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A secret to healthy weight loss: Gaining self-control over emotions


When it comes to emotional eating, it's never about the food.

Emotions, researchers reiterate, are the underlying cause of eating disorders. And a new survey brings forth some compelling data about just how important it is to manage feelings in a healthy way.

The key to weight loss?

Investigators surveyed over 1,300 licensed psychologists, asking them how they handled patients' challenges with weight loss, exercise and body image.

Ninety-two percent of the respondents said that they have helped a client address "underlying emotional issues related to weight gain." But only 28 percent said that making good food choices was a barrier to weight loss, while 44 percent said that emotional eating and trouble maintaining a regular exercise routine were barriers.

Respondents also said that keeping records of progress, motivational strategies and setting goals were helpful in assisting clients with long-term weight loss.

Finding control

The key, psychologists said, was helping patients gain more control over--and understanding the root causes of--their behaviors and emotions. Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D, explains:

"Although it is generally accepted that weight problems are most often caused by a combination of biological, emotional, behavioral and environmental issues, these new results show the key role of stress and emotional regulation in losing weight."

Researchers said that cognitive therapy may be one of the best approaches for helping people with emotional eating issues. This type of therapy helps patients identify which negative thought patterns directly contribute to behavior.

"Anyone who has ever tried to lose a few pounds and keep them off knows that doing so isn’t easy," Anderson said. "The good news is that research and clinical experience have shown that, in addition to behavioral approaches, cognitive-behavioral therapy that targets emotional barriers helps people lose weight."

Results of the survey will appear in the February issue of Consumer Reports Magazine.

Source: Psych Central