Mt Lawley Counselling Centre, Perth - Western AustraliaMt Lawley Counselling Centre, Perth - Western Australia

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Weight Loss and Weight Management
How a psychologist can help

Sherry-Lee Smith

Registered Psychologist
Perth, Western Australia

Why the traditional approach to weight loss is ineffective?

The traditional approach to weight loss has been focused solely on dieting and exercise. Although many people report short-term success, the research indicates that inevitably most people will regain the weight they have lost and in many cases gain even more weight. It is common for people to engage in "yo-yo dieting" for many years, finding themselves trapped in a vicious cycle. Any form of restrictive eating is known as dieting and can include weight-focused eating. Generally, about half of the people that start exercise programs stop after only 6 months. With diets being largely ineffective and a limited engagement in exercise programs, many people struggle with weight loss.

It is common for people in a western culture to use dieting as a means of weight loss and weight management. However, dieting has been found to be associated with a range of negative physical and psychological outcomes. This includes lower metabolism, reduced muscle mass and bone density, weight gain and regain and a lower sensitivity to physical hunger and fullness cues. Furthermore, dieting is also related to lower self-esteem and negative body image, higher preoccupations with food and increased external, emotional and binge eating. It also leads to a range of psychological effects that increase the likelihood of engaging in unhealthy eating behaviour.

Many people also approach their weight loss journey with unrealistic expectations about how quickly and easily they will lose weight, what is takes to maintain weight loss, and the anticipated benefits of weight loss. They also often fail to take into account the psychological reasons for the occurrence of unhealthy eating behaviour and it goes unaddressed in their journey. Furthermore, the role of body image in weight management, and healthy relationships to movement go unacknowledged. Ultimately leaving out some of the keys to long term weight management.

A non-dieting approach to weight loss/management - an interdisciplinary approach

An interdisciplinary approach to weight management is generally more effective than focusing on one area alone. It can be helpful to consider a combined treatment approach to address physical fitness, medical health, nutrition and psychological well-being. An interdisciplinary approach would involve the combined help of a psychologist, dietician, medical professional (GP) and exercise physiologist or personal trainer. This involves a team of professionals who focus on moving away from weight related goals to 'whole person goals' concentrating on sustainable holistic health and well-being to help you achieve weight management. Approaching any of these professionals is a good start in your weight management journey.

Why is seeing a psychologist for weight loss/management beneficial? - What we can do to help.

Diets are largely ineffective long-term and can even be damaging. However, a psychologist can help you take a different approach towards your relationship with food by developing psychologically healthy and sustainable behaviour around food, eating, exercise and body image. By adding a psychologist to your weight management plan you can access evidence based treatment that will enhance the short-term and long-term benefits of nutrition and exercise focused interventions. When people focus on improving their mindset and behaviour around eating, weight and body image with the help of a psychologist they can increase the effectiveness of long-term change.

Common issues that a weight management psychologist can help with include;

  • Increasing motivation and confidence
  • Improving body image
  • Addressing emotional eating and drinking, overeating, compulsive eating and binge eating that have lead to ineffective weight management in the past
  • Developing mindfulness around food, body image and exercise
  • Motivation and goal setting
  • Developing realistic expectations about weight management and lifestyle change
  • Creating a balanced lifestyle particularly around eating and movement
  • Increasing resilience and managing relapse and set backs
  • Identifying and problem-solving barriers to effective weight management
  • Developing a psychologically healthy relationship with food, exercise and body image
  • Increasing engagement and enjoyment of exercise
  • Addressing co-occurring mental health issues or relationship issues that impede progress in weight loss.

If you are experiencing any difficulties with weight loss/management, eating/food, exercise, body image issues or other mental health issues and would like help please contact Sherry-Lee Smith on 042 135 1020 or

Sherry-Lee Smith
Registered Psychologist

Mt Lawley Counselling Centre
13 Alvan St
Mt Lawley WA 6050

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