The Art and Science of Letting Go: The Key to Weight Loss
Key to Weight Loss

Key to weight lossI can’t tell you how often I tell my clients, “Just let it go!” I say this simple, yet challenging statement to them for various reasons, such as when picking battles with their kids, when holding a grudge because their friend still owes them $20, and when spouses are mad at each other. After years of providing therapeutic services to clients, this concept is one of the hardest struggles individuals face as they pursue the quest for personal change and inner peace. I have translated this concept with regard to promoting weight loss.

Last week, I attended a speaking event at which the author David Kessler, M.D., promoted his book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Diet. He explained that brain chemistry is such that individuals crave sugar (most likely due to stress or hormonal fluctuations), which creates spikes in dopamine, the pleasure-seeking, feel-good chemical in our brains. This then creates a conditioned feedback loop of cravings for sugar followed by and preceded by feelings of excitement and satiation. How do we rise above this biologically predisposed cycle of pleasure-seeking?

Self-talk, will power, stimulus control and response-prevention strategies are essential ingredients necessary for weight loss. Americans are quite preoccupied with what to eat. To simplify the art of weight loss, we need to burn more calories than we are taking in to lose weight (easier said than done). A multitude of articles, references, guidelines and support groups inform people about the science of eating a specific combination of foods to promote weight loss.

So, why can’t we (Americans) lose weight even though we have this scientifically proven, well-researched knowledge? We are own saboteurs. We know what to eat, yet we have the challenge of implementing and applying this knowledge because we struggle with letting go of food. Several variables play into this challenge. We feed our anger, loneliness, fear of being alone, and a myriad of other negative emotions. Food has become a friend filled with unconditional acceptance. However, we are abusing “our friend” if all we do is take from this friendship. All successful and healthy relationships have limitations, and the participants need time and space away from each other. What we have to tell ourselves when we have trouble putting down our favorite brownie is that the food will be there for us the next day and we can let it go for now. In the meantime, we need to learn how to comfort ourselves by modifying our lifestyles with other adaptive means (like watching a movie, exercising or finding other stimulating hobbies), and then just start fresh in the morning.

If we can begin to view food as a microcosm of how we cope with our emotions and relationships, then we can be much more successful with weight loss. Knowledge of what we eat is necessary, but not sufficient, for behavioral change. The golden key lies in learning how to let go of biological and emotional cravings when unsettling events seep into our psyche. This time of year, with holiday festivities arising all around us, is a prime time to practice these mindful strategies.

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