Mental Health and Dieting: Problems and Solutions

Mental Health and Dieting

Although dieting and weight-loss target the physical body, the role of mental health and the mind-body connection cannot be ignored. Dieting is more of a mental exercise than anything else because it takes an immense amount of self-control and behavioral modification to put it into practice. Not only do you need to be motivated, but you also need to keep in mind the often-overlooked role of stress, self-control, and emotional eating as well.

The Mind-Body Connection

Numerous research studies have shown that extreme amounts of anxiety and stress can have a direct effect on the physical functioning of your body. In psychology, this is often referred to as a psychosomatic disorder in which a disease is made worse by mental influences or physical symptoms appear as a result of your mental state.

In regards to dieting, the evidence of the mind-body connection is demonstrated by how the stress hormone cortisol influences your internal fat storage processes. So, the more stress and anxiety you have in your life, then the more your body will store fat around your organs. This is essentially your body’s disaster response at play. When you are stressed out or anxious, your body switches into survival mode and starts to store your food as fat storage to prepare for the fight-or-flight response.

So, how can you fix this problem?


Generally reducing stress and anxiety in your life will greatly improve your ability to diet and lose weight. One of the top ways to address stress and anxiety is through daily meditation and yoga practice. If you struggle from chronic anxiety though, make sure to check in with your doctor or therapist to see if they can help you as well.

Body Shaming & Emotional Eating: Every Diet’s Worst Enemy

A lot of dieting programs tend to involve body shaming by making the participants feel like they are never enough and that their bodies need to be changed. This is often believed to be an effective motivational tactic, but this method actually does a lot more harm than good. When people are shamed for their bodies, this leads them to fall down an emotional spiral that often ends with emotional eating and bingeing. Research has shown that feeling ashamed about your body can lead you to be less likely to participate in exercise or healthy eating as well. So, this common weight-loss tactic actually does the exact opposite of its intent.

So, how can you fix this problem?


Rather than approaching dieting with the mindset of wanting to change your body, it is better to focus on changing your health. Radical acceptance of your body takes the stress and shame out of dieting and shifts the goal onto healthier outcomes instead. Treat your body as your temple, not as your enemy, and your weight loss journey will be much more enjoyable.

Delayed Gratification & Self-Control in Dieting

A famous psychological experiment called “The Marshmallow Experiment” tested the ability for children to delay gratification. As a delectable marshmallow was placed in front of them, they had the choice to either eat that marshmallow instantly or wait 5-minutes and get to eat two marshmallows instead. After checking in with these same children later in life, the children who were able to delay instant gratification and wait for the second marshmallow had lower rates of obesity and higher standardized test scores. This experiment highlights the role of self-control in dieting. But not everyone has this innate ability and often these habits are built up from childhood.

So, how can you fix this problem?


Thankfully, self-control is also a learned skill and can be changed with the right efforts. Through constant practice and building up your mental strength, you can train your brain to push off gratification for the long-term rewards. One of the greatest methods for building up self-control is by practicing daily meditation. Meditation increases your patience, concentration, and emotional control, thereby giving you the tools to diet better and take control of your life.

The Goldilocks Principle: How to Eat a Diet that is “Just Right”

Have you ever opened a bag of chips that has a strong initial flavor but then it flattens out and tastes like nothing almost instantly? That is the Goldilocks Principle at play. We all know how it feels to take a bite of a delectable piece of cake and to have the overwhelming desire to eat more and more, this is obviously bad for dieting. But people often dismiss the role of food that lies on the other end of the spectrum when food just doesn’t completely satisfy you enough.

Eating food that doesn’t fulfill your appetite or taste buds or that just isn’t rewarding enough will often lead people to continue eating in search of that moment of fulfillment. This can lead to an endless cycle of constant eating without any nourishment.

So, how can you fix this problem?


Goldilocks is famous for trying 3 different porridges and finally settling on the porridge that had a temperate that was “just right”. Try applying this same principle to the food that you eat and instead of seeking that chemical packed instant reward that fades away or eating something extremely decadent, try to eat something simple but fulfilling. By eating foods that are more nourishing and avoiding foods that activate that instant reward that dissipates almost immediately (such as foods loaded with MSG), this will help you to move into the Goldilocks zone of dieting.

Summary

If weight-loss is your goal but you are struggling to see any results, maybe it is time to rethink your strategy and focus on the role of the mind and mental health. By reducing stress, focusing on self-acceptance, increasing your self-control, and eating a nourishing diet, you can enhance your dieting like never before. These mental factors to dieting are often overlooked but the mind-body connection is the key to a successful weight-loss journey.

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