16 October 2014

Dieting and Mental Health: What’s the Connection?

The following is a contributing post by Kristeen Cherney. She is a freelance health and lifestyle writer who also has a certificate in nutrition. Her work has been published on numerous health-related websites. Previously, she worked as a communications and marketing professional. Kristeen holds a BA in Communication from Florida Gulf Coast University, and is currently pursuing an MA in English with a concentration in rhetoric and cultural studies. When she's not writing or studying, she enjoys walking, kick-boxing, yoga, and traveling.

Your mind play a role in your diet success but it can also play tricks on you. Find out as Kristeen elaborate here how to reshape your thinking to create diet success.
Dieting mentality for weight loss

Whether you’re new to weight loss or not, you’ve likely heard the old adage that success is dependent on using more energy than you can take in. (In other words, eat fewer calories and burn more calories by exercising). Yet for most people struggling with their weight, the situation isn’t so clear-cut. Being overweight is often about more than just eating too much and sitting around. For some, underlying health conditions like diabetes or hypothyroidism can cause even more challenges.

Perhaps an even more complex aspect of weight loss is your mental health. Dieting takes a big mental commitment, and failing to set realistic goals can take an extreme emotional toll. On the flipside, other dieters form their goals based on their emotions rather than in a healthy way. For long-term dieting success, discover how you can tap into your mental power the right way without doing harm.

Dieting and Brain Power 
The brain signals everything in your body, including when and what to eat. Your appetite is controlled by the hypothalamus, a fancy term that refers to a small gland located near the pituitary gland in the brain. The hypothalamus plays a key role in the endocrine system because it creates hormones. There is a misconception that thoughts alone control your appetite—in fact, the hypothalamus is partly responsible. It creates hormones that help produce corticotropin, which in turn controls your appetite.

The brain also controls dieting habits in other ways. Adrenaline production from the adrenal glands can cause “on-the-go” feelings, which can also decrease your need to eat. Also called epinephrine, adrenaline is actually controlled by the brain.

When you go on a diet, you can’t necessarily switch the production of corticotropin and adrenaline into high gear. Still, it’s important to be mindful of your brain’s role in dieting so you can better prepare yourself to have will-power against cravings and emotional eating.  

How Emotions Affect Your Eating 
As your body starts going through its transformation, it’s normal to get emotional from time to time. Losing weight is a serious accomplishment that you have the right to get choked up about! With that being said, your emotions can also present some unwelcome challenges during the dieting process.

Emotional eating is most prevalent among women, and is thought to be attributed to high levels of cortisol in the body. Cortisol levels also peak when you’re stressed. Stress- or binge-eating can be a dieting nightmare because a large amount of calories can quickly undo any progress you’ve made.

Serious Health Concerns
When you start a new diet, the prospect of getting your dream body is exciting. Patience can also be difficult at this stage because you want to lose extra weight now. Some dieters start out with good intentions but may let their emotions and impatience get the best of them. This is when unhealthy eating habits can form. Eating too little can put extreme stress on all parts of the body, and even cause disruptions in hormones and metabolism. In fact, many people who go off of their diets end up gaining weight back for these reasons. In more serious cases, eating disorders can cause health problems.

It’s also important to note that eating disorders are more prevalent among dieters who suffer from depression. Low self-esteem and self-worth are signs of depression, as well as a lack of interest in normal activities. Take a step back and determine why you’re dieting. Do you want to feel better and gain better health? Or are you worried about how others view you?

Solutions for a Better Dieting Mentality
Your brain affects everything, including your attitude. It’s time to utilize your mentality to gain better dieting habits and reach your goals in a safe, effective manner. Consider the following solutions to help keep your mind focused while also keeping your body healthy as you reach your weight-loss goals:

Start out slow, and aim to lose one to two pounds per week.
• Try eating a larger breakfast and a smaller lunch.
Count the number of bites you eat at every meal. This will help keep your brain focused and prevent mindless eating.
Go for a walk or call a friend when cravings strike in order to prevent binge-eating.
• Add more movement to your day, but keep workouts to 30 minutes at a time. This will prevent eating too much to compensate for a massive loss of energy.
• Give your brain and your body enough rest: aim for at least seven hours of sleep per night.

Finally, sharing your dieting goals with a friend or dieting network can keep your mind focused on your goals while also providing emotional support. Dieting alone can get boring after a while, and can also make you feel isolated. Don’t be afraid to share your successes with the world too—you deserve the attention.

Dieting mentality for weight loss
Now, it's your turn...share in the comments:
How do you stay mentally strong and what is your strategy to win the weight loss battle?

• Mind-Body Medicine Practices in Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (2013, March 29). Retrieved from http://report.nih.gov/NIHfactsheets/ViewFactSheet.aspx?csid=102
• Seven Proven Tips for Weight Loss Success. (2012, September 12). Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201209/seven-proven-tips-weight-loss-success
• Why Stress Can Cause People to Overeat. (2012, February). Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/harvard_mental_health_letter/2012/february/why-stress-causes-people-to-overeat

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