Natassa Pursey MSc (Psy) MBPS
"The purpose of Psychotherapy is to set people free" Rollo May
Weight Loss Therapy
Why diets alone don’t work in the long run:
Research shows again and again that diets can only work short term and this is true for every diet that exists out there. The reasons for this are both physical and psychological. Weight loss psychotherapy consists of taking both physical and emotional/psychological aspects into account.
Physical and Psychological explanations of comfort eating:
Malnutrition is very common amongst overweight people. Lack of a nutrient dense diet makes it more likely to overeat in response to stress. Research showed that mice that were subject to electric shocks (stressed) began to eat more. However when they were given a nutrient rich diet before hand they all stopped overeating when given the same level of electrical shocks. A big part of weight loss therapy is education about the effect of insulin on fat storage and the importance of keeping blood sugar stable.
People with good boundaries feel in control and are able to recognise their wants and needs without having to violate other’s boundaries by controlling them. However people with faulty boundaries have low self esteem, they are fearful of rejection and they confuse their wants with their needs. E.g. they may need nurturing but they go for a cake instead. Therapy helps the person to build healthy boundaries to be able to make a clear distinction between wants and needs.
Comfort eating is often a sign that a person lacks assertion. People who cannot say no to other people may be unable to say no to food.
Feeling good –food as addiction:
Food promotes good feelings (through serotonin changes and the Opiodergic system). It is normal to want something that helps you feel good but some people become over attached to food because it prevents them from feeling “low”. People who find it hard to keep going without stimulation find that eating high- fat- salt- sugar foods will boost their motivational state and give them a “hit” they need.
At some level excessive eating can be seen as self-abuse. Feelings of anger, guilt towards themselves could result in self-abuse which in turn will bring more feelings of anger and guilt.
Blocking or regulating feelings:
This is the most common explanation of comfort eating. People can overeat when they have negative belief about emotions (eg if feeling anger makes you feel like a bad person you might overeat to block the feelings of shame). People also overeat if they have difficulties coping with feelings of anger, loneliness or anxiety. Overeating becomes a mechanism to block these feelings.
We can sometimes guess the emotion the person is trying to block by observing the eating style:
- Nibbling anxiety
- Stuffing anger
- Lots of rules about food guilty
- Cravings for sugar depressed
- Heavy eating dissatisfied
- Lots of treats envy/ boredom
- Continuous eating inner emptiness/ out of touch with wants and needs