Friday, April 11, 2014

The Emotional Side of Health and Weight Loss

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Part II of III

The initial days and weeks of my health journey were filled with intention, motivation and even discouragement. Human nature fails at times, and it is vital to have an anchor on the goals to keep from drifting away during the first storm. Our emotions are all over the board, and the purpose will hold you firm. When your purpose is resting squarely on improving your health for longevity and vitality, you are focused on the right direction.

In an initial assessment, ask yourself an important question:

Do I have the ability to improve my health,
or do I feel like outside forces influence my ability to lose weight?

Of course, as a Christian, I believe that Jesus is in control when I ask Him to fulfill His will in my life, but we play a huge role in the success of our lives based on the choices that we make. This simple question identifies what is called your locus of control. It describes who we mentally put in the driver’s seat of our lives. Do we have excuses like, “I cannot afford to eat healthy,” “My work keeps me too busy to exercise,” or “My kids take all of my energy”? The daily excuses (though I say this with all the love in my soul) keeps us trapped in a “victim of my fat genes” mentality. Believe me, I wore them (in every size and color availableJ). I recognize that it is very inconvenient to work hard for weight loss to develop a healthy lifestyle, but so is the emotional toll that diabetes, cancer, and heart disease can take on you and your loved ones. You may hate me now for saying this, but on the other side of your success, you may love me. Even when we experience issues with our health, there are always actions that we can take that would be more positive or more negative to our condition. When we commit to take an active role in the outcome of our health and weight loss, we are positioned for a breakthrough.
When we are in pursuit of weight loss, it would be impossible to not give some attention to the scale. It is one of the ways that we benchmark our progress, however, it is not the only way. The numbers on the scale can serve as our momentary statistic to reflect the work you are investing in your health, BUT, it should not be used to discourage you on your journey.

Believe me, I fully understand the emotional trauma that the scale can bring. We can avoid mirrors, cut the tags out of our clothes, and blame the shrinking clothes on the drier, but the scale brings us face to face with the effort, or lack thereof in the area of nutrition and activity. During the years that I weighed the most, I avoided the scale like the plague. It was a reminder of all of the things that I was not doing to correct the problem and only brought about guilt and shame.

On the journey to greater health, my personal opinion of the scale is that it should be used as a method to learn more about your body. For myself, I check my weight at least 5 times per week. This has done several things for me: it allows me to recognize how my body will react to certain foods, levels of activity, and even check my monthly cycle; additionally, if I allow myself to have a cheat meal, or day, it becomes easier to jump back on the clean-eating wagon before the train leaves the station. In the beginning of weight loss, sometimes I got discouraged when I did not see the scale move as quickly as I thought it should, but I worked diligently to press out the negative emotions of discouragement and focus on the fact that I already lost ____ amount of weight since the beginning of my journey, and I was still a work in progress.

I want to talk about the emotional battle with food. From the moment that we are born, there is a deep seated pleasure that is gained surrounding our nourishment. As a baby, we were likely cuddled and cooed on as we filled our tummies. As we grew, we recognize that celebrations were surrounded with food and treats. Sometimes, well-meaning loved ones would reward us with food for getting good grades, or being good in the grocery store. Often, we become those well-meaning adults who listen to the begging of our children for the Little Debbie’s and the cycle continues. There is nothing inherently wrong with feasting for special occasions (the Bible refers to many such joyous occasions), however, the reason that they were so greatly enjoyed was because it was a special occurrence, and they were treasured as designated times to celebrate.

Today, if we are stressed, we reach for the chocolate. If we are sad, we reach for the potato chips. When we are happy, we indulge in extra desert. If we are sick, it could be hot cocoa and marshmallows. We have an indulgence for any emotion in the psyche. However, we can turn this emotional crutch into a positive experience when we begin to make choices that promote our healthy lifestyle. When we recognize that every forkful of whole foods is actually strengthening, and healing our body, an amazing thing happens in our minds. Eating beautifully colorful vegetables and fruits send a message to our brains that promote a message of wellness in our minds. If you think I am lying, ask anyone who commits to eating whole foods for more than 30 days and they will tell you, the mental feedback that they receive from their brain when they sit down to eat a healthy meal reinforces their good habits and encourages to maintain those healthy choices. After a certain point in time, when I have allowed myself to indulge in a cheat meal or dessert, I tend to be very selective. It has to really taste good, or it simply has no appeal to me. This has not always been the case. Before, I could not understand if someone said that a dessert was too sweet; I wondered if there was even such a thing! We can retrain our brains and our emotions to reflect a healthy relationship with food!

Milestones and goals are supremely important during the weight loss process. We can get bored, lose focus, and become discouraged so easily. Building new habits require daily effort and devotion. Everyone who knows me, knows that I am a huge advocate of the most positive incentive I have ever come across: the Spark Streak! In the beginning of my journey, I used the website Sparkpeople, where the Spark Streak comes from. In essence, you set a goal (like drink 8 glasses of water per day, or exercise at least 10 minutes per day) and each consecutive day that you meet your goal, you continue your streak. This physically builds a new habit, but it also develops a significant emotional boost when you are able to maintain this new habit. With every passing day that you are able to check off on your streak, you are casting off defeat, and claiming a brand new handful of triumph! There is an almost magical effect that occurs once you make it passed the first 2 weeks, and then a month, 6 months, a year. You become more willing to take on new challenges and start to understand that every journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. In fact, I will go into this more when I discuss the physical side of weight loss, but using some form of diet and fitness tracking (like myfitnesspal and mapmyfitness) will encourage you to reach monthly goals. Seeing the miles stack up and the days that you have met your calorie intake goal without splurging will prove to yourself that, yes indeed, you are capable of creating new habits.

One emotional aspect of weight loss is our personal self-image. We may look in the mirror and see one person, but the actual physical attributes we hold may be very different. As we lose weight and we begin to replace our wardrobe, we have to remind ourselves to select a different size. It may shock us as we try on new styles that we have never worn before. Becoming aware of the changes in our physique is an ongoing process, and just remember to love the skin you are in every single day. Be thankful for the working limbs, organs and tissues that house your soul and allow you to love your people daily. You may find that you have a kinder self-image, and that is a great thing!

Warning: once you begin setting and attaining new goals, expect a newfound boldness to success in other areas of life. For me, five months after I set out on my journey, I gained the courage to go back to school. At the time, I thought I was going back to finish my degree in business. Within the 2nd semester, I feel like God directed me to pursue a degree in nutrition and dietetics. This was in complete opposition of my former path, which meant I would have to spend almost 2 full years completing the science prerequisites for the program. Always being afraid of any form of science in school, I knew that it was a God thing, and somehow, coupled with the success that I gained in improving my health, He would see me through the process. Today, I have completed the perquisites, and have been accepted in the competitive distance Coordinated Program in Dietetics through Eastern Michigan University. I am telling you right here and now, there was a direct connection between the emotional strength gained on my journey and the path that I am beginning this fall in the program. This journey that began as a personal one has now become a passion to assist others in rebuilding their health.

If this has encouraged you, leave me a comment! I would love to hear from you!

Tasha Brickhouse

 *Disclaimer: This information is offered as encouragement and should not be substituted from advice offered from trained medical providers.


  1. You are a wonderful testimony....I cant wait for the day that this becomes mine too :-)

  2. Thank you, Michelle! It will be, you just work at it and before you know it, God will give you exactly what you need to get where you need to go! I believe it!