ASK LISA – How Can I Lose Weight and Keep It Off Once and For All?
Ask Lisa is a advice post for people who write in to me, asking questions about a specific problem or situation. Although this is in no way a substitute for therapy, my hope and prayer is that it gives encouragement and direction for whatever you face.
If you have a specific question you would like answered, write in. I’d be glad to tackle it together!
I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. After my mom and dad divorced at 8yrs old, my mom and I fell into a pattern of eating to numb the pain. Every night while watching tv, we would pop popcorn, or eat ice-cream right out of the tub. Most of our best times seemed to revolve around making brownies or stopping by our favorite hamburger joint.
When I was little I had a good metabolism, so I wasn’t too heavy. But when I entered high school, others began to make comments suggesting I was fat and needed to lose weight. Even the school counselor sent a note home to my mom encouraging me to go on a diet to get my weight under control.
I feel like I’ve been on a diet ever since. Mom and me would diet for a while, but when there were bills to pay, or she had broken up with a boyfriend, we just went right back to food. Food became my comfort. We would have mac & cheese on a bad day, burgers and fries on a good day, and ice cream as a treat every day.
When I was 14 yrs old, I was molested by an uncle. I felt helpless. Dirty. Unworthy and unsafe. I ate to numb the pain. I never told anyone and I’ve never been able to trust anyone since. I want to date, to be married, to have a normal life, but I wouldn’t know how.
It seemed my life has always revolved around food. I want to lose weight. I can even start off the day making pretty good choices. But by the time night falls, what starts off as a little indulgence leads to continual snacking.
Two years ago I committed to a specific diet/exercise program. I lost weight. I felt great. I told myself I would never go back. But I did. I always do.
Can you help me? I am desperate to know how I can lose weight and keep it off once and for all.
Dieting in Dallas
Thank you for sharing your struggle here. I know how difficult our relationship with food can be and how discouraging the battle to lose and maintain our weight can become. I want you to know you are not alone in your struggle.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 33 percent of U.S. adults are overweight and an additional 36 percent are obese. Approximately one in six children in the U.S. is obese.
Though the causes of obesity are complex, obesity is not a function of laziness or an indication of emotional instability. Genetic and biological factors do not act in isolation, but are constantly interacting with an array of environmental and emotional factors.
When it comes to losing weight, most people follow the usual protocol, focusing on eating less and exercising more. But a major aspect of weight control involves understanding and managing feelings, thoughts and behaviors that can interfere with weight loss.
That's not surprising, said Diane Robinson, PhD, a neuropsychologist and Program Director of Integrative Medicine at Orlando Health. Most people focus almost entirely on the physical aspects of weight loss, like diet and exercise. But there is an emotional component to food that the vast majority of people simply overlook and it can quickly sabotage their efforts. In order to lose weight and keep it off long term, we need to do more than just think about what we eat, we also need to understand why we're eating.
From a very young age we're emotionally attached to food. Whether we are aware of it or not, many of us are conditioned to use food not only for nourishment, but for comfort.
According to Dr. Howard Rankin, an expert on behavioral change,
We are emotional beings with the ability to rationalize -- not rational beings with emotions. If we are stressed, depressed or addicted, no matter how good the advice we are given, chances are that we will not be able to act on it. The more primitive, emotional brain generally has precedence over the newer, more rational brain.
This was the challenge for Shekyra DeCree, of Columbus, Ohio. As a mental health therapist, my job can be very stressful, and everyday when I got home from work, the first thing I would do is go to the refrigerator,she said. That was my way to calm down and relax. Her conclusion— you have to change the way you deal with your emotions, your stress, and anxiety. Understanding this is the key to not only taking the weight off, but keeping it off long-term. CLICK TO TWEET
Here are six tips I recommend to help you deal with weight loss differently and keep it off once and for all:
1.) Heal the wounds of your past.
As I hear you describe, you have many wounds that have accumulated over your life that have never been healed. God desires for you to experience healing, freedom, wholeness —from every wound, every betrayal, every rejection that leaves you to use food to comfort, numb, and protect your fractured heart. CLICK TO TWEET
I could never ask you to step away from your defense mechanisms when today, they are all you have to protect you. In order to successfully change your relationship with food, you must first begin to heal so that you no longer need it to keep you safe. Then you can open your heart and mind to a new way of being. Without living out of the wounds of your past, you will be able to create a new identity, new relationships, and a future with unlimited possibilities.
