People don’t realize that their mind and emotions are a huge part of their weight gain. Think about your average diet on a stressful day versus one that is relatively calm. We clearly tend to make poorer eating choices when we are stressed. Even researchers have noticed the effect that our state of mind can have on our diets.
Studies notice that people who experience chronically stressful conditions actually end up with unhealthy eating patterns. Eventually, they may even gain weight.1 And that’s not all. People who show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more likely to be obese.2
It’s clear that taking care of your mental and psychological health can make a huge difference in our eating patterns. Here are some strategies to make sure your mind and emotions don’t sabotage your diet.
1. Art And Writing Therapy
This form of therapy uses drawing, painting, and writing as healthy forms of expression and exploration. Studies show that it greatly helps improve mental health in those who have experienced stress or trauma.3 If your unhealthy eating habits are a result of stress, try drawing or writing out what your stressors are on a piece of paper. Then tear the piece of paper or burn it. Seeing a physical form of your worries being destroyed can help relieve some stress.
Research also shows that people who wrote for 15 minutes a day affirming themselves and their values, lost more weight than those who did not.4 In your writing sessions, speak to yourself positively about your capabilities, goals, and achievements. You’ll feel much more motivated to keep going.
2. Complementary Alternative Medicine
Complementary alternative medicine(or CAM) is all about ridding the body of negative energies through spiritual and emotional healing techniques. They are designed to help an individual feel and visualize the negative energy in the body to be able to release it. A major aspect of weight loss is about having a holistic mind with positive thoughts. These techniques when adopted can help you achieve positivity and good control of the mind.5 Both are essential qualities to help you gain control over your cravings and binge eating cycles. You can try these visualization techniques yourself or seek the help of a professional therapist.
Mindfulness is the practice of becoming more aware of one’s own body and it’s surroundings. In the context of weight loss, mindful eating is encouraged. With mindful eating, a person learns to eat only when really hungry, to relish every bite, and to eat slowly. This means that when you sit down to a meal, you don’t do anything but eat and focus on just your food. You’ll find that you eat a lot less than you normally would than if you ate in front of a television or laptop.
The idea of this practice is to help a person control their responses to cravings and gain control of their eating.6 Studies have shown that patients who want to lose weight, benefit significantly when provided mindfulness training.7
4. Alternative Actions
Here is a simple scenario. You love sugary treats, but on your diet, they were one of the first things off the list. Inevitably, you will end up craving them. You can either cave into the urge or find a way to curb it. This method shows you the way to do just that. It encourages you to start doing something to distract your mind. It can be music, painting, yoga, going for a walk, or even just watching a movie. While doing so, avoid any potential triggers. If you’re watching TV, stay away from the food channel so your craving doesn’t get worse. Whatever activity you choose, make sure it’s something that keeps you engaged.
There are other simple habits you can cultivate. Practice positive thinking, learn to say no, and make contracts with yourself for when you achieve a milestone. For example, you could gift yourself a treat or a small gift once you achieve a goal like losing a few pounds, and that can motivate you to keep going. Try any of these options to gain control of your mind and keep the mindless eating at bay. It will help you win a major battle over weight gain.
|↑1||Torres, Susan J., and Caryl A. Nowson. “Relationship between stress, eating behavior, and obesity.” Nutrition 23, no. 11 (2007): 887-894.|
|↑2||Kubzansky, Laura D., Paula Bordelois, Hee Jin Jun, Andrea L. Roberts, Magdalena Cerda, Noah Bluestone, and Karestan C. Koenen. “The weight of traumatic stress: a prospective study of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and weight status in women.” JAMA psychiatry 71, no. 1 (2014): 44-51.|
|↑3||Pizarro, Judith. “The efficacy of art and writing therapy: Increasing positive mental health outcomes and participant retention after exposure to traumatic experience.” Art Therapy 21, no. 1 (2004): 5-12.|
|↑4||Logel, Christine, and Geoffrey L. Cohen. “The role of the self in physical health: Testing the effect of a values-affirmation intervention on weight loss.” Psychological Science 23, no. 1 (2012): 53-55.|
|↑5||Benor, Daniel J. “Energy medicine for the internist.” Medical Clinics of North America 86, no. 1 (2002).|
|↑6||Katterman, Shawn N., Brighid M. Kleinman, Megan M. Hood, Lisa M. Nackers, and Joyce A. Corsica. “Mindfulness meditation as an intervention for binge eating, emotional eating, and weight loss: a systematic review.” Eating behaviors 15, no. 2 (2014): 197-204.|
|↑7||Olson, KayLoni L., and Charles F. Emery. “Mindfulness and weight loss: a systematic review.” Psychosomatic medicine 77, no. 1 (2015): 59-67.|