Food psychology

Psychology of Weight Loss (food psychology): An Introduction- Part 3
By Daniel Johnson
Personal Trainer
Youth Training Specialist

Last time we examined two reasons why Alisa Anokhina says we fail and what we can do in response as a solution or alternative. We now will finish our introduction to PWL with a third reason why we fail in the same problem/solution or problem/alternative format. Lastly we will take a peak into the secret lives of successful dieters and what we can benefit from weight loss counseling.

3.     Ironic thought suppression and rumination (the “White Bear” effect)

Problem: Don’t think of a white bear. What are you thinking about? A white bear. It works the same way with food. If you are telling yourself don’t think about pizza, what will you be thinking about? Pizza. This happens because when we try to suppress thoughts, at a preconscious level we have to scan for what it is we are trying to suppress, which in turn makes us aware of the very thing we are trying to get rid of.  This ends up being a very tiring process. We scan for what we are trying to not think about, which makes us think about it. Pizza, or a white bear keeps popping up in our mind and we continually have to work to suppress the thought. Now let’s apply this. Say you’re trying to lose weight, it’s a Thursday night and you think to yourself “I really want pizza right now.” You try to suppress it and it keeps popping into your mind. You try to distract yourself. At this point there are a couple options. The problem option is giving in, ordering and eating the pizza and waking up the next day with a “cheese hangover hating yourself.”

Solution/Alternative: Positively dealing with the pizza dilemma may look like what follow. You tell yourself it is fine to want pizza so you make a decision that tomorrow night you will have pizza for dinner. You will make it yourself, know exactly what’s in it, putting a bunch of lovely toppings on it. You will savor and enjoy it. This solution or alternative to the problem is a positive indulgence of cravings and ruminations.  Two things are at play behind the scenes here. First is mindfulness. It is important to be aware of what you are eating and what is in it. Second is quality over quantity. An attitude of choosing quality nutrition over quantity will help to prevent binge eating. (Alisa Anokhina)

So what are successful dieters doing? First off, they do not conceptualize new eating habits as a “diet” in the commercial sense of the word; diet meaning deprivation, self-punishment, short-term and not sustainable. Instead they think about making permanent lifestyle changes to the way they think and behave. Weight loss is then just a byproduct of a new lifestyle. These successful “dieters” or “lifestyle changers” treat their body well with positivity and kindness. Their overarching mindset is not to just lose weight but to improve their life. Realize that improving your life is not easy but with the right support it can be easier. This is where weight loss counseling gets involved. Weight loss counseling attempts to realign expectations with reality. This realigning helps people to avoid disappointment and from becoming demoralized. This counseling promotes sustainability. Empirical research suggests people who receive this support (counseling) lose more weight and maintain their losses. (Alisa Anokhina)

In conclusion, weight loss is not just about self-control and will power. It is about much more than that. Losing weight should not be about eating less. It should be about thinking differently. (Alisa Anokhina)

Alisa Anokhina- doctoral researcher in clinical health psychology


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December 12, 2018 6:22 AM
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April 20, 201812:45 AM
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