Thursday, December 10, 2009

Weight Loss: A Complex Emotional Issue

My post yesterday about the underlying emotional issues that cause weight gain hit home for many readers.

Sara Sullivan, who has made public her weight loss journey, and who I've been featuring this week, is an AB blood type, and when I researched the personality traits of ABs, I read that they're likely to have received mixed messages about emotional health.

Sara shared with me that her emotional life is complex (in the manner of an AB type) and in order to function in her day-to-life, she represses some of that complexity, which she's aware contributes to her habits and patterns around emotional eating.

However, it's one thing to be aware of emotional issues around food and eating, and another thing altogether changing one's behavior in relation to food. Yet awareness is a great place to start.

I had a message from a friend who read yesterday's post. She and her husband are on a weight- loss program, one that requires that they avoid simple carbs, like pasta, bread, cookies, cakes etc., and include complex carbs, like whole grains.

The challenge apparently, is that they crave the simple carbs and the euphoric feeling-response to the simple sugars.

I can understand that, that's why I find myself periodically mindlessly shoving handfuls of choccie into my mouth -- I crave the good feelings of a sugar high. But like my friend, the consequence of over-indulging is a blood sugar crash: fatigue, headache, no appetite, nausea, and feeling generally yuk.

A sugar high has the same effect on the brain as any mind-altering, addictive substance--we feel great initially, and then we crash. So there are unpleasant, uncomfortable, sometimes painful consequences to eating foods that are not healthful, yet we eat them regardless because we love the way they initially make us feel.

Here's something I learned from Dr. Joe Dispenza: when you respect and love yourself wholeheartedly, you refrain from causing yourself pain by making healthy loving choices.

First, though (and this is my addendum) negative emotions (which we attempt to soothe by over-feeding them sugar and other yummy treats) need to be acknowledged and made peace with, otherwise loving oneself is simply a great idea rather than a reality.

You can probably tell that I have a psychology degree. After culinary school, I worked for 8 years as a chef in Australia, England and France, returning to university in my mid-to late 20's to study psychology. And that's how I found my way to Boulder, to complete graduate work in Jungian Psychology and counseling.

The combination of a food background and psychology degree is an interesting one; I'm very aware of the emotional and behavioral challenges inherent in making healthy food choices at the grocery store, and then once home, the challenges around feeding oneself and one's family healthful meals.

Next week, I'll post on the topic of "loving food choices," like complex carbs versus simple carbs, and ways to integrate those choices into family-friendly meals with health, weight, budget, flavor and interest in mind.

And as I sign off for the week, I'd like to thank Sara Sullivan for allowing me to feature her story on this blog. Her weight-loss journey is truly an inspiration.

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