Obesity has become a significant public health concern in the past few decades. A study on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for obesity treatment indicates that 42% of the general population of adults are trying to lose weight, with 23% trying to maintain their weight. Despite these numbers, sustaining weight loss is often easier said than done. Many weight loss solutions are reductionist, ignoring the various factors related to being overweight or obese such as the modern lifestyle or the role of energy balance.
Still, experts agree that cognitive behavioural therapy is the most preferred intervention for obesity among overweight individuals and is one of the most commonly used psychological approaches. One of the benefits of CBT is the development of greater awareness and mindfulness of food. Incidentally, journaling is a popular and effective form of CBT and can help heal your relationship with food. Here's how:
Eases the mental health risks of obesity
Obesity is associated with many physical health risks. However, this condition can be just as threatening to one's mental health. When it comes to determining the difference between overweight vs obesity, those suffering from obesity will more likely experience depression and anxiety. While being overweight or obese have physical health risks associated with heart disease and failure, scientific research shows that these risks increase and worsen as BMI and body fat increase.
Stress management techniques such as journaling are among the evidence-backed ways experts recommend an unhealthy relationship with food is treated. By journaling one's thoughts and feelings regularly, one can better initiate behaviour changes for weight loss and better health. At the same time, journaling can also be a creative and cognitive outlet for your feelings. This helps reduce negative emotions in response to stressors. Instead of fighting urges to stress- or binge-eat after a bad day, for example, journaling can help you manage your negative experiences less destructively.
Tracks changes in mood
Losing weight means adopting new habits and getting rid of less healthy ones. Understandably, this can cause shifts in your mood and feelings — whether positive or negative. In our post on the benefits of journaling on your well-being, we emphasized that journaling can help enhance self-awareness through routine self-reflection. Regularly documenting your experiences, emotions, and thoughts allows you to see patterns and recurring themes or behaviours.
For example, you can track the days you feel more positive and what food you ate on those days. This lets you easily monitor the foods that make you feel good, as well as how nutritious the food is. Rather than focusing too much on calorie counting and how much (or how little) you ate, it's much better to think of what food made you feel good and healthy. This establishes a less restrictive relationship between you and your food.
Supports healthy meal planning
Finally, journaling can help you create a meal plan. In fact, including a daily, weekly, or monthly meal plan is a common journaling practice for people — regardless of whether or not they are trying to lose weight — as it cuts down the number of grocery trips they need to make and reduces impulsive, expensive food purchases that have no place in their budget. If you are trying to lose weight healthily, a meal plan can help you stick to your guns instead of getting distracted or tempted by fast-food deliveries and takeout.
When starting a meal plan, it's recommended to keep track of what you eat — and you can do this through journaling. As previously mentioned, writing down the foods you eat and how they make you feel can be a great way of identifying what you enjoy eating and what helps you feel good. On the other hand, it's also an easy way to pinpoint what might make you feel sluggish or moody so you know to avoid or reduce it. Through consistent food journaling, you can become more mindful of potentially negative food-related behaviours or patterns, as well as how these impact your physical and mental health. From there, it will be much easier to create a nutrition plan you can stick with.
Article contributed by Ruth Janes