Home » Why We Must Stop Ignoring the Psychology of Weight Loss: Alisa Anokhina at TEDxUCL (Transcript)

Why We Must Stop Ignoring the Psychology of Weight Loss: Alisa Anokhina at TEDxUCL (Transcript)

So say you are trying to loss weight. And you’re sitting at home on a Thursday night and you’re thinking ‘Well, I really want pizza right now’. So you know you think, right, you’re trying to distract yourself or do something else. But the pizza thought keeps popping out. So there are two things you can do. One, you can kind of give up and give in and get a takeaway; eat it in one sitting and wake up next morning with that cheese hangover hating yourself.

Something else that you can do is you can say ‘Right, I want pizza right now. That is fine. So tomorrow night I’m going to have pizza for dinner.’ I’m going to make it myself. So I am going to know exactly what’s in it. And I’m going to put all these really lovely nice toppings on it. And I’m going to really kind of savor it and enjoy it. And this is the positive thing. You are indulging your cravings and your ruminations in a positive way. And so this is basically two points.

The first is mindfulness. It is being aware of what you are eating and what is in it. And second is about picking quality over quantity. Because that’s an altitude that will basically prevent binge-eating.

So what are successful dieters doing? Well, a disclaimer first, the short answer says we don’t really know. OK. There’s definitely not enough research on this. Certainly not from a psychological standpoint. And this is something that needs to change basically. But that’s, you know, a point for the academics.

What we do know is these sort of strategies that I was talking about we can sum up in two key points. So the first is that people who successfully lose weights and keep it off, first of all, don’t conceptualize it as a diet. Diet is deprivation and it is self-punishment and it’s not sustainable in the long-term. So instead you think about making changes to your life to the way you think and the way you behave, and then having weight loss is a by-product of that. So it’s about treating your body well, and with positivity and kindness. So it’s about improving your life not just losing weight.

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The second thing is that they will take a personalized approach. So eat the foods that you like, exercise at the time that works for you. Consider your schedule, your commitment, your preferences. And then work to that. Instead of tearing out the latest fat diet from the magazine and hoping that works. Because it won’t.

So we have to accept that even those two things are very difficult to do. They take time and they take effort. But with the right support, it is easier. By support I mean having the right advice, and the right strategies to deal with things that make weight loss difficult from a psychological standpoint, with the right cognitive skills. So weight loss counselling does number of things. It realizes people’s expectations. So they know that they won’t lose 25 kilos in a year, which means they won’t feel demoralized or miserable. It gives them more sustainable way to lose weight. So it is something that you can do more long-term, as opposed to for 6 months before you get sick of it.

And more importantly, what empirical research suggests to us. (My clicker is broken, there we go.) It suggests to us that people who receive this type of support, not only lose more weight but also maintain that loss. So the take-home message from all these is that weight loss is not just about self-control. It is not about your will-power. It is about a lot more than that. And that is the way we need to start thinking about it.

So the concluding thought here is that losing weight shouldn’t be about eating less. It should be about thinking differently. Thank you.

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