Overweight people and diets

According to experts the key to shedding pounds is not just eating less or exercising more but it is all about learning how to handle your emotions with regard to your intake.

I was reading an account of an experiment conducted in the Psychology department in the University of Toronto - the subject a woman on a diet receives a shock when she was told that her weight is 147 pounds, she simply cannot stop gazing at the weighing scales. What she was not aware of is that the researchers had deliberately set the scale five pounds high!

Now for the next step - the woman is left alone in the room with a cart load of goodies - three plates of freshly baked cookies, nearly 50 cookies in each plate. The woman has been told that this is a taste test where she has to taste cookies from each plate and fill out a questionnaire about their taste and quality. The task can be accomplished by a single bite of each type of cookie. But the woman eats twelve cookies in all !

This is a classic case of dieter's paradox. The more worried you are about how much you have been eating, the more you end up eating. So we come to the next question about dieting.


Why does dieting seldom work ?

According to researchers, people on diets binge more often than normal eaters. I have heard of a lady known to me, who is perpetually on some kind of diet or the other, saying that when she had a craving for potatoes she would chop up half a dozen and fry them in ghee and eat to her heart’s content ( this was almost once or twice a week ) , which effectively meant that one binge of hers made sure that all her earlier efforts of going on dieting had been wasted . In another study conducted by the same researchers a group of normal eating people, a group of dieters were given a fruit based milk shake before lunch. The normal eaters or the non dieters did what was sensible - ate less than normal after drinking the milk shake, but the dieters did the opposite, they ate much more.

According to researchers the reason being that people on diet don’t eat according to whether they feel hungry or full but according to whether they have been good or bad with regard to their diet ! Since they have already been bad having a loaded milk shake which is not part of their diet, why not go all the way ? They lose control and this is due to a psychological pattern that forms in a dieters mind..

Psychological consequences of obesity

This intensifies the anxiety levels about their weight and they make new resolutions to do better in the future. This is a familiar cycle to anyone who goes on fad diets or for that matter diet of any kind. It is the diet that is to be blamed here and not the dieter. The problem lies in limiting food and the body naturally reacts as if it is being starved. Neurotransmitters in the brain start clamoring for food thereby producing cravings. Specialists call this ‘ deprivation effect ‘ - If you are told that you cannot have something then that’s what you want to have! In fact you want to have it so much that you become pre occupied with food at the expense of emotional stability.

In fact researchers now agree that psychological consequences of dieting are terrible. Dieters are vulnerable to depression and what ‘s more rarely keep off lost weight. In some extreme cases drastic measures are necessary since the excess weight could have led to some other major health complications, but the so called healthy weight table which were actually developed by the Life insurance industry ( which told physicians , who should lose pounds) is being seriously reconsidered now.

Some conclusions that have been drawn from recent studies are that sometimes it is necessary to have a few extra pounds in elderly people which helped fend off osteoporosis.

Only people at the extremes of weight died younger than the general population. If there were no other health problems, even the most overweight people have no additional risk of dying early, but this is not possible since overweight itself brings in health issues. But the conclusion drawn was that nobody ever dies of obesity.

Researchers also agree that all people fat or not must eat well and exercise well to cut their risk factors. And they also feel that unless a person is 40 to 80 pounds heavier, it does no good to tell them to lose weight . Being overweight in itself is not as risky as it was once thought of, while extreme obesity is dangerous, creating massive anxieties about weight in people only works negatively.


When you are hung up about your weight

So the good news is that, as long as you are eating healthy and exercising regularly your actual weight is of little consequence to your longevity. This being so many of us still continue to be neurotic about our weight, not because we want to live longer but because we want to look better. Until we learn to understand our emotions, respect our hunger signals and accept the way we look, we will never be able to kick the diet-binging habit.

I am listing down a few points actually guidelines that help you get out of the vicious circle. This ,if followed can help you assess your progress every week.

1. Meal times – Make meal times sacred or special, instead of reading, watching TV or working on the net as you eat, focus on the food. Pause periodically to see if you are still hungry. It takes roughly about 17-20 minutes from the time you start eating ( that is if you eat slowly and steadily, not gulp down your food) before your stomach know that you have had enough.

2. Identify your feelings –This is very important according to psychologists and dieticians since basically everything comes down or goes up to one’s mind. Asking yourself, Am I happy, bored, anxious ? and analysing these feelings and also any distress signals which may have nothing to do with food needs to be identified and a solution found since all of these emotions have a bearing on your eating habit.

3. Be fair to yourself – Asking ourselves, what exactly we expect and whether it is reasonable ? There is no need to be too hard on yourself while making drastic decisions like giving up desserts for the rest of your life also easy ones like I can’t live without chips, so I am going to eat two packets each day. Instead thinking and being positive helps more than anything else. Think how you could make things better for yourself – Deciding to have fruits for snacks instead of chips at least once a day for a whole week and having more salads would compensate.

4. Give your body a break - Being practical and assessing yourself helps. List five things about your body that you are not happy with and five things that you like. Remind yourself of those items when you are feeling depressed to balance out your feelings. If there is a chance to change the negative into positive, believe me you will do it and also make sure that you maintain and enhance the positive aspects.

