Here in the UK it seems as if the newspapers have been full of information on dieting and weight loss recently. Covering genes and yo-yo diets, it's a hot topic.
Quoting directly from the Daily Mail on Tuesday 10th April, "The world's largest study of weight loss has shown that diets do not work for the vast majority of slimmers and may even put lives at risk. More than two-thirds pile the pounds straight back on, raising the danger of heart-attack, stroke and diabetes. Indeed, most dieters end up heavier than they did to start with, the researchers found."
The chances are high that you didn't need the Daily Mail, or me, to tell you that. You almost certainly know someone in your close circle of acquaintances with that experience. Weight loss traditionally is said to be a matter of the energy equation – if you eat less and exercise more you'll lose weight. Simple. Or is it?
What other factors affect weight loss?
In my experience as a nutritionist and weight coach, although diet and exercise are obviously important factors, it's been obvious to me for a long time that there are other factors at work. Hence the reasons for extending my practice to look at coaching and motivation. But emotional reactions are also a BIG part of successful weight loss.
How many of these can you relate to?
- I crave sweet things
- I sometimes eat to comfort myself
- I can't resist certain foods
- If I'm bored I grab a snack
- Food is a reward when I've done well
These are the kind of thoughts that sabotage many diets, leaving dieters disappointed, disillusioned and heavier than before they started – as the researchers at the University of California found after analysing the results of more than 30 studies involving thousands of slimmers.
Dr Traci Mann said "You can initially lose 5 to 10 per cent of your weight on any number of diets, but after this honey-moon period, the weight comes back. We found that the majority of people regained all the weight, plus more."
The effect of dieting on health
The analysis, published in the journal "American Psychologist" concluded that yo-yo dieters may actually be damaging their health, as rapid weight gain and loss associated with dieting can double the risk of death from heart disease and the risk of premature death in general, as well as suppressing the immune system, which makes the body more prone to infection.
The follow-ups on the dieters found that had they done nothing it's likely that their weight would have been pretty much what it ended up as, but they would not have subjected their bodies to the wear and tear associated with losing weight and then re-gaining it.
So we know that a healthy, balanced diet together with regular exercise are the best way for the body to make gradual long-term weight changes, but what can be done about the emotional factors, mentioned earlier, that get in the way of everything we know to be common-sense?
Addressing emotional blocks to weight loss
What is needed is an approach to address healthy diet, lifestyle AND mind. Something that can reduce the immediate urge to grab your favourite (usually fattening!) food, and help you clear up some of those deep emotional issues that keep you from sticking to your diet and actually losing weight.
A DIY method of addressing emotional issues that is gaining popularity is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) pioneered in 1995 by Gary Craig, a Stanford engineer with an intense interest in the psychology of personal improvement.
EFT teaches a method of addressing the emotional issues that ruin your good intentions, but without leaving you feeling deprived.
How does EFT work?
EFT has been called "acupuncture without needles", and obtains results by tapping the body's meridian points with fingertips while the subject focuses on their problem. Theories about how EFT works are beyond the scope of this short article, but one simple hypothesis is that the signal produced by the stimulation "collides" with the signal produced by thinking about the problem, introducing "noise" into the emotional process, thus altering its nature and capacity to produce symptoms.
Have there been any scientific trials on EFT?
Scientific studies on EFT Encouraging pilot studies have been conducted into the effectiveness of the tapping method, and published in the October 2001 issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychology.
For instance, one study compared 'tapping' treatment with acupuncture needles in panic patients. 40 patients received tapping treatments on pre-selected acupuncture points, and 38 received stimulation with needles on the same points. 78.5% of the tapping group had a positive response, compared to 50% of the needle group.The fact that 'tapping' can be easily learned, at low cost, for DIY use is a further advantage to the higher positive response obtained.
In a larger study approximately 5,000 patients suffering from various anxiety disorders (including panic attacks, stress, social phobias, specific phobias, eating and addictive disorders) were randomly assigned into two groups, one group to receive CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) and medication and the other to receive tapping treatments. The study was conducted over a five and a half year period, with follow-ups after treatment at 1 month, 3 months, 6 months and 12 months.
At the close of therapy "positive clinical responses" were found in 63% of those treated with CBT and medication, and in 90% of those treated with the tapping techniques. Complete freedom from symptoms was found in 51% and 76% respectively. At 12-month follow-up those who had received the tapping treatment were less prone to relapse than the CBT/medication group.
The 70% (or more) success rate obtained using EFT far out-performs the typical 7% success rate in keeping weight off after a diet.
Learning EFT for weight management and other problems
EFT can be used for many other problems too (not just weight loss), for instance migraine headaches, phobias, stress management, smoking cessation, insomnia to name just a few. The basics of the method can be learned, for DIY use, on videos/DVDs in just two hours.
To learn this very new technique, try "The Key to Successful Weight Loss", a top-rated home training program taught by psychologist Dr. Patricia Carrington. It's an e-Book and computer-based program rolled into one. Screen animation and computer prompts make the whole process so easy. Dr Carrington explains the basics of EFT, then customizes it all in an accompanying e-Book.