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Why Diets Fail… And What to Do About It

If you have been on countless diets before and lost weight only to gain it back (plus some extra pounds) - you are not alone! Let me share some relevant research with you: “Long-term weight management of obesity remains a very difficult task, associated with high risk of failure and weight regain.” -Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy 2016: 9 37-46)

A survey asked 1,328 psychologists which strategies were essential to losing weight and keeping it off. They cited:

  • Understanding and managing the behaviors and emotions related to weight management. (44 %)

  • Emotional Eating (43 %) as a barrier to weight loss.

  • More than 70 % identified cognitive therapy, problem-solving and mindfulness as “excellent or “good” weight loss strategies. - Online poll by the Consumer Reports National Research Center in partnership with experts provided by American Psychological Association. (APA, APRIL 2013, Vol 44, No. 4. Print version: page 15)

My first invitation to you is to let go of guilt, shame or a sense of failure, and literally “trash” those negative thoughts about yourself. I have often said that we don’t need more discipline - we need more nurturing. Diets per definition are restrictive and can be perceived as punitive.

Many of my clients have shared with me that they experienced a ‘high’ at the beginning of a new diet, coupled with feelings of strength, optimism and confidence. But after a while a sense of deprivation and resentment would set in, followed by breaking the diet and rebelling against a pattern, which simply seemed too harsh and unmanageable in everyday life.

So, how can you lose weight without dieting? Let me propose that there is another way, a much gentler, kinder journey, which allows for a deeper examination of a person’s individual life experiences and “programming” around food. My treatment model is deeply grounded in positive psychology, self-compassion and mindfulness principles.

Former yo-yo dieters can learn to explore and understand the true need when they reach for a snack and aren’t physically hungry. Eating for emotional survival was part of their way of coping with anxious, stressful, empty or sad feelings for many years, sometimes even a lifetime.

In many cases emotional eating has served as a soothing, calming or even “numbing” ritual - a “time out” from emotional or physical pain, or having to deal with a feeling of overwhelm or anxiety. Addiction research suggests that every addict is after the “trance” state, which makes a lot of sense to me. When feelings are too intense the human tendency is to escape and check out.

This behavior deserves compassion and loving attention. How can you learn to replace the eating instead of feeling ritual? By paying loving attention to your “inner child” you can gently explore new ways of helping yourself through challenging situations. Inner child work can mean that you give to yourself what wasn’t given to you when you were little: A safe emotional connection, nurturing, a sense of safety. It is never too late to become the person you needed the most. This kind of inner work takes time and can’t be rushed.

By addressing the core need when the urge to numb, escape or “check out” arises, food as a mood regulator will lose its power over time. A general sense of wellbeing and self-empathy may emerge a few months into the program. I have witnessed that approximately three four months into my program a “shift” occurs.

Clients experience a greater sense of calm, inner peace and self-acceptance, and a reduction of punishing negative self-talk. The need to reach for food when they are not physically hungry greatly diminishes. The new healthy rituals have started taking the place of the familiar ritual of eating when feeling stressed, bored or lonely. The inner reservoir of self-compassion and self-nurturing gets fuller, and the need to take the “edge off” and numb with food weakens throughout the therapeutic process.

Allow me to be your guide and support you on a health- and wellness journey, which is the opposite of dieting - designed to help you feel lighter in every aspect of your life.

With compassion,

~ Petra


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