Practically every client I counsel who struggles with weight loss will say something like, I just need to workout more.â But the truth is it’s not that simple, and now a new survey confirms a reality I’ve observed among many clients that the real key to weight management is your emotional state. The survey, commissioned by healthcare network Orlando Health, found that 90% of respondents discounted the most crucial factor involved with weight loss: the psychological relationship between food and exercise. The majority (60%) of participants cited diet and exercise to be the biggest barriers, but if that were true I promise you, weight loss would be a whole lot easier.
I’ve worked with many clients who can afford personal training, even a personal chef or tailored meal delivery services designed for weight loss, and yet despite these resources they wind up sabotaging themselves through emotional eating. If you find yourself in the same boat, focus on your feelings first, not your diet and exercise plan. Here are the top four emotions that tend to derail healthy intentions, along with strategies for altering how they impact your habits.
While some of my clients are most on track when they’re happy, others have a pattern of celebratory eating. It makes sense, because it’s culturally encouraged to connect food to bonding, praising, and commemorating. This holiday season if you find yourself drawn to too many goodies, either because you’re pleased with your holiday bonus, reveling in your time off, or enjoying time with friends and family, try out non-food ways to be jubilant. Rather than cooking or eating plan a craft project or an outing, like ice skating, or a nature walk. And most importantly find ways of expressing your feelings rather than eating them. For some of my clients solo singing does the trick, while others enjoy group activities, like organizing games, from good old fashioned charades to edgy Cards Against Humanity. When you’re joyfully occupied you’ll be surprised how little you’ll think about food.
Many of my clients recall being soothed with food as kids. Whether it was after the loss of a pet goldfish, a skinned knee, or a mean comment from a schoolmate, many of us were comforted with foods like ice cream, chocolate, or mac and cheese. If you find yourself re-living the pattern by feeding yourself after a rough day, experiment with alternatives. Rather than giving yourself an emotional hug by eating let out your feelings by reaching out to a friend. Or try other pacifying behaviors, like taking a warm bath, spending time with a loving pet, or watching a sad movie (sans snacks) and having a good cry. Sometimes letting out your feelings is the best way to prevent yourself from stuffing them down or using food to disconnect.
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