Why can’t I lose weight? I have been on every diet known to man and can never seem to keep it off! If I were thinner I would be happier. Why can’t I just have willpower? Anyone who has ever battled weight has said or heard those things from friends and family. There is a biological component, as our bodies only need so much energy. Too much we gain weight, not enough leaves us with little energy.

So many times when I work with clients battling weight I hear over and over, I can’t seem to keep weight off or lose weight. Clients experience frustration, shame and guilt over not being able to succeed with their weight loss. Many times they are so defeated they have developed depression and withdrawn and isolated. When I tell clients it’s not about the food I get strange looks and stares. Ok, it is a little about the food however, there are always underlying issues that drive unhealthy eating behaviors and patterns. Underlying issues may include; depression, anxiety, trauma, abuse, stress, family conflict, marital and financial problems among others.

When I work with clients battling their weight, I want to know their eating habits but more so what they feel on the inside. In almost every case, clients that have lost and regained weight changed their behavior but not their thinking. Clients who overeat attempt to fill what I call “the hole in your soul”. Clients on the other end of the spectrum will restrict or vomit their food to control their feelings. Regardless of the presentation the attempt is always to control and manage feelings such as loneliness, anxiety, depression, anger and stress. The problem however, is food is not the answer! The only way to win an unhealthy relationship with food is to deal with issues driving the behavior.

The first step in recovery is awareness; you can’t change something you are not aware of. One of the first things I have clients do is keep a food journal and instruct clients to write down what they ate, their emotions and events which occurred prior to eating. Upon review, clients begin to notice patterns with what they eat and feel and connect to precipitating events such as fight with a spouse, child or friend, a stressful day at work, a disappointment or loss. The second stage of recovery is dealing with the emotions, which is never easy. So often times clients were never allowed to have feelings, in lieu of crying they ate to feel better or they purged their anger. The third stage involves new coping skills and behaviors rather then food as a coping mechanism.

New coping skills many include expressing feelings in healthy ways, becoming more assertive and challenging negative thought patterns and belief systems. Working with a therapist, nutritionist and when appropriate, a psychiatrist is essential for recovery. Support groups such as Celebrate Recovery and Overeaters Anonymous are also helpful and can be great sources of strength and support. Your identity will shift from food and weight to emotional, physical and spiritual health. Colossians 2:6-7 states; “Just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to live in obedience to him. Let your roots grow down into him and draw nourishment from him, so you will grow in faith strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught.” (NLV)

Written by Nicole Majka, L.C.P.C.