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How a Psychologist Can Help You Lose Weight

Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist 
Why is it that despite starting off with the best intentions, so many of us fail when we go on a diet?
Often the answer to this question is that our goals around health and weight loss are unrealistic or difficult to maintain. Imagine  you are playing a sport and every time you attempted to kick a goal you continued to fall short. After a while, you begin to ask the question “What’s the point?” and then you come to the conclusion of giving up.
Diet and exercise often fall into this category. So instead of aiming for the same goal, the idea is to move the goal posts closer. So in practical terms, if you haven’t been exercising at all, it’s not realistic to expect that you will do intensive one hour exercise sessions 5 times a week. Rather it would be more practical to aim for a mild to moderate exercise session of 1 to 2 times a week. Once you are successful with maintaining this, then you can either increase the intensity, duration or frequency. It is also best to try and set your exercise sessions at the same time and day as let’s face it, we are creatures of habit!
Now what to do about eating?…
Eating is one of those essential activities we must do. It is very tempting to go on a popular diet but not always practical, and it often doesn’t teach us what we need to eat when we reach our goal weight. An easier way to begin controlling your diet and reducing your energy intake is to begin to be mindful of what you are eating, when, how, how much, how often and what are your thoughts about it.
Below are some simple tips on mindful eating habits that are likely to lead to weight loss and maintenance.

  1. Be sure to notice what food you are eating. Observe the textures, taste, smell and even sound. The more you observe, often the more satisfied you feel.
  2. Ask yourself “Am I hungry?” Often we eat simply out of habit rather than need.
  3. Make eating a purposeful activity. Attempt to avoid eating food on the run or whilst doing other activities as this often discounts the experience of ingesting and enjoying food.
  4. Be mindful of the energy content of food and drinks. If unsure, look it up as often this information is quite enlightening and can clarify a source of previously discounted kilojoules. Don’t mistake fat free or gluten free for being kilojoule free!
  5. Monitor your weight weekly. Without this feedback, it is difficult to know if you are on the right track.
  6. Observe your inner experience. Research indicates that it takes on average 15-20 minutes for the stretch receptors in our stomach to send a message of satiety to our brain. So before you rush off for a second helping, maybe wait and see.
  7. Finally be mindful of your self talk. Take a self compassionate viewpoint. Gently encourage yourself as you would a friend if you make some poorer choices or do not have the expected weight loss. Avoid the “all or nothing approach” as many people will give up their new regime as soon as they have missed something.

Remember, to win the war, you may need to lose a few battles.
Each day is a new experience and presents a new opportunity.
Be kind and nurture yourself.
To read more about Kathryn and our team of Clinical Psychologists, view her profile here.