In this blog post we discuss the need for comprehensive weight loss programs that incorporate exercise, healthy eating, behavioral changes, and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT).

Having one, two, or three of these components may lead to weight loss but sustained weight loss is most likely with the addition of ACT. 

Can you Lose Weight with Just Exercise? 

No. The more you exercise, the more your appetite increases. You will need to fuel your workouts with more calories or you won’t have enough energy to continue to workout. Even if you commit to exercising intensely, most people underestimate how many calories they eat and overestimate how many they burn. You may be able to raise your basal metabolic rate with strength training but unless you are also eating more healthfully, it is nearly impossible to out exercise a bad diet. When you lose weight, you lose both fat and muscle. If you don’t exercise while you are losing weight, you will lose more muscle than you would if you were exercising, and it becomes much more difficult to maintain the weight that you have lost

Can you Lose Weight by Just Changing Your Diet? 

Yes, so long as you are taking in less calories than your body is burning. But if your body’s basal metabolic rate is sluggish, you are essentially taking two steps forward and three backwards. Without also increasing your caloric output with exercise, it is so much harder to achieve a deficit between calories in and calories out. It also is not very sustainable over the long term to try. 

So now that we’ve established that changing our diet AND increasing the amount we exercise are key factors to a more healthful life, where does psychology fit in? 

A relatively new weight loss program called Noom has gained popularity for incorporating a behavioral component that for all intensive purposes are bite size snippets of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is based on the premise that we can replace our unhealthy habits with new healthier habits if we understand our triggers and how behavioral changes are key to losing weight over the long term. 

Healthful Life MD values the role CBT plays in changing our unhealthy habits but believes that Acceptance Commitment Therapy is just as important as CBT and is a necessary component to maintain healthy habits over the long term. 

What is Acceptance Commitment Therapy? 

Acceptance Commitment Therapy “develops psychological flexibility and is a form of behavioral therapy that combines mindfulness skills with the practice of self-acceptance.” 

Simply put, you can eat well, exercise intensely and change your behaviors, but if you don’t accept yourself and remain psychologically flexible, negative thoughts and beliefs will derail your success. 

But it’s not something we’re born knowing how to do. It is common in our society to distract ourselves from the negative thoughts and beliefs we hold about ourselves. Experiencing these thoughts are painful and who wants to embrace discomfort? Our daily lives and much of Western medicine is designed to avoid pain and increase pleasure.  

Eastern philosophies, like Buddhism, are the exact opposite and encourage us to allow negative thoughts to crop up, recognize that they come and go and respond to them like an observer would.   

When we become an observer of our negative thoughts and beliefs, we can identify how they influence our behavior and we can then become less controlled by them. If you are distracting yourself or ignoring these thoughts about your self worth and your body image, they are bound to reappear and affect your ability to continue with your healthy eating and exercise habits. 

Healthful Life MD’s psychologist, Dr. Tonya McFarland incorporates ACT into her practice with clients. Just like you can’t control what other people say to you, you can’t control whether negative thoughts pop up. What you can control, in both instances, is your reaction. Acceptance Commitment Therapy conflicts with much of what you may have learned as a child. Raise your hand if you were told and you also tell your child to “focus on the good and forget the bad” and “think positive thoughts.” Since ACT is asking you to do the complete opposite, it is important to find a trained psychologist who is trained in ACT methodology.

A Holistic Approach to Health with Healthful Life MD

Healthful Life MD’s team consists of a medical doctor, nutritionist, dietitian, chef, movement specialist and a psychologist who has spent 15 years incorporating CBT and acceptance commitment therapy. This crucial psychological component could be the missing piece in the puzzle that is healthful living. 

You can find out more about Dr. Tonya McFarland and the rest of Healthful Life’s team here. To schedule your 20 min free consultation, click here