Many people make themselves suffer emotionally, physically and even socially when it comes to losing weight. The result of their efforts is frequently weight gain rather than weight loss. To help understand common mistakes people make when trying to lose weight and how someone can lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle, I have interviewed psychotherapist Abigail Natenshon.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a psychotherapist who has, for the past 40 years, specialized in treating eating disordered patients and their families. As the author of When your Child has an Eating Disorder: a Step-by-Step Workbook for Parents and Other Caregivers (Jossey Bass Publishers 1999) and Doing What Works: an Integrative System for the Treatment of Eating Disorders from Diagnosis to Recovery (NASW Press, 2009) I am also the founder and director of Eating Disorder Specialists of Illinois: A Clinic Without Walls.”
“In addition, I am a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner and I have enjoyed pioneering in using this mind/body technique to help heal eating disorders and body image disturbances. I host three informative web sites for patients and parents (www.empoweredparents.com), for health professionals (www.treatingeatingdisorders.com), and for children and teens (www.empoweredkidZ.com).”
What are common mistakes people make when trying to lose weight?
“The most common mistake people make is to assume that dieting is the best way to lose weight. In fact, dieting damages the metabolism and results in weight gain, not loss. Many people believe that the healthiest form of eating is fat free eating and/or eating only when hungry, but this is not the case. Instinctive eating (eating only when hungry) does not work for most people unless they are already very healthy eaters with well- functioning hunger and satiety cues. Healthy eating entails eating three balanced and varied meals a day, (each containing all of the food groups,) as well as at least one hefty snack (mini-meal) at 4:00 PM. People need to understand that food is not fattening, and fitness has little to do with thinness.”
What type of impact can those mistakes have on their overall life?
“When people abuse food and their body in the effort to become, and to remain thin by restricting food, it can result in a constant preoccupation with and guilt about eating, aside from creating physiological problems that can lead to death. As much as 80% of the cognitive mind can become unavailable for learning and concentration because of an obsession with thoughts about eating and the fear of becoming fat. Unhealthy eating lifestyles and disordered eating habits (that may consist of binging, dieting, skipping meals, restricting food) can potentially lead to overweight and obesity; children who diet are bound to become overweight adults. Otherwise benign eating dysfunctions can develop into clinical eating disorders when disordered eaters carry a family history of, and genetic propensity for, addictions, eating disorders, mood disorders, perfectionistic temperaments, OCD, etc. Clinical eating disorders are the most lethal of all the mental health disorders, resulting in death in 6 to13 percent of cases.”
How can someone lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle?
“In the face of a clinical eating disorder, people need to obtain expert professional help so that they can heal, re-integrating their personality and core self that becomes exiled through this disease. If obese, a person needs to learn how to eat differently, not less — to change his or her eating lifestyle — .eating nutritious, balanced and varied meals throughout the day. Many people are not aware that there is a significant genetic component involved in obesity onset. According to Myers.M.D. (2004) about 80% of children with two obese parents will become obese and 40% of children with one obese parent will become obese; 15% of people who have normal weight parents will become obese. Ultimately, healthy eating will allow people to reach their ideal and sustainable set point weight. “
What last advice would you like to give to someone who wants to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle?
“The best way to lose weight is to eat regularly, 3 balanced meals, including all the food groups and at least one snack per day. For the person who wants to lose weight, it is important to learn to establish a more balanced and fearless relationship with food. It can be helpful to work with a nutritionist who can educate you (and refute misconceptions) about what healthy eating truly is, and who can provide a venue for making changes with guidance and support. Through healthy eating, a person can re-learn to trust the well-fed body to reach a healthy set point weight, through which the body can be relied upon to remain nourished and fit without the need for dieting or the fear of excessive weight gain. A psychotherapist and a medical doctor should be consulted in the event of a clinical eating disorder.”
Thank you Abigail for doing the interview on how to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle. For more information on Abigail Natenshon, MA, LCSW, GCFP or her work, you can check out her websites on www.empoweredparents.com, or www.treatingeatingdisorders.com.
Resource: Myers.M.D. (2004) Compulsive Overeating (binge eating disorder). Available at http://www.weight.com/bed.asp.
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