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Happiness : Counteract the Stress of Dieting

Posted Jan 31 2012 12:00am

Happy flowers © by Helen Flamme

For most of us, the active weight loss phase brings some stress with it.

I do my best to keep stress in my life to a minimum, but it often sneaks in regardless.  I take a low-stress approach to weight loss, trying constantly to walk the line between pushing myself to do enough to lose weight (or maintain) without making myself diet-crazy.  It’s often a thin line, and while today I am pretty good about minimizing the life-stress of dieting, the simple fact is that making any change in your life brings some stress with it, and even the gentlest diet brings a gentle stress.

Dieting usually means holding yourself back from easier choices and from things you want, and also pushing yourself to do things you don’t really feel like doing, such as cutting up vegetables, passing on the offered cookies, and going out for a walk.  Sometimes doing the healthy weight-loss things feels good, but some days you do them when they don’t feel so good, and that struggle requires the famed self-control.

It also takes a lot of attention, because those choices need to keep getting made, over and over again. Breakfast, lunch, gym time, etc.  On easy days when you control your environment the choices may be fewer, on tough days when emotions run high and external circumstances are difficult, there can be literally hundreds of choices you face.  If you keep making good choices, you feel good but you also feel exhausted.  If you don’t always make good choices, you are still exhausted, and now also guilty.

In weight loss, the increased attention from those choices leads to the weight loss as the better choices accumulate.

The same attention increases awareness can also be applied to your happiness, and in that case it can actually make you feel happier, by making you more aware of what makes you happy. When I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer I was as stressed out as I’ve ever been in my life. I found that focusing on happiness activities – like writing a “ 100 Things That Make Me Happy ” list and keeping track every day of enjoyable moments in my day, and things that I appreciated really helped me to find peace. Since then, I’ve found the same to be true with dieting.

What Ive found is that re-visiting my 100 Things That Make Me Happy in the context of dieting helps me to crystalize the good things in life.  Writing down everyday moments of happiness increases my enjoyment, my appreciation, and takes the focus off dieting.

I believe what I’ve read about Self-Control being a limited resource  .  I believe that you only say “no” to yourself so many times before you say yes.

In my experience, adding in emphasis on happiness helps to boost the self-control meter in the other direction – maybe letting me get a few more moments of self-control without feeling deprived.

World Happy Day is coming, and I’m re-committing to my happiness.

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