Losing weight can be a struggle – if it wasn’t, it would not be a multi-billion dollar industry and we would all be wearing the size we want to be in. It’s a frustrating rollercoaster of potions and powders, fads, myths, shakes, bars, and all manner of conflicting messages, mixed with exercise shoulds and should-nots that can also be totally confusing. Often there is little change on the scales but on the inside is a growing sense of despair.
You feel triumphant when you lose weight and bitterly disappointed when you gain it. Your emotions and sense of control go up and down with the scales. It’s an unhappy recipe and for many people it’s a long-term or even life-long struggle. After trying everything and anything with no results you may be wondering: is it my mindset? Can a therapist help me lose weight?
You already know what works. You are well-informed and interested. Fewer calories in than calories burnt – it’s a simple equation and is proven time and again and the way to lose weight. So, what is stopping you from eating less than you burn? Why aren’t you getting the results you would like? Why do you start well but then discontinue part way through your weight loss, or lose the weight you wanted to lose only to put it all back on again? And what has a therapist got to do with weight loss???
The answer lies in your motivation. I can hear you sighing and I imagine you are thinking, Yes. That’s obvious… So now what? You have probably seen for yourself that motivation is the key to weight loss. Think about those times you did successfully drop a few kilos – what was your motivation? Did you want to fit into a special outfit for a big occasion, or slim down before you went on a beach holiday, or did the weight drop off when you started a new romantic relationship? Often there is a tangible goal in mind – but then what happens once you reach the goal? Why don’t you stick to your healthier eating and exercise plan? What has happened to your motivation?
Enter: your weight loss therapist. The key to successful weight loss is having motivation that comes from deep within.
What do you mean? Are you getting all spiritual and esoteric on me? I can hear you wondering. No, I am not doing those things (though if that works for you, that is fine) – I am talking about something that has a wealth of empirical data to support its effectiveness. I am talking about ACT – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?
Briefly, ACT is a therapy that works by connecting you to your own individual values, not the values of your cultural group, not the values of your partner or your family, not the values of your workplace. Just yours. In many ways, your values are your essence – they are what make you who you are. When we identify and connect to our values, we get in touch with who we are as people and we feel really stable and in control.
Many people respond to my introduction of values in therapy by saying they already know what their values are. How is this going to help me? Sure, most of us think we are connected to our values. I want to be a good person. I want to be a great parent. I want to be a great friend. These are actually not values – they are goals, and goals are not what we are talking about in ACT. We want to get to the values that underpin these goals.
If I say I want to be a good therapist, well, that’s nice, but what will that actually mean? If I say I want to be punctual, informed, effective, empathetic as a therapist, then the picture is much clearer. When I break down the goal into values, I can clearly live to those values – I will be on time, I will read relevant articles related to my work, I will ensure I am using the right interventions for the client, I will show kindness and understanding with my words and my presence with clients.
The Gap Between Values and Actions
ACT does not reduce our feelings of discontent, loneliness, sadness, anger or any other feeling but it does help us to feel those things, at the same time as we live the life we want to live anyway. If you feel lonely and your way to move away from that feeling is to eat a packet of chocolate biscuits, then that might work in the short term to make you feel better. But what about the long term? How do you feel later? Is it horribly disappointing, do you beat yourself up with thoughts about being useless, hopeless, weak or some other uncomfortable thought? Chances are you do.
If your intention was to eat with thoughtfulness and control and you don’t do that, you have a gap between what you value and what you do. This is what brings you undone in your endeavour to lose weight. This is why getting clear about your values, really connecting with how you want to live your life, will unlock the true, deep motivation that will allow you to lose weight and live your life in a positive and meaningful way – a way that has meaning for you.
Can A Therapist Help Me Lose Weight?
Yes! Weight loss therapy can help you take control once and for all and reach a weight you can be at in the long term. Not because society wants you to be thin, not because your friends or family or partner or the media wishes you were different, but for whatever reason lies deep in your heart.
Maybe you want a long and healthy life so you can see your children grow. Perhaps you associate weight loss with good health and you value a body that functions optimally. Deeper still, there may be a link between your weight and your sense of self worth – you want to lose weight because it’s a way of loving yourself. Often our truest motivation – the values that are aligned with our hearts – is buried under a plethora of superficial distraction. A therapist can help you dig deep, get real and make lasting changes from within.
Rachael Walden is a Weight Loss Therapist with a background in fitness training and a passion for good nutrition. Make an appointment for weight loss therapy with The Bondi Psychologist.