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Want to lose weight? You may have to deal with your emotions

by Eunji Kim
Feb 14, 2013

Sapna Patel, 30, of Chicago, is not overweight.

She weighs 138 pounds and is 5 feet 6 inches tall. But Patel said she still wants to lose a couple of pounds here and there.

Patel had just finished a workout at Cardinal Fitness in the West Loop. In addition to exercise, she is trying to eat healthy.

“Don’t eat that in front of me,” she said to a man eating M&M’s. She said she cares about her weight for appearance sake.

“I don’t really do anything to prep myself emotionally,” when it comes to her weight management, Patel said

But, Patel and others who care may need to prep themselves emotionally to lose weight, according to an American Psychological Association survey.

The survey, which is reported in this month’s Consumer Reports magazine, revealed that  44 percent of 1,300 psychologists surveyed said understanding and managing behaviors and emotions related to weight management is essential to keeping extra weight off.

Of those surveyed who provided weight-loss treatment, 92 percent reported helping their clients address underlying emotional issues related to weight gain.

Seventy percent of those who provided weight-loss treatments said cognitive therapy, problem solving and “mindfulness” are good strategies.

Amy Bohnert, a psychology professor at Loyola University Chicago, said emotions related to weight include low self-esteem, shame, anger and hopelessness. There is a stigma about being overweight, she said.

Bohnert said there are many behavioral strategies that help with weight loss, such as motivational talks, keeping a food diary and finding comfort from stress in something other than eating.

Roneye Smith, 38, who was also working out at Cardinal Fitness, is a trainer at a martial arts institute in Chicago. He said that dealing with his emotions helped him lose more than 100 pounds.

Seven years ago, Smith said, he was in denial about his weight. At a visit to a doctor, he learned he had high blood pressure.

“I was fired up” about losing the extra pounds, Smith said. Although a health check played a part in helping him lose weight, Smith said dealing with his denial was key.

Alvaro Barragan, 23, of Chicago, explained his experience with weight gain and loss.

Last October, he was in a car accident and gained 20 pounds during his recovery.

“Physically it’s bad, getting big,” he said. “It makes you feel lazy.”

“I wouldn’t go out clubbing anymore,” Barragan said. “If your clothes don’t fit, you obviously don’t feel good.”

Now he works out and has lost 25 pounds, down from a high of 235.