Health Psychology – The Psychology of Weight Management

Health Psychology - Weight Management

According to the CDC or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 33% of American adults are overweight. For children, 1 out of 6 suffers from obesity. Weight gain can be caused by many factors –unhealthy diet, a sedentary lifestyle, or the sudden occurrence of an injury which keeps the individual from being active.

In theory, losing weight is easy. By eating healthily and exercising regularly, the number on the scale shoulld drop. However, there is also the psychological aspect of losing weight – how to manage and understand the thoughts and behaviours that could possibly interfere with one’s weight loss goals.

Consult with a psychologist to help with weight control

To help individuals who want to lose weight, psychologists work with them and their families to create the best environment for weight loss. Psychologists recognize that weight gain is not just an effect of poor eating habits, but can also be the cause of other pre-existing conditions and illnesses such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders

During a visit with the psychologist, the following are usually discussed:

The patient’s medical history and current concerns

  • Includes weight management goals
  • Previous efforts to lose weight
  • Stress levels and medical history
  • Current life situation
  • Sources of social support such as friends and family

 The patient’s attitude and habits in eating, the idea of food, the concept of weight loss, and body image

  • The psychologist will look for patterns or areas of concern that could potentially contradict with the patient’s weight loss goals
  • The psychologist also takes note and reminds the patient of possible practices and beliefs that are maintaining, if not causing the problem such as:
    • Having to clean off one’s plate regardless of the amount of food
    • The need to end the meal with a dessert, or to start one with an appetizer
    • Binging after a workout session
    • Coping with stress and emotions through food

A session with a psychologist would usually give them a picture of the patient and his needs, and will be able to come up with a plan that will work best given the situation and the support available to the patient.

Weight loss – changing from within

Weight management through the help of a psychologist works best if it is coupled with healthy choices. With a positive mindset, it would be easier for the individual to develop and maintain the following habits:

Monitor your thoughts and behaviours

  • It has been proven by research that people who jot down their thoughts, feelings, as well as the food they eat have been more successful when it comes to losing weight
  • By doing this, individuals can have a closer look at possible triggers that could cause them to eat more. Moreover, knowing that meals are being tracked also helps individuals make smarter choices.

Track activity level

  • Apart from logging in the number of minutes of exercise, listing down how much one moves around during the day is another tactic to motivate the self to keep on moving, instead of being inactive. A pedometer may help to also track the number of steps taken in a day.

Practice eating consciously

  • It is rather unhealthy to eat while doing something else – be it watching the television, or while working. The reason is that individuals tend to lose track of how much they have eaten, and in the end, do not get to enjoy their food which leads them to craving for more, or for something else.

Photo credit: Alan Cleaver

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