Category: Weight Loss

    The Psychological Reason Diets Are Hard To Follow

    New study points to a radical new approach to dieting: choosing a diet you can actually enjoy!


    As every dieter knows, planning a diet and actually following through are two completely different things. A new psychological study reveals exactly why this is.

    The reason is that most people think their conscious thoughts and intentions will change their behaviour, when in fact they don’t.

    What really drives a lot of actual, real-world dieting behaviour is the emotions.

    Dr Marc Kiviniemi, a public health researcher at the University at Buffalo, explained:

    “The crux of the disconnect is the divide between thoughts and feelings. Planning is important, but feelings matter, and focusing on feelings and understanding their role can be a great benefit.

    If you’re sitting back conceiving a plan you may think rationally about the benefits of eating healthier foods, but when you’re in the moment, making a decision, engaging in a behavior, it’s the feelings associated with that behavior that may lead you to make different decisions from those you planned to make.”

    Weird diets which make you eat foods you don’t like or hardly any food at all are doomed to failure.

    Dr Kiviniemi continued:

    “First of all, the deprivation experience is miserable. If you didn’t associate negative feelings with it to start, you will after a few days. The other thing that’s important is the distinction between things that require effort and things that are automatic.

    Planning is an effort that demands mental energy, but feelings happen automatically. Deprivation or anything that demands a high degree of self-control is a cognitive process.

    If you put yourself in a position to use that energy every time you make a food choice that energy is only going to last so long.”

    Any potential diet should be centred around a radical approach: enjoying what you eat.

    Dr Kiviniemi said:

    “In the dietary domain, eating more fruits and vegetables is fabulous advice. But if you have negative feelings about those food choices, they might not represent elements of a good plan.

    It’s not just about eating healthy foods. It’s about eating the healthy foods you like the most.

    Think seriously about how you’re going to implement the plans you make to change your behavior, and that includes not only the feeling component, but how you plan to overcome a negative reaction that might surface during a diet.”

     

    Categories: behavioural psychology, health, Weight Loss

    Behaviour Key to Successful Weight Loss

    Behaviour key to successful weight lossBehaviour key to successful weight loss

    Learning about the nutritional value of food is not enough to achieve weight loss. Behaviour is key to successful weight loss.

    Learning to pay attention to your emotions is a more powerful weight-loss strategy than greater nutritional knowledge, a new study finds. 

    With obesity rates rising, many policy-makers argue that nutritional education will help people make better decisions.

    The new research, though, points to the greater benefits of learning to understand and respond to your own inner states over and above nutritional education.

    In one study, published in the Journal of Marketing Research, a group of people were given a nutritional knowledge course and they were taught to recognise basic emotions in both themselves and other people.

    A comparison group was given just the nutritional knowledge course.

    Part of the emotion training involved being presented with food products and asked to notice how this changed their own emotions, and those of other people.

    At the end of the training session participants were asked to choose a snack.

    Those who had had the emotion training were more likely to choose the healthier option.

    The reason the emotion training is so useful is that people generally find it hard to be objective and observe their emotions dispassionately.

    In another similar study reported in the same paper, people were followed over a three month period to see who lost weight.

    Those who had had the emotion training lost most weight in comparison to a control group, and in comparison to those who had received the nutritional knowledge course.

    Part of the reason the emotion training works is it breaks down an automatic link in people’s minds between foods being unhealthy and foods being tasty.

    Without this automatic link, and by recognising the emotions associated with certain foods, it’s easier to make more healthy choices.

    The study’s authors said:

    “Consumers are often mindless.

    We not only demonstrate that emotional ability is trainable and that food choices can be enhanced, but also that emotional ability training improves food choices beyond a nutrition knowledge training program.”

    They conclude:

    “With a better understanding of how they feel and how to use emotions to make better decisions, people will not only eat better, they will also likely be happier and healthier because they relate better to others and are more concerned with their overall well-being.”

    The Psychological Key to Weight Loss

    behavioural therapy

    No, it’s not exercise! Ninety percent of people ignore psychological well-being as a factor in weight loss

    Most of us think diet and exercise — especially exercise — is actually the key to weight loss.

    In fact lack of exercise is not the cause of obesity, it is too many calories,  refined carbs and too much sugar. This may explain why most people who manage to lose weight, soon put it straight back on.

    Dr Diane Robinson, a neuropsychologist at Orlando Health, said:

    “Most people focus almost entirely on the physical aspects of weight loss, like diet and exercise.

    But there is an emotional component to food that the vast majority of people simply overlook and it can quickly sabotage their efforts.”

    The survey of over a thousand Americans found that:

    • 31% thought lack of exercise was the biggest barrier to weight loss.
    • 26% said it was what you eat.
    • 17% thought it was down to the high costs of being healthy.
    • 12% guessed that lack of time stopped people losing weight.

    Only 10%, though, supported the idea that psychological well-being was important in weight loss.

    The Psychological Key to Weight Loss

    Dr Robinson said:

    “That may explain why so many of us struggle.

    In order to lose weight and keep it off long term, we need to do more than just think about what we eat, we also need to understand why we’re eating.”

    The emotional connection most people have built up with food is surprisingly powerful.

    Learning to understand this connection can be more useful even than learning about the nutritional value of food.

    Dr Robinson explained:

    “If we’re aware of it or not, we are conditioned to use food not only for nourishment, but for comfort.

    That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, as long as we acknowledge it and deal with it appropriately.”

    Perhaps worst of all, comfort food doesn’t even actually improve our mood, research has found.

    Dr Robinson provides three tips for those looking to understand their emotional connection with food:

    1. Keep a daily diary of food and mood. Look it over for any patterns which emerge. For example, are there particular foods attached to particular moods?
    2. Spot the foods that make you feel good. Is it about evoking a memory or are you eating from stress?
    3. Before eating, think: do I need this because I’m hungry or is it something else (like stress). If it’s stress, food isn’t the way to deal with it.

    Fiona Wilkinson