How often should we weigh ourselves and is it necessarily the best indicator of how healthy we are?
Having worked with many hundreds of weight loss clients I have witnessed the full range of human emotions at the weighing scales.
Do any of these resonate with you?
“Wow, I’ve lost more than I thought – all that hard work has paid off and I deserve a reward. I’ll have that chocolate bar I’ve been resisting all week”
“What? Is that all? I’ve worked so hard I can’t believe I’ve only lost that! What’s the point in carrying on? I’ve denied myself all week and for what? I might as well have that chocolate bar I’ve been resisting all week – in fact I’ll have two”
“How can the scales have stayed the same? I’ve been really good this week, honestly. There must be something wrong with the diet/scales. If I haven’t lost anything next week I’m giving up”
A recent study published by The Journal of Nutrition, Education and Behaviour has shown that while weighing can be a useful tool to help adults manage their weight it can have negative psychological outcomes for adolescents and young adults. The study found that increases in weighing can be significantly related to increases in weight concern and depression and decreases in body satisfaction and self esteem.
You can read the full article here: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-11/ehs-smb110315.php
I think we’ve been conditioned to believe that a number on the scales or the label on an item of clothing is all that we need to make us happy. Is this true? Ask yourself how you have felt when a size in one store fits perfectly but is too small in another store? The difference may be as much as 2 sizes. All that tells us is that manufacturers have different standards but the impact on our psychological well being can be very negative indeed.
So, what is the answer?
Look for other ways to measure how we are. Our clothes are the best indicator of all. If you find that your clothes are getting tight, do you need the scales to confirm what you already know?
I have met clients who believe that the only thing keeping them on track is weighing themselves every day. If it works then I am happy for them but if I’m honest, it feels like a prison sentence to me. My most successful weight management happens when I don’t weigh myself.
How about you?
Everywhere you turn at the moment you hear the term ‘Mindfulness’ but what exactly is it? The definition of Mindfullness given by Jon Kabat-Zinn a specialist in the modern day practice is “Mindfullness means paying attention in a particular way. On purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally.”
So, Mindfulness is the practice of being aware in every possible moment, while keeping a non-judgemental outlook and, at the same time, observing your own bodily and emotional responses. This state has been hailed as a great stress reducer and a calmer, more content way of living but what about Mindful Eating? Some people describe Mindful Eating as eating with your full and absolute attention to the look, taste and texture of the food. I believe Mindful Eating is so much more than that. The very fact that you are completely focused on the food will most probably reduce the number of calories you eat which is great. A full mindful eating experience should also include feeling the sensations in your body as you eat which should also include the emotion you feel before, during and after your meal.
And what about the triggers that make you decide what and when to eat.
- Was your body or mind telling you that you were hungry?
- Is the food nutritious , if not why did you choose it?
- Are you eating to feed an emotion or a physical hunger?
- If you close your eyes when you eat does it taste different?
- What is the difference in how you feel before you started eating and afterwards?
- What are your non-hunger triggers?
Answering these questions will give you a full Mindful Eating experience.
So how do we do it?
Well, there are a few techniques you could use but probably the easiest is to follow these few steps:
- If you are ready to eat, stop and check in with your body. Are you physically hungry?
- If you are, decide what to eat. Why did you choose that particular food?
- Always sit at a table to eat without TV, Tablet or phone
- Sit and look at the food for a minute, see its colour and texture.
- Eat slowly focusing on the flavour and texture of the food.
- Notice how you feel all the way through the meal and see if there is any difference between the start and finish.
Now I’m not suggesting you do this at every meal but if you just did this for one meal a day it would be of great benefit to you.
The emotional brain and how it impacts our eating habits
We all need to eat and drink to sustain our bodies but food also has a bigger role. Eating provides more than just sustenance, it can evoke powerful feelings, thoughts and memories.
Most of us have certain foods that give us comfort when we are ill or in need of it. For me, it has always been warm custard. When I think back I realise that this, along with attention, love and cuddles was what my mother gave me when I was ill as a child. Even now as an adult, I will turn to my comfort food when I’ve had a rough day. Take a moment and think about what foods you turn to when you feel the need for comfort.
When we try to understand why our diet sometimes goes wrong or we hear ourselves saying ‘Why did I eat that!’ it could be linked to our emotions. ‘Emotional eating’ is a term that we have all seen and heard about in the media over the last decade but what does it involve?
When I looked further into the emotional side of our brains I came across the term ‘ Amygdala hijack’ which was coined by Daniel Goleman in his 1996 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. He uses the term to describe emotional responses from people which are immediate and overwhelming, and out of context with the actual situation because it has triggered a much more significant emotional threat.
Basically what this comes down to is that a response from the emotional part of our brains makes us pay attention right now, we recognise that this is urgent and we deal with it immediately without stopping to think whether we should do this or not.
So if you have ever found yourself part way through your diet and having eaten foods that you know you shouldn’t have, quickly and without any real thought, it might well be your emotional brain that has decided this for you.
Different personality types will experience this differently and will also handle their response in very different ways.
So what can we do to make sure that this unhelpful pattern of behaviour does not continue? Well, the first step is to recognise when ,where and with whom these events happen. If it has happened once it is likely to happen again. It seems to me the way to start to control this is to recognise it, look at it in detail and prepare your response so you are ready for it when it happens again.