Gain Self-Care Skills, Lose the Weight

It makes me crazy when I hear supposed weight loss experts preach that the road to weight loss begins and ends with calorie counting, daily weigh-ins and intense workout regimens. This kind of advice couldn’t be farther from the truth and, in fact, it encourages us not to listen to the wisdom of our bodies.

You were born with a phenomenal machine.  It already knows how to calculate the caloric density of the food you eat.  It even takes into account how much fat is stored in your fat cells and your energy requirements on any given day. It tells you when to eat, via hunger pangs, what to eat, via cravings, when to stop eating, via fullness sensations and when to move, via a sense of restlessness. We can and must learn to listen to and trust the wisdom of our bodies to guide us.

If you’ve been a chronic dieter, counting calories is probably engrained in your psyche. In order to begin the process of trusting the wisdom of you body, let me suggest you follow two very important body-balancing principles:

  1. Pay attention to Hunger and Fullness Signals.  Begin eating each day when you feel true hunger signals–you know, that grumbling, empty sensation in your stomach, remember that?  See if you can stop eating before you’re full.  Remind yourself that you get to eat again when you get hungry. Whoo Hoo! There’s no deprivation.
  2. Eat foods consistent with your human design: unprocessed, whole, plant-based foods.  This will most likely be the more difficult principle to follow. One of the reasons you’ve adopted the habit of calorie counting is because you’ve been eating the Standard American Diet, loaded with man-made processed foods and animal foods. Processed foods and animal foods are devoid of fiber and your body can’t get an accurate calorie count when you eat a predominantly fiber-less diet. Without fiber, it’s really easy to eat an abundance of calories before you feel full. Try to eat something wholesome, with fiber, at each meal or snack.  Foods full of fiber include fruits, vegetables, legumes, potatoes, grains, nuts and seeds. Try an apple with peanut butter, a potato with hummus, beans and rice or oatmeal with blueberries–you get the idea. As you add more wholesome fiber-full plant based foods to you diet, your palate will change and you will find it easier to release foods that no longer serve your body.

If you’re an emotional eater, you may be thinking “that’s great, but how do I stop overeating my favorite junky comfort foods and lose some weight?”  This is where the self-care skills come in.  In order to lose the weight, you’ll need to gain self-care skills. Let me share with you two self-care skills you can begin to practice right away.  These skills can definitely take a bite out of your emotional eating.

  1. Establish the Habit of Self-Connection.  This means “going inside” when you want to eat emotionally and identifying your emotions and needs.  If you want to eat when you’re not hungry, eat when you’re already full or you just want to choose unhealthy comfort foods, ask yourself: “How do I feel in this moment?”  After you identify your feelings with three word statements, e.g. “I feel sad” or “I feel overwhelmed,” ask yourself “What do I need” or “What am I truly longing for in this moment?”  See if you can access a wise, nurturing voice within that can soothe and comfort you and help you meet your true non-food needs.
  2. Catch and Reframe Self-defeating thoughts.  While you’re “inside,” catch any negative, critical, pessimistic thoughts you’re aware of.  These kind of thoughts do a lot of damage and they can fuel emotional eating. For each negative thought you identify, see if you can think of a more positive replacement thought, or at the very least, a more neutral thought.  So, for example, “I’ve gained back some weight–I’ll never lose the weight” could be reframed into “I’ve gained back some weight–I’ve lost weight before and I’m sure I can do it again.”  More positive thoughts lead to hope which can curb emotional eating.

With consistent practice, these body-balancing principles and self-care skills will help you re-connect to the wisdom of your body and over time, they will  help you reduce your emotional eating. For more information and additional principles and skills, stay tuned for my new book which will be out this Fall, “The Emotional Eater’s Repair Manual: A Practical Mind/Body/Spirit Guide for Putting an End to Overeating and Dieting.”

Posted by Julie M. Simon, MA, MBA, MFT.  If you have a question or comment you’d like to see addressed in this blog, please go to www.overeatingrecovery.com.

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