“I will lose weight, I will exercise more, and I will spend less, stop smoking, stop drinking, get organized and so on and so on.”
Holidays have passed, the decorations are packed away, and this is the time when people make resolutions for the coming year. After January 1, people tend to take stock of the previous year, looking at their successes and challenges and identifying what they want to change.
A resolution is defined as a firm decision to do or not do something and is developed to solve problems. About half of the population makes resolutions annually, but only 10-30 percent achieves their goal during the year.
Approximately 75 percent are able to adhere to their resolution through the first week, but by six months, this rate falls to 46 percent. Age appears to be a factor: For those over 50, the failure rate drops to 86 percent, with only 14 percent succeeding.
One reason that we struggle to keep our resolutions is choosing a goal that is poorly defined. Losing weight is the most popular resolution chosen; however, there are a number of changes required to be successful in reducing your weight. You are more likely to be successful achieving your resolution if it is a personal choice, something you really want.
Losing weight may be your choice, or it could be a recommendation from your primary care provider or family member. There are numerous health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes that are impacted by one’s weight.
Before beginning any weight loss plan, always consult your primary care provider. If you have tried to lose weight and are unsuccessful, you may want to consider pursuing mental health services to see if emotional factors are impacting your ability to maintain a healthy weight.
It can sometimes be helpful to identify if you are an “emotional eater.” One way to tell if you are an emotional eater is looking at what you choose to eat and when. If you find that even when you are full or when you are bored you crave a specific food (usually something sweet or salty), and nothing else will satisfy you, you may be using food to soothe your emotions.
The number-one comfort food is ice cream. Some of us have been trained during childhood that food can be used as a reward for doing things well or for “being in the Clean Plate Club” for eating everything on your plate, even if you are not hungry.
Also, in some cultures, holidays and family celebrations have traditionally included high-calorie, high-sugar and high-fat foods. Do you hide what and when you eat, not wanting others to know how much you eat?
Struggling with depression, boredom, loneliness, anger, anxiety, fear frustration, stress, problems with interpersonal relationships, and poor self-esteem can all result in emotional eating and weight gain. Do you feel guilty and ashamed after you’ve eaten?
If you are serious about losing weight, a great place to begin after seeing your primary care provider and possibly a nutritionist is to begin keeping an emotional eating diary, recording everything you eat for at least several days including the times of day when you eat. You may be able to identify a pattern to your overeating and plan other activities to do when you are most vulnerable to overeating.
You can call a friend, for example, especially if they are supporting your decision to maintain a healthy weight. You can go for a walk, do some deep breathing, do something that will occupy your mind until the urge to eat has passed.
Are you feeding your feelings? Even if you have not been successful in the past maintaining a healthy weight, you can begin the process of changing your relationship with food today.
Deirdre Annice Golden, Ph.D., LP, is director of Behavioral Health for NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center Behavioral Health Clinic, 1313 Penn Ave. N. She welcomes reader responses to Deirdre.Golden@co.hennepin.mn.us, or call 612-543-2705.