with regards to weight loss. She has a book coming up called “Accidentally Overweight“. There are a number of physiological factors which make it difficult to lose weight – and these have to be addressed. In this list she includes:
Caloric intake (yep – calories matter!)
Insulin (metabolic dysfunction)
Alkaline / acid imbalance
An holistic Doctor can assist in testing for some of these problems and correcting them.
Another two I would add are inflammation and hunger control (appetite hormones)
And – In my experience the correct dietary prescription is imperative.
The issue of eating the correct diet is huge, as many of the hormonal, inflammatory, metabolic, hunger control issues can be addressed just through eating in line with our genes. Time and time again I see people eating along the lines of the recommended food pyramid and not losing weight, and not feeling good. They are following the conventional rules but the rules are not working – and these are highly motivated people.
So first, before I even tackle the mind issues, we all need to eat a diet that won’t fail us. In my experience and research the most successful eating plan is paleolithic or ancestral eating. In addition we need to eat the correct macro-nutrient ratios and portions sizes (adjusted for each individual) for our metabolism. This way of eating both for myself and clients goes a long way to sorting many health and hormonal issues out (It did for me, no herbs or supplements were nearly as effective) Then – if supplements are necessary – add them in.
For many people just starting and trying this programme for a month, is enough to set them on a path of weight loss and health. When clients achieve the rewards of eating in a way that gives results, there is no going back.
However for some people, some kind of emotional issue gets in the way of getting started, being consistent, or keeping an eating programme up in the long term.
This gets us back to the emotional or mind set side of the equation. Interestingly Libby said that if you made a pie chart of all the factors stopping weight loss, emotional issues would fill half or more of the pie for the majority of people she sees.
This post is about my thoughts on the emotional issues or the mind state that I’ve noticed gets in the way of people taking on eating in way that supports their health. And then I’ll make a few observations about how you might deal with the mind stuff, how to be successful in your quest to consistently eat well.
First up here are some of the excuses I hear from people, when asked ‘What went wrong?’:
I sabotage myself
I start well with diets and then I stop
I messed up once and then gave up
I just like eating the foods I eat now, I don’t want to give them up
I’m addicted to sugar and I can’t seem to stop – I like eating … too much
I eat really well until the afternoon / evening and then I just cave in and eat junk after a hard day at work (or some other reason)
I deserve a treat, I’ve worked hard, I’m stressed, life is difficult.
I love food, it’s pure pleasure, I don’t want to stop eating delicious stuff.
I’ve done really well so far, I deserve to have a treat / not have to try so hard / eat what everyone else is eating / eat my wife’s baking!
Okay – you might want to add your own reason / issue / problem / stopping point.
I’ll leave this here – more coming later on on what I think are the issues and what I have observed in myself and clients on how we can achieve a mind set for success.