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Mental Health and Weight Loss: The Right Balance

shel80kgshel80kg Member Posts: 20 Member Member Posts: 20 Member
I would like to explore the strategies that you are using to move forward in having healthy relationships with your body, with food and with the idea of "loosing" weight. One question that has really challenged me over the years is whether mental health factors link directly to how we create, establish, maintain and worry about how heavy we are. Do we use our bodies as a barometer of how we truly feel about ourselves? Do you we use weight as a protective measure in certain cases? Do we give up on our bodies and use food as a type of comfort or friend? I would really love to know what you think if you are comfortable sharing. Clearly, dieting in the conventional sense does not work for a lot of us. Why not? The "Gurus" tell us that, notwithstanding any metabolic problems that we face due to disease, genetics etc...it is just a matter of "Calories In and Calories out". If it is this simple, than why is it so hard for some of our brains to turn on to this simple mathematical reality? What goes on in our deeper minds to avoid, discourage and perhaps even sabotage our hard work? Look forward to hearing from you friends.

Replies

  • ReenieHJReenieHJ Member Posts: 6,690 Member Member Posts: 6,690 Member
    Loaded question. First 3 questions gets a big yes each from me. My whole being has always centered around how big I felt myself to be. People didn't like me because I was overweight. I hated myself and didn't want to be seen out in public because of body size. I didn't dare do anything, such as bowling, horse-back riding, shopping(the worst!), etc., because I was embarrassed by my weight. I've always had the struggle of feeling self-conscious; as a child I was chubby and got picked on a lot by strangers. That set a precedent of how I felt about myself all through childhood, teens, adult. :( Up until maybe 10 years ago when I lost 85 lbs and it's been a battle to keep most of it off. Food was my comfort all the time, creating a vicious cycle. And yes to the protective measures because I always remember feeling people didn't like me because of being fat. When in all honesty, it was how I acted around others because of the way I felt about myself. I never talked, always looked ashamed, down at the ground. People have come out of the woodwork and said they thought I was stuck-up.

    I think our brains know it's CICO but we're always looking for that quick fix, magic bullet, 'this one diet plan will work where the other 10 failed'. My brain knows better but constantly has struggles with my emotions, trying to tell me lies like just one bite won't matter, I'll feel better, I need this whole pizza/2 servings of macaroni and cheese/3 pieces of cake, blah blah. I *can* stop at one my brain tells me. But my emotions feel out to lunch some times and those are what I struggle to corral without extra food.

    I do a lot of self-talk nowadays. Instead of saying 'I *need* this' I say 'my body needs this'. And it usually leads to making better choices. I still allow foods I feel a craving for but it's not out-of-this-world stuff my face until I feel fat and bloated anymore.

    Good luck with your challenges everyone!! It's within all of our abilities to get where we want to be. One meal at a time. :)
  • bubus05bubus05 Member Posts: 106 Member Member Posts: 106 Member
    A deep question.
    According to eastern philosophies our mind constantly seeks pleasure and happiness, it is in its nature. Not only that but we want immediate pleasure. This insatiable appetite to feel good is part of who we are. Hence in a 'depressed state of mind' one tends to eat more, escape into food, to have some happiness. We also want to look good, when I look into the mirror or step on the scale and I like what I see it gives me pleasure. Losing weight is great having a lean body from obese feels good but it doesn't happen overnight, and in most cases takes massive effort. Effort that is likely very challenging. Much like giving up an addiction like cigarettes or alcohol or drugs. The end result will give a lot of pleasure and happiness but the road to get there -in most cases- will be hard and takes time. This constant fight between what makes me feel good right now and what is good for me long term is a tough one, and takes a lot of mental strengths.

    Ultimately though if one believes the Buddha all of this is irrelevant, everything is temporary including our own happiness or sadness, since they depend on outside factors, that we have very little to no influence at all, like aging or becoming ill. Real happiness comes from the inner mind that is 'not dependent' from factors like how we look or even feel.

  • cmriversidecmriverside Member Posts: 31,255 Member Member Posts: 31,255 Member
    I agree with the previous posts, but I do want to reiterate that it is about calories in and calories out.


    I had to separate food from emotions and that was a long process for me.

