Monday, February 8, 2010

Why Diet and Exercise Programs Have Not Worked for You

Eating a healthy diet with the appropriate number of calories and good nutrition and doing regular exercise works. It works. Unless you have a medical condition (not typical) that prevents your body from processing fuel (i.e. the food you eat and fat stores) properly.

Why then are there hundreds of weight loss programs available and at the same time an overwhelming number of obese people in the US? It's not that there aren't any programs out there that work. Many of them work just fine... if you stick with them.

Why is it that most people don't follow the programs long enough for them to work? The real problem is that no diet or exercise program can overcome the psychological and emotional issues that caused us to become overweight in the first place. It's rare that being overweight is truly about loving food and hating exercise. These are really just excuses. All the programs and pills and even the weight loss surgeries are only addressing the symptom not the cause.

If you take a pill that's supposed to make you feel full physically but, you're eating comes from things like stress or loneliness then no pill can make you feel full enough for long. No amount of will power can make you stick to a weight loss program. Those emotional triggers will come up and you'll be eating comfort food, laying on the couch watching TV, or finding a million little ways to procrastinate until you're out of time to exercise, before you even know what happened.

The trickiest part of all this is that a lot of times it's not conscious. Your emotional eating and avoiding exercise is a way your mind thinks it's protecting you from something, taking care of you. The key is to get the conscious and unconscious parts of your mind on the same page. One way to start is to become aware of when you are thinking about food or reaching for food when you're not physically hungry, when you know you've already had enough to eat. When you notice it happening, stop and take a deep breath and ask yourself what you are feeling. What were you thinking about or doing right before you got the urge to head for the fridge.

Make sure you answer the questions "what is this really about" and "what would make me feel better about it" before you proceed. You may still proceed directly to the fridge or to veg out in front of the TV, especially at first. Over time, if you keep at it, you will find more and more that you can come up with better ways, more effective, more satisfying ways to feel better.

There are other methods for working on the underlying causes of emotional eating and inactivity but, the one just described is a simple one you can start with right now. Unlike all those diet and exercise program commercials I won't promise speedy results. Working through the underlying issues can be a long process, just like healthy weight loss. The important thing to remember is that you're not in it just to look good for swim suit season you're in it too look good and to feel good for the rest of your life.

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