The truth is that food is a tremendous coping mechanism for many people. You have probably used food to deal with emotional demands—whether to ease the pain of loneliness, anxiety, worry, or depression—or to celebrate life events. Food is powerful because it gives people a perception of relief, and if you remove that security and fail to put something else in its place, a vacuum is created. People naturally return to what they know best, which is using food for inappropriate reasons and in inappropriate ways. When you stop medicating feelings with food—which is an absolute must in order to get healthy—you need to have other ways to deal with emotions. Instead of turning to a pint of ice cream on lonely or stressful nights, make a commitment to treat psychological problems with psychological solutions, and substitute exercise, relaxation, and rational thinking for that caloric quick fix.
Overcoming the Addiction
Overcoming the momentum of a long history of emotional eating is a huge challenge. The good news is that you don't need a heart attack or other life-threatening event to motivate you to change your behavior. If you haven't gotten the wake-up call yet, I'm giving it to you: The time is now, and it's not too late. Get out of your comfort zone and do something different. When you do, you'll generate a new history that predicts a new future. For many people, food is an addiction. Addictions aren't cured; they're managed one day at a time. Days add up to weeks, weeks add up to months, and before you know it, you have a new lifestyle and a new self-image. Fifty years of living the same way do not make it impossible to start living differently. Even if you've failed at every diet you've tried, you're capable of succeeding now.
Your Personal Truth
Everyone has a personal truth—what she believes about herself when no one else is looking or listening. If you have failed with your weight loss efforts time and time again, you may be left with a personal truth that says, "I simply don't deserve to be anything other than fat and unhealthy." One of my greatest challenges has been convincing people that they can exercise control in their lives, and that they deserve to be healthy and happy.
A major hurdle that always seems to trip people up is thinking that they just need a little more willpower. It isn't about gritting your teeth, bearing down, and finding the strength deep within to carry you through the day. Willpower is fueled by emotion and is amazingly fickle. Motivation will wax and wane. Sure, you can rely on these things when you're pumped up and excited, like in the first few weeks of a New Year's resolution. The trick is to set up your life and program your world in such a way that you make progress and get closer to your goal even when you don't feel like it. When your willpower is nowhere to be found, you need to have your emotions, logic, environment, behavior, food plan, exercise, and social support system in place to keep you moving in the right direction.
Next: Best Practices
Losing weight isn't a one-size-fits-all endeavor, but there are general steps that can help almost anybody. See what Dr. Phil says can get the process going.