Why do I need to go and see a counsellor or psychotherapist if I want to lose weight? I don’t have a mental health problem, I don’t have anything distressing in my life that I need to talk about.
That’s a fair enough question. However, when people come to counselling part of the process can be to understand WHY we DO or DO NOT do certain things.
One major aspect that is continually ignored by the majority of weight loss systems is the importance of psychological factors. Most people are aware of how they need to change their behaviour in order to maintain a healthy weight – increased motivation, more exercise, eating habits, controlling emotional eating for instance. However, none of them, as far as I have seen, help you if you have tried and failed to do this. They don’t give you the means to understand WHY you have been unable to change.
According to a recent report by the British Psychological Society, “obesity is as much a psychological issue as a physical condition.” www.bps.org.uk/system/files/documents/obesity_report_2011.pdf
Both the NICE guidelines 2006 and the SIGN guidelines 2010 stress the need to incorporate both cognitive and behavioural aspects in any suitable weight control programme. Unfortunately, many weight programmes (including some run on the NHS) only focus on changing behaviour by use of operant conditioning.
What is missing in these programmes is the fact that some of our behaviours are shaped by our beliefs, values and experiences. If we are to have any chance of changing our behaviour we need to understand which behaviours are due to our unhelpful beliefs and which are down to our normal psych-biological functioning. Once we are aware of these things we can learn to alter our unhelpful beliefs and work with, rather than against our own bodies.
That’s where a suitably qualified therapist can help. We can work together to really get to the bottom of your lack of motivation, staying power or your perceived unhealthy relationship with food. Once we know why you have failed in the past, we can then move on to help you learn the techniques that will work.
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