A Nutritionist's Experience: Chronicles of Weight Maintenance: Part 4
I've decided to change the title of my chronicles because I'm not very happy with it. As a nutritionist, I've never been happy promoting weight loss as the final goal, the main objective - it has to be for something bigger - like long term health, reducing symptoms, being able to run with your kids etc. So it's now going to be "Chronicles of Weight Maintenance".
I felt it was important to tell you this because there are so many damn confusing messages out there already and I don't want to add to them. I'm also a big advocate of Health at Every Size - which does focus on healthy eating, where weight loss may be an incidental side effect - but the intention is about nourishing your body with food, love and movement. This is a much more realistic, genuine and successful approach to long term wellness and weight stability.
Back into further exploration on the topic and today and I'm having a gander at the Emotional Pillar of Health. Emotional imbalance can have far reaching ramifications on our body and determine our shape and size, moreso than the food we feed our body.
So when I think of emotional health and look at a client's story, I think about their heart... how's it faring? Although it's imperative to get the overview on family life, relationships, work, stress etc, I like to think a bit deeper about this....How many times has it been broken? Does the owner of the heart love themselves or is there work to be done here? Then I think about the physical aspects of emotional health - how is their posture? What's their body language telling me? Can they communicate on a basic level and look me in the eye?
If we're open and observant, we can quickly identify the physical clues to a person's emotional state. These clues can help a practitioner put the pieces together in understanding what health issues may be going on for a particular client .
Lets have a look at the big picture story of poor emotional health, in no particular order.
Lack of positive emotions shown to you as a child
Negative self image
Mental Health disorders & diseases
Being a "Yes" person (can't say no because you want to please people)
Poor choices in relationships
Missing out on amazing life experiences
Living a small life
Inability to relate with others
Crazy lady! (haha I can be one of them)
(Although the scenery is awesome, he's meant to be isolated and lonely because of his emotional problems!!)
That's just a few things I thought of from my own studies, reading and personal life experiences. It's normal to experience these things from time to time - but when it's the dominating focus of your day to day life, that's when there could be something more serious going on.
Beyond Blue, a wonderful Australian organisation devoted to helping people suffering from Depression and mental health issues, states there are "5 crucial components" to maintaining emotional well-being. They are:
1. Resilience and coping
2. Being productive and making a contribution
3. Social connections
4. Basic needs and comfort
5. Enjoying sensory enrichment.
(If you want to read more on this article, you can check it out at http://resources.beyondblue.org.au/prism/file?token=BL/1263A)
How hard do you think it is for the average person to achieve these 5 components of positive emotional well-being regularly? Given the extent of social issues, mental health illnesses and family dysfunction, I'd say it's pretty hard. So if it's pretty hard to achieve emotional well-being on a regular basis, we're compensating for this void in many ways. Take your vice - eating, drinking, sex, career, abuse, drugs, adrenaline junkie...so many ways to avoid confronting how we're feeling.
At the core, food is much more than just food - there are so many feelings associated with food and particular types of food that push your buttons. It's no wonder then that emotions are inexplicably tied up in weight maintenance issues then.
In doing research for this story, what I discovered is that there is very little study into the effects of emotional health on weight (gain/loss/maintenance). Its all reversed (ie effects of weight on emotional health), which leads me to believe that modern day methods to look after people continue to avoid the human element, the juicy stuff - the state of our heart and soul. I'm sorry if that's a bit of a "mother statement", but I'm in the business of caring for people as a whole, so that's how I see the world. I found a couple of abstracts (now a bit outdated, which further suggests recent research is lacking), examining the effect a positive emotional state can have on health. Have a read of https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11392855 and https://doi.org/10.4278/ajhp.090122-QUAN-22 to support this line of thinking.
At the end of the day, food is a comfort that is always there, is affordable, doesn't answer back, have expectations or judge you. That sounds like a nice thing to indulge in. Everyone's concept of ocassionally or "in moderation" is different so I won't enter into that debate here but if we are too achieve true weight stabilisation and maintenance, we need do the work on ourselves. Any buddhist, muslim, hindu or anyone following a spiritual journey has known this for a very long time...somehow this important piece of information got pushed down the priority list as society moved towards materialism, capitalism and superficial means to satisfy our inadequacies.
I better add a little information about the physiological effects going on in our bodies rather than preach all philosophy! Emotional stress sets off a cascade of events that trickle over into various body systems. This response is primarily dictated by our Endocrine system - our hormones. For example, our hypothalamus is a control centre in our brain sending messages and signals to organs and tissues of the Endocrine system to respond to perceived states. A signal might be to tell our Nervous System to release cortisol and adrenaline to prepare for a flight or fight response. (This is a Hypothalamic/Pituitary/Adrenal Axis (HPA) response - but there's many other Axis' that the Hypothalamus interacts with like this). If we keep living in this state of elevated steroid hormones, greater levels of insulin are released into the blood and the body has to work harder to remove it...this is the cascade effect at work and just one of many thousands that could occur, depending on your unique biochemistry, genetic makeup and lifestyle. That little trickle, if left unchecked becomes a tidal wave of inflammation...not good.
So you can see, this Emotional Pillar of Health is not to be taken lightly. Our 3 Pillars need a daily maintenance program for life! Easy? NO!. Essential? YES!
To conclude my discussion today, I thought I'd share Renee Jones story of unwinding her emotional problems that led to a lifetime of weight cycling...as you can see - she got on top of her issues. I hope you find it useful.
Lose Weight AND Keep It Off: Emotional Eating | Renée Jones | TEDxWilmingtonLive
Please remember you are never alone in these experiences. We are all human. We are all messy at times. We all fuck up. But there is a better way if we open up and share and get real. I'm here to help if you want to reach out.
Take Care Seekers of Wellness and don't forget you are superb.