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Mind Over Matter?

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Old 07-04-2008, 08:33 AM   #1
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Default Mind Over Matter?

We all know what we should be doing to lose weight, so why don't we do it? It's not like it's a well-guarded secret, I doubt if there is a forum member who doesn't know exactly what to do to lose weight.

So why do we all struggle? Why do we need DVDs, slimming clubs, books and forums like this - and then still fall by the wayside?

My view:

We don't have the ability to value and prioritise long term results over short term impulses that provide a quick "hit".

Instead of excahnging exercise and diet tips, should we be searching for help, methods and techniques for coping with this weakness of pandering to our "want it now" desires?

I believe that if we could defeat this aspect of our behaviour, weight loss would be a facile process limited only by the measure of time it takes to burn off the required excess body fat.

So I would like to ask for contributions from members who can offer tips, advice, support - anything that may go towards easing this destructive habit.

Please, pitch in with your thoughts on this.
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Old 07-04-2008, 08:43 AM   #2
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I think that a lot of the emotional aspects wrt to weight loss are covered in the Chicks in Control threads. You may want to do some reading there to see what's been covered in previous posts.
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Old 07-04-2008, 09:07 AM   #3
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Also, it is true that our culture associates food with rewards and with celebration. Since the brain is such a powerful organ, it holds on to these associations that we grew up with, and it's difficult to break the pattern.

I've read a bunch of articles on the struggle with weight loss, and some of them look back at prehistoric humans. The articles point out that there are two things that are normal for our bodies and minds that do not translate into our modern world.

The first is feast-famine--since back in the day, we had to hunt food and food wasn't always accessible, we made sure to eat as much as possible when it was available because we didn't know when we'd be able to eat again. Now food is always accessible to us, but for some reason we may not register that in our minds and bodies.

The second is that we are not programmed to expend "unnecessary" physical energy, since the task of getting food was so exhausting (chasing after animals, etc) that we had to save our energy. Therefore, the idea of going for a run for the sake of going for a run is against human nature.

Now, I don't know if there is any truth to these theories, especially since not everyone struggles with weight, but I think it's interesting to think about, and it might help us recognize our behavior so that we can change it to improve our health.
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Old 07-04-2008, 09:27 AM   #4
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3fc chicks do have lots of good experience and they have shared many tips along these lines.

But if you like to sit down with a book, it seems like some weight management authors are catching on -- to focus on mindset and behavior modification -- rather than particular diets. Two books I would highly recommend...

The Beck Diet Solution - train your brain to think like a thin person (Beck) -- Not a diet -- supposed to be used with the diet of your choice. Provides a 42 step program based on Cognitive Therapy designed to adjust your mindset about weight management (and behaviors). (3fc has a support thread for followers of this plan, btw.)

The Thin Commandments Diet - the 10 no-fail strategies for permanent weight loss (Gullo) -- This book does contain a diet you can follow (I don't) but can be used with any diet. The body of the book provides lots of good strategies for changing your mindset and targeting problem behaviors. Less formal than Beck (no program) but contains more backstory.
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Old 07-04-2008, 09:27 AM   #5
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There are also many physiological reasons that make it difficult to lose weight. It isn't just a matter of willpower. Science is starting to disprove the 'lazy' fat person who knows what to do but won't stick to it.

I would suggest reading a few books: Rethinking Thin, The Hungry Gene, and Fighting the Obesity Epidemic. Interesting reads, if not a little depressing.

It's all about learning to work with our bodies and listen to what the body is trying to tell you.
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Old 07-04-2008, 09:51 AM   #6
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Here's an aspect that I don't see mentioned very often. Our culture (in the West) is largely one of vicarious experiences. The reason has to do with media, and I include not only movies and TV but also newspapers and books.

I think it's possible to read something or watch something and actually feel as though you've done something, when you haven't done anything. Because you've seen it, it's as though you've participated in it.

At no other time in history, for example, have masses of people been able to feel upset over, say, an airplane crash in a distant country. Or cheer about a bicycle race in another distant country.

So--I think that reading about losing weight, watching programs about losing weight, thinking about losing weight, discussing losing weight, and theorizing about losing weight are all well and good. They can help point us in a direction. But, sooner or later one has to stop the vicarious distraction and actually do something real in one's daily life. Oh yes, people know what they "should" do... I think it's very hard for many people to make that leap.

The reasons we "can't" are varied and individual. (All reasons are just excuses dressed up as facts.) They include:

1. I have no time. (To get the foods together, to do exercise.)
As one 3FC member once said, we all have exactly the same amount of time. It's still amazing to me that I actually do have time to go to the gym every day. I could have sworn that I didn't.

