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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Why Can't We Just Lose the Weight Already?

Obesity in this country has reached epidemic proportions. More than two/thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese. Type 2 Diabetes, once an adult disease, has become increasingly prevalent in children and teens. Feelings of being overweight cause tremendous psychological stress for people of all ages. The weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar industry with a huge advertising budget. Many people can successfully lose weight with low-calorie or low-carb diets, but the majority regain the weight within a year or two. Here are some factors that make long-term weight loss difficult.

(1) Our Bodies Naturally Resist Weight Loss

Our bodies were designed to help us hang onto weight when calorie intake is suddenly lowered. It assumes that food is scarce and tries to stop us from starving to death by slowing down our metabolism so we burn calories more slowly.

(2)  Genetics Play a Large Role

If you have family genetics for large frames and excess weight, you're going to have a much harder time being thin. Perhaps in days gone by, these families were engaged in physical activities, such as farming, that required strength and endurance.

(3) Our Environments Don't Support Healthy Behavior

Most Americans work more hours  and take fewer days of vacation than people in other countries. People living near large urban centers often spend hours commuting. Plane travel has become a way of life in the corporate world. Many poor people work more than one job, can't afford childcare, and have little leisure time. many poor urban neighborhoods lack parks or sidewalks.

(4) Fast Food is Cheap and Easy

Without advance preparation, it is all too easy after a full day or work and commuting to stop by the MacDonald'a drive through and get a high-fat burger, fries, and sugary soda for a quick and affordable fix.

(5) Emotional Eating

People with a history of trauma may turn to food as a source of emotional comfort when other avenues are lacking. Food is always available because we need to eat, so it's more difficult to avoid triggers.

 Long-term weight loss requires people to make extensive and long-term lifestyle changes. Many people do not understand the complexity and difficulty of losing weight and tend to blame it on lack of willpower. In fact, both biological and environmental factors make weight-loss difficult. Most obese people require long-term Nutritional Counseling and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for months or years in order to keep the weight off. Bariatric surgery can be effective, but often causes suffering due to medical complications. Without behavior change, the weight will be regained. Any long-term weight loss plan needs to address the individual reasons why you, specifically, overeat and provide you with self-awareness and coping strategies, as well as information about diet and exercise.

Recent scientific studies on weight loss suggest some behavioral strategies you can use to increase the efficacy of your dieting plan.  Read my article in Psychology Today to find out what these are.

Seven Proven Tips for Weight Loss Success - Psychology Today

Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. is a Practicing Psychologist in Mill Valley and San Francisco, California, and an expert on mindfulness, emotions, relationships, and leadership. She has published more than 50 articles, abstracts and book chapters, appeated on radio shows and acted as a source for national media, incuding, Men's health, Cosmopolitan, BBC 4 in the U.K., and O, the Oprah Magazine (South African edition). Previously a Professor at a training institution for clinical psychologists, she is now a practicing psychologist, speaker, and consultant. Dr Greenberg provides workshops, consulting, and keynotes for organizations, and coaching and psychotherapy for individuals in person and via skype (in California).

Visit my therapist website or my Psychology Today therapist page for info about my therapy services

Contact me via the Psychology Today Experts Page for Media and Speaking Requests

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Does Happiness Lie Within?

Throughout the ages, popular wisdom has told us that money cannot buy happiness. As the below quotes illustrate, happiness has historically been seen as is a quality that lies within us, or as something we can cultivate by proper thoughts, good deeds, and commitment to a worthy cause.

It is neither wealth nor splendor; but tranquility and occupation, which give you happiness.Thomas Jefferson

Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.Helen Keller

Happiness doesn't depend on any external conditions; it is governed by our mental attitude.Dale Carnegie

Money Is an Unstable Resource

As a psychologist trained in Mindfulness and Compassion approaches, I have experienced and seen how cultivating inner peace and being accepted, heard, and understood can make people happier, regardless of circumstances. Focusing too much on money, status, and external proof of our worthiness can lead to anxiety and obsession, because these aspects of life are not stable. We can be laid off, spend too much, lose our money in the stock market, or our house can suddenly be worth a lot less. This can result in a loss of status if we live in a community that overvalues these things. For many people, this translates into a loss of self-esteem, anger, and questioning of the foundation of their lives. 

Money is a Necessary Evil

At the same time, living with little or no money can result in tremendous suffering in today’s world. Government programs, such as Social Security or Medicare are facing unprecedented crises and may no longer buffer us in old age. Mergers, acquisitions, age discrimination, and outsourcing threaten job stability. We do need to look after our money to provide us with resources should we face unexpected life difficulties.

Making Money Involves Sacrifices

The relationship of money to happiness is complex and complicated. We need to find a balanced attitude to money, rather than a fear-based one. We also need to look carefully at what sacrifices we make to earn money. How much do we sacrifice character, time with family, self-respect, or independence for our jobs?

Money & Therapy

The topic of money comes up with almost all of my psychotherapy clients. The very act of entering psychotherapy involves spending money to take care of ourselves, in the moment, rather than saving it for long-term security. Yet the lessons we learn in therapy can help us structure our lives and invest in ourselves so as to increase our overall psychological (and, sometimes, material) wealth, relationships, and quality of life.  

In my latest Psychology Today post, I examine research from the Gallup organization and top universities to see whether money buys happiness or depletes it. Read what I found out here.

If you live in Marin and are interested in my therapy services, read my profile and contact me via Psychology Today .  

I am excited to announce that, in addition to my Mill Valley office, I now have an office in San Francisco at 4333 California Street.

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