Failing To Lose Weight? – Have You Looked At The Emotional Aspect Of Your Food?

Have you wondered why most of the time the diet and exercise programs that we get on, to lose weight, do not really give results? Well, most of us focus on the physical aspect of weight loss and not the emotional aspect connected with food and exercise. When one can take emotion out of the food and consume it as a means of nourishment and not as a reward or coping mechanism, it will then start giving results.

The results of a national survey about weight loss barriers found that 90 percent of respondents discounted one of the most important factors — your mind!

The majority (60%) listed diet and exercise as the biggest barriers to weight loss, while only 10% of people believed psychological well-being to be the biggest barrier. A neuropsychologist says the most important factor is your psychological relationship with food and exercise.

Every year, tens of millions of Americans make the resolution to lose weight in the new year. While their intentions are usually excellent, their results are sometimes not. Only 8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions are thought to truly follow through.

Even if weight is initially lost, it typically comes back. According to studies, 5 percent of total weight loss results in a 2 out of 3 return rates, and the more weight you lose, the lower your chances are of keeping it off.

“That’s not surprising,” said Diane Robinson, PhD, a neuropsychologist, and Program Director of Integrative Medicine at Orlando Health. “Most people focus almost entirely on the physical aspects of weight loss, like diet and exercise. But there is an emotional component to food that the vast majority of people simply overlook and it can quickly sabotage their efforts.”

Psychological well-being a barrier to weight loss

According to a recent nationwide poll of more than a thousand people conducted by Orlando Health, 31% of Americans believe that not exercising enough is the largest obstacle to losing weight, followed by those who believe it is what you eat (26%) and the expense of leading a healthy lifestyle (17%). The time commitment required, according to another 12 percent, is the main obstacle to weight loss.

Only 1 in 10, however, thought psychological well-being was a factor. “That may explain why so many of us struggle,” said Robinson. “In order to lose weight and keep it off long term, we need to do more than just think about what we eat, we also need to understand why we’re eating.”

We develop an emotional attachment to food at a very young age. Treats are frequently provided to us as children to cheer us up when we’re sad and to commend us for acting well. Birthdays are spent sharing cake, as are most celebrations. Certain meals can evoke strong emotional bonds that endure a lifetime even just by their smell.

“If we’re aware of it or not, we are conditioned to use food not only for nourishment but for comfort,” said Robinson. “That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, as long as we acknowledge it and deal with it appropriately.” Whenever the brain experiences pleasure for any reason it reacts the same way.

Whether it’s derived from drugs, a romantic encounter, or a satisfying meal, the brain releases a neurotransmitter known as dopamine. “We feel good whenever that process is activated,” said Robinson, “but when we start to put food into that equation and it becomes our reward, it can have negative consequences.”

The link between emotional issues and body mass indexes (BMI)

In fact, studies have linked higher body mass indices (BMI) with emotional problems like stress, worry, and depression. Many of us may identify with the idea of overindulging during the happy hour following a difficult day at work, for example or chowing down on a pint of ice cream to cheer ourselves up after receiving unfavourable news.

That was a common coping mechanism for Shekyra DeCree, of Columbus, Ohio. “As a mental health therapist, my job can be very stressful, and every day when I got home from work, the first thing I would do is go to the refrigerator,” she said. “That was my way to calm down and relax.”

DeCree began making deliberate changes after realising her emotional connection to eating. She has shed more than 100 pounds in a little more than a year.

“You have to change the way you deal with your emotions”

“I’d gone on countless diets and tried to exercise before, but this was different,” she said. “You have to change the way you deal with your emotions, your stress and anxiety. Once I understood the mental aspect, I felt free.”

Robinson offers these tips to help recognize the emotional connection you may have to food:

  • Keep a daily diary logging your food and your mood and look for unhealthy patterns.
  • Identify foods that make you feel good and write down why you eat them. Do they evoke a memory or are you craving those foods out of stress?
  • Before you have any snack or meal ask yourself: Am I eating this because I’m hungry? If the answer is no, look for the root of your motive.

The goal is to take emotion out of eating and see food as nourishment, not as a reward or coping mechanism. If you struggle, don’t be shy about finding help. “When we’re focused on the physical aspects of weight loss, many of us have no problem joining a gym or hiring a trainer,” said Robinson. “How about joining a support group or hiring a psychologist?” she said. “If getting your body in shape hasn’t worked out yet, maybe this time start with your mind.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Orlando Health. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Cite This Page:

Orlando Health. “Food and Emotions: 90 percent overlook key to weight loss, survey finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 December 2015. <>.

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