San Diego Fitness Psychology
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
On March 16th, at 10:00 a.m., I’m giving a presentation on the psychology behind eating. No, don’t worry, if you know me at all, it won’t be filled with any nonsense psychobabble…well, mmm maybe just a tad bit. But it’ll be down to user-friendly earth.
For a taste of what I’ll be talking about—and I do hope you’ll join in, I thought I’d share some interesting and novel takes on weight management here. Simply put, research has shown that people who use the approach I’ll be describing in my presentation, along with lifestyle change, lose more weight than those who only make changes in their daily habits. The link is what you think.
Typically, folks who want to lose weight have negative views of themselves, are self-conscious and perhaps even embarrassed to be around others who are trimmer, toner and more “in-shape.” Self-esteem and self-confidence trip these people up since they erroneously believe that the ONLY way to increase self-worth is to lose weight. Of course, becoming healthier is a key factor in motivation to reaching a normal weight goal, along with wanting to be more active and maybe even seeing their grandchildren grow up.
Identifying and modifying thinking patterns and negative mood states that undermine healthy eating approaches is a critical factor in understanding successful weight loss. Cognitive behavioral coaching for weight loss helps you to identify your unhelpful patterns of thinking that are maintaining your current weight problems. Thinking patterns tend to be over-learned and occur almost “automatically” – they just pop into your head without you noticing. This is because they are so familiar that you don’t even recognize they are there – it’s like you’ve tuned out the ‘background noise’ of your thoughts. The first step learning how to ‘tune in’ and recognize your patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving in relation to weight.
Otherwise, your self-esteem, body image, stress that affects problem-solving, social anxiety and other similar issues will continuously get in your way of successful weight loss regardless of the diet and exercise program you adhere to—if you do adhere to one.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you think what are called, “sabotaging thoughts” about exercise. “If I don’t have enough time for a long workout, it’s not worth doing.” Unless you catch that erroneous thought and have a ready more accurate response in your head, you are likely to avoid exercise that day. Thus, “ANY amount of time spent exercising is better than no amount of time. It’s important to sometimes work out for smaller amounts of time so that I prove to myself that exercising doesn’t have to be ALL or NOTHING, it’s somewhere in the middle.”
When it comes to the overall success of your weight loss, you might have a sabotaging thought, “Well, I did lose a bit of weight this week but I’m really upset and disappointed that it wasn’t more.” Instead, a rational counter would be, “C’mon, real life weight loss has nothing to do with being the “biggest loser.” Losing a half pound or up to two pounds a week is the normal range. While I WISH and would PREFER to lose more, every pound I lose is a victory and adds up to serious weight loss.”
What about dealing with a craving? The sabotaging thought might be, “I need to eat to make this craving go away—it won’t go away any other way.” The rational response is, “Cravings are just like an itch. The more I think about it, the worse it gets. It’s just a craving and when I distract myself from it, it’ll start to go away.”
How about this familiar one? The sabotaging thought is, “Since I didn’t lose any weight this week, I’m a failure and this is not working. I give up. The rational response is, “Hey, nothing is perfect, and it’s absolutely normal to not lose any weight some weeks. I need to stay at it and I will succeed.”
While exercise is important, what, when and how you eat are most important. Some say the balance is 70% diet and 30% exercise. But it’s all based on 100% in your mind. You need to learn to create healthy responses to those sabotaging thoughts, choose a healthy diet plan, get involved in proper exercise with a trainer ideally, give yourself lots of credit, eat slowly and mindfully, consider getting a diet/health coach, arrange your environment, make time for proper nutrition preparation, differentiate between hunger, desire and cravings, practice hunger tolerance, monitor your eating, prevent unplanned eating, and stop fooling yourself.
The link is what you think…even more than simply dieting and exercising. Remember that DIEt has the word “die” in it.