    To me, many years after my weight loss, the most important things are 1. Log food. 2. Eat ENOUGH of the right balance of macros and nutrient so binges stop 3. Move more, on a daily basis. 4. Eliminate as many stressors in my life as possible. That includes people, type of job, internal judgements.
  • wiltedredwiltedred Member Posts: 5 Member Member Posts: 5 Member
    Exactly. I am actually having an interesting problem now. I separated my emotions from food, kept it mathematical and was able to drop 80 lb and now that I am moving out of losing weight and into building muscle I am having trouble psychologically making sure that I'm eating enough calories. I have the opposite problem now. So it seems that even though the mind is deeply impacted by emotions and tied deeply with food this can be reversed even to the point to where you have the opposite problem. At least in my case it seems as such. So I guess the point being we are stronger than we think, make sure to know thyself and keep yourself accountable with your logs and your routines and your checks on mental health.
    edited May 3
  • janejellyrolljanejellyroll Member, Premium Posts: 25,457 Member Member, Premium Posts: 25,457 Member
    Lots of things are "simple," but challenging to implement due to competing priorities or emotional issues.

    I guess I don't see a contradiction between the understanding that weight loss is created by consuming fewer calories than one uses and the understanding that actually consistently doing this can be hard day to day.

    I personally don't think I've used my body as a barometer or used weight as a protective measure, although I know some people do have this insight about themselves.

    It's just very easy to prioritize a short term goal or pleasure over a longer term one. That's what I had to get over.
  • AnnPT77AnnPT77 Member, Premium Posts: 19,781 Member Member, Premium Posts: 19,781 Member
    shel80kg wrote: »
    I would like to explore the strategies that you are using to move forward in having healthy relationships with your body, with food and with the idea of "loosing" weight. One question that has really challenged me over the years is whether mental health factors link directly to how we create, establish, maintain and worry about how heavy we are. Do we use our bodies as a barometer of how we truly feel about ourselves? Do you we use weight as a protective measure in certain cases? Do we give up on our bodies and use food as a type of comfort or friend? I would really love to know what you think if you are comfortable sharing. Clearly, dieting in the conventional sense does not work for a lot of us. Why not? The "Gurus" tell us that, notwithstanding any metabolic problems that we face due to disease, genetics etc...it is just a matter of "Calories In and Calories out". If it is this simple, than why is it so hard for some of our brains to turn on to this simple mathematical reality? What goes on in our deeper minds to avoid, discourage and perhaps even sabotage our hard work? Look forward to hearing from you friends.

    You're making assumptions, I think, as if we were all similar, in terms of how and why we got fat, stayed fat, etc. There's huge diversity.

    Mostly, I'm with @janejellyroll.

    Mental health factors can be hugely important for many people, in many ways, and of course can increase the challenge involved in managing bodyweight. Personality also matters, in terms of what influences weight management, even if not really a "mental health issue". We all have preferences, strengths, limitations, and need to recognize those and consider them in our personal strategies for accomplishing *any* goal.

    My main problem was that food tastes good, I like pleasure, and I wasn't very good at balancing my current self's desires for all the yummy food with my future self's need to be healthy and at a reasonable bodyweight. Calorie counting was the perfect tool to balance those needs. On top of that, I tend to data geekery, so calorie counting is/was like a fun science fair experiment. Win!

    I liked my body when I was fat (class 1 obese), because it could do all kinds of fun things, and life would be . . . um, unsatisfying? . . . without a body, eh? I like my body thin, now, too, and it can do even more things, is healthier, and feels even better in diverse ways. That's pretty excellent, worth hanging onto.

    I do have what some consider to be "metabolic problems": Age (65), menopausal status (early onset, besides), severe hypothyroidism (treated). I also have other health nonsense: Cancer history, arthritis in back & knees, torn meniscus, upper left quadrant scar tissue and cording from surgery and radiation therapy that involves some movement constraints, various consequences from chemotherapy (cognitive changes, super mild peripheral neuropathy, etc.), early-stage COPD, sleep apnea, etc. The only point in thinking about "obstacles" IMO is to consider how to get around, over, through or otherwise past them. Focusing on the obstacle, beyond that, is a waste of time and emotional energy, if they're not changeable. (I don't like drama.)

