In our first article in this series, we shared that the secret to being thin is not much of a secret at all. Portion control is a surefire way to keep your weight loss goals on track. But what about on those days when it is so painfully difficult to break your stare from that oversized chocolate chip cookie starting back at you from the dessert case while standing in line at Starbucks? Is it impossible to think of anything else but those sugary, fatty, unbelievably bad for your choices? I couldn’t help but wonder: Is wanting to manage our weight all in our heads?
We stare at the cookie, wanting it, telling ourselves not to order it, but as you gradually get closer to the counter, ready to order your sugar free skinny vanilla late, you blurt it out: “And one of those chocolate chip cookies. Are they soft?” Steve Levinson, Ph.D. psychologist and president of Behavioral Dynamics, Inc. in Thief River Falls, Minnesota gives us a take on what may be in our heads. “The problem is that the human brain is simply not ‘wired’ to automatically make us feel like doing the same things we decide we should do, and what we feel like doing often has more influence over our behavior than our intentions do. Our species ironically has a built-in tendency to sabotage the intelligent decisions we make.” We know that we want to look like Jennifer Aniston or Mila Kunis, but that cookie right now will taste so good. Out of our control, what we want takes over.
Before your start beating yourself up, realize that our behaviors aren’t new. “We have used food to feed so many things. From the time we're infants, caregivers use food to soothe babies when upset, and not always because of physical hunger,” says Janet Zinn, LCSW, Manhattan based psychotherapist and coach. “So, food becomes the default go to when distressed.” From the moment we are born, we immediately find nourishment to prevent us from crying, regardless of how we are truly feeling. Hence the nature of “comfort food,” giving us the slew of bad-for-you foods that are out there simply to make us feel better. Growing up, the trend continues to the point that we begin to scavenge for our own ways to “feel better,” thinking that food becomes a solution.
Debra Boulanger, CHC, AADP, The Whole Life Coach, tells us that “as a culture, we have learned to use food as a reward AND a punishment. Sometimes our 'comfort foods' are attached to memories of spending time with people who loved us and then these foods become symbolic of love. Whenever we are lonely, fearful, stressed, we'll naturally gravitate to comfort foods as a way of soothing our emotions.” So therein lies the biggest diet buster of all, ourselves. You want the cookie, so stop over thinking things. It is in our heads and in our nature to feel comforted by certain foods, but it doesn’t mean you have to eat them every day.
Maybe, then, our weight is all in our head. What we should and shouldn’t be eating, or what others judge as acceptable for us to consume should not be a factor when we make nourishment choices. You know your body better than anyone. If you are considered overweight and want to change the way you look and feel, make the conscious effort to choose food that is healthier for you. Not those “lower fat satisfries” from Burger King, but a homemade baked version of “fries,” roasted with olive oil and seasonings. There are many ways to make changes that work for you, start from there, monitor portions and hold on for part 3 of this series. If nothing else, you’ll feel less pressure and happier for making the decisions about your weight that are your own, not what society tells you to do.
Leave your comments below and tell us what has worked for you (or what simply failed miserably!); there is nothing better than a world of support to get you on track and keep you going. Take a second to check out the video attached to this article, another psychologist telling us to eat what we want, in moderation.
A votre santé!