05 May How to lose weight in three steps?
How to lose weight is the seventh most asked question on google. Everyone, it would seem, wants to lose weight. This makes sense, because at the last count in 2016, the WHO found that 39% of adults were overweight and 13% were obese. Indicators suggests these numbers will have gone up considerably since then. We’re eating more, not less.
If you’re reading this expecting the recipe for a green smoothie, you’re going to be disappointed. But don’t leave!
I’m going to do better than a green smoothie because I’m going to explain why many people overeat. You’ve read articles on this before? I hear you, but this is going to be different. I’m going to explain overeating in a way you haven’t heard before. Specifically, I’m going to explain how overeating is often a coping mechanism to help us deal with difficult thoughts and feelings that relate to past experiences. I get that this sounds heavy. But if you can open up to this, you stand a real chance at changing your behaviour around food.
We used to think only severe or extreme past experiences led to traumatic reactions. Now we know that common, everyday (but often overlooked) experiences can provoke a traumatic reaction. Experiences like having an overly critical parent, a difficult relationship, a near-miss, a fall, a routine medical procedure. You know, normal-life stuff. But because these experiences are normal, no one stops and thinks for long enough to recognise that they had a traumatic reaction.
Traumatic reactions can lay dormant for a while, then they suddenly pop-up when we’re reminded of the past experience.
Say your boss criticises you at work. It triggers the old memory of your dad repeatedly criticising you as a child, and you’re flooded with negative thoughts, low self-beliefs and shame. Or say you’re shopping for a new dress, and they don’t have your size. It triggers the old memory of not being able to find clothes that fit or look nice as a teenager, and you’re thrown back to the past – you literally experience the same old reaction. In both scenarios, you’re no longer connected to yourself today. You’re thrown back to a younger you that was deeply hurt.
I believe that being triggered is the number one reason that people compulsively overeat. If I was braver, I’d say it is the number one reason people overeat full-stop. People are triggered, and they try and cope with the old feelings through food. They’re flooded with negative thoughts, negative self-beliefs, difficult feelings, and they reach for something to make them feel better.
I’m a trauma researcher who has worked in loads of eating disorder units. I’m also an ex-anorexic. I’ve sat in countless Overeaters Anonymous (OA) meetings because anorexia and compulsive overeating are two ends of the same scale. I’ve done both. I get this because I work in it, and I get it because I’ve lived through it.
So, how to lose weight in three steps?
One, open up to the idea that you’re eating when you’re triggered – you’re trying to cope with a past hurt. Two, give yourself a cuddle. Three, find loving, supportive people who understand that what you’re experiencing has nothing to do with weight and everything to do with feelings.
Sarah Woodhouse is a trauma expert, research psychologist and writer who delivers people the knowledge and tools to recognise and overcome self-defeating cycles, to achieve personal freedom and success.
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