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Weight doesn't 'drop off', you have to'work it off'!

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

Psychological insights from personal experience with weight issues

Written Dec 2016

Three months ago I recruited the help of Joanne of Nightingale Fitness with the quest to lose weight. I almost reached my target of losing 10kg in 10 weeks, just a week out, which I was happy with. Easy right? The weights just dropping off right? Don’t be fooled! This journey has taken a lifetime of believing I don’t need to do any work and of trying to get away with it, and probably 3 years of psychological work to even get to the point of putting anything into action to lose the weight.

My significant weight increase started approx. 3 years ago when I developed skin cancer. I already had some maladaptive neural pathways of trauma from having a back injury in Australia which caused me to be somewhat overprotective of my body. But the cancer heightened my vulnerability further because I had no control over this one. It, irrationally, caused me to close even more in on myself physically and somehow my brain came to tell my body it hurt and needed rest even when it didn’t. Having fibromyalgia this is a very normal neurological brain process but it was heightened to the point I was gaining a stone a year.Two years of Psychotherapy didn’t make me lose weight but it did make me aware of what was getting in the way. I look back at journals I’ve written that show my developing awareness of these barriers but yet no solutions it seemed.

However, building this awareness was the start of my solution.

Back then I know I would have shunned Jo at the first hurdle. I would have projected all my anger and frustration about my cancer onto her by abandoning the support she was offering because I was not ready then to receive her help. By denying my own responsibility I would have been highly critical of her and nothing she would have done would have been right. When I finally hit the point I was ready I knew the barriers I was going to have to face and I needed to employ somebody else to be my second voice that shouted over me at each hurdle so I couldn’t ignore them. Jo did receive many dirty looks and at one point she was lucky I did not still have the boxing gloves on but it didn’t stop me or her, 2 years ago it probably would have. I also had to find the strength to shout over all the things I knew I would hear from my family and society that has led me to this point until now. In doing so I have come up with some new philosophies about weight loss which probably contradicts everything you hear and read, but to me is more realistic.

I can write this list because I have been through it and it is from this experience that I have come to learn these tips. I am also a Psychologist so it does come a little from this perspective as my work informs my own well being. They may or may not work for you but if you are feeling resistant to them then it may be that there is more psychological preparation required before you start a programme. SO… here is my personal tip list.


Don’t start with the physical journey until you are mentally ready for it.

Do your psychological preparation….

What is your motivation?

Is this strong enough to hold on too at the darkest times?

See a counsellor if you need help too….…

Identify the things that have not worked before. If they didn’t work then why will they work this time, so, identify why they didn’t work and create a new strategy.…

Become aware of what your psychological hurdles are. Get comfortable with them as you will be getting pretty close to them.…

Identify what is your voice (“I don’t like being this weight”) and what are others (“You’re becoming skin and bones”, You are wasting away”, “you are fine as you are “). If you are not happy as you are then you are not fine as you are.….

Then, tell your PT what you need reaffirming so as to strengthen YOUR voice. BE READY

When you feel ready and you know what you need from your PT then you can start.

In contrary to the life mantra of today…..

Don't live for the moment…but in the moment……Look to the future….for the thing that motivated you in the first place….for the clothes you will fit in, for the things you will be able to do being fitter, for the lack of guilt and emotional turmoil you won’t have gone through for eating that cake, for the real reason you wanted to do this in the first place.Look back at the past….for the past few weeks when you have been doing really well with your eating plan, do you look back and still miss having that sausage roll last Tuesday, or that chocolate cake last Thursday with your afternoon coffee. Are you now traumatised for not having had them when you look back? In that moment I felt proud for going without. Give your brain and emotions a break!

Following a clear plan makes your brain work much less and takes away all the turmoil you ever experienced.

You are not obsessed!

Contrary to what your friends and family start to say……You are not becoming obsessed with your new health plan….. ……You were already obsessed on a minute to minute basis for years and years on the dilemmas of what to eat and how to look good without actually doing anything about it, “if I eat this will I feel bad?” “is that better than ‘depriving’ myself?” “if I have this now I will feel great but I hate how I gain weight tomorrow…but I’ll still eat it but feel guilty” “but it is just treat even if I feel like shit afterward” “That’s it, I feel really bad now, the diet starts tomorrow” ….and tomorrow never comes. Sound familiar?? Instead of having a lifelong internal dialogue in your head, you are now physically actioning your health plan which people can now see, and so they believe you are obsessing.“How are we going to accommodate her?” “What are going to be able to have for christmas dinner?”. “I’m worried she is overdoing it”.

It is not a ‘fad’ diet

People may try and convince you that you are on a ‘fad’ diet when actually you are eating what you should be eating to give your body maximum nutrients to enjoy and fulfil life long-term. You are not responsible for other peoples guilt even if they try to project it back at youOthers may try to entice you away from your plan because by seeing you eat healthily confronts what they are not doing for themselves. Rather than change themselves it is easier to change you back because they may not be ready to change. But you are not responsible for them and their guilt, only yourself.

Freedom from the torment

By sticking to the plan your mind is freed up from all the cycles of torment and you can just enjoy the impact of what this is all doing to your body.

No “What do I fancy, but that’s really bad for me, but I really want it” crap. It’s “What am I having today, ah yes, that, decision made!” knowing that ‘that’ will not make you wake up tomorrow playing Russian roulette with your scales. You can be sure that when you try on that outfit for a wedding next month that you can guarantee you will only look even better by the time it comes because weight gain does not factor into this.

Losing weight gives you a greater and longer lasting feeling than that piece of cake will ever offer you.Don’t see having lost weight as a reason now to have a sneaky ‘treat’. It is not a ‘treat’ but a downward spiral towards your old tormented cycle. See losing weight as a great feeling and more of this feeling is going to be a treat. WHEN EMBARKING ON THE EXERCISE PLAN

Understand your body

Notice what is physiological pain and what is emotional pain. If your emotions are being highly challenged, for good or bad, for stress or excitement, your brain will be responding and telling your body it ‘feels’ these things.

So, tell your brain that whilst you are ‘feeling’ hurt your body is not actually hurting or suffering.Your muscles don’t ‘feel’ pain, your brain does. So, let your emotions and your body work together to help each other.

  • If you are feeling low, by exercising you then stimulate endorphins that help make you feel happier.

  • If you are angry, use your workout to have a tantrum, channel your anger and shake it out of you by working harder.

  • If you are stressed and not sleeping, doing exercise will tire your body out and help you sleep aswell as creating relaxing chemicals in the body.

  • If you are stressed and cannot relax exercise can enable you to reach a catharsis of tension in which you can then relax from instead of continually holding on too.

  • Force your body through that emotional barrier to enable you to emotionally ‘let go’.

  • Pushing yourself through anxiety does not increase the trauma state of the body but strengthens the resilience towards it in the future.

  • Pushing yourself beyond your usual limitations teaches you that you are stronger in the mind than you always believed you were. This in turn strengthens the will to stick to the plan and increases pride and self-confidence in your own capabilities.

  • Acknowledge the things you find hard so you can work to overcome them, but ensure you celebrate the achievements you have made.


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