Friday, April 25, 2014

The Psychology of Weight Loss

I came around a TedTalk video that I thought was very interesting. It talks about weight loss, but not from a pragmatic point of view, as we're generally used to, but from a psychological one. It explains how irrational it is to pretend that losing weight is a simple equation of eating less + exercising more = losing weight, since the process involves humans. It might work, but it might just not. Generally it does, but it doesn't work as much as we've hoped it would, which basically leads us to feel disappointed and consider that our efforts were all for nothing. What is happening when we start a diet, is that we see ourselves now, and then we see ourselves in the future, how we want to become, without really realizing how much we would have to change our life to achieve that incredible shape. We become enthusiastic, we buy many fruits and vegetables, diet food and pills, and work out outfits and tools. And then, after a few days, we realize it's way harder than we thought (actually, we didn't think it through at all, but we don't realize that), and we feel half disappointed with ourselves, and half happy to start eating again the things we love. So then, why does this whole thing happen? And not just once! We perpetuate this cycle of shame-blame-diet-quitting, and we feel restless. It is because our expectations are way too high. We are conditioned by the media and the image that our society has come to see as perfect and we oh so want to fit to that image that we just don't fit. We're mainly wanting and trying to become somebody that we're not, instead of wanting to become what we believe to be a better version of ourselves.

One of the things that we do, when starting a diet, is that we tend to remove all the things we like from our meals and replace them with things that are healthy, but that we don't necessarily like. And I have a feeling that we tend to feel all the more braver when eating things we dislike, as if it were a challenge to eat as worse as possible. In other words, what we're unconsciously doing is punishing ourselves, as if there were no intermediate way of eating, by eating either excessively fat, sugary and delicious food or low fat but disgusting food. But obviously, this method is doomed to fail since we cannot live our entire life feeling satisfied with food that we find distasteful, except if we're masochists. And the same goes for exercise. If you do some sort of exercise for the purpose of losing weight, you're going to force yourself into doing something that you dislike and that you'll fatally stop at some point. But if you were to do something that involves exercise that you like, you would be able to keep doing that on the long run. That's the thing, what we need to keep in mind is the long run. We need to really understand what changes we're ready to do or not in our life that would be sustainable for months or years. What we mustn't forget either is the fact that there is no sense is focusing all our energy for a small amount of time (even for a year) if it is to be tired and fed up of doing what it is that we're doing after all. What I mean is that, for example, running burns more calories than walking, but if you hate running, it is just going to be a huge sacrifice that you'll do until you cannot take it anymore, whilst if you like going for a walk, you're more likely to continue doing that on the long run, and thus staying in shape on the long run too. While with running you would have this yoyo type of lifestyle where you're in very good shape for some time, and then you abandon all efforts, and then start again, to quit again, etc. With walking your shape probably won't be as spectacular, but isn't it better to be able to keep that good shape once and for all, rather than yoyoing between amazing shape and non-amazing shape all the time? Needless to remind us all the psychological consequences that yoyo has...

Another thing that we do when we're on diet, or even in our everyday life, is that we try not to satisfy our cravings. So, we think of, say, chocolate, and then we try not to eat any, by eating something else or trying to think of something else. But, this rarely works now, does it? What Alisa Anokhina says in her TedTalk speech is that we're trapped in what is called the "White Bear" effect, we're in this cycle where if you tell yourself not to think of a white bear, all you're going to do is to think of a white bear. The same goes for food. So what she recommends we do when facing such cravings is to plan eating this delicious thing we oh so crave for later, and sort of appreciating it completely, by waiting for it, and then maybe do it by ourselves and then eating it positively, i.e. feeling happy because we've waited for the right moment, we're finally eating it, and because we've chosen the ingredients that we prefer. So basically what you do is that you create a special moment rather than just hurrying to appease your hunger/craving. And this is also the way to change your life in a more healthy and positive way, getting this positive feeling of trying to treat your body better, whilst eating things and doing things you love, so that it becomes what Alisa called a "permanent lifestyle change" rather than a diet. Also, she adds that changing our lifestyle is as much a personal thing than changing our eating habits, somebody else's tips probably won't help you since you're both different. That's mostly why diets don't work, because we're lead to eat things that are not fit for us. 

I'll let you see the speech by yourselves to interpret it your way too: 

Have a great day, and keep your mind sharp!

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