2. I can't (won't) eat X, Y, Z. (Low carb, low fat, restricted calories, six times a day, every two hours, vegetables, etc.)
OK, I think that's pretty obvious. You'll do what you have to do.

3. I can't afford it. (Weight loss foods, Weight Watchers, a gym membership, an exercise DVD.)
Anyone who can go eat at a fast food place a few times a week can afford all of the above.

4. I'm too tired after all I do to exercise.
Sometimes people think exercise has to be a big deal. It doesn't. Anyone who is reasonably able-bodied can do a little walking to get started.

Well, stuff like that. Our member Meg once said, "If you want it, you'll find a way. If you don't, you'll find an excuse." I think ultimately that's what it comes down to.

OK, getting off my

Jay

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Old 07-04-2008, 10:02 AM   #7
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I don't think this is an issue with weight only. I believe people, in general, know what they should do in all other aspects of life. Think financial matters for example - do you ever watch "Till Debt Do Us Part" or "Maxed Out"? Shouldn't all people know that they are not supposed to buy stuff if they actually cannot afford (by being able to afford it I DON'T mean having enough credit on a credit card) and yet the amount of consumer debt is mind-blowing. People spend money that they don't have on things they don't need and don't have space for (oh yeah, eventually, they will have to buy a bigger house in order to accommodate all the junk and sink into an even deeper debt). And why? for the same reason - because the purchases fill some emotional voids, satisfy some emotional needs, and so on.
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Old 07-04-2008, 10:50 AM   #8
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I feel I discuss the mental aspects of weight loss frequently -- both here and IRL, which I think encompass the immediacy you discuss, but also other issues (just take a look at the body image forum for some other examples of how our mind affects our perceptions).

As a social/cultural psychologist, I'm simply fascinated with how our minds affect this whole process. But that certainly doesn't make me immune to the effects.

I think we as a society overemphasize the physical part of the process, because it's something we can wrap ourselves around easier. When people ask me how I lost weight, the simple answer is the physical one "Eat less, move more." But the real question is how have I been able to finally overcome all my obstacles to both take the weight off and keep it off? I wish I knew, really, because I do agree that knowledge isn't enough.
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Old 07-04-2008, 11:14 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Heather View Post
But the real question is how have I been able to finally overcome all my obstacles to both take the weight off and keep it off? I wish I knew, really, because I do agree that knowledge isn't enough.
Broken record alert - I've said this SOOOO many times.

I agree that knowledge is not enough. Not even close. I really and truly believe that it all boils down to - you have to want it badly enough. Because when you do, you will find a way, no matter how difficult, to overcome all those other obstacles.
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Old 07-04-2008, 11:37 AM   #10
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I would disagree some with the "we all know how" part.

Here and on other boards I read, the sheer number of people - adults, not kids, and not even young adults, but people my age and parents who are feeding kids - who know NOTHING about nutrition makes my mind boggle.

Of the people who lack nutrition knowledge:

Many of them haven't even the vaguest idea what their calorie level should be (is 5000 too much, is 500 too little).

Many of them think that it's ok to eat nothing but junk as long as they stay within a set calorie level.

Many of them don't know what nutrients their body needs or what foods contain those nutrients so they eat whatever is handy.

Most of them have heard either low fat or low carb ... but they dont' really know what that means. So they cut out all fats, not realizing that our bodies need healthy fats to metabolise our food. Or they cut out all carbs mindlessly and not think about the healthy carbs they need to fuel their bodies.

That's one of the reasons that all the diet books that tell you what to eat and when to eat it are so successful, IMO. People are not taught nutrition, they don't understand it, and they just want someone to tell them what to eat, rather than figuring it out for themselves.

Our kids are inundated with advertising that says a McDonalds hamburger is a healthy meal - especially if you have it with a side of mandarin orange wedges instead of fries. We're all told that many restaurants have "healthy" choices on their menus and then are served food swimming in dressing, butter, oil, and cheese.

HOw many of the successful women here on 3FC have come back at one time or another and said that they truly didn't understand that what they were eating was bad until they began to eat well and felt better.

Speaking just for the US, as a nation, we ignore nutrition in favor of processed foods with added vitamins and think that's ok. If we eat fortified cereal ... that's nutrition, isn't it? If we eat diet food that has had the fat removed and vitamins added ... then we'll lose weight, right?

I don't think a lot of people know how to lose weight or eat right. And that's WHY when someone really becomes determined, it's so hard. It's not just becoming committed, many people have to rethink their entire knowledge base about food .. what's healthy, what's good, how to prepare it, how to buy it.

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Old 07-04-2008, 12:19 PM   #11
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Photochick -- those are good points. It's easy to overgeneralize.

But there is still the question of why many people who do have a pretty good grasp of nutrition, mastery of the mechanics of weight loss, knowledge of the health benefits of good nutrition and exercise, etc, etc, STILL fail -- either to lose weight or to maintain weight loss.

