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how to think yourself thin >week 3 of our mind-body weight plan: HOW COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY CAN PUT AN END TO YO-YO DIET DISASTERS

Nowadays, we're bombarded by the media with information on diets, yet obesity continues to rise. In fact, most people now have so much diet information that they could possibly write a weight loss book themselves. The answer, therefore, cannot be simply to follow another diet.

Instead, the reasons WHY we overeat must be addressed, otherwise the yo-yo syndrome of dieting/losing weight/regaining weight becomes a never-ending cycle and is utterly demoralising.

CBT -- The Missing Link

If you're struggling with losing weight, the techniques involved in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) may help you succeed where other diets have failed.

The key element of CBT is that it helps you understand the link between your thoughts, feelings, body and behaviour. In other words, how our behaviours (such as eating) are closely connected to the way we think (our thoughts), our feelings (emotions) and our body (physical reactions). The example below illustrates this.

Mind-Body Connection:

A Thought "I will never lose weight, I have tried so many diets and I always fail"

... which is connected to ...

A Feeling Feeling hopeless,

... which is connected to ...

A Physical Feeling Lethargic, no energy and craving chocolate

... which is connected to ....

Behaviour Overindulging on chocolate to comfort yourself

As a consultant nutritionist, I have found that using CBT coaching techniques as part of my consultation process to be extremely effective in helping my clients reach their weight loss goals. Below are five key steps I walk my clients through to help them achieve their goal weight.

Set yourself up

for success

A common way that people sabotage themselves is taking on too much at once. For example, if you've been inactive for a long time, setting a goal to exercise an hour a day may be too much.

Start with something you know you can do, such as taking a 20-minute brisk walk on your lunch hour. Setting and meeting achievable diet and exercise goals increases confidence and self belief which in turn increases motivation.

Make a list of all the

benefits of you being slim

You probably have a dozen reasons why you want to lose weight, but you don't automatically think of these when you're triggered to eat something you shouldn't.

One essential technique that helps you control your eating is to continually remind yourself of the benefits of being slim so you'll be motivated to stop yourself when you are tempted. The most effective way of doing this is to write down all the benefits and put them somewhere where you will see them every single day. See example below:

My Weight Loss Benefits

- I'll have more energy to play with my kids

- I'll enjoy trying on clothes

- My cholesterol will be reduced

- I'll do more things in public such as swimming and dancing

- I'll enjoy physical intimacy more

- I'll have more confidence in

social situations

- I will be able to wear a bikini whenever

I go on holiday

- I'll enjoy being photographed

- I'll be more assertive at work.

Identify and Replace

Sabotaging Thoughts

A key Cognitive Behavioural Technique for effective weight management is to notice sabotaging thoughts.

Paying attention to what goes through your mind when you're tempted to eat badly will help you reframe the unhelpful thoughts that hold you back. Write down each self-defeating thought, such as, "It's too hard", "I don't have time," and work at replacing the negative thought with a positive one.

For example, "I don't have time to prepare healthy meals", could be replaced with "I am willing to make the time to be slim, even if it means sacrifice, the benefits are worth it to me".

Identify potential

obstacles and problem-

solve in advance

Ask yourself:

a) What has stopped you reaching your weight loss goals in the past?

b) What can you do differently?

This might involve taking simple steps such as removing all the trigger foods from your kitchen i.e. the foods you reach for when you are feeling emotional, tired etc.

If the trigger foods are not there any more, you can't eat them.

Or, if time is an issue for you, then pre-planning is a must.

So, for example, this might involve batch cooking or freezing in advance.

Give yourself

some credit

I've noticed that people who struggle with weight tend to be hard on themselves.

Do you have a tendency to focus on the negative, berating yourself for everything you do wrong?

To counteract this tendency, it's important for you to learn to give yourself credit for everything you do right.

By consciously giving yourself credit every time you make a healthy choice, you'll reinforce your self confidence and build an awareness that you're strong and in control.

Elsa Jones is a qualified nutritionist who offers individual consultations and group courses in various clinics around Dublin. Her next Mind-Body Weight Management Course starts on January 2 -- See www.elsajonesnutrition.ie


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