A new weight management book presses the importance of a psychological approach to weight loss
Going beyond meal plans and calorie counting, new book The Weight Escape is about bridging the psychological gap between what we want to do and what we actually do.
Authors Russ Harris, Joseph Ciattochi and Ann Bailey are strongly against the ‘diet book’ phenomenon and discourage popular shows like The Biggest Loser due to their unrealistic nature.
Bailey, a clinical psychologist, says we have all heard the message ‘eat less, exercise more’ yet 63 per cent of Australians are still overweight.
“Show like The Biggest Loser take people out of their natural lifestyle and puts them in a bubble under tremendous pressure, it’s not normal life.
“The Weight Escape talks about real life, not fantasy. It’s about integrating our weight loss and health into the larger, real life demands we all share,” she says.
Bailey adds dieting fads and fitness trends don’t work out for the majority of Australians as they don’t take into account the psychological relationship we all have with food and our bodies.
“Diets reduce us down to the goal of losing weight and disconnect us from the meaning and joy of food. Food is not just about eating, it is comfort, love, adventurous and celebratory,” she says.
There are three major components to The Weight Escape’s psychological approach, which have been scientifically proven by a great deal of supporting research:
We need to develop mindfulness
Bailey says we need to build awareness of our toxic food environment, our body’s needs, and unhelpful habits of mind.
“Mindfulness can help us to stop, slow down and become aware of what is going on inside us; become aware of what is driving our emotional eating behaviour, and help us create psychological space in the face of this distress to make better weight loss decisions.
“It can also help us negate the power of the negative mind and allows us to still act effectively even when it’s telling us we can’t,” she says.
We need to develop self-compassion
“We forget that as humans we are biologically engineered as a species to retain weight to help us survive,” Bailey says.
She adds people often blame themselves when they find weight loss hard or fail with fad diets.
“We declare war on our bodies. Our bodies become our enemy. We assume our self-criticism is necessary to help us get focused and achieve our weight loss goals.
“The evidence suggests the exact opposite is true. People who beat themselves up are actually less motivated to exercise and eat healthy. Nobody is motivated by abuse,” she says.
We need to connect our health goals to our larger life values
Bailey says many people are unclear about the important ‘why’ when it comes to starting their weight loss journey.
“Often, all we have is a vague sense of ‘looking good’ or ‘feeling more confident’, or we are focused on fitting into our skinny jeans. If these are the reasons we are trying to lose weight we are unlikely to succeed.
“If we don’t connect our weight loss to the larger meaning and purpose of our lives, then we are unlikely to succeed,” Bailey says.
The Weight Escape is available now for purchase and the authors are embarking on a national tour of workshops, including a Brisbane event on 8 March.