The psychological effects of diet pills

This article was first published in Inshapenewsflash.com

In addition to the physical effects of taking diet pills, the potential psychological consequences should also be considered.  For most people, the necessary loss of weight results in feelings of happiness and increased confidence from working towards a weight goal.  However if this is not carefully monitored from a medical perspective, things can soon get out of hand.  One of the more concerning is psychological addiction to diet pills.

Unhealthy weight gain can occur for a multitude of reasons (hormonal, inactivity, over-consumption of calories, and social and psychological factors).  For some people, insufficient physical activity and an unhealthy diet may be in response to coping with some form of stressor for the individual.  A loss of job, relationship break up, and depression are all reasons why people may turn to the pantry and the couch for solace.  So when resolving to lose weight, the person may include diet pills as part of their strategy.

Diet pills also feature prominently as a weight loss strategy for those with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa.  If the person experiences success with the diet aids, a psychological dependence can soon develop.  Diet pills do not keep you under control over the long term; they can be addictive, and potentially very dangerous.  Most of these products act as a stimulant to the central nervous system, with common side effects including mood swings, chest pain, and tremors.  More serious reactions may include increased anxiety, hallucinations, insomnia and cardiac arrest.  Its effects can be serious, even fatal.

When addiction occurs, treatment from a trained professional is necessary for recovery.  Part of the treatment will be in uncovering what is being masked by the use of the pills.  Healthier and more productive means of coping will need to be taught.  When seeking treatment you should source an appropriately registered professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker.  It would also be advisable to ensure the person has sufficient expertise and experience in working with weight-related issues.  A multi-disciplinary team that includes the mental health professional, a dietician and your GP will enhance your likelihood of success.

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How can I stop people picking on me about my weight?

This blog was originally posted on InShapeNews

This month’s question is asked by reader

Peta Hendrick:

“Hi. I have a problem. I get picked on about being overweight. I was just wondering how I can stop this? It makes me feel really bad about myself and the way I look.”

Hi Peta. I am saddened to hear you are picked on about your weight.  People often underestimate the impact of their words and the cruelty of their message can be long lasting.

Unfortunately we can’t control what others say to us, only our reaction to it.  I have often been approached by people asking me how to deal with people who are difficult, either through their

actions, words or their attitude.

Most of us have someone in our lives whose behaviours we don’t appreciate.  People who perhaps act or speak in a way that doesn’t make us feel valued or appreciated.  So how best to handle these situations?

Unfortunately to manage this kind of scenario we have to turn the mirror back on to ourselves and ask ourselves an important question: What is it that I am doing, that is allowing this to happen? Because the truth is, that we teach people how to treat us.  If someone is continually doing something to us and we let them, don’t be surprised when the behaviour continues.

So, if someone feels they have free reign and can make comments about the way you look I would be interested to know how you are responding in that situation.  I know that it is challenging, but being assertive in this situation is the best way to communicate your needs and minimise the likelihood of repeat occurrences.

To be assertive you are exercising your rights, without impacting on the rights of others.  Being assertive is very different to being submissive and aggressive, which are both manipulative forms of communication.  Such phrases as, “It hurts my feelings when you speak about me like that.  Please don’t do it anymore”, take courage to say, but their impact can be substantial.  When you communicate assertively, try to

1. Use ‘I’ statements: this is about you and how you’re feeling and how you communicate that message – “I feel hurt …”

2.  Describe the behaviour: “…when you say I am lazy …”

3.  Specify the change you wish for: “I would like you to stop commenting on my weight and behaviour.”

Be mindful of your body language when being assertive. Use open gestures and warmth that is appropriate.

Being assertive doesn’t guarantee that the person’s behaviour will stop.  However, it will put you in to a position of knowing that you have done all you can.  Assertiveness takes courage and practise, however you will feel better within yourself the more you use it.

The psychological benefits of breakfast

This post was first written on Inshape News in July 2012.

The nutritional benefits of breakfast in relation to weight loss are well established and I’m sure will be well described by my fellow writers.  It is also important to consider the psychological benefits that can be gained when you sit down in the morning and tuck into a bowl of something healthy.

Consistently, studies demonstrate that memory, creativity, processing and other brain functioning are all enhanced following consumption of breakfast. Further, your morning meal can boost your energy levels and leave you feeling more alert and ready for your day.