    It's been decades since I cared whether I was cute looking: I'm inside here, don't much have to look at myself. If other people don't like me, that's their problem. I don't need to give them free rent in my head. 🤷‍♀️

    For me, the whole question is a little navel-gaze-y. But I'm really not very complicated, subtle.

    BTW: I disagree with the bolded. The folks I'd say consider themselves "diet gurus", and whom others most often refer to that way, IMO spout all kinds of complicated nonsense to confuse the issues, like that there are specific foods or nutrients that are doom, that we're hapless victims of giant evil corporations, that we need to manipulate our food intake in complicated ways (that natural selection never had a reason to install) in order to manage weight, that we need to do specific kinds of exercise and switch them up regularly in order to burn calories or get fit, and all manner of other nonsense. The "gurus" need this to be complicated and arcane, in order to keep selling us stuff. At the mechanics level, it's not complicated: It's calorie balance. There's not a great sales proposition in it for the "gurus", if we can do it ourselves. They complicate, obfuscate.

    *How* to achieve calorie balance, as a human with strengths, weaknesses, a complicated life, a cultural background that may distract, emotions around food, a physical being that natural selection tuned up in times of famine rather than surplus, and more . . . that part can be difficult, sure.
  • Speakeasy76Speakeasy76 Member Posts: 519 Member Member Posts: 519 Member
    I will second what others have said in that I don't think mental health factors play a significant role for everyone who is or has been overweight, but it did for me. I think when we view weight loss as "simple" as calories in/calories out, we forget that we're not simple machines, but human beings with emotions, different experiences, differing impulse control circuitry and differences in how we perceive internal sensations (e.g.., hunger and fullness).

    I have struggled with depression and anxiety, and this probably started in childhood. No trauma or anything, just how I'm wired, I think. I also have been struggling with my weight since I was a kid; not a huge kid, but definitely on the chubby side and bigger than most of my friends. For a long time, I tied my self-worth to my weight, and probably still do a bit to this day--even having been at a healthy weight for quite some time now. I don't think I have ever used excess body weight as a protective measure. In fact, most of the time it made me more self-conscious (and I don't like attention, generally).

    I have definitely used food to cope with uncomfortable emotions, anxiety probably being the 1st, boredom the 2nd (although probably what I though was boredom was actually anxiety). I struggled with binge eating in my 20's, to the point I sought out therapy and Overeater's Anoynmous meetings. I just recently realized that having had some other impulse-control/OCD type behaviors even as a kid, it was all related.

    I am happy to say I no longer struggle with weight, although at times may start to use food to cope with uncomfortable emotions. I'm now at a weight I never thought I would be, but don't feel deprived--it's just how I am now. To be successful, though, I most definitely had to change my mindset about how I viewed myself and my relationship with food, which can still be a work in progress. There are times when I doubt that I'll be able to maintain this loss, but I do know I prefer eating mostly healthy foods.

