One of the most important things I’ve learned as a student of positive psychology is that you can’t create happiness by focusing on it. Instead, happiness is the spontaneous by-product of wellbeing. Therefore, instead of trying to be happy, your efforts are better spent on one of the areas that support happiness such as using your strengths, practicing gratitude, or balancing negative emotion with positive.
In the same way, permanent weight loss remains elusive when we focus on it as a goal. It’s only when we focus on supportive aspects that we create the conditions where permanent weight loss can occur.
This is one of the reasons that diets don’t work. A short term focus on reducing our food intake only sets up a cycle of loss followed by regain. And it sets up an ideal environment for future cravings, overeating, and binging.
Therefore, we need to change the focus off of weight and onto habits that support wellbeing. In this way we take the focus off of what we can’t control (weight or health) and onto what we can control (habits).
Research shows that much of the difference in health attributed to weight disappears for those with healthy habits. That is, a well-rested, fit, non-smoking fat person can be healthier than a stressed, couch potato thin person. In fact, the correlation between weight and health only exists at the extremes.
By following this approach you set up the most favorable conditions for your body to find its own best weight. To be clear when following an intuitive eating approach you may or may not lose weight. But you will find the weight that is healthiest for your unique body.
Unlike diets that leave you with disordered eating and weight cycling, a focus on healthy habits will leave you actually healthier in the end. Swapping diets and food restrictions for eating that is attuned to your body’s needs is one of the best ways to begin creating true health.
Other health promoting habits include all of those that meet your human needs emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically such as:
Valuing rest, replenishment, and sleep.
Finding enjoyable ways to be active.
Spending time in connection with others.
Getting adequate nutrition and fiber from whole foods.
Focusing on gratitude and appreciation.
Savoring the pleasures in your life.
Ironically, when we stop chasing happiness or weight loss we set up the conditions for those things to find us. This is what’s going on when clients report that they don’t remember their last binge, that their pants are inexplicably falling off, or that they have had moments of feeling good in their body.
If results are eluding you, try changing your focus.
I’d love to get to know you better. To get on my schedule for an informal talk with no agenda other than understanding your struggles and helping you get unstuck click here. If you need other times, use the contact form linked below.
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This week I’m reading Eating Disorders for Dummies – You Can’t Measure Pain on a Scale by Susan Schulherr, LCSW. It’s a comprehensive book for parents and anyone with pain in their relationship with food and body, not just for those with eating disorders. She is very clear about the role of dieting in creating disordered eating, and why dieting and emotional eating is a mental and emotional challenge about much more than food.
For more resources, check out our Resources page.