Psychology of Weight Loss – Step by step actionable guide

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Happiness comes in all shapes and sizes. If you’re overweight, happy and healthy, no problemo! You have every right to feel comfortable in your own skin.

However, if slipping on to a larger dress size on your last shopping spree made you break into a nervous sweat of horror, you’re on the right page!

Data released by the World Obesity Federation shows that the percentage of Indian adults living with obesity is set to jump to around 5% by 2025, from 3.7% in 2014. Also, by 2025, India will have over 17 million obese children and stand second among 184 countries where the number of obese children is concerned, according to a study. Thus, it is clear that obesity and weight-related diseases like diabetes, the risk of stroke, etc. are on the rise.

Understanding Psychology of Weight

No doubt, to a large extent weight gain is biologically rooted. We eat for survival. However, hunger is both physiologically and psychologically regulated.

Physiologically speaking, the moment your blood glucose level drops, a need for food is detected by the brain. We all have a set point to which our body weight tends to return more or less by making adjustments in food intake and energy expenditure. This set point is not just biologically determined but also psychologically affected. Hence, worry not! Even if you inherited those genes of obesity from your forefathers, there still is hope!

Psychology of hunger

The psychology of hunger can very much manipulate the number shown by the weighing scale.

  • For instance, researchers have found that when we are given access to a wide variety of tasty food like that at a wedding buffet, we tend to overeat.
  • Another factor operating at the wedding dinner table is that of social facilitation—a phenomenon which states that we eat more when we savour a meal in the presence of others.
  • Yet another explanation for widening waistlines is unit bias i.e. we eat more because our standard portion size itself is large. For instance, in one experiment led by researcher Brian Wansink, it was found that even nutritionists ate 31% more of ice cream when they were given big instead of small bowls and 14.5% more when they were provided with a large instead of a small scoop.
  • The hunger response is also partially guided by our memory of when we last ate. Thus, an amnesic may eat 3 whole meals within a gap of 20 minutes just because she has no idea of when she last ate, even though physiologically speaking, her stomach is well satiated.
  • And of course, there are those carbohydrate-rich comfort foods which momentarily make the whole world seem slightly better but make us regret later.Experiencing suppressed anger for your insulting boss? Reach for that Cadbury.

The woman of your dreams rejected you? Grab the extra large fries from Macdonald’s on your way back home.

lonely new first-year hostel student? Eat 10 of those besan ke laddus Maa packed while watching a chick flick.

The aroma of fresh frying pakodas from the street side bring a wave of nostalgia about that monsoon evening from your childhood? Go help yourself!

  • The words mentioned in bold are red flags for indulgence in comfort/ emotional eating.
  • Very often when we find ourselves dangerously crossing our set point weight, we start following diet plans that are either self-formulated or prescribed by dieticians. However, dieting often goes haywire in our fast-paced schedule and we may end up experiencing what Herman and Polivy referred to as the What-The-Hell logic.According to this effect, once we break a diet rule, we keep on breaking more of them because we rationalize, “I have already eaten too much cake. Now helping myself to that glass of sugary punch won’t hurt because, what the hell, I am no good at this diet stuff anyway!” You are already feeling guilty about losing control and now to compensate for it you believe that you might as well enjoy yourself in this failure.
  • Lastly, the media plays mind games too to sell their diet foods. Doesn’t the flat tummy of Shraddha Kapoor in the Lipton Green Tea advertisement make you feel a little envious? Also, the widespread social media has rigidly set the glorious standards of beauty at the 36-24-36 figure for women and 6 pack abs for men. In this ‘like culture’, we are very likely to succumb to the unrealistic body image requirements for acceptance.It is thus not uncommon to hear that eating disorders like bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and binge eating are on a rise, especially among women.

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