Failure to lose weight: Anxiety and guilt as triggers for eating
As January runs its course and many new year resolutions began to fall away, you might start to feel guilty that you’ve failed. Guilt may then turn into feelings of anxiety. Why couldn’t I stick to my resolution? Are people seeing me as a weak and pathetic failure? What if I can’t do my job properly either?
Resolutions and anxiety
Anxiety can creep up and affect many areas of life; it can cause you to feel miserable, inadequate and scared. These feelings of helplessness leave us with the need to alleviate them by whatever means is to hand, and often that means food and eating. Eating foods high in sugar and fat is easy! They taste good, they feel good in the mouth and they fill you up... what’s not to like? They really do make you feel better because they release dopamine, a feel-good hormone, in the brain, but the effect is short-lived and is usually followed by increased feelings of guilt - and so the cycle goes around.
When the best resolutions to lose weight and eat more healthily fail, the result is often weight gain and an increase in unhealthy eating. Perhaps this is happening to you - that new year diet worked at first, you may have lost several pounds and felt great; ‘Hey it’s working’ you thought! But then that weight-loss slowed and probably stopped after a couple of weeks; you lost heart and felt that nothing you did to lose more weight was working. You may have found that diets don’t work, and it’s true that for most people dieting is not the answer to weight loss and a healthy eating plan. Even diets that achieve a decent weight-loss often fail in the long-term. Weight-loss diets are based on deprivation and lots of food rules, and for most people, this soon causes feelings of stress and guilt when you slip off the plan; it is not a long-term answer to keeping healthy. It is rare to find someone who has only ever been on a single, successful diet!
How much better would it be to learn about how your body uses food, what foods can be of benefit every day and which ones can be kept as treats? I believe that the answer to a healthy relationship with food is to understand it and to work with your body, not against it. Nutrition for health, education in eating, and an understanding of what caused the problem of overweight in the first place.
Recognising your relationship with food
Being overweight or obese can be the result of plain and simple over-eating and can be helped by learning about food and how much of each food group you need to eat to keep healthy and happy. However, problems of overweight and obesity can also be the result of underlying unhappiness or past trauma that has not been properly worked through and dealt with. To alleviate these problems, some counselling alongside nutritional therapy can be extremely effective in achieving weight loss and a healthy eating plan.
Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between over-eating and an eating disorder, and both can have the same sort of underlying roots. The experiences that we have as we go through life can stay with us and help to form our behaviour. Sometimes we don’t even realise that this is happening to us. Over-eating, for example, may be the result of a failure to be taught about food and portion size when you were young. If no-one ever regulated your intake of sweets and crisps, if your school didn’t teach the basics of the digestive system and if you’ve now developed a habit of finishing up the children’s left-overs, then weight gain may be inevitable.
Eating disorder support
An eating disorder on the other hand, such as bulimia, binge-eating or anorexia, may stem from a loss of control in other areas of your life or maybe as a result of hurtful and deeply felt comments or events from the past that still affect how you feel and think about yourself. Counselling can help to pinpoint the underlying issues, and they can then be examined, talked through and perhaps put into a new perspective that will allow you to move on with your life.
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