Mental health is a key factor for getting fit

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To lose weight you first have to gain a deep understanding of your state of mental health. Getting fit and healthy is a mind game, and if you don’t know how to play, you won’t lose.

There are battle ropes and boxing. This is Chelsey Roy’s 90-minute exercise routine. She does it six days a week. And since September 2012, it’s helped her lose 115 pounds.

Chelsey Roy: “When I started here I was about 305.”

But it’s not the intense workout that has played a critical role in Chelsey’s weight loss.

Chelsey Roy: “I decided pretty early, probably about three months into my journey, that this was more mental than I realized. The mental health aspect has been about 90% of my weight loss.”

For Chelsey, it’s a mind game that centers around food.

Chelsey Roy: “I have had and still do have a binge eating problem, and I’ve learned now how to deal with it.”

Clinical psychologist Julie Friedman says it’s a common factor among her obese patients.

Dr. Julie Friedman, Clinical Psychologist, Insight Behavioral Health Centers: “The thing about food and emotions in general is that food is very reinforcing, so when somebody eats it’s pleasurable, but also when someone eats negative feelings go away. A lot of people, they will eat until they numb out.”

Chelsey Roy: “Sometimes those eating habits feel like an old friend, they are really comforting and you want to go back to them.”

That’s why Chelsey sought help – not only from the team at her gym, Downsize Fitness, but from a mental health expert who could help her outsmart her triggers.

Chelsey Roy: “It’s kind of a game changer. You realize you’re not on your own with this, and it’s so much more doable than it feels like. It’s not all just will power. It’s mental tricks and changing your whole life

Dr. Friedman: “You have to be proactive in identifying what tends to set you off and then preventing that rather than expecting yourself to get into a difficult situation and react better.”

Chelsey Roy: “Even though you had eating habits that were awful when you were heavier, you’re still dealing with those and sometimes different ones. You’re substituting some demons for other ones. Being able to journal and think through that and talk it out with your support system is really enlightening and helps you be more successful.”

It starts with changing your self talk.

Dr. Friedman: “They’ll say, ‘I was good’ or ‘I was bad,’ when really what they meant was, ‘I feel that I ate well’ or ‘I ate poorly.’ So trying to divorce your self worth from your behaviors.”

Chelsey Roy: “It still creeps back in. You have to consciously catch yourself and say, ‘Wait, why am I talking to myself like that?’”

The key is to measure changes in your behavior … not your waistline.

Dr. Friedman: “If somebody was binge eating four times a week, we want to see that they’ve had meaningful decrease in that behavior, not just that they’ve lost pounds on the scale. They need some objective measure and some accountability or check in.”

But as the pounds drop, there are more emotional surprises that pop up along the way.

Chelsey Roy: “You think you’re going to get to this weight and you’re going to look great and you have this image in your head that you’re running toward. You get there and you’re kind of like, oh this isn’t what I expected.”

Dr. Friedman: “We’ll see some body image disturbance where people will look in the mirror and see themselves as more obese than they are or weighing more than they are, and typically that is a result of a state of flux.”

The emotion fades after a year or so of being weight stable, but there are other anxieties to address.

Dr. Friedman: “They’re used to not getting a lot of attention for their physical appearance. They’re used to trying to hide. When those changes become evident, that’s difficult to manage, too.”

Dr. Friedman: “People can see their progress and so some of that fear of going back is that people will see if I regain weight and there’s a lot of anxiety around that.”

Chelsey Roy: “This is life. It’s not a diet. It’s not a tv show. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about getting started, getting going.”

If you are on a weight loss journey and would like to learn more, check out the following resources:

For support with eating disorders:

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