As anybody knows who has tried to lose weight, once you have made up your mind to start a diet, you can shed pounds in a few weeks. The real trick is to avoid putting the weight back on when you come off the diet and start eating normally again.
Why We Gain Weight
Diets work by restricting calories whether it is done by calorie counting, low fat, low carbs or only eating yoghurt and banana. Effectively what you are doing is eating fewer calories than your body needs for fuel. Increasing the amount of exercise helps with this too.
One of the problems with reducing calories is that your body’s primitive regulatory mechanism goes into ‘famine mode’. It behaves as if the crops have failed and the sabre tooth tigers have all migrated elsewhere. In extreme cases, can start burning muscle instead of fat – a bad, possibly dangerous, situation. The trick is to diet gently, aiming to lose 1 to 2lbs a week and keep your metabolism up by exercising.
OK, you have now reached your target weight. You’ve been on the clothes buying spree and you’ve eaten the creamy chocolate cake in celebration. Back to earth with a bump now, your body wants to store as many calories in fat cells as it can, just in case there is another famine—so how do you keep the weight off?
The thing that you can be certain of, it was your old eating habits that piled on the pounds. If you return to those, you will be up to your old weight again very quickly.
The Psychology of Weight Gain and Dieting
Overeating happens in the head before we ever put a bite in our mouths. How can we change our thinking so that our old eating habits can become a thing of the past and we can maintain the new slimline body?
The first thing to do is to decide why you overeat. Don’t make excuses – my mother is overweight so it runs in the family, I’ve got a low metabolism, I’ve got big bones, etc. Tell yourself the truth – you eat too much otherwise you wouldn’t be overweight!
You might well find that it does run in families but not because of a ‘fat’ gene but because of the psychology of food. Let’s look at some of the most common reasons for over eating.
- Food = love, your mother loved you so she made you big meals and lots of sweet calorific food
- Because food = love, when things go wrong in your life or you are feeling a bit depressed, a bar of chocolate or cream cake will make you feel better
- You now make your family big meals to show them how much you love them and you eat the big meals too
- As a child, you were made to ‘clean your plate’ so now it feels like a sin to ‘waste’ food
There are other reasons to overeat:
- You have had a severe disappointment or knockback in life, perhaps a failed love affair or marriage, now you don’t want to open yourself to hurt like that again so your subconscious tells you to eat and get fat. It’s like armour, nobody will find you attractive so you won’t get hurt again
- You have become somewhat overweight and feel you can’t get back on the diet treadmill again so think you have nothing to lose by continuing to pile on the pounds.
Only you can examine your innermost feelings to find out what the real reasons are for your eating habits.
Once you have decided what has brought you to this situation, how can you change?
- If you hate leaving food on your plate, practise doing it. Whenever you eat, make sure you leave at least one mouthful on the plate.
- When you want to show somebody how much you love them, don’t cook a big dinner or chocolate cake, instead buy a bunch of flowers and say “I love you”. In other words, think of something else you can do to please them that doesn’t involve food.
- When you want to cheer yourself up, don’t reach for the chocolate, why not buy yourself some flowers, a CD, expensive soap, bubble bath or clothes? In other words, make your comfort the non-food variety.
- If you have used your weight as protection, get a bestfriend to help you choose flattering clothes once you have lost some weight. Get an expensive new hairdo, have a manicure. See how delightful it can be to take pride in your appearance. Tell yourself, if you are scared, “I can be the heartbreaker not the heartbroken!”
- If you are very overweight, make a start, see how much better you feel when you lose just a few pounds. The more you lose, the higher your self esteem will go. Being overweight doesn’t make you a bad or stupid person but it is bad for your self esteem. Do whatever you can to build it. Do things at which you really excel and take pride in them and yourself.
- Above all, get into the habit of eating because you are hungry, not because it’s lunch or dinner time and then stop before you are full.
Tips for maintaining your weight
- To get yourself used to the amount you should eat to maintain your weight, keep calorie counting for a few weeks but make the target daily calories the total you need for fuel, not less, not more.
- If you overeat a little one day, cut back a little the next day.
- Never ever eat until you feel absolutely stuffed.
- Never eat because somebody presses you to have ‘just one more’.
- Get used to eating a piece of fruit if you need a snack.
- When you are tempted to binge, remember fat people are more at risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Contract any of these diseases and a weight maintenance diet will seem like a picnic!