I’m a coaching psychologist interested in the application of modern psychological techniques to one of the Western world’s most prevalent problems: being fat. Oh, I know. I’m supposed to be politically correct and use delicate words like “overweight” or “heavier” but until the age of 28 I was fat. And “fat” was exactly the word that came to mind when I looked at myself in the mirror. Now, when I teach mindful eating techniques, “fat” is the word people use about themselves. It’s a word that seems to carry with it all the baggage we know only too well—whether that’s childhood name-calling, struggling to buy clothes that fit, or not fitting adequately into an aeroplane seat. “Fat” is also the word the diet industry uses to bully us into buying their shake-for-breakfast crap.
A while back, my partner and I took a very special vacation in the Caribbean. I had put on even more weight just before the vacation and I spent the whole holiday feeling very uncomfortable wearing only a pair of shorts round the pool. Weirdly, I was embarrassed about being embarrassed about my body. Second order embarrassment. I kept thinking that I’m not an insecure teenage girl, and I should just man up and be proud that I’m bulky. But no amount of self-talk was going to cut it. After many years of being overweight, it was time to admit that it bothered me. A lot. I wanted to feel free from the tyranny of fat, but I didn’t want to feel hungry all the time, as I had done with various diets. By then I already had already been studying psychology for a decade. I decided to jump headlong into the thousands of scientific papers on what makes people fat and the techniques previously tried to help people lose weight. I learned a lot, but mostly I learned that psychological science had a long way to go before it would find a really good answer to this difficult question.
This blog is the record of how my thinking and my teaching have changed. It’s a place for me to share with people some of the scientific work I’ve read about which has inspired my approach. Developing mindful eating skills, getting rid of distractions when eating, learning to accept my body the way it is, learning to love exercise, and always reminding myself why I want to be fit and healthy have so far helped me loose and keep off over 28kg (that’s 63 pounds or 4 stone and 5 pounds). I’m not perfect. Far from it. I still go a bit wild from time to time. But overall, I feel I have energy and zest for life like never before. I’m no longer embarrassed to take my t-shirt off. And best of all, I’m less likely to die of a heart attack at the age of fifty. I hope you find some of my insights useful.
If you want to get going fast with my approach to losing weight you could:
- Read about why just reading nutritional labels might not help.
- Learn how diets don’t really work in the long run.
- Find out why being too careful about what you eat usually backfires, leading to the “I’ve blown it” response and eating like an out of control beast.
- You definitely will want to read the basic idea behind my approach to eating. There are simple rules to follow.
- You will surely want to find out what to do when cravings threaten to derail your weight loss.
P.S. A couple of people have expressed surprise that I’m so honest about my own struggles. Surely, if I want to be claim to be an expert in weight loss I should gloss over all that stuff and tell an inspiring story about where I am now. Or better still, I should just stick to the science. Bullshit. I don’t keep my real life out of my blog because real life can be just as instructive as the sterilised knowledge we call ‘science’. In fancy psychological terms, a psychologist failing to disclose a little of his own life places him on the pedestal of “expertness” and increases the power imbalance. Life’s messy. Everyone’s life is messy. The sooner we all admit that the sooner human cultures will progress.
P.P.S. I am a coaching psychologist, not a therapist. In simple language, I help people to achieve their goals not to deal with their psychological difficulties. If you are suffering, or suspect you might be suffering from, anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, or anything like that, please seek proper help. I’m not the man for the job. The weight loss advice on this site assumes that you are objectively overweight, i.e. that you have a BMI over 25. Please don’t try to use the advice on this site to take yourself from slim to superskinny. I can’t be responsible for the results.