Can Mindless Eating Trigger Extra Weight for Life?
I realize this may seem a bit premature to many people because it’s mid-October and I’m already talking about how mindless eating can lead to feeling out of control with food and holiday weight gain. Ugh gross right? Halloween is still 2 weeks away.
But the reality is that inconsistent food choices or yo-yo’ing back and forth on diets then off diets can trigger health issues including permanent weight gain for life (I’m more concerned about the health issues). This is not just during the holiday season, it can actually happen any time of the year.
In case ya didn’t know it, yo-yo dieting is bad, bad news. Dieting is bad, bad news.
If you are like many people, the majority of the disordered eating and weight gain takes place during the biggest holiday season in the US: this 6-week span from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Many of my clients confess to struggling at Halloween too with all. the. candy. everywhere.
Gobs of it. Calling their name until it’s gone. “I don't trust myself with it in my house” is what I frequently hear.
Others complain that trick or treat night can kick off the slippery slope of disordered eating + slow and steady holiday weight gain. Interesting to note, this is the time of year we are dining out more and typically eating with more people. According to research, the bigger the group of people you dine with, the more calories you take in. This translates into eating over 70% more calories for many of us. Which is great if your body needs that extra fuel. But many of us send confusing signals to our body and then wonder why we are in a health crisis.
Now don’t get me wrong, if you overeat for a birthday or anniversary or special occasion that is NORMAL behavior. We all overeat from time to time and that is part of being human. Where it can become a health concern is when this type of pervasive overeating mindset lasts for 6+ weeks. In the past I’ve done quite a bit of damage during the holidays myself without realizing the overall expense to my health and mental wellbeing. I fell prey to the mindset of “oh well, I’ll just check out, enjoy the holidays and worry about it later when the new year comes.” Can you relate to this?
Here are some interesting statistics for the science-minded peeps – yo-yo dieting (aka “weight cycling”) impacts normal weight people, both men and women -- not just obese peeps. It affects 18-34% men and 20-55% (over half) women. That's a decent portion of our population.
All the more reason to incorporate mindful eating before and during the 6-week holiday season!
Research shows that weight cycling is perhaps one of the worst things you can do to your metabolism since it can cause several issues including cardiovascular complications, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hormonal imbalances, and of course challenges with your self-esteem.
Negative effects of weight cycling:
Metabolic disruption: quick weight loss from dieting is not ideal! You lose muscle, which is attached to your immune system (don’t want to decrease that!) and muscle is metabolically active and burns more calories than fat. When you gain back the weight quickly after dieting, you do so as fat. We all need body fat, it totally serves a purpose, but too much of anything is still too much. Research shows that body fat doesn’t require as many calories as muscle does so when you gain back weight as fat it’s easy to gain even more weight than you originally lost. It’s not uncommon to gain that weight in your midsection. That type of weight gain is associated with an increase risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Hormonal imbalance: when you gain and lose weight (especially excessive weight), you put your body in panic mode and disrupt the hormone stress hormone cortisol. Increases in cortisol can lead to weight gain (usually the midsection) – again increasing your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Organ damage: did you know how much you are damaging your heart when you yo-yo diet/weight cycle? Gaining and losing weight is very traumatic on the heart – all your organs take a pretty good beating, but your heart is going to suffer the most. You set yourself up for cardiovascular complications and increase your risk for a not-so-fun heart attack. Please, please avoid it. Your body will thank me.
Self-esteem issues: if you are a chronic dieter and have been the yo-yo dieting roller coaster for years you don’t need me to tell you how terribly damaging the up/down weight gain cycle is for your self-esteem. Just like the heart, your self-esteem takes a solid beating with all the yo-yo'ing. It’s absolutely debilitating, can lead to depression which leads to emotional eating and then BAM! You have entered the emotional eating weight gain cycle that feels overwhelming and can feel very challenging to break without professional support.
What is the solution?
* Reconnecting to the intuitive eating nature you were born with while developing mindful eating skills!
After dieting for over T-W-O decades, mindful and intuitive eating has created long-lasting food peace with ALL food. It focuses on learning about the choices you make in the moment. You start to un-diet and recreate a sustainable way of eating that works for you, your body and health goals while deleting hopelessness around your food behaviors.
This holiday season it’s time to hit the pause button and focus on cultivating mindful and conscious nutrition choices. I’m encouraging you to finally make peace with food and your body. I know how easy it is to check out, fall into old habits and thought patterns with the “oh, I will lose the weight next year…” attitude. But the fact is many people don’t end up losing it the following year. Even though diet and detox sales skyrocket during January when everyone is motivated to shake off that holiday weight that drive slowly fizzles out by mid-February (please don’t get sucked into diet culture - there is a better way). It’s easy to get swept away with the holiday fever and throw caution to the wind until everyone else makes their New Year’s Resolution. But you are smarter than that, right?
My question to you is this: why wait? Why not be proactive now and start to pay attention to the triggers or emotions that drive you to eat or overeat in the first place? Just be curious about where they started and know you have the opportunity to change. This is the mindset I would pay big money to have adopted when I first started dabbling with diets in high school and college. I bought into this belief that dieting after gaining weight would solve my problems. Little did I know how damaging dieting and weight cycling is. Had I been open to exploring this concept of mindful and intuitive eating, I would have saved myself from all the weight ups and downs from trendy diets, mental exhaustion and food confusion, body blahs and feeling like a prisoner in my own skin. Looking back now I don’t know how I was stuck in that rut for so long. But now that I’m in touch with WHY I do what I do when it comes to food, I finally found TRUE INNER PEACE and you can too!
This time of year is a struggle for many people who tend to check out and if this is you, then check out and sign up for my Making Peace With Food Retreat on January 12th at Santosha Studio. If you are ready to have a healthy relationship with food and are interested in reading more click here.
If now is not the time then I will still be here when you are ready to dive in. The only thing you might regret is that you didn't explore this concept sooner like I did! But that’s ok, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
Sending thoughts of mindful eating habits and peace with your body through the holiday season and beyond!