Are you being bombarded with all the “New Year, New You” weight loss promotions. Do these type of weight related goals set us up to fail? Weight loss isn’t just about diet and exercise, this belief only makes the problem worse writes Nutritionist and Holistic Counsellor, Fiona Kane.
In our society we treat weight issues as a simple equation of calories in, calories out believing that if we just eat less and exercise more, this will resolve our weight issues. Unfortunately it is much more complex, calories matter however they are usually one small part of a much larger issue. In many cases people use food for managing stress, numbing their feelings and finding comfort. Treating an emotional problem as just an equation is missing the point and failing people who need help with far more complex issues.
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Many of us use various ways of numbing, changing or running from our feelings, busyness is one of them. Also common is food, alcohol, smoking, drugs, gaming, shopping, gambling, binge watching and constantly scrolling social media. The same way we address other addictions and issues, we need to be aware that for many; weight problems need to be treated as an emotional issue, not a calorie issue.
If you use food as comfort, to relieve stress or make you feel better, you need to learn how to identify those feelings of discomfort that you are trying to change. You literally need to learn how to identify the feeling, sit with it and find healthier ways of managing those feelings/emotions. When an emotional eater goes on a diet without addressing these issues, it only makes the problem worse, as soon as the emotional eating begins (and of course it will), you feel like you have failed, often feeling shame and guilt about this wondering why you have no willpower. If you use food to deal with strong emotions then you will turn to food to deal with that shame so it becomes a never ending cycle. Every time you “fail” you feel more shame and less worthy and so it continues. If you don’t already, you will begin to have very negative and repetitive self-talk.
Unfortunately we often don’t get taught how to manage our emotions as children, in fact it is in childhood where we learn many of our numbing skills. Think of a situation where an adult uses an ice cream or other sweet food to get a child to stop crying. It would be healthy to sit with the child, listen to them, hug them and teach them how to identify and manage the feelings they are having. It is not usually what we do; because we don’t have the skills, we are often very uncomfortable with those strong emotions so we teach children how to comfort themselves with sweets so we are more comfortable.
To make it worse there is another problem with our society’s worship of the calories in/calories out theory. It often doesn’t work in many other health situations such as sleep issues, thyroid disease, insulin resistance and type II diabetes and other issues that affect the individual’s metabolic rate.
If you or someone you know is struggling with their weight, it is important to be aware of any health issues that may be contributing. It is also important that you acknowledge the emotional and stress factors and get appropriate help with those. Emotional issues and weight goal fails are not fixed with a diet, a gastric bypass or wonder drug.