We have all heard this over and over – from friends, family, on television, in ads, and more. People struggle to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. They have the science of it down – and it’s as simple as can be for most people – eat less, exercise more. And yet, the extra pounds stay or they come back much too soon.
What is often missing is important changes in our mental state, whether that is our thoughts, our beliefs, or our emotional patterns.
You have some choices on how to approach this. Many people approach it from a self-help perspective and read books or get advice from others. Sometimes a person uses a particular diet or treatment. One thing you may not have thought of though, is to add counseling to these other methods to help achieve your weight management goals.
I’m not talking about nutritional counseling, which is greatly beneficial and a valuable part of any weight management plan. Many diet, weight loss and wellness centers have a nutritional counselor available and learning from this person helps you to understand the science of weight loss and weight management. It is information you need to succeed. In this article I’m actually talking about getting to the heart of what is holding you back. Working with a counselor can help you uncover what is blocking you from reaching your goals and learn ways to overcome it. This also gives you information you need to help yourself succeed at managing your weight for the rest of your life.
You may be wondering what kind of things you would talk about with a counselor when you are trying to lose weight. Let’s talk about this in terms of thoughts, beliefs, and emotions as I mentioned above.
Thoughts: Discovering our common negative thoughts or distorted thought patterns can help change perspective in a healthy way. For instance, if you have a tendency towards using “all or nothing” thinking, you might chastise yourself after a small break from your weight loss strategy by saying to yourself, “I am NEVER going to lose the weight I want!” A more realistic and healthy way of talking to yourself is to say, “Okay, it was just one slip and it doesn’t mean I have completely derailed my strategy, I will do a little better tomorrow.”
Beliefs: It is a very unfortunate part of human nature that we tend to more easily believe negative thoughts, and the negative opinions of others, than we do the positive ones. It is as if negative thoughts are on a superhighway right to our core beliefs. Positive thoughts take a lot more effort to instill as beliefs about the self. The power our beliefs have is amazing.
Emotions: This one packs a lot of punch. Emotions sabotage our best efforts at weight loss in many ways. The term “emotional eating” is often used, and it describes the way we often eat because we are bored, angry, frustrated, lonely, sad, or any of the other uncomfortable feelings. It is very easy to get into a pattern of not being aware of whether you’re even hungry, and yet eating something – anything! – to soothe the discomfort you are feeling emotionally.
A counselor can help you discover where emotions, thoughts or beliefs may be blocking your weight loss goals. Working with a counselor can also help you stay motivated, provide someone to be accountable to, and he or she can also provide a compassionate and non-judgmental place for you to explore options that will work best for you.
Working with a counselor might also include talking about the following ideas:
Coping skills and self-care – Learning coping skills and self care are particularly important to combat emotional eating. We have a self-care handout on our website at http://www.littletonweightlosscounseling.com which may help you find ideas for self care that appeal to you.
Self-control – Learning self-control may be an area that could use some work, too. First take some time for introspection…which areas of your life are working well, and which are not? Can you identify differences that may be important – for instance if you can identify what helps you maintain self control in getting work done in your career, can you apply some of that to your weight loss efforts? You can ask others what works for them in areas that you struggle with. You can also try to gradually increase your ability to maintain self-control in difficult areas for you, a little at a time.
Other types of therapy/counseling – You may be a candidate for alternative types of counseling. Not every type of therapy works for every person, and there are many options. For instance, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) has traditionally been used for trauma recovery such as with military veterans but in recent years the use of this type of therapy has been expanded to many other uses. Our counselors sometimes use a type of EMDR called Performance Enhancement to take a person to a higher achievement level in reaching their goals, whatever those goals may be. Another option may be engaging in a group for weight loss counseling, or a general self-improvement group.
Self-esteem – One area that is closely tied to thoughts, beliefs and emotions is self-esteem, and this alone has a powerful effect on a person, often in many areas of life. If you decide to work on self-esteem in counseling, you may find that this alone changes your outlook on weight loss and weight management, while also improving your sense of self-worth and self-confidence.
Any of these ideas may become a part of counseling for you. Your situation is unique
Catherine Wilson, LPC