If you’ve tried to force your body into a smaller size through quick fix methods, starvation, dieting, or shaming, you’ve probably discovered that these methods are not long-term, sustainable solutions. Instead of allowing our body to be its natural size and shape based on our values and lifestyle, we convince ourselves that life will somehow be better with a different size and shape. And so we shame ourselves into some ideal that, ultimately, feels unsustainable. This method doesn’t work long-term — eventually we give up because it’s too difficult, or too destructive.
Here are four secrets everyone trying to lose weight should know:
1. Being overly obsessed about weight loss is counter-productive
The body is engineered to seek repeatable habits, and works best under conditions of relaxation, trust, and security. Being overly obsessed about weight loss is counter-productive because it keeps us in a constant state of stress about food and our bodies. This stress interferes with both digestion and metabolism.
When we focus on what we think is wrong with us, we start to feel worse about ourselves, not better. Our digestion slows down, pleasure decreases, and our worlds whittle down to focus on the numbers and statistics about food, rather than the experience of our lives.
Stress is counterproductive to weight loss. As a steady stream of the stress hormone cortisol fills our blood stream, our body shuts down digestion, and tension in our body increases to prepare to fight or flee. Our body gets tired from over-producing insulin in reaction to extra glucose in the blood stream from stress, and we become fatigued. We set our body to store fat rather than metabolize it. We engage in a battle with our body.
Wouldn’t it be nicer to be in harmony with your body, utilizing the principles of Dynamic Eating Psychology? Imagine allowing yourself realistic food expectations and enough energy to live your life with passion and enjoyment. What would it be like to trust that your body could metabolize food and life if you gave it the proper nourishment? Imagine the freedom that can come from making a choice and letting it go so you can focus on your life!
2. Quick fix methods seldom last for long
In business, “get rich quick” schemes don’t work. Some may have short-term luck, but if there is not a foundation of relationships built over time, a systemized strategy for long-term goals, and ethical principles guiding decisions, the business becomes top-heavy and fails. The reputation of its owner is destroyed. There may be lawsuits or unpaid debts without the asset of the business to pay them. What looked like a shortcut on the front end has cost much more than the hard work and perseverance required to plant the seeds and watch them grow in the long run.
The same is true for long-term success with managing a healthy body weight. Bodies function in homeostatic equilibrium. If our set point weight starts moving, the first thing our body does is get hungry to replace those calories to maintain our weight. This is how we survive. If we train our body that the conditions are “feast or famine,” we set ourselves up to binge after a period of starvation. This is why, often, people who diet will not only gain the weight they lost back, but a few more pounds as well.
3. Highly restrictive diets inevitably backfire
If we starve our body into submission through a cleanse or unrealistic diet, sure, we may see some initial weight loss, but ultimately our body will seek pleasure. That hardwiring for pleasure is much stronger than any thought or concept we hold. If we rob our body of the pleasure of flavor or satisfaction, we begin to obsess over the foods we won’t allow. This can actually consume our inner lives. We start to feel dissatisfied, like we are white knuckling until the next unsatisfying food experience. Just like teens can want to do whatever parents have told them not to, the foods we make taboo suddenly become a lot more appealing.
Instead of starving ourselves, we can allow foods in moderation, so long as the food or dose doesn’t harm us due to allergies, sensitivities, or medical conditions. If chocolate gives you pleasure, flavor and/or that feeling of bonding, then allow an amount that can satisfy the craving. When we’re present while eating and allowing for pleasure and variety, we often don’t need much to satisfy our cravings. Our bodies often crave foods for reasons we may not completely understand. They have wisdom of their own.
4. Loving yourself no matter what you weigh is a great place to start
And finally, one of the cornerstones of our message at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating: love yourself no matter what you weigh. So much of the torture we put ourselves through while dieting or self-punishing is so that we can attain some symbol, represented by our body, that we are worthy of love. But, when it comes down to it, human beings want to be loved unconditionally. So, why do we put conditions on ourselves that we are only loveable if we attain some ideal?
Rather than punishing ourselves to perfection, we can love ourselves exactly as we are. Our body and psyche will respond, over time, to that knowing. It’s a much more sustainable plan, because we build trust with ourselves and with our body, over time, that we are worthy of love no matter what. And the best part is that we can make that decision right here and now.