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The psychological effects of diet pills

Joann Lukins - Tuesday, September 25, 2012

This article was first published in Inshapenewsflash.com

In addition to the physical effects of taking diet pills, the potential psychological consequences should also be considered.  For most people, the necessary loss of weight results in feelings of happiness and increased confidence from working towards a weight goal.  However if this is not carefully monitored from a medical perspective, things can soon get out of hand.  One of the more concerning is psychological addiction to diet pills.

Unhealthy weight gain can occur for a multitude of reasons (hormonal, inactivity, over-consumption of calories, and social and psychological factors).  For some people, insufficient physical activity and an unhealthy diet may be in response to coping with some form of stressor for the individual.  A loss of job, relationship break up, and depression are all reasons why people may turn to the pantry and the couch for solace.

So when resolving to lose weight, the person may include diet pills as part of their strategy. Diet pills also feature prominently as a weight loss strategy for those with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa.  If the person experiences success with the diet aids, a psychological dependence can soon develop.  Diet pills do not keep you under control over the long term; they can be addictive, and potentially very dangerous.

Most of these products act as a stimulant to the central nervous system, with common side effects including mood swings, chest pain, and tremors.  More serious reactions may include increased anxiety, hallucinations, insomnia and cardiac arrest.  Its effects can be serious, even fatal. When addiction occurs, treatment from a trained professional is necessary for recovery.  Part of the treatment will be in uncovering what is being masked by the use of the pills.  Healthier and more productive means of coping will need to be taught.

When seeking treatment you should source an appropriately registered professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker.  It would also be advisable to ensure the person has sufficient expertise and experience in working with weight-related issues.  A multi-disciplinary team that includes the mental health professional, a dietician and your GP will enhance your likelihood of success.

How can I stop people picking on me about my weight?

Joann Lukins - Tuesday, September 04, 2012

This blog was originally posted on InShapeNews
This month’s question is asked by reader
Peta Hendrick:

“Hi. I have a problem. I get picked on about being overweight. I was just wondering how I can stop this? It makes me feel really bad about myself and the way I look.”

Hi Peta. I am saddened to hear you are picked on about your weight.  People often underestimate the impact of their words and the cruelty of their message can be long lasting.
Unfortunately we can’t control what others say to us, only our reaction to it.  I have often been approached by people asking me how to deal with people who are difficult, either through their actions, words or their attitude. Most of us have someone in our lives whose behaviours we don’t appreciate.  People who perhaps act or speak in a way that doesn’t make us feel valued or appreciated.  So how best to handle these situations? Unfortunately to manage this kind of scenario we have to turn the mirror back on to ourselves and ask ourselves an important question: What is it that I am doing, that is allowing this to happen?

Because the truth is, that we teach people how to treat us.  If someone is continually doing something to us and we let them, don’t be surprised when the behaviour continues. So, if someone feels they have free reign and can make comments about the way you look I would be interested to know how you are responding in that situation.  I know that it is challenging, but being assertive in this situation is the best way to communicate your needs and minimise the likelihood of repeat occurrences. To be assertive you are exercising your rights, without impacting on the rights of others.

Being assertive is very different to being submissive and aggressive, which are both manipulative forms of communication.  Such phrases as, “It hurts my feelings when you speak about me like that.  Please don’t do it anymore”, take courage to say, but their impact can be substantial.  When you communicate assertively, try to 1. Use ‘I’ statements: this is about you and how you’re feeling and how you communicate that message – “I feel hurt …” 2.  Describe the behaviour: “…when you say I am lazy …” 3.  Specify the change you wish for: “I would like you to stop commenting on my weight and behaviour.” Be mindful of your body language when being assertive. Use open gestures and warmth that is appropriate.

Being assertive doesn’t guarantee that the person’s behaviour will stop.  However, it will put you in to a position of knowing that you have done all you can.  Assertiveness takes courage and practise, however you will feel better within yourself the more you use it.

When timing is everything ....

Joann Lukins - Saturday, August 25, 2012
Image © Maxxyustas | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos[/caption] We've probably all done it: lain awake at 2am thinking about how we wish we could return to earlier in our day and change something we have done or said.  Or perhaps it is something lying ominously in wait for us in the future that at this moment we cannot control, yet is keeping us from our slumber.  Or maybe we have driven through a set of traffic lights .... And then further down the road wondered whether the lights were green.  Or sat in a meeting with someone only to realize you haven't been listening for the last 5 minutes and have no idea what they have just said and now they are waiting for you to respond! A key to us making the most of life's experiences is to ensure we are in the optimal time orientation.  So what is time orientation?  There are three different passages of time:

Past

Present

Future

 Our past is important as it holds our memory, our history, all of our times - both good and bad.  Who we are today is largely shaped by our experiences and the influences of our past. The future is important as it where we turn to our hopes and aspirations.  Our goals sit on the horizon giving us reason to make our decisions for today. 

