Mindful of your feelings you must be

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When obesity prevention experts get together it seems all they talk about is changing diet and exercise habits, i.e. things like removing vending machines from schools or building more parks. These are obviously good things to do, but they have not proven to be very effective. And pretty much the same goes for treatment, the main difference being that bariatric surgery is talked about a lot more. What many people fail to grasp, including the experts, is that there are very powerful forces that get in the way of behavioral control of diet and exercise.

At the very top of that list are negative emotions, such as sadness, anger, frustration, hopelessness, shame, guilt, fear and apathy. These are highly effective wrecking balls of diet and exercise initiatives.

Another factor very high up the destructive list is stress. Stress also triggers negative emotions in a highly effective way, making any conscious effort to eat more healthy food almost utopian. The same can also be said of thoughts. Negative or pessimistic thoughts will get you into a deeper and deeper hole, it’s that simple.

What experts need to focus on a lot more  – in terms of both treatment and prevention – is how to help people who have a lot of negative emotions, negative thoughts (especially about themselves), and stress. A good starting point could be to write a diary of all those situations when negative emotions, feelings and thoughts start racing, or situations when you often experience stress. Once you become more aware, you can start to devise a plan for feeling better, happier and more relaxed. That is when you can make real progress.