    I'd also like to add that I think WHAT we eat can impact our mental health, especially in those of us who are prone to mental health problems. There has been a lot of research done on the gut-brain connection, and if our stomachs often don't feel great (either due to eating too much or too much of the wrong stuff), it makes sense it would affect our mood. I've recently discovered how much of the different types of food I am/was eating impact my overall mood (among other things).
  • shel80kgshel80kg Member Posts: 20 Member Member Posts: 20 Member
    I have read the responses and wonder if some of us find it difficult to operationalize the intelligent ideas and suggestions apparent in the above postings. I remember thinking as I read through the opinions that there may be a reluctance to link "mental health" to body image, patterns established which lead to unhealthy choices regarding food and a general sense of being overwhelmed by separating emotions from thoughts and seeing food as fuel rather than a source of comfort/love or just pleasure. To go one step further, I think there is a risk that those of us who are, remain or return to being overweight, feel judged and even devalued by the lack of sensitivity to how mood disorders, trauma-related conditions (i.e.PTSD, Complex PTSD) and others may contribute to obesity. To simplify my observation, saying to some of us who are truly struggling with weight related issues just count calories, use MFP and keep it basic and "simple" is not unlike suggesting that drinking more than recommended quantities of alcohol may lead to a range of physical and emotional difficulties (to say the least).I know some of us can just interfere with behavioral patterns and make better choices. I am interested in the subset of our overweight cohort that may be struggling with deeper issues which impact on self-care; emotional regulation and valuing the self. Certainly, there needs to be a degree of empathy and insight which extends to some of us who have struggled despite the health "experts" who promulgate science and robotic responses.
  • shel80kgshel80kg Member Posts: 20 Member Member Posts: 20 Member
    I though I would add a few more thoughts and then ask a question. Firstly, the weight management industry of which MFP exists within has some wonderful resources and recommendations which can offer a meaningful pathway towards eating in a healthy manner and experiencing great results in achieving the desired outcomes. This is a great contribution for those of us that can follow the formulas and scientifically-based prescriptions for food selection, calorie counting, exercise and honest recordings. However, those of us that have been impacted by mental health factors which interfere with clear thinking, basic problem solving and sensible choices may be extremely challenged to adhere to the repetitive "mantras" espoused by the people who have already achieved success and feel confident enough in their own success to preach the gospel to the masses. Why is it that obesity is increasing with all of this great information and the plethora of these knowledgeable folks who run the forums and the services such as this one? Where is the system breaking down and how is it possible that we are struggling more than ever with getting fatter as a general population and at younger ages? Please let me know what your thoughts are. Thank you in advance for not just rushing your answers in a defensive manner. Just give this some thought and please share what you really think.
  • bubus05bubus05 Member Posts: 106 Member Member Posts: 106 Member
    The food industry in the USA was apparently worth 6.2 trillion dollars in 2019. That is a lot of food to sell. Its main focus is to make profit not make people healthy. Thing is if today everyone started eating healthy, this food industry would collapse in no time, probably millions of people would lose their jobs as well. To sell their stuff they do massive advertisement campaigns spending probably billions on them. And these adds are effective, I am having trouble to convince my own kid to eat healthy, he thinks I am basically a 'boomer' who dont know s.h.i.t-sorry for the expletive. Sure there is the MFP and others, and they are great, but they are miniature compare to the large multi national corporations. To this consider that our western society has never been so wealthy as today. There is money everywhere, even the poorest will be able to spend money on food, starvation at least in the west is non-existent, which is a good thing, if only that money was spent on healthy foods...
    And than they will tell you that being fat is completely fine as long as 'you like being you', dont even know what to say to that...LOL I think I ranted enough for today.
  • southkonahisouthkonahi Member Posts: 104 Member Member Posts: 104 Member
    shel80kg wrote: »
    One question that has really challenged me over the years is whether mental health factors link directly to how we create, establish, maintain and worry about how heavy we are.
    For thought, why is it that people are more willing to look inward to life's problems/situations when figuring out why they smoke cigarettes, than they are when they are trying to figure out why they allow themselves to eat too many calories?
    edited May 4
  • penguinmama87penguinmama87 Member, Premium Posts: 387 Member Member, Premium Posts: 387 Member
    shel80kg wrote: »
    One question that has really challenged me over the years is whether mental health factors link directly to how we create, establish, maintain and worry about how heavy we are.
    For thought, why is it that people are more willing to look inward to life's problems/situations when figuring out why they smoke cigarettes, than they are when they are trying to figure out why they allow themselves to eat too many calories?

    I think this is a good way to look at it.

    For me, it was really freeing, actually, to look at my overeating as just another kind of vice. Not to punish myself for it (which is a huge temptation), but to treat it more distantly. If I want to stop feeling beholden to a particular kind of vice, what virtue can I practice instead that will help me overcome it? Gluttony can be overcome by practicing temperance, and sloth by industriousness (we used to use the word "industry" but that has a much more narrow meaning now). I've done this in other areas of my life, now I just apply to it to what I eat too. It's actually not that different, but I was making it bigger in my head.

    One of the things that I think can be sticky about weight loss is that being overweight or obese is obvious to other people. Many if not most other bad habits, flaws, or vices can be hidden in whole or in part from at least some of the people we come into contact with on a regular basis. I think that's one reason our society can be so weirdly sensitive about it.
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