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5(NIV)
Behold, I will bring it health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth. Jeremiah 33:6(NIV) CLICK TO TWEET
2.) Cultivate healthy coping skills.
We must understand what we feel and why we are feeling it, if we are to resist the emotional pull to eat. If we have never connected with our emotions, begin journaling every day, do a feelings check. Ask yourself why you are feeling what you are feeling. Explore the best options for dealing with those feelings —do you need to talk with a friend, draw a boundary, comfort yourself emotionally, or strategize a new path forward?
· Keep a daily diary logging your food and your mood, and look for unhealthy patterns.
· Identify foods that make you feel good and write down why you eat them. Do they evoke a memory or are you craving those foods out of stress?
· Before you have any snack or meal ask yourself: Am I eating this because I'm hungry? If the answer is no, look for the root of your motive.
As we learn to develop a healthier relationship with our emotions we will be better able to nurture our bodies with the fuel it needs without using food to manage, numb, or distract us from our emotions. Nor will we need food for physical or emotional protection.
3.) Develop your ‘no’ muscle.
Self-control is a muscle that, like other muscles, needs exercise to be strengthened. Change doesn't happen because you want it to happen. Each time you exercise your ‘no’ muscle, you are developing greater self-control. Success breeds success. Facing down temptations builds strength for future decision moments. Empowers determination. Grows grit where we need it most.
We can do hard things. We can. Find at least one time per day (if not more) that you actively tell yourself no. It doesn’t have to be just about food, this applies to many aspects of our lives where we have difficulty with disciplining our bodies, our hearts, and our minds. CLICK TO TWEET
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline..2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
4.) Avoid sugary, carb-heavy foods.
Start reading labels. Things you would never believe to be heavy in sugar or carbs can be incredibly packed with them. Get a food-tracker app like Chronometer, where you can log everything you eat daily. This can be eye-opening because most of us minimize what we are eating as well as its calorie, sugar, or carb content.
Apps don’t lie. They will help educate and equip you with information so that you become increasingly aware of what you are feeding your body. Once you become aware, you can make the changes necessary to feed your body appropriately without overindulging.
5.) Learn from your past mistakes, don’t shame them.
We all make mistakes. Instead of shaming yourself when you fall down or make a bad decision regarding food, seek to gain self-knowledge so you won't repeat the error. Ask yourself why you made the decision you did. Journal both the emotions and the thoughts surrounding that decision. What could you do differently next time? How do you want to move forward?
No one is perfect. Be sure to acknowledge what you are doing right, not just what isn't working.
6.) Surround yourself with people who will support your effort.
Getting fit and losing weight absolutely require others. Although you alone can make the changes you need to make, they are hard to sustain alone. In every area of our lives, we are much more influenced by other people than we may think. One of the most potent forces for positive change is the emotional support of the individuals who surround you.
Don’t be afraid to ask for the support you need. Don't assume that others know what would be most helpful to you. Similarly, avoid those people who may try to sabotage you on your journey. Surround yourself with people who can encourage you, who can walk with you.
You can do this. You have already overcome so much in your life. You can heal, you can learn. You can grow. By choosing health in every moment, in every decision, you can learn to manage your emotions and make choices that nurture you body, mind, and spirit. CLICK TO TWEET
You will find balance. Equilibrium. Your physical body will heal. Your heart will heal. You will become whole. And there is nothing like it!
I will be praying for you and cheering you on every step of the way. Keep in touch and let me know how you are doing.
**The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. Use of this column not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional.
About This Community
Don't we all want a little peace? My heart for this community is to provide just that - a needed refuge from all the burdens that weigh us down, some encouragement and inspiration to keep us weary travelers moving forward on our journeys, and some practical advice to help each of us navigate the challenges of life and relationships. Whether in our parenting, our marriages, our faith, or the broken places in our hearts, this place is for anyone who dares to reach beyond the hopelessness that surrounds us and embrace a lifestyle of emotional abundance and peace!
About Peace for a Lifetime
In my book, Peace for a Lifetime, I share the keys to cultivating a life that’s deeply rooted, overflowing, and abundant, the fruit of which is peace. Through personal and professional experience as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I've discovered how to take the broken pieces of life and find indestructible peace with myself, God and with others. Through my story and other’s stories you’ll realize that you can experience the life for which you long. You can experience abundance beyond anything you can imagine. You can experience peace, not just for today, not just for tomorrow. You can experience peace —for a lifetime!
Peace for a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com.
Book Trailer: https://vimeo.com/155392891