You have all heard the expression, “you are what you eat.” A recently released study by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, may have us spinning that to “you are why you eat.”
Diet and weight loss professionals have long pointed to the link between emotions and food to explain everything from stress overeating to eating disorders. This study takes a much closer look at the psychological relationships we all have with food, and how emotional states can either interfere with or improve weight loss results. The survey of psychologists concluded that emotional states can affect successful weight loss as much as food intake and exercise!
In the study, more than 1,300 licensed psychologists were asked about how they deal with patients who come to them with weight issues. About 44 percent said that “understanding and managing the behaviors and emotions related to weight management” was critically important for clients struggling with weight.
Almost as many, about 43 percent, felt that “emotional eating” was behind their clients’ initial weight gain and difficulty in “maintaining a regular exercise schedule.” Almost 100 percent of those psychologists in the survey who specifically provide obesity counseling said that one of the main goals of therapy was to, “address underlying emotional issues related to weight gain.”
What Emotional Health Professionals Advise About Weight Loss
The psychologists surveyed employed a number of techniques to help their patients come to grips with emotional eating. Strategies included things such as cognitive therapy, problem-solving, and mindfulness.
In cognitive therapy, people are taught to identify and replace negative thoughts and emotions with positive emotions, the idea being that people who think negative emotions are more likely to have unhealthy food-habits. Mindfulness, as you know if you read my recent post on “Mindful Eating,” has to do with becoming more focused and “mindful” of how and why you eat, including being more aware of your emotions.
In a statement released in response to the study, Norman B. Anderson, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Psychological Association, said, “Anyone who has ever tried to lose a few pounds and keep them off knows that doing so isn’t easy. The good news is that research and clinical experience have shown that, in addition to behavioral approaches, cognitive behavioral therapy that targets emotional barriers helps people lose weight.”
“Although it is generally accepted that weight problems are most often caused by a combination of biological, emotional, behavioral and environmental issues, these new results show the key role of stress and emotional regulation in losing weight. Therefore, the best weight loss tactics should integrate strategies to address emotion and behavior as well as lifestyle approaches to exercise and making healthy eating choices,” added Anderson.