The present is right now.  It is where you are as you read this blog, it is what you think about as you read these words.  You may be completely absorbed (I hope so!) or skimming through whilst you think about what you're cooking for dinner tonight - sorry, now I've distracted you! An important part of the present is that it is the only passage of time where you hold any control.  The 'now' is where you behave, feel and live life.  The now is where you can live life in a fulfilling way, if you have ever sat down to eat dinner in front of the tv - I wonder to what extent you actually tasted your food?  Eating is such a sensory experience and to ingest calories without savouring it's aromas, tastes and textures is to miss many of the psychologically fulfilling aspects of the meal.  In fact the literature on mindful eating and it's impact on weight is something I will need to address in a future blog. So the challenge for us all is to be more mindful of our present experiences.

Wonderful or painful, life is lived and experienced most fully in the moment and experience tells me that most people would benefit from directing more of their attention to the moment. For athletes at training or in competition, being focused in the 'now' is what allows you to perform at your best.  If 100kg of opposition is running at you at pace and your attention is on the mistake you made 5 minutes ago (the past) or on where you'll be going after the game (the future) then you're not going to maximize your attention for the task at hand (the present). Of course the past and future are very important in our decision making.  If we are planning a holiday we may reflect back on previous trips to think about what went well in the past.

We should also think ahead to the trip and those things that we need to organize to make the trip go smoothly (such as travel insurance or booking transport). However when we are on the trip, to stay immersed in the moment looking at the scenery or tasting the food or laughing with friends is to live the moment and live life more fully. If we are playing golf and walking to the tee, we may recall playing that hole last time, the club we used and how we played it (past); we play the shot focusing on what is relevant to the task (body positioning, breathing, swing, contact, follow through) (present); and then as we walk towards our next shot we may plan ahead to how we're going to get to the green and what club we may use when we're closer to the green, and how good a cold drink will taste at the 19th hole (future)! 

When we are able to match our time orientation to the requirements of our situation we will engage more fully with the task and will be much more likely to optimize our chances of success. My experience is that most people don't spend enough time in the present: life passes us by without us experiencing it in its full complexity and beauty.  The past has gone, the future will come, but for now live in the moment and experience the benefits. In my next blog I will offer some strategies for you to stay in the present.

When silver isn't good enough ......

Joann Lukins - Friday, August 03, 2012

Image

I have been interested over the previous week to see the media reaction to Australia's apparent 'disappointing' performances thus far at the Olympics. From the 4x100m relay in the swimming, the Opals loss to France in the basketball and through swimmer Emily Seebohm's tears that she hoped her silver medal hadn't 'disappointed' the country. The challenge and expectations placed upon our Olympic athletes are enormous.  The reality is that for the approximately 10,500 athletes competing in London there are a total of 906 medals on offer.  The figures determining any individual's likelihood of success are staggering. 

With approximately 6.675 billion people in the world, the odds of being an Olympic athlete are 1:636,000 and the chances of gaining an Olympic gold is 1:22,000,000. Our Olympic athletes devote years of their lives, often on meager wages (or the generosity of their families) to live the olympic dream.  Whilst we encourage our athletes to live 'balanced lives', the reality is that 4+ hours of daily training + rehabilitation commitments such as physiotherapy, massage, doctors, psychologists, dietitians + meetings with coaches and commitments with sponsors leaves very little room for work, family and relaxation.  The notion of the elite athlete having a balanced life is for most a myth. 

Australians love their sport.  Of this, there is no doubt.  Our athletes are lauded as heroes in ways that our scientists, academics, and cultural elite can only dream.  In elevating our athletes to such a high pedestal, the fall when it comes can be hard. Any wonder then that within seconds of finishing their Olympic event, attaining a result that does not meet their expectations and with cameras and most of the world watching, that some of our athletes react in ways that perhaps even they can't anticipate? Athletes are encouraged from very early days to focus not on the result but rather their performance in relation to their own standard (their personal best).

We have little to no control over the behaviour of our competitors, however when it comes to our personal effort we can very much control our destiny.  We should remember that for some the disappointment experienced with a lower than expected medal or placing, may be as much about not attaining their PB. To experience disappointment often elicits a grief response. Grief is tough enough when experienced in the privacy of our own homes, let alone in the public pressure-cooker that is the Olympic stage.