I don't think it can be boiled down to one or two phenomena. But I think there is now a wider appreciation for the social and psychological aspects of the problem. With strategies to target individual issues, hopefully more people will succeed in the future (including me!!!).
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Old 07-04-2008, 12:21 PM   #12
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Wow, a lot of great posts in this thread.

In my opinion, it's hard to lose weight and keep it off because we are surrounded by unhealthy food choices, every day, all day. Every commercial, billboard, magazine ad, every social event, dinner out with friends, coffee break at Starbucks - the food choices presented are generally not healthy and the portions are huge.

We are a culture that likes things FAST and not just weight loss, food preparation is also fast fast fast. We revel in convenience, no one has time to cook. Pick up some stuff, order a pizza, throw some frozen food in the microwave.

For me, successful weight loss meant opting out of that lifestyle and it's HARD because it makes me a freak. I'm the person that gets teased (gently) in the break room every day "salad again? you're going to turn green!" I dread company events because I know there the tables will groan under the weight of all the food and the "healthy" choice will be some field greens (nothing else) and some regular full fat dressing.

I made the commitment to me, and my health to never eat fast food again - this is hard (if I need something on the go, my 2 standbys are healthy sushi options and a healthy Chipotle option, a healthy Chipotle option that is loaded with sodium and is 500 calories, but still...leaps healthier than anything else). I made the commitment to cook - which means several trips to the grocery store a week. I made the commitment to make lunches - which means I have to carve out time to do it.

Per Photochick's post, I made the commitment to be informed. Some people don't know that food companies can get away with saying NO TRANSFAT if the product has less than .5 grams per serving. Some people don't know the different between "wheat" bread and "whole wheat" bread. A lot of people don't have any idea the Great Wall of Chocolate cake at P.F. Chang's has 2200 calories or the Bloomin' Onion from Outback has 2200 calories - heck I didn't know. I try to read as much as possible, from "In Defense of Food" to "What to Eat" to "Mindless Eating" - I want to understand my relationship with food.

I made a commitment to stop drinking my calories - no more sugar soda. I allow no sugar added cocoa or a tall skinny latte from Starbucks and the occasional glass of red wine. This is so hard - we live in a culture that drinks so many large cups of soda in the car that cup holders have had to get bigger!

And - I had to commit to all these changes for the rest of my life. Real change is hard, so hard. If you had told me 5 years ago I would be packing a healthy salad with some chicken for lunch almost everyday instead of just wandering into the cafeteria and getting whatever looked good that day, I would have thought you were crazy. If you had told me I would give up venti caramel lattes with whip, scones, yogurt preztels, M&Ms, nachos and pizza, I would have thought "well, what will I eat? those are the foods I love, I can't give them up!" I was wrong, I COULD DO IT and I did do it and I'm STILL doing it.

I definitely don't like being the weird one, the freak who is so picky about food. It hurts in social situations sometimes.
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Old 07-04-2008, 12:32 PM   #13
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I definitely don't like being the weird one, the freak who is so picky about food. It hurts in social situations sometimes.
Ahhh, but the alternative to being the weird one - is to be the "normal" one. And as you so beautifully pointed out - being "normal" in this society leads to eating foods that aren't so great for us - and therefore being unhealthy and overweight.

So - weird it is.

Something that I said earlier in this thread, I've actually been thinking about.
Quote:
I really and truly believe that it all boils down to - you have to want it badly enough.
Since I believe it really does boil down, to wanting it badly enough, why is it then we don't want it badly enough? Why are we so willing to settle for second best?
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Old 07-04-2008, 12:42 PM   #14
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Because we are creatures of habit and I'm OK .....???
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Old 07-04-2008, 02:04 PM   #15
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In reading through these posts, I feel there is an aspect to this that has been overlooked: for me, and for others, food is like a drug.

When I have fatty junk food, I DO get a small "high" from it. It's a momentary feeling of "Ahhhh. Yummy!" and I'm not just talking about taste.

So for me, and others, I know that when I am feeling overly stressed or emotional I will automatically turn to food the same way an alcoholic or drug addict will go back to their drug of choice: Because it's the simplest and easiest way to make ourselves physically feel better.

Of course it only lasts for seconds at most, and after that I beat myself up for making poor choices. I tell myself that I have to stop this unhealthy behavior! Drug addicts do the same, yet the siren call of their drugs lures them back time and again. Some drug addicts can quit cold turkey and be clean the rest of their lives. For most others, it takes several attempts before they get it right. Some never do.

It's the same with me and junk food. As time goes on, though, I AM kicking the habit! I'm just not one of the lucky few who got it right the first time.
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