Dr Susan Mendelsohn
Psychologist

Writing and weight loss...

You may be asking what in the world one has to do with the other. Well, I am here to tell you that writing may just be the ticket you need to lose those extra pounds!

When people attempt to lose weight, they typically begin by reducing their calorie intake and removing those ‘forbidden’ foods from their diet. This is one way to go about losing weight. However, many other challenges may surface.

If you are an individual who eats even when not physically hungry, you may be suffering from emotional eating. This, in turn, becomes the emotional weight that you are carrying around with you.

When these certain foods are no longer being consumed, emotions that we never knew existed tend to surface.

Food, in this sense, had been used to comfort us in our attempt to numb those strong emotions. Of course, the problem that arises from our attempt to avoid emotions is weight gain. The weight gain leaves us feeling like a failure, feeling guilty, and feeling like we are defective. You think: “Why can’t I just stop eating?”

The answer here is you haven’t begun to deal with those unresolved issues that lay dormant when ‘feeding’ our emotional hunger. You see, the reasons why we overeat are the questions we should be asking.

There is far more to weight loss and weight management than meets the eye. If losing weight was as easy as ‘just say no’ then we would all be doing it. Eating is only the symptom of a more insidious problem: emotions. Your emotions just may be the culprit that is keeping on those excess pounds.

Journaling, or writing down your thoughts and feelings, is one way to stop the vicious cycle of overeating and over gaining. The act of writing serves several purposes. First and foremost, it is an alternative to eating. The act of writing in itself will prevent you from grabbing for the goodies in the kitchen.

Next, the journal will help you release those pent up feelings, allowing them to surface so you can finally work through them. ‘Stuffing’ those feelings just won’t cut it when you are trying to manage your weight. Venting in this manner will help the craving pass in a more constructive manner.

Further, when you are journaling, you will tend to find patterns of how your feelings and thoughts drive you toward overeating. Once you gain this insight into your personal reasons for overeating, you will then be more capable of changing this destructive behavior.

During your journaling, you may find that your thinking is a bit on the negative side. Negative thinking results in negative emotions and behaviour. Our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are all interrelated. This means that if one is irrational, the others will follow suit! The good news is that you can use this to your advantage.

Journaling will help you become aware of, identify and clarify your feelings, and be honest with yourself every step of the way. Venting your feelings at any time during the day will prevent you from engaging in those destructive old habits. The practice will provide relief simultaneously.

The best part of journaling is that you never have to worry about someone not understanding you; you never have to fear being criticised; and you never have to fear trusting someone else with your inner most feelings because you have YOU!

So how do you begin a journal? Just take any blank book and go ahead and write whatever comes to mind. Most people say to me, “I don’t know what to write.” I respond by saying, “That’s fine! Write just that.” Trust me, once you allow those thoughts and feelings to flow, they’ll flow.

You may want to write how your day has been or what you are doing for the weekend. Anything is fine. The beauty of this is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to flow in any organised manner. You are the author of your life. Be creative, have fun. Use colours, or make a collage, write a poem or simply write! Who knows - you may uncover that artist in you after all!

The key here is to be as open as possible. I know that many of us have never really felt comfortable with our feelings. I also know that this may be an intimidating process at first. Many people tell me that they are afraid of what will surface. I say that’s precisely why it’s so important to get it out. Your own fear has held you back from successful living. It’s time to unleash the fear and LIVE the life you deserve!

This catharsis or ‘cleansing’ will be more therapeutic than you can imagine! When you rid yourself of that pent up baggage, you will feel more integrated, more free and best of all, more energetic for the rest of the day. You’ll be able to handle so many more things than you ever thought possible.

Journaling regularly will be a weight off your shoulders and your hips at the same time. So why not give it a try? All you have to lose is emotional weight!