If you’re like me, Cornocation, or the stay-at-home order, was not kind to me and I gained some weight! I couldn’t go to the gym, someone else was going to the store for me so it made it a little difficult to choose things I wanted to eat, and I cared less about what I was eating. I’ve been told, many people were in the same boat. According to the CDC nearly half of all adults tried to lose weight within the last 12 months (Martin et al., 2018). Research also shows that U.S. Citizens spend about $60 billion dollars annually on trying to lose weight by joining gyms, joining weight loss programs, and buying diet food (Willaims. G., 2013). I also see many people in my office with goals of wanting to lose weight yet knowing all of the things that will help them to do so, and then doing none of them.
Your mental health could be an underlying factor in sabotaging your eating habits and it can lead to negative thoughts about yourself and your body, poor self-image and low self-worth. In some cases, I even see people with symptoms of depression and anxiety. I am not a nutritionist nor am I an expert in this area. But I can speak to the underlying mental health issues that accompany some people who feel they have gained too much weight and how it could be hindering their weight loss efforts.
Here are 3 ways your mental health might be sabotaging your eating or weight loss efforts:
I love learning and teaching people about how the brain works, nerdy I know. But I think it’s a great way to help people understand why they continue to do the same things over and over and expect a different result. The easiest way to explain this is, “the brain is like water and it goes the path of least resistance” This means that your brain likes to make things as easy as possible. Once a pathway is established in your brain, your brain will take that every time. When you make a significant change, it’s difficult because you are literally opening up a new pathway in your brain. For example, many years ago, I decided to give up soda. I liked regular soda even though everyone else in my family was drinking diet, and they were encouraging me to do the same. But I just couldn’t knowingly put all those chemicals in my body. I also knew regular soda had lots of sugar and chemicals too, so I decided to just give it up all together. The first several weeks were hard, then it became easier and easier. Now, I don’t even think about it. Because your brain likes to go the path of least resistance it may twist some truths and tell you:
It’s okay this time
You can start tomorrow
One more is not that big of a deal
You’ve already messed up for today, so just go for it
And on and on your brain can go, trying to convince you to just give up on your efforts. The SOLUTION here is to make a decision and stick with it. Try to start small or focus on one thing before adding the next. If I had decided to give up soda, refined sugar, chips and desserts, I would have failed. Instead, I decided to give up soda, and then when I felt ready, I made the next change. That way, I only had to fight back against one thing at a time instead of all of them at once and I didn’t feel deprived! Instead I was able to tell myself that this was a good thing and I would appreciate it in the long run.
I think it goes without saying that we see a lot of images everywhere that tell us how we should look. Social Media has made this even worse. Many people scroll through their news feeds and end up feeling depressed or anxious after what they see other people are doing. This is one way our thoughts can ramp up and get out of control, especially when it comes to eating. Some people might say:
I’m not as pretty/handsome as…
I wish I could look like that
I hate the way I look
When these thoughts get stuck in people’s heads they may begin to emotionally eat, eat without thinking and consume much larger amounts of food than they normally would. This is a type of black and white thinking. Black and white thinking means you’re thinking in extremes. For example, “I’ll never look like they look” or “I’ll never be able to lose this weight.” The truth is you more than likely can do something to change the way you’re eating or exercise so that you will feel good in the body you have. The SOLUTION then is to find something that works for you and stick with it. It could be taking a daily walk, not snacking between meals, eating salads for lunch or dinner, etc. Whatever it is, whenever the black and white thinking creeps in, you have some truth to speak back to it, like, “I took a walk today” or “I ate healthy at lunch today.”
Twisted Sense of Time
I think one of the biggest enemies of taking care of yourself is thinking that it will take too much time to make whatever change you’re hoping to make. Again, your brain wants to take the easy route because it knows what to expect and it thinks it’s “helping” you. In reality, it’s just trying to do the least amount of work possible. One of the biggest struggles people have when it comes to their eating is that they think they don’t have time to:
The truth is that people make time for what’s important to them. Last week, I had big plans to get up early and go to the store so I could prep for a week of healthy meals. I woke up in the morning with a raging sinus headache that took me out most of the day. At that point, I could have decided to just wait another week to try and eat healthy and instead, I made the healthiest choices I could give what I had available. The SOLUTION is to be kind to yourself and do the best that you can. Being kind to yourself will always get you further than berating and beating yourself up. I know, I just said always which is a form of black or white thinking but it’s true. Kindness always goes much further.
As a parent, I know when I’m feeling better about myself, I’m a better parent to my boys. I love helping parents untwist their thinking in all areas of parenting, especially parents of highly sensitive kids! I’m not currently taking new clients right now for therapy but I am still available to work with parents for coaching. I have a new parenting cohort starting in January. In this cohort you’ll get:
A free copy of my workbook for Highly Sensitive Kids
3 90-minute group parent coaching sessions, online once a month for 3 months
1 30 minute one on one phone call with me
1 SOS email
This is a great way to work with me and help you feel better equipped to parent your Highly Sensitive Kid(s)! You can sign up or get more information here.
I hope this helps you find the answer to questions about being realistic in making some healthy changes, like eating better, and how it might help improve your mental health. If you’re still feeling uneasy about this process, please feel free to contact me at 317.496.0456 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to hear what is happening and help you find the right fit for counseling. If you are looking for help with depression, anxiety, trauma or behavioral concerns, you can read more about how I can help at my website peacefamilycounseling.
Martin, C.B., Herrick, K.A., Sarafrazi, N., Ogden, C.L., (2018, July). Attempts to Lose Weight Among Adults in the United States, 2013–2016. National Center for Health Statistics. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db313.htm#:~:text=Nearly%20one%2Dhalf%20(49.1%25),40%E2%80%9359%20(52.4%25)
Williams, G. (2013, January 2). The Heavy Price of Losing Weight. U.S. News & World Report. https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2013/01/02/the-heavy-price-of-losing-weight