Helping a Psychologist with a Weight Problem & Depression
While people go to psychologists every day for help with their own personal issues, it is easy to forget that they too are people and have their own personal challenges from time to time. Over the years I have been happy to be able to help many psychologists and other mental health professionals who are referred to me by colleagues or who find me on their own.
Annabel was a psychologist who was struggling with several health issues. She said she had been always a plump woman but after her first childbirth, she began a more serious battle with her weight. She had tried dieting for many years with no positive results. As a last resort, she underwent gastric balloon surgery. For those unfamiliar with this procedure, it involves a surgeon inserting an inflated balloon inside the stomach. For six months Annabel had the balloon insider her stomach and with its help she was able to lose weight. However, as soon as it was removed she began to regain the weight she had lost, plus a few extra pounds more. Anna was desperate to lose weight and to resist her favorite ‘sin’ of gorging on donuts with heavy cream because she had been diagnosed with diabetes.
She also had been diagnosed by a psychiatrist with depression and with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). She been in psychotherapy with the same psychiatrist for over four years and had been on medication as well. Due to her diabetic condition, Annabel carried on a very strict diet during the day. However at night she lost control and ate all sorts of donuts with cream and even at times, she sprinkled extra sugar on top of them. Her relationship with her husband was not going well either. She was, in her own words, ‘sexually cold’ and didn’t feel like making love.
In the first session I pointed out to her the binary nature of her strategy for losing weight. During the day she had strict control over what she was eating and at night she lost control. “What would happen”, I asked her, “if a woman addicted to sex tried not to think of sex? Would she be able to get over her addiction or become more obsessed?”
“She would become more obsessed with sex!”, she replied.
“Yes indeed, as you say, when someone tries to repress an uncontrollable urge like sex and desserts, they actually make it worse because you cannot not help but think about it. When you repress eating donuts, you are actually giving the craving added strength. It is like having a sugar-hungry beast inside you and the more you prohibit her donuts, the more she craves them. Prohibition leads to loss of control. It’s not just you. When we prohibit ourselves something it becomes impossible to avoid it. As Oscar Wilde put it famously, “I can resist anything, except temptation”.
“Fortunately”, I continued, “the same author has offered a recommendation on how to free yourself from such grips of temptation. Wilde said that the only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.”
“But I can’t eat donuts!”, Annabel replied, “I shouldn’t be eating sweets because I have diabetes.”
“You are already eating donuts! You are eating them at night and feeling guilty and miserable. Give it a try. I want you to find the most delicious donut and enjoy it fully in the morning or at lunch time.”
One week later Annabel came to report that something curious had happened.
“The first three days”, she said, “I was fully enjoying my donuts. But then I found them to be too sweet. This past weekend I didn’t have any!”. I went on to remind her about the negative consequences of prohibitions and the positive effects of allowing yourself sweet.
“From now on”, I added, “you can avoid sweets not because they are prohibited but rather because of your health. You could eat them, but you can also choose to avoid them because you don’t need it. There are other desert options for you.”
Over the next weeks I helped Annabel to further overcome her cravings for sweets by letting go of her prohibitions and strict controls. Because her anxiety was very much linked to her weight problem, as she gained more control over her cravings and as she managed to lose weight without any dieting, her anxiety diminished drastically. In the last session she told me that she was exercising because she was enjoying moving her body and that after many years of disliking the taste of fruits, she was now enjoy them.
If you are interested to gain back control over your weight and the temptations of over-eating, you can read my book “The Diet of the Chinese Princess” (available in English soon). Or you can contact me for a personal consultation.