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You Just Don't Understand - If You're Slim

05 February 2013

How often does this happen.  You cry to your friend that your latest diet has failed and that you’ve put back on the weight you’ve lost.  How many times have you heard them say “well, just stop eating so much”.  When you hear this from those slim and trim friends they move up to the top of your “if only I could afford a hitman” list.  Unfortunately, it’s as useful and effective as saying to a clinically depressed person “snap out of it” or “pull yourself together”. It’s absolutely pointless and indicates a lack of comprehension of what the real problem is. In other words, they just don’t understand.


If you could “stop eating so much” you would because it makes you miserable and, if you’re obese, unhealthy.  The real difference between fat and slim people is not what they eat, but why.  Hands up if you eat when you’re happy, sad, stressed, tired, bored, angry, overworked, resentful etc. etc. etc.  Lots of people do.  However, slim people don’t do this.  If you gave them a Tim Tam the next time they are telling you how stressed they are at work, they’d look at it in a puzzled fashion, unclear as to how a biscuit could fix their anxiety levels.  Overweight people, however, see the humble, much-maligned Tim Tam (and many other fatty, sugary foods) as a rather large chocolate-coated Valium; calming, soothing and rewarding.  Well, there’s a reason we reach for food to help us deal with mood.  The truth of the matter is that it does work, albeit short-term.


“Research has shown that emotional (or non-hungry) eating, i.e. the use of food to control mood, is one of the main causes of overweight and obesity” says Christina Derbyshire, coach, counsellor and creator of the Eat THINK and Be Merry™ program.  “Unless you tackle the causes of that eating, any weight loss program is destined to be short term.”


Slim people don’t understand the basic difference between them and fat people.  Overweight people eat for reasons other than hunger.  Once they address the causes of overeating, they can tackle the effect.


So what’s the answer?  Hang out with a bunch of people who understand where you’re coming from.  Studies have shown that group weight loss programs where you not only have the expertise of the leader, but the support and encouragement of your peers are much more effective ways of improving you health than going it alone. 


Christina, a qualified coach, counsellor and psychologist has now structured her 12 week individual Eat THINK and Be Merry™ program into an 8 week group program, delivered at her St Kilda Road location.  “I discovered that whilst some clients prefer to work alone, others enjoy the camaraderie of being part of a group of people with similar experiences and an understanding of why we keep eating for reasons other than hunger.  The group program is my way of encouraging more people to take a step towards losing weight for the LAST time.”  Clients learn how to change their thinking and behaviour around food.  And your fellow “groupies” understand.


Next time you reach for the chocolate and it’s for reasons other than hunger, try and S.T.O.P.:


S – STOP what you are doing, even if that Tim Tam is in mid-air on its way to your mouth.

T – TAKE a couple of slow, deep breaths and acknowledge that you are about to take the less healthy and supportive option.  Don’t feel guilty or stupid, because you aren’t. But you deserve better.  Remind yourself that what you eat will satisfy you for a few minutes at most and that you’ll feel guilt and shame afterwards.  Plus you’ll still have your mood to deal with.


O – look at your OPTIONS that don’t involve eating.  What else could you do?  It may be uncomfortable to put the biscuit down and step away from the cupboard, but it won’t be unbearable and the feeling will be temporary.  There are a million other things you could do.  You can DEAL witih it, DISTRACT yourself or DO NOTHING i.e. sit with the feeling. 


Firstly – try dealing with the problem directly.  For example, if you are tired, take a nap.  If you have a dispute with your spouse – talk to them about it.  You can’t eat the feelings away for any more than a few minutes– it doesn’t work.  If you eat rather than addressing the issue, its still there after you eat.


Next – find a non-food distraction.  I bet you can think of 20 straight away.  Phone a friend, read a magazine, walk around the block, have a cup of tea, chat with a colleague, cry, deep breathe, pat your dog, check your emails, sing, dance, balance a ball on your nose!  As you engage in the distraction you’ll get….wait for it….distracted!  From the issue you have or the mood you feel, as well as the urge to eat.


Finally – if you can’t do either of the above, just try and do nothing and sit with it.  That feeling of anxiety and urgency, the notion that you must eat to soothe the feeling or you’ll explode is just a perception caused by distorted thinking.  You definitely won’t explode if you don’t do anything about it (people rarely explode).  In fact, as time passes the anxiety doesn’t continue to skyrocket; it plateaus and will decrease over time.  So doing nothing is just as effective as trying to eat the problem away.  Same result in the end, except you aren’t uncomfortably stuffed with junk food and feeling guilty.




P – PLAN to act differently, both now and in the future.  Intention creates direction.  It will give a sense of control and self-efficacy – and you might be surprised at how good that feels.  There may be some discomfort at doing things differently or moving away from the quick fix (e.g. Tim Tams) but they will be short-lived, especially after taking the first few leaps into the unknown.