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Psychology of Weight Loss

Weight loss and dieting are common topics of conversation in today's society and many of us find ourselves in a condition of "over-weight" at one time or another. The physical concept of how to lose weight is clear and simple – use up more calories than you take in. It is the psychological aspects that make weight loss such a complex, challenging task. The following are some tips on conducting a healthy, successful diet adapted from 15 Insights Vital to Success in Thinning by Dr. Theodore Rubin.

Check Your Motivation

Why do you want to lose weight? Be honest with yourself! Health issues (real or imagined)? Business reasons (to gain respect or recognition)? Social acceptance? Vanity? Conformity? Whatever your motives, make sure they are strong and clear!

Accept Yourself As You Are

Without self-acceptance, it will be difficult to make dieting a "free choice decision," coming out of an honest desire for change. Contracts with yourself are born out of tyranny and, if broken, will bring on self-hate, depression and renewed eating.

Define Your "Self" in Terms Other Than Body-Image

Figure out who you are outside your body image and keep that "self" in perspective whether your body changes or not.

Feel the Conflict

Dieting sets the "joy of eating" against the "joy of being thin." Recognize and accept what you are giving up as well as your potential gains.

Set Your Own Goals and Limits

Be realistic! Set goals for the following areas:

  • Amount of weight you want to lose
  • Weight you want to maintain over the long run
  • The length of your diet and the rate at which you want to lose
  • The range of gain or additional loss acceptance once you meet your weight goal
  • Do not be afraid to compromise

If you can't make a goal you set for yourself, there is probably a good reason. Reevaluate your goals and set new ones. Do not continue to shift your goals downward. If you are successful in losing weight, it can be tempting to continue even beyond your set limit – this can be dangerous, physically and emotionally.

Evaluate Your Expectations

Thinness does not equal happiness!

Carefully Select the Diet Plan You Use

Healthy diets include enough nutrition to prevent fatigue and hunger and enough bulk to prevent psychological food hunger. Only diets which instigate a one to two pound per week loss will ultimately work.

Watch for Feelings of Hopelessness and Resignation

When these feelings pop up around the issue of weight loss, they spell trouble. They originate from your desire for immediate gratification. Remember: permanent weight loss takes time. A "slow and steady" attitude wins most races.

Allow for an Adjustment Period

As you lose weight, changes will take place physically, emotionally, and socially. Give yourself time to adjust.

Be Aware of the Psychological Connections to Dieting

It is not unusual for people on a serious diet to experience strong feelings of depression, anxiety and anger. If these feelings become overwhelming, seek professional support and assistance in your community or contact the Employee Counseling Service at (215)481-5292.

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