5. Practice makes perfect – When you are planning on having a perfect posture, stand tall and walk with grace. Try to highlight your good features and also when you think how good you are looking, your body image too plays catch up, this is what is called the power of suggestion and positive thinking.

6. Never deprive yourself – Make sure that you eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains every day, they will provide life long protection from all kinds of chronic ailments as well as help you keep your body weight in balance. When you have a craving for a slice of chocolate cake ask yourself if you really want it, if the answer is yes, go ahead and enjoy every bite of it without feeling guilty. You don’t have to worry about losing control. When you practice these skills your compulsion to overeat will be subdued and you will get over the craving to have a dessert after every meal.

7. Take charge of your health – If you come home with a headache every evening it is more than likely that you will opt for a hot cup of coffee and some snacks and not think of going for a long walk or working out. Make it a point to note down areas where you feel tension and or pain each day and heeding them can help you maintain higher energy levels as well as head off bigger problems. Don’t forget to keep up with medical screening tests like blood pressure and cholesterol levels, breast and skin examination, Pap smears and dental checkups.

8.Take part in activities that you love – To keep excess weight off and also keep you calm from any emotional upheavals that impel you to eat, begin by taking a daily 30 minute walk. Once you are feeling more energetic, experiment with a variety of activities like yoga, meditation, swimming, cycling ,aerobics etc and get involved with them.

 9. Take time for restoration – All of us get stressed from time to time, whether from work or from family obligations or just plain too much to do. When body and soul become depleted, you need rest, along with emotional and spiritual sustenance, to get back on an even keel. For some people, this just means catching up on lost sleep, others may do it differently like lighting up candles for a romantic evening with their partners, or escape for a long weekend alone, or even spend a day relaxing at home with a book ! what is important is to find what works for you and make it a routine.

10. Find meaning every day – Make sure that your life is filled with things that mean more to you than food. Call a long lost relative or a school friend with whom you have lost touch and may be you can find some new meaning and new things to do with your life. In effect make life more interesting. Take interest in everything that is happening around you so that you are aware and informed. Anything that gives you a feeling of purpose and connects you to the rest of the world is good for you and keeps you mentally alert and physically healthy.

aerobics exercise

Turn Up Your Fat Burner

In the mean time you can also help yourself by turning up your fat burner measures! While you are jogging up with your emotions keeping in mind that exercise is not only a great stress buster but also terrific fat burner. Walking, Cycling, Jogging and eating delicious foods ( once you learn to enjoy what you eat even plain black bread and a green salad will taste delicious ) that fill you up keep your metabolism chugging along at a good rate so you can take off pounds. But for the maximum and most effective fat burning, here are three ways to turn up the heat !

Rev up your metabolism – Remember that on again and off again diet does more damage than even overeating. The reason is that most people lose lean mass (primarily muscle and water) as well as fat when they lose weight. This is especially true if they diet by cutting calories and don’t do any exercise. When the weight comes back, most of it is fat. And with each loss/gain cycle, the percentage of lean mass decreases and the percentage of fat increases, which ultimately slows down metabolism. For every pound of fat you gain, your body burns only 2 calories a day. In effect if you lost 5 pounds of muscle on your latest fad diet, you regain it as fat and also are burning 240 fewer calories a day.

To make matters worse when you slash calories drastically like for example – less than 1300 calories for a person who weighs 130 pounds, this can slow your metabolism even more. The body automatically goes into starvation mode when the food supply is less to preserve calories , which also brings down metabolism rate. So to rev u the metabolism rate and burn off fat – don’t lose your muscles. Do some type of exercise or brisk walking for 40 -60 minutes each day, at least four times a week, and if you are pressed for time break it up into shorter bouts throughout the day.

Maximise your muscle power – The more muscles we have the more calories we tend to burn, even while lying down by the poolside or on the beach. But as people age they tend to lose more muscle than gain. So this results in older people burning fewer calories. The solution for this lies in training and strengthening the muscles .Lifting weights, curbs muscle loss, this can happen when you are doing house work as well, and this helps in building more muscles. You can also hope to attain a trimmer and sleeker body.

Two or three sessions of weight lifting is excellent for muscle building and when it is combine with brisk walking or aerobics it will do wonders for your health ( both physical and mental) and body. Thinking helps – think that you are thinner and fitter, this helps. Taking advantage of the mind/body connection is what many athletes are advised to do and they are able to achieve their target with much more ease. Pay attention to your muscles and how they function and read up about them and think about them – this induces a kind of craving in you ( not the food craving ) that helps you perform better. You are able to tune out all other cravings and concentrate on this one , focusing on pushing your muscles to perform better and harder. The result will be a better performance and a higher calorie burn!

Making a note of what you eat - This according to many experts is the best way of tackling obesity or problems that concern overweight. Ask yourself how you feel after you eat different foods – rice, chocolates, ice cream, fruits, vegetables. Do you feel stuffed ( may be a little guilty as well if it is a Jalebi dripping with ghee ) or do you feel good , satisfied ? The more you learn to focus your full attention on what you eat, the more you will learn what your body really wants.

Finally, having tried everything under the sun to rein in the ever expanding waistline, most people and obesity specialists realise that ultimately it is all in the mind and in fact the mental attitude that really matters. Reflect on nature and your own self before going on any more diets, instead concentrate on taking some practical measures that give positive results.

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