It’s an amazing feeling to get over whatever hurdles are holding you back from weight loss, whether they’re mental or physical. When the weight goes down, confidence, and self esteem go up. So what’s there to worry about? Losing weight is a good thing, right?
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Health wise, losing extra weight is one of the best things you can do for yourself. But the psychology of weight loss doesn’t end after the first two stages. Believe it or not, losing weight takes a huge toll on a person’s mental health. When preparing patients for gastric bypass surgery, physicians recommend both one on one and group counseling to help individuals prepare for the “trauma” of drastic weight loss.
Drastic or not, any weight loss will need a mental adjustment for several reasons. Here are three of the biggest adjustments the mind needs to make to the body’s decline in size and some ways to ease the psychological adjustment.
Losing weight does not solve life’s problems – Maybe it’s subconscious. Maybe it’s just that for someone carrying a lot of extra weight, not much else matters. But for people who’ve lost a lot of weight, it sometimes comes as a shock that even though they’re in smaller jeans, they still have the same worries they always have. Especially for people desperate to lose extra pounds, a mental cycle may have formed equating weight loss with a “wonderful” or “perfect” life. No matter what a person weighs, though, bills still need to be paid, difficult people still need to be dealt with, and the weight struggle will still be there in the maintenance process.
For those embarking on weight loss, it’s important to keep those things in mind. Don’t let your new lifestyle make you forget about the things that weight has little affect on. Though there will be positive effects, like more energy to take on extra tasks at work and more confidence to be more socially outgoing, things won’t be perfect. Don’t expect them to be.
Your mind knows you as a “big” person – When you lose weight, especially a great deal of it, it’s almost as if you have to reintroduce yourself to yourself. If the only way you’ve ever known yourself is as overweight, when the skinny you emerges, the mind is going to rebel, no matter how much you look forward to that day. A few people I know who’ve undergone gastric bypass have testified to the fact that one of the hardest hurdles to overcome is getting used to thinking themselves as a “slender” person.
The negative effect of this mental rebellion is that even if you know you’re happy to weigh less, the mind is powerful thing. If not prepared, a person can easily cope with this trauma by overeating and leaving their new healthy habits to the wayside, packing on the pounds and essentially bringing themselves back to a weight that’s familiar. The first step to counteracting this lies in the process of weight loss itself. Take it slow. Gastric bypass patients are often encouraged to undergo therapy to help with the quick weight loss. But if you’re doing it sans surgery, aim for only one or two pounds a week. This average not only gives your mind time to adjust, it also gives you time to make exercise and healthy eating lifetime habits.
Your weight can be your protection – Using the last point as my diving board, I could probably discuss for hours all the reasons why one needs a mental adjustment to weight loss. But if I were to focus on just one connection, it would be the protection that fat offers. This point may be highly disagreed with, and for good reason. Generally, weight loss is linked with having more courage to do things and having more doors opened to you. While this is true, individuals tend to estimate how much they rely on excess weight to protect them.
Most women who are overweight automatically expect not to be flirted with or hit on during social situations. After becoming thinner, they are often times unprepared for how to deal with romantic and sexual attention. The same can be said for men. Another issue where weight offers protection is in justifying rejection. In any situation, whether it be romantic, social, or even economic, if an overweight person is disappointed, they can easily blame it on their weight. Though it doesn’t hurt any less, obesity becomes a scapegoat. However, take the excess weight out of the equation, and you have to face other reasons for the rejection, like a flaw in your personality that the opposite sex doesn’t like, or being under-qualified for a job prospect.
During the weight loss process, become comfortable with yourself and evaluate every aspect of your personality that has nothing to do with how much you weigh. Don’t let becoming slimmer change what’s good about you, and don’t use your excess weight to justify what’s bad. Figure out what you like about yourself. Ask close friends and family what they’d miss about you if it changed. Remember that there is more to you than what you weigh, and you need to take care of yourself as a whole.
Though this concludes my short series on the subject, there are many other ways in which the mind is connected to weight loss. During your own journey, pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. Keep a journal. Talk to others going through the same thing. Once you overcome the psychological barriers, you may find that not only will the pounds drop, but they’re more likely to stay off for good. Good luck on your weight loss and journey and stay strong in mind!