Seeing the bodyweight go up on the scales rings an alarm bell in our head and instinctively we resort to ‘quick fixes’ or implement a sudden, swift change to our diet. Out of desperation, we end up eating more greens and decide to hit the gym or participate in any physical activity that can help us achieve our desired body weight. Then just as the hype calms down and life gets busier, we are reminded of the stress and anxiety that we are combating. Soon, it becomes overwhelming, our priorities change, and we lose that motivation just as quickly. It is a vicious cycle; somewhat of a pain cycle, but why do we even find ourselves in this situation?

Most of us know the basics of what to eat and what to avoid when trying to lose weight. However, even with the best of intentions, we end up derailing our progress when we feel tired, stressed, bored or frustrated and let’s face it, these emotions pop up quite often. Maintaining the ideal weight is an uphill battle for anyone, but those dealing with emotional struggles may have an even harder time reaching their goal.

When we are not happy with our weight, all kinds of excuses pop up such as “I don’t exercise enough”, “it’s the genes”, “my metabolism is slow”, “I don’t have enough time” amongst many others only to justify our shortcomings through such brainfood.

The excessive weight we see on the scale is often the result of deep internal emotional struggles. As NLP practitioners, we believe that every behaviour has a positive intention even if it is perceived negatively and to release the excess weight, it is important to identify what is the positive intention behind the weight we may be holding on to? You will be surprised what surfaces and once the need is dealt with, the body has no reason to hold the excess weight.

In helping people with weight loss, I discovered that most of them operate in an internally isolated environment and hide away their true feelings; and they have done it for so long that they are not even consciously aware of it. They are holding on to bigger emotional insecurities and have an internal desire to feel emotionally secure which subsequently leads to weight gain or higher resistance to losing weight despite the consistent efforts.

One of the greater reasons for holding on to excess weight is also chronic self-denial. We deny who we truly are and what we truly want but more importantly, we deprive ourselves of what we truly desire. To make matters worse, most people who suffer from weight issues don’t think they deserve it and therefore they won’t get it. Our body is a direct reflection of our mind, our reality is a direct reflection of our beliefs. It is the belief that eventually creates our reality, so it is less of a metabolism issue but more about releasing the thoughts that are creating negative energy and causing resistance. Remember ‘more it resists, more it persists’ and that is why diets don’t work.

Moreover, when dieting, we start eating foods that we do not really enjoy and we kind of force this upon ourselves. This creates feelings of deprivation and unhappiness which is against the whole purpose of weight loss. If we are trying to lose weight to be happy then why would we do something that makes us unhappy? Our relationship with food becomes that of guilt so when we start to eat a piece of cake, we believe that this is going to make us fat and that is exactly what it will do. If the relationship with food is such that the same piece of cake is eaten with an aspect of appreciation without letting any other thoughts of guilt, the impact will be different. These are nonetheless competing needs so the harder we try to lose weight the harder it gets. The desperation becomes intense, and the resistance becomes even greater. The body then goes into a protective mode and starts preserving what it knows best …fat!

The interesting thing is that we think about food all the time except for when we are actually eating. Eating is also an intensely somatic experience that gives rise to sensations and emotions. When we eat quickly, we don’t register the aroma and flavours of what we are eating; we don’t think; we don’t sense!

This results in a lack of appreciation and gratitude for the food we have and that is why it is important to understand the concept of mindful eating. Slowing down the pace at which we consume food, taking smaller bites and chewing properly, enjoying the experience with no distraction by putting our digital devices away and simply noticing the sensations so that the taste buds can be retrained and reprogrammed.

Being overweight is perceived as a social stigma and the societal pressure which comes with it can be damning for any individual. Unintentionally, we do whatever we can to put them on a guilt and self-hate trip. Weight loss does not come from a space of hating yourself. Real weight loss occurs when we start to love and accept ourselves which can be done with repetitive positive affirmations.

When talking about the emotional connections with weight management, we cannot forget stress! When the going gets tough, the last thing on our mind is being healthy and it is common to gain weight. The cause of weight gain, in this instance, is likely to be a mix of hormonal and psychological factors. Cortisol – the stress hormone is an appetite stimulant and when the cortisol levels increase, we resort to binge eating, comfort foods or even emotional or obsessive eating.

After the stressful event is over, other hormone levels return to normal while cortisol levels can remain elevated over a longer period of time. In fact, cortisol levels can remain persistently elevated in the body when a person is subjected to chronic stress. Our mind is still quite primitive and does not differentiate between the various types of stress we face these days. In times like today, when we are always under stress or poorly manage stress, Cortisol ends up doing overtime; triggering the need for fat and carbohydrates, stimulating insulin release and maintaining blood sugar levels for energy, with the result being weight gain or difficulty in losing unwanted pounds. Thus stress management practices like breathing, meditation, walks, sports etc can all form a crucial part of our weight-loss regime as these help release endorphins which have natural stress-fighting properties and can lower cortisol levels.

It is important to recognise that difficult diets or workout regimes do not work on their own without understanding the underlying emotional challenges rather they just create resistance. Our experience has nothing to do with what anyone else has experienced. What has worked for our friend may not necessarily work for us. We need to examine our own beliefs and understand the intention excess weight is serving before allowing it to be released. In pursuing weight loss, we must take actions that make us feel good and excite us and do not make us feel punished or deprived. Once we deal with the emotional challenges, there is no reason that our body does not follow suit.

Sabahat is a Transformational Life Coach and the founding owner of Ashmir by Sabahat Ahmed with offices in Dubai and London. She regularly writes about dealing with anxiety, stress, trauma, grief, and how to deal with emotional immunity. She is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and a senior member of Accredited Counsellors, Coaches, Psychotherapists and Hypnotherapists, UK. She lives in Dubai.

Sabahat is a Transformational Life Coach and the founding owner of Ashmir by Sabahat Ahmed with offices in Dubai and London. She regularly writes about dealing with anxiety, stress, trauma, grief, and how to deal with emotional immunity. She is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and a senior member of Accredited Counsellors, Coaches, Psychotherapists and Hypnotherapists, UK. She lives in Dubai.

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