Hunger is the most powerful trigger to eat and weight loss surgery will help you to feel satisfied with smaller amounts of food and to stay satisfied for longer. When you make a commitment to yourself to manage your weight more effectively it is important to also think about the other reasons why we eat such as habit, emotions, fatigue and stress. Working on lifestyle and behavioural changes will enhance the outcome that you can achieve with surgery. Making these changes is not easy, which is why the SIOS team includes specialist psychologists who can support you to make the behavioural changes you need to achieve your goals.
The first step to success with long term weight management is to recognise the difference between physical hunger and excess eating. Excess eating is any food or drink that is in addition to what your body really needs. Excess eating is one of the sources of excess weight that is within your control – as opposed to genetics or health conditions. Excess eating might come in the form of grazing, larger portions or high calorie consumption from poor food choices. Some excess eating might occur because a large appetite makes it difficult to eat only what your body requires. Some excess eating might be the result of habits that have developed over a long period of time that become difficult to change.
Weight loss surgery helps to reduce the desire and capacity to consume large volumes of food. However, there are some forms of excess eating that weight loss surgery will not be able to change. With today’s busy lifestyle, many people report eating excess calories happens when they are too busy or tired to plan ahead. This leaves them susceptible to making poor choices when buying food at work or at home. Bought food tends to be higher in calories than homemade meals and snacks. Learning to become more organised and to plan your food intake ahead of time will go a long way to reducing the hidden calories in take away or convenience food. A dietician can help to tailor meal ideas to your likes and lifestyle.
Another common trigger for eating excess calories is strong emotions. Both positive and negative emotions are strongly associated with eating extra calories for many people. It is important to learn how to respond to stress and strong emotions more effectively so that you can reduce your reliance on food. There are many ways of finding more productive coping strategies and it helps to use an experimental approach to find out if a particular coping strategy will work for you. By practicing new strategies before you need them – you will be more successful at putting them into place when you are feeling strong emotions. You can research coping strategies by talking to friends, reading books on the subject or by consulting a psychologist.
The final most common trigger for excess eating is socialising or special events. If you eat or drink a bit more in these situations, you can still maintain a healthy weight provided that the events are not happening all the time and that your extra calories are limited. In fact, being highly rigid about your food intake and not varying it at all can set you up to fail in the long run. If you socialise a lot or find it difficult to maintain any sense of control in these situations then it is important to learn new strategies to manage social eating. Some useful ideas include:
Having a small ‘insurance’ snack before you go to an event so that you are not overly hungry during a function;
Deciding at the start of an event exactly what you will have and using a plate if possible;
Sitting away from the food so that you are not tempted;
Focusing your attention on other aspects of the event such as the other people present or the environment.
Researchers in neuroscience – the science of studying the brain, have found that neural connections or pathways are responsive to changes in behaviour. Adult brains can learn and develop following changes in behaviour patterns or exposure to outside influences. This is exciting news that means that you do not have to be trapped by your old bad habits. One of the greatest mistakes that people make when trying to change habits is to wait for their thinking to change first. This means that when you are feeling highly motivated, for Example: when you have recently made a New Year’s resolution, or when your mood is good, you are more likely to have positive, change focused thoughts. However, mood and motivation are fickle and are likely to change again in the near future.
There are ways to enhance motivation and helpful thinking, but the key to achieving lasting change is to control the one thing that you actually have control over – your behaviour. By practicing the behaviour that you want to develop, the behaviours develop into habit over time. New, helpful behaviours can become established even when thinking patterns remain unhelpful. The most important lesson here is to start choosing your behaviour, despite what your old thinking patterns are telling you to do.
Set one goal for behaviour change each week. For example, packing your lunch for work or having healthy snacks available at home. Review your progress each week and keep fine tuning your behaviour with each new goal.
It is important to remember that each person is unique and that the most effective program for you will take into account your history, personality and life circumstances. At SIOS we have Psychologists who are trained to support people making changes in their behaviour and can work with you as a life coach to help you to achieve your goals. Appointments can be made to see one a psychologist at any point in your weight loss journey.