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Psyching Up On Weight Loss

Posted on September 14, 2019 | No Comments on Psyching Up On Weight Loss

Ours is a figure-conscious world. We see models sashaying down a ramp wearing clothes that show off their flat tummies and flabfree arms, and we turn green with envy. The message—”Lean is in, skinny is beautiful”—is trumpeted everywhere, in billboards, on TV, and in print ads that feature celebrity endorsers flaunting their perfect, to-die-for bodes.

This figure consciousness among Filipinos is an obvious sign of a desire to be in perfect shape. Gone is the thought that being chubby is cute; now, having the perfect body is considered next to godliness.

The Mania Called Weight Loss
No one can deny that losing weight is indeed a phenomenon that is taking the country by storm. This is borne by the fact that radio and TV advertisements of weight loss pills are using up precious airtime, with models affirming how easily they shed off their unwanted pounds in so little time. And as Filipinos are notorious for wanting instant results with the least effort, these pills are selling like hotcakes.

Mr. Anton Simon Palo, a psychology professor in De La Salle University Manila, attributes this mania for losing weight to several factors. One is the projection of celebrities with the perfect body. “Many of us actually compare ourselves to these celebrities. So, the tendency is to follow their template of image or appearance,” Palo states.

Palo also mentions the proliferation of health information on the dangers of being overweight and of an unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle as another factor that has contributed to this mania. “Due to these public announcements, for example, on the rates of death due to heart failure, stroke, and hypertension, a lot of people who are exposed to this information are able to change their lifestyles accordingly. So instead of eating too much salt, they start eating salt-less food, not too much butter or not too much steak.”

Psychological Challenges of Losing Weight
Palo believes that though more and more people are coming to realize the health risks and threats that come with having too much pounds in the body, majority of weight watchers are still motivated by the desire to project a good self image. In other words, they want to lose weight, not so much for health reasons but because they want to look good.

Whatever their motivation, however, many would affirm the difficulty of losing weight, especially in our culture where eating is seen as a favorite pastime. This could prove to be one of many psychological challenges to losing weight.

“First of all, it’s no secret that Filipinos love to eat,” enthuses Palo. “Most of our happy moments are occasions for eating; when we celebrate, we eat, when we have festivals, we eat. It’s going to be hard to detach ourselves from something we love to do in the first place. And we don’t just eat, we eat in large amounts, that’s why we have all these eat-all-you-can promotions almost everywhere you look,” suggests Palo.

Another common psychological problem Palo proposes is how Filipinos tend to want immediate results. They have difficulty in accepting that you cannot obtain the kind of body you want without exerting effort, and sustaining it for a length of time. “The second common problem is that given the template that we have with the celebrities, we tend to aim for that body immediately, in a short span of time. Obviously we can’t lose weight in a day. In the fast-paced, driven lives we live, we want that kind of effect, immediately,” he says. That mind set is obviously another setback, which could doom one to failure.

Dean Anderson, in his article entitled “Maintaining a Healthy Weight”, suggests what he calls ‘the three P’s of failure’—personalized, permanent and pervasive. On the personal side, Anderson says that people tend to think that they have a flaw, which is causing this problem. Then they think that this flaw is permanent, something that can block their growth, and that this personal and permanent flaw is pervasive, meaning it affects all the aspects of their lives.

And a sad thought is that even before these people could actually start on their weight loss program, the thought of lapsing back to their old weight could also play on their minds. You may see this as part of the three P’s of failure, as it could be personal because they think that they can never achieve their desired weight, and it could be pervasive as this could affect their life. “One of the reasons why people would lapse back is that when they get into another kind of distressful situation, say, a depression or a sad situation like getting their heart broken, they try to reset everything. So even the program of exercising or dieting is reset as well,” Palo says.

Finding the Right Kind of Help
Psyching someone up into losing weight may be a good way of helping that person hit his target. Palo introduces a good way of getting these people who want or need to lose weight—a concept called “flow” developed by a Hungarian psychologist named Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi.

“It’s actually a study on happiness. He didn’t say that happiness was smiling or laughing, it was more about achieving goals,” shares Palo. “So if you put yourself in a situation where you set your goal just beyond what you’re able to do and you’re able to do it, that gives you a sense of achievement.”

Palo cites an example to fully understand the concept of “flow.” “If we can run one mile, then we aim for 1.1 miles; and if we reach the aimed-for 1.1 miles, it would give us a sense of accomplishment, which will motivate us enough to push for further distances, repeatedly and regularly.”

With the flow concept, Palo reminds that we must set realistic goals. “The thing is, to aim for something that we can reach for now. If you can only do one mile, then let’s do one mile, repeatedly.” He says that the gradual increase in the miles that you run, can help you set a new goal and help you to achieve that new goal. In addition, he says, “Don’t put yourself in a position where you can become frustrated with your activities; don’t put yourself in a situation of frustration.” In other words, by setting a goal that is reachable, you are setting yourself up for success.

Dean Anderson, in his article, offers “the three S’s of success” which can help you become successful in shedding off those unwanted pounds and ensure long-term weight management. The first S is self-efficacy, “the belief that you can do what is required of you to achieve anobjective.” Second is, self-monitoring which involves observing and interpreting your behavior and using these observations to modify your behavior. The third is support—from experts, friends and family.

With support, we can say that the people around are vital to your success in your plan of losing weight. Palo suggests going with people who exercise more and eat less, as they can help modify your lifestyle and help you stick to your goals. “Modeling your self against, and going out with, people who eat less and exercise more, works because of the companionship,” he shares. “For example, when you run with a friend, your goal becomes associated with that person. If that person is running far away from you, you try to chase that person, so it becomes a motivation and an indicator of achievement as well.”

Stop minding what other people think or say, set your goals, and discipline yourself to achieve them. As advised by Palo, sticking with a group of people who are actually engaged in an active weight reduction program is a good start. Who knows? One day, you may actually be able to prove that you got that perfect body without having to take those pills or enroll in a weight loss clinic, or worse, go under the knife to shed the flab and suck the fat. When that happens, you will feel proud that you did it one step at a time, the natural, and hard, way!

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