The professional literature on dieting is somewhat discouraging. Statistics show that dieting is often unsuccessful. People lose weight, but quickly regain what they lost, and frequently even more. This “yo-yo” effect is frustrating to doctors as well as those of us who hope to lose the extra pounds.
A recent article in Psychology Today examined this phenomenon, and suggested ways to improve your chances of successful weight loss.
As a baseline, eliminate the word “diet” from your vocabulary. Diets don’t work. The very word shifts your perception from neutral to a fear of deprivation. Your body responds to the word; the more strict the diet, the more the body moves to resist.
When your body is deprived of food, it goes into survival mode. The fewer calories you consume, the more your body slows your metabolism. At the same time, your body releases leptin, a hormone that increases appetite and hunger. Consequently, you eat more. Then you become discouraged, which prompts emotional eating. Now you’re eating more to comfort yourself, rather than in response to actual hunger.
Willpower is a myth. Your body and your unconscious will always win. Depriving yourself will never lead to success. There is a much more hopeful strategy.
Often when people begin a diet, they are motivated by a sense of shame and despair. The process of dieting, based as it is on an idea that you are not good enough as you are, is humiliating and shame inducing. If you are going to be successful, you must reframe your thinking.
You can do that by thinking of losing weight as a way to heal yourself, to do something good for yourself because you are inherently lovable and deserving. This mindset will help you sustain the two things you must have to be successful in losing weight. They are:
Make a plan for a gentle, slow and sustainable weight loss. It’s good to start by planning to release no more than a pound a week. Think if every pound you lose as a gift to yourself, and restoration of your body’s innate ability to regulate itself. As you become more conscious and attuned to your body, letting go of weight will feel more and more natural and easy. When you remove the pressure to lose a lot of weight at once, it is possible to feel optimistic.
Remember that as you lose weight, at a gently, manageable pace you are reclaiming power over your body. One of the most painful things about being overweight is the feeling of having no power to change things. Set health goals for yourself each week, and as you achieve those, you can think in terms of your goals for the month, and the next year. As you lose weight gradually, you will be resetting your metabolism. When you do, you reclaim agency over your own health and well-being.