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Weight Loss Psychology: Myths and Facts

Feb 9, 2017Psychology, Counselling & Psychotherapy, Weight Loss0 comments

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Many of us have strongly-held beliefs around weight, hunger, and the psychology behind weight loss. Unfortunately, many of these beliefs are a result of information we have been given since childhood, from less than reliable sources. Our understanding of psychology, weight loss and health have evolved in recent decades, and yet many of the myths around weight loss psychology remain.  

Why is weight loss psychology important?

There are many biological theories that have come and gone over the years, which attempted to explain when, why and how we feel hungry. Theories such as insulin theory, fatty acid theory and blood glucose theory have all been examined as the reasons behind our hunger response; and therefore our ability to control our weight. All have been largely disproven as we begin to realise that despite the biological factors at play, our psychology has a lot to do with when and how we eat and exercise.

Here are 3 myths and facts around weight loss psychology, when it comes to eating and exercise:

Myth #1 – When our stomach is full, we are no longer hungry

This myth has been overwhelmingly disproven. Although our stomach and brain both give us biological cues about when to eat and when to stop, these cues are often overridden by psychological factors. Many of us experience a feeling of hunger even shortly after we have eaten, just as we often will not eat for hours and fail to recognise that we are hungry. Psychological cues about hunger are more powerful than we give them credit for – and can contribute more strongly to our hunger responses than our biological cues.

Myth#2 – Overweight people have poor impulse control

Unfortunately, our understanding of weight and health are still largely misunderstood. It is virtually impossible to tell how healthy someone is just by looking at them. There are many factors which may affect a person’s weight, despite how well they eat or even how much they exercise. In reverse, it is also erroneous to assume that someone who is slim is therefore healthier than someone whose BMI rests in the ‘overweight’ category. Eating and exercise are not the only factors that determine our health; other harmful activities such as smoking and drinking alcohol to excess, as well as blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol can also greatly contribute to poor health.

The psychological ability or inability to recognise when we are full is not determined by our weight. Difficulty with impulse control (over-eating or bingeing) or in knowing when to stop eating can occur in people on both ends of the weight spectrum.

Myth #3 – To lose weight, I just need to exercise more and eat less

While it is true that exercise and healthy eating are important factors in maintaining a healthy lifestyle – it is not that simple for many people. How many times have you tried a diet and exercise program, only to quit after a few weeks? There are many reasons that contribute to a lack of motivation to maintain our weight loss programs. Psychological factors play an enormous role in our ability to create, execute and maintain an effective weight loss strategy. Unfortunately, trying to do this alone can be very difficult for a lot of people. Fortunately, there is help available!

Fact #1 – Exercise alone is not an effective weight loss strategy

Exercising is an important tool in maintaining not only a healthy weight, but a healthy lifestyle in general; it is key to maintaining our long-term health. However, exercise alone is often not enough to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Spending hours in the gym every week may be a great benefit to your body; however, continuing to eat unhealthily or live an otherwise unhealthy or stressful lifestyle will have a negative impact on your health. Having an effective, holistic weight loss strategy in place is very important. Knowing what to expect, such as peaks and troughs in motivation, and the reasons behind our cravings is important. Fortunately, there are experts who can help you to develop a weight loss program, tailored to suit your individual needs and goals.

Fact #2 – Diets do not work! 

You’ve heard of so many different diets that claim to guarantee amazing weight loss results! Unfortunately, many of them are complete nonsense. However, the real reasons that diets do not work is that they are unrealistic, restrictive and not meant for the long-term. What you really need to lose weight in a healthy and maintainable way is a healthy eating strategy; an eating plan that is not just a diet, but a way of life. Creating this kind of a plan on your own can be very difficult, and it is a good idea to consult an weight loss psychology expert who not only understands the possible hurdles involved, but can also tailor a plan to suit you as an individual.

Fact #3 – You are not alone! 

You do not have to tackle the minefield of weight loss, diet and exercise alone! Experts in psychology, nutrition and health & fitness can work together, in consultation with you, and ensure that you’re never left feeling helpless on your weight loss journey.

The Gold Coast psychologists at Integrated Health Specialists have developed a number of weight loss programs to help you achieve your goals. Available to you are a team of three coaches including a health & fitness coach, a naturopath and your psychologist, who will work together to tailor you a program based on your needs, your situation and your weight loss goals. Together, these three experts can work with you to not only help you develop a diet and exercise strategy, but also to help you understand your psychological hurdles, as well as understand your body’s needs in terms of nutrition. This holistic approach means that all aspects of your weight loss – nutrition, exercise, and psychology – are understood and you are never left feeling overwhelmed.

Michelle van Namen

Author: Michelle van Namen