As a therapist, I have found weight loss treatments by far the most challenging in empowering my clients to resolve. I believe that this is partly due to the delicacy with which the leverage must be applied. With smoker for example you can tell them the awful things that smoking does to their body. You can tell them to totally stop, but people cannot stop eating. They have to first explore the challenges they are having with food. This could consist of one or more of the following:

Eating the wrong kind of food – e.g. sweet or fatty foods.

Eating the wrong amount of food – Binging or having large portions.

Eating at the wrong times – Eating before bed, snacking in between meals or using food for a substitute, for example when bored.

Not exercising enough.

Do they know what they should be doing instead?

This is interesting as the people who tell me “I know I should exercise more” often don’t know how much exercise they should be doing or how often. They might have only tried one kind of exercise, such as swimming and found they dislike it. Well of course it’s very difficult to motivate yourself to do something you do not like. When you do something you enjoy it’s much more motivating to get up and go. When you’ve got up and gone you’ll find that you had more energy than you did to begin with.

I also hear a lot of “I should eat more fruit and veg…” That’s five portions to me and you, about as much as you can fit in your own hand is one portion, and it needs to be 5 different F&V each day in a variety of colours.

Ideally avoid man made food such as pasta, bread and pastries, but eat as much F&V as you want. Some fruit and nuts get bad press about their fat or sugar content but remember that natural sugars and fats are good for your body and are used up much quicker that refined sugars and hydrogenated fats. Just ensure you have balance and variety.

What stops them from doing what they should be doing?

There are a variety of reasons here. It could be addiction to certain food, negative associations from the past, sabotage, low self esteem, ignorance, poor routine, over indulgence- There’s a long list and we need to know what is going on for this person. Again there will probably be more than one area covered.

What do they lie to themselves about?

Just one more won’t hurt…I’ll exercise tomorrow….I don’t care anyway…There’s no point in wasting it…I haven’t got time….

What do they want instead, what are their goals?

This is important. It’s vital here to really find out what people are focusing on. Some people will spend their dieting day thinking about all of the things that they want and cannot have. This makes them crave it and feel lack or punishment if they do not permit themselves to have it. If they do have it, they feel guilty. The focus should be on what they can have. Losing weight should not be seen as a punishment, but as a reward. They are doing this because they care about their body. They are going to reward their body by keeping it healthy and helping it to stay alive.

“How fat/ill do you have to get before you get motivated to change this?”

This is a thought provoking question. They might know the answer, in which case send them on their way. Tell them there is no point in treating them as they have already decided not to change until they are “20 stone” or whatever their response is. Hopefully, doing this might give them a shock and accelerate their motivation levels somewhat. They’ll suddenly see you, as their last chance slipping away and having to face the prospect of meeting their worst fear. If they don’t know the answer, push them for one. “So you’re 5 ft 2 and 16 stones and you haven’t yet changed. Would you change if you were 17 stones? Or not until 18?” The ideal client will tell you that they are already at that limit. You then need to test how their motivation will last when they begin to lose the weight. Most dieters have dieted more than once, their weight fluctuates because they forget to stay motivated once the weight has gone. “How motivated are you now on a scale of 1-10? Now imagine having lost half of the weight you desire, how motivated are you on scale of 1-10? Now imagine having lost all of the weight. As you get a feel for that, how motivated are you there on a scale of 1-10? If you find that their motivation is diminishing as you ask these questions, you know that they will probably lose the weight but will need your support to keep it off. This could help you to design a session plan for them. You may not need to direct your sessions towards weight loss but towards maintenance of consistency, motivation and self respect. Never let your clients think of weight loss as changing that one aspect of their lives, they need to understand that it is a total change in lifestyle.

Once these points (and others) have been explored you can begin your weight loss sessions- and the contents of that are a whole other article!

By Gemma Bailey