Ninety per cent of people do not realise that emotional eating is a key barrier to weight loss, a survey finds.
Most people think diet and exercise are the biggest barriers to weight loss and reckon without the influence of the mind.
Dr Diane Robinson, a neuropsychologist at Orlando Health, said:
“Most people focus almost entirely on the physical aspects of weight loss, like diet and exercise.
But there is an emotional component to food that the vast majority of people simply overlook and it can quickly sabotage their efforts.”
The survey of over one thousand people found that 31% said that lack of exercise was the biggest barrier to weight loss, while 26% said it is what you eat.
Only 10% agreed that psychological well-being was a key barrier to weight loss.
Dr Robinson said:
“That may explain why so many of us struggle.
In order to lose weight and keep it off long term, we need to do more than just think about what we eat, we also need to understand why we’re eating.
Most people have a very emotional attachment to food.
Food is given to children to make them feel better, it is the central component of celebrations and it creates powerful emotional connections.
Dr Robinson said:
“If we’re aware of it or not, we are conditioned to use food not only for nourishment, but for comfort.
That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, as long as we acknowledge it and deal with it appropriately.”
Eating a satisfying meal releases a ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter called dopamine, said Dr Robinson:
“We feel good whenever that process is activated, but when we start to put food into that equation and it becomes our reward, it can have negative consequences.”
Dr Robinson recommends keeping a food diary to help look for unhealthy eating patterns.
Ensure that food is not being used as a coping mechanism or a reward — but purely for nourishment.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The survey was commissioned by Orlando Health.