What role does psychology play in weight management?

Judi Hollis
Health Education

Watch as Dr. Judi Hollis disucsses the role psychology can play in weight management.

We (generally) eat the way we eat based on how we were raised as children. Just as we do many things based on how we were raised as children. For example, if you were raised to wash your dishes when you were done eating, you probably automatically do that as an adult. It is challenging to change these patterns because it's all you've known throughout your life so it's automated and it's familiar and safe. 


To change these patterns takes awareness, change in behavior and practice; all of which can be challenging in and of themselves. 

When individuals look for guidance on weight management they seem to look at only the physical sciences for answers. The problem with that philosophy is that individuals are three dimensional beings, and as such there are three sciences that encompass them. There are  physical, biological, and behavioral sciences at work. The role of psychology falls under the behavioral sciences heading. Behavioral sciences look at the individuals decision process & communicative strategies. In the world of weight management behavioral sciences must be examined properly for lasting success for an individual.
Eating is a behavior, thus psychology has everything to do with weight management - in fact probably more than any other discipline.  Psychologists can work with clients to determine WHY they eat the way they do, and can work in conjunction with dietiticians to teach clients HOW to eat.  However, in my clinical experience, all of my clients know exactly what they should be eating - but until we identify the triggers that lead them to overeat, turn to food to fulfill psychological needs, feel out of control with food - then all the knowledge in the world about WHAT to eat is not particularly useful.   By identifying triggers, barriers and perceptions and addressing those factors - psychologists can help clients make meaningful and lasting behavioral changes.

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