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One Approach to Weight Management

Our actions are generated by our thinking.

Thirty percent of Americans are overweight. There are many influences on overeating including genetic predispositions, overweight friends, and family. The good news is these influences can't force you to overeat since your actions come from your thinking and you can change your thinking.

In most (but by no means all) cases, being overweight results most directly from eating too much no matter what influences surround this problem. The simple (even if only partial) solution involves eating fewer calories. The difficult aspect involves putting this into practice.

Steps in overcoming obesity

Step 1. Apply the Problem Separation Technique (PST). Ask yourself: do I have an emotional problem such as anxiety, stress, guilt, or depression about my practical problem of eating too many calories?

Step 2. If the answer is yes, then determine if you have a secondary disturbance: a secondary disturbance means you're disturbing yourself about disturbing yourself. To put it another way, when your primary disturbance lies in your eating, Secondary disturbance means making yourself disturbed about eating too much and about gaining too much weight. Here's how it may manifest: suppose you notice you're eating more than is desirable. Primary disturbance: You tell yourself, "I must satisfy my craving for food right now and eat, I can't stand feeling deprived." Secondary disturbance: then as you are compulsively eating you think, "I must stop eating." You have a must about a must! Disturbing yourself about your problem doesn't help and only makes you feel worse. The demand often here is something like "I must not overeat." Demanding this of yourself is unrealistic, doesn't help, and only tends to make matters worse. A more realistic view would be something like, "I prefer not to overeat but clearly there's no law of the universe stating I must not. If I do, I do, I'll try to eat less next time."

Step 3. Remind yourself that you can accept yourself and still enjoy life and be productive with the extra pounds. Then why lose the weight? Because your life can be even better, satisfying, and more healthful without carrying around the extra pounds.

Step 4. Recognize eating too much and eating unhealthy food is a choice. You can choose to eat the ice cream or choose not to. You can choose to stop eating when you've had enough or choose to continue eating. You're not compelled to eat even though it may feel like you are and have no control. If you're skeptical imagine this: you are about to feast on your favorite ice cream. Someone shows up with a gun pointed at your head and threatens: "if you eat the ice cream I'll shoot." Clearly you decide to skip the ice cream.

Step 5. Go for unconditional self-acceptance (USA). You accept yourself unconditionally whether you overeat or you stay on your diet. Refuse to rate your total self based on the rating of your behavior. Whether you diet successfully or unsuccessfully you're still the same imperfect human who acts imperfectly. You always have been and you always will be.

Step 6. Go for unconditional life acceptance (ULA). You accept your life unconditionally with its frustrations, discomforts, and difficulties.

Practice implementing the above steps regularly. It's hard, but hard doesn't mean impossible. The good news: overeating is a choice. You can choose to stay on a reasonable eating regimen or choose not to. It's up to you!

More from Michael R Edelstein Ph.D.
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