When you're overweight, losing weight can feel like a challenge, no matter how much you want it. Sometimes it might seem like our minds are working against us, making up excuses and ways to get us off the hook.
Why is it so hard to stick with a healthy eating or exercise plan? Why do we slip up or go back to our old ways? A lot of it has to do with the habits we've developed over time.
We humans are creatures of habit. We tend to get settled into established, fixed ways of doing or thinking about things. Old habits can be hard to break. Because losing weight can mean changing quite a few habits at once, it can take more than just willpower to stick with a weight-loss plan.
Here's an example of a situation you've probably been in: You're out with friends. Everyone's eating pizza. Before you sat down at the table, you were feeling motivated to stick to your healthy eating plan. You knew your goals, and you planned to have one small slice of pizza and fill up on a healthy salad.
But as your best friend reaches for her third slice of pizza, you suddenly find yourself thinking something like, "I LOVE pizza! All my friends are eating it — and they're thin. It's not fair if I have to eat salad while they eat pizza. Maybe I'll just have that salad tomorrow."
Thoughts like these are powerful, and they quickly replace all your good intentions. Old habits can be strong. In fact, just seeing or hearing the word "pizza" probably gets you thinking about that food!
You can see how easy it is to give in. We've all been there. But after you've had the pizza, the guilt and regret set in. You might feel mad at yourself or self-critical. You may think, "Oh, I should have had the salad. Now I feel stuffed and my jeans feel tight." You might feel discouraged and tell yourself things like, "I can't stick to my plan." Or, "I'll never slim down. This is too hard."
It's like your mind is working against you.
This is where counselors (like psychologists or weight-management social workers) can help. They are trained to understand how people feel, think, act, and relate. Weight-management counselors are there to help us deal with things like cravings or overeating. They can help us develop new habits — and new ways to think — that allow us to change.
Trimming down to a healthier weight involves making changes in eating habits — and in thinking habits. For example, if you're working to lose weight, you may need to:
So many changes — so many opportunities to talk yourself out of your plan!
Weight-management therapists and counselors can help people bridge the gap between struggling and success. They can:
Everyone's different, so each person's plan for weight management will be tailored to fit him or her. That's another useful thing about working with a psychologist or counselor. These professionals understand your unique needs. They're not trying to fit you into a generic plan. Psychologists and other therapy professionals are great resources to help support you on your way to a healthier you!
Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: May 2012
|American Psychological Association (APA) The APA provides information and education about a variety of mental health issues for people of all ages.|
|ChooseMyPlate.gov ChooseMyPlate.gov provides practical information on how to follow the U.S. government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It includes resources and tools to help families lead healthier lives.|
|Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) CMHS is a federal agency that provides information about mental health to users of mental health services, their families, the general public, policy makers, providers, and the media.|
|American Council on Exercise (ACE) ACE promotes active, healthy lifestyles by setting certification and education standards for fitness instructors and through ongoing public education about the importance of exercise.|
|National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) The mission of the NASP is to promote educationally and psychologically healthy environments for all children and youth by implementing research-based programs that prevent problems, enhance independence, and promote optimal learning.|
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|How Can I Get Motivated to Exercise? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Dealing With Feelings When You're Overweight If a person is struggling with extra weight, it can add to the emotional ups and downs of being a teen. Get some tips on coping here.|
|Emotional Eating We've all eaten a whole bag of chips out of boredom or while cramming for a big test. Learn more about emotional eating, and how to manage it, in this article for teens.|
|Binge Eating Disorder Binge eating is a type of eating disorder. This article for teens explains what it is, how to recognize it, and how to get help.|
|Going to a Therapist Getting help with emotions or stress is the same as getting help with a medical problem like asthma or diabetes. This article explains how therapy works and how it can help with problems.|
|Motivation and the Power of Not Giving Up Everyone struggles with staying motivated and reaching their goals. Just look at how many people diet, lose weight, and then gain it back again. But it's still possible to stay motivated if you take the right approach.|
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