One advantage of regularly eating breakfast is the discipline activated and required to maintain the routine. Self-discipline (or self-regulation) is the process of consciously managing your health. Whilst challenging for many, the decision to make proactive steps towards your health will have far reaching benefits. When we self-regulate we are likely to feel more in control of ourselves, and our tendency for impulsive behaviour decreases.

People who self-regulate are able to plan and set goals, reflect on their own behaviour and organize themselves appropriately. Other things we know about those who self-regulate are that they are more likely to seek out information and advice, will try harder and persevere for longer. These qualities are beneficial in all aspects of our health and well-being. So the habit of eating breakfast will provide more than just nutrition for your body and have an impact on your metabolic rate. Eating breakfast will set you up to increase the likelihood of making better health choices through the rest of your day – impacting on your long-term weight and health.

Self-regulating to ensure you eat breakfast is made easier with some planning and organization, however it is worth the effort. Also make sure you add some variety. Perhaps have a few cereals to choose from or cook some eggs in different ways. Creativity in our lives is helpful for our motivation levels. Ultimately, treat self-regulation like a muscle — the more you work it the stronger it gets. Self-regulation gets easier with time and its benefits to your waistline will be worth it.

Mental strength and weight loss

This post was first written on Inshape News in June 2012.

Whilst losing and maintaining weight loss requires physical actions (what you choose to eat, whether or not you exercise), much of your success of comes down to overcoming the associated mental challenges (feeling tired, losing motivation or losing confidence).

There are five key areas you can focus on that will greatly enhance your chances of success in being the person you want to be and achieving your goals.

Set Goals – If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?  Research consistently shows that goal setting is a key component of success.  Begin with the end in mind. Ask yourself, “What would you like to achieve in ‘x’ months time?”  Once you know this, then you can ask yourself, “What can you do TODAY to contribute towards the final goal?”  Remember that small and regular steps are the key to achieving your goals.

Be Positive – How you talk to yourself is ‘crucial’ in determining whether you make positive decisions.  Our brain is specifically designed to offer us a constant stream of thoughts.  Over time and through habit, we determine whether these thoughts are optimistic and helpful or pessimistic and unhelpful.  Optimism has been repeatedly shown to be a determining factor for success.  So you could ask yourself, “Would I ever speak to someone else, the way I speak to myself?”  If, like many people the answer for you is NO, then work towards changing your thinking.  If your thinking is negative, challenge yourself – is what you’re saying even true?  Are you catastrophising?  Will the thing that’s worrying you even be an issue next week?  Next month?  Next year?  Replace pessimistic unhelpful thoughts with those that will move you forward in your goals.

Take …… And replace it with ……
“I ate junk food for lunch. I’m never   going to get on top of this. I’m hopeless.” “I ate junk food for lunch. Oh well, it   was just today and tomorrow I will have a chance to have something healthier   that I’ll enjoy.”
“I’ve only lost 330g this week. This is   too slow. I’m never going to get there.” “I didn’t lose a lot of weight this week,   but I didn’t gain any either!  Slow and   steady wins the race. It will be worth it in the end.”

Be Resilient – Challenges will come along. You’ll miss an exercise session or you’ll eat something unplanned that you wish you hadn’t.  Remind yourself it’s okay.  It’s not the challenges in life that we experience, but rather, how we respond to these and deal with them.  Chin up and face the world – you will be okay and you can survive whatever you face.  The sooner you can bounce back, the sooner you can make more positive steps to enhance your well-being.

Be Creative – Novelty is a great way to spark our interest and keep us motivated.  Perhaps there is a new healthy dish you could try or you could change the location of your regular walk?  Routine is important, however sprinkling in some creativity every now and again stops us from becoming stagnant and gives us a reason to move forward.

Know Your Recipe – Not just for the foods you eat, but for the life you want to live!  We all have things that when we do them regularly greatly increases our chance of success.  The more mindful you are of what helps you to stay healthy and make great choices, the more likely you will continue to do them.  So, if you know that staying hydrated, going to be before 10pm, putting your exercise clothes out before you go to bed, taking a container of almonds to work to snack on are all things that help you to make positive choices, then include these in your recipe.  Your recipe for success that is.

Maintaining a healthy weight is a work in progress for many people, for all of their lives.  Approaching it optimistically, with a plan, being able to bounce back when something goes wrong, including novelty and knowing what you do that makes a difference are all key factors is maintaining your mental strength.