Psychology enters into almost everything in life, and weight management is no exception. When confronted with any situation, no matter how big or small, past experiences, personality, conditioning, learned values and fears and inherited tendencies such as temperament color how we behave and how we handle things. These factors influence your thinking and what you say to yourself at any given time.
The more introspective and self-aware you are, the more likely you are to see patterns in your behavior and thinking. And that can tell you a lot about yourself and can determine outcomes. These patterns in thinking can help you see what's behind some of your self-defeating behavior.
When you're not aware of your thought patterns and how they relate to the things that seem to happen around you, you can get into a rut, continuing to think the same self-defeating things then wondering why your lot in life never seems to change.
Take Marcie, for instance. She thought the only way for her to lose weight was to go to an extreme exercise boot camp. Boot camp definitely burned a lot of calories and resulted in weight loss. The problem was that in Marcie's mind, going to boot camp was the only acceptable and effective way to lose weight. Because boot camp started at 5 a.m., occasionally Marcie wouldn't make it. Sometimes she was sick, sometimes she was tired, sometimes her alarm didn't sound in time. And when she missed boot camp, Marcie didn't exercise at all, since in her mind boot camp was the only acceptable form of exercise and nothing else was okay or worth the effort. To top it off, Marcie thought that if she didn't go to boot camp, she should feel guilty. The guilt made her feel so awful that she sometimes missed boot camp for days or even weeks, resulting in weight gain.
Marcie's belief that the only acceptable form of exercise was boot camp was actually leading to weight gain and long-term weight management failure. If she had more flexible thinking, she would allow herself to embrace other forms of exercise on those days that she couldn't or didn't want to go to boot camp. She would feel good about all the exercises she was doing and not lose motivation. This would prevent gaps in her exercise routine and, in the long run, help to prevent weight gain.
Joann's thinking problem had to do with her perfectionism. As an artist, Joann was imaginative in other parts of her life, but perfectionistic thinking when it came to exercise blocked her natural creative juices. She considered only the hardest and longest spin class to be acceptable, and if she wasn't wiped out from exhaustion after a class, she thought the workout didn't count and viewed that time as wasted. She missed many days of exercise because if she thought there was any possibility that she couldn't exercise exactly the way she believed was "right," then, to her, there was no point in doing it at all.
If Joann was less perfectionistic in her thinking, she would have been able to figure out ways around the times that she couldn't exercise in the way she liked the most. If she couldn't attend the "best" spin class in its entirety one day, she could go to another class, do part of the class and do something else later, do a totally different exercise at home, climb stairs at work during her break, or just about anything else that moved her body briskly. With less perfectionism and more creativity, Joann would have been more active and leaner.
These two examples show that when you're having a problem with weight management it's good to look inward, at psychology, to discover both the cause of the problem as well as the solution to it. Your thinking patterns can provide you with clues to what's keeping you from achieving your weight-loss goals.
Dr. Lavinia Rodriguez is a Tampa psychologist and expert in weight management. She is the author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management." Contact her at email@example.com.