When a young 20-something has spent more than half their life training for a single opportunity, why should we be surprised when they become human on our screens and react with emotion?  Emotions are an integral part of what differentiates us from other species and our experiences (good and bad) provide our opportunity for learning and growth. The journey to the Olympics is a long road with many potential highs and lows.  The odds of getting there are small and all that do (regardless of their performance outcome) are heroes for their courage and tenacity.

The psychological benefits of breakfast

Joann Lukins - Monday, July 30, 2012
This post was first written on Inshape News in July 2012.
The nutritional benefits of breakfast in relation to weight loss are well established and I’m sure will be well described by my fellow writers.  It is also important to consider the psychological benefits that can be gained when you sit down in the morning and tuck into a bowl of something healthy.
Consistently, studies demonstrate that memory, creativity, processing and other brain functioning are all enhanced following consumption of breakfast. Further, your morning meal can boost your energy levels and leave you feeling more alert and ready for your day. One advantage of regularly eating breakfast is the discipline activated and required to maintain the routine. Self-discipline (or self-regulation) is the process of consciously managing your health. Whilst challenging for many, the decision to make proactive steps towards your health will have far reaching benefits. When we self-regulate we are likely to feel more in control of ourselves, and our tendency for impulsive behaviour decreases. 

People who self-regulate are able to plan and set goals, reflect on their own behaviour and organize themselves appropriately. Other things we know about those who self-regulate are that they are more likely to seek out information and advice, will try harder and persevere for longer. These qualities are beneficial in all aspects of our health and well-being. So the habit of eating breakfast will provide more than just nutrition for your body and have an impact on your metabolic rate. Eating breakfast will set you up to increase the likelihood of making better health choices through the rest of your day – impacting on your long-term weight and health. Self-regulating to ensure you eat breakfast is made easier with some planning and organization, however it is worth the effort.

Also make sure you add some variety. Perhaps have a few cereals to choose from or cook some eggs in different ways. Creativity in our lives is helpful for our motivation levels. Ultimately, treat self-regulation like a muscle — the more you work it the stronger it gets. Self-regulation gets easier with time and its benefits to your waistline will be worth it.

The 4 questions asked in job interviews.

Joann Lukins - Thursday, July 12, 2012
Going for a job interview, rates for many as one of the most stressful things that you can do.  Having worked with many job applicants, most tell me that if only they could be viewed ‘doing the job’ rather than needing to tell someone how good they would be at it, then their likelihood of success would be much greater! Image Unfortunately not many applicants have the opportunity to trial in a position, however there are things that you can do to increase your confidence  and your marketability through the process. Your key objective through the process is to sell who you are and what you can do.

For some people this can feel a daunting task, however the following exercise will serve you well to prepare you for any interview. Most interviewers are not trained; they have just as likely been pulled out of their jobs to interview you for the position.  Regardless of whether they realise it, the interviewer only asks four questions during the interview.  Certainly it may be phrased in a multitude of ways, but if you know what the fundamental questions are and your responses to them, then you can answer any question put to you during the interview.

I recommend to clients to take 4 x A4 sheets, put each of the following questions at the top of each page and write their responses to each question.  Familiarity with your answers will greatly increase your preparation for the interview.

Question one:  Why do you want to work for this organisation? Here is your opportunity to demonstrate what you know about the organisation.  The interviewer will want to know what it is about their organisation that attracts you to them.  Perhaps it is the opportunity to work in a team environment with people with a particular skill set; how might the position within the organisation be different to what other organisations offer? You certainly need to do your research in preparation for this question and often the internet can offer you a range of information to help you prepare for why this organisation and the position being offered is going to be a great match with who you are and your skill set. 

Example questions: What interests you about this job? What do you know about our company?

Question two:  What can you do? You may have certificates or a degree or years of experience in a particular industry …. but what can you do?  Interviewers want to know your skillset.  They want to know that when you walk through the door as an employee that there are certain skills that you can already do. For this question it would help you to think about the achievements you have made in previous positions and be able to give specific examples to illustrate the points you are making.  It will also help if you can identify the key qualifications for the position and then to connect them to your experience and skill set.

Example questions: Tell us about your experience in relation to this position? What skills do you think will be essential in this position? 

Question three:  What are you like? ‘Fitting’ in with an organisation is a key priority for most interviewers.  It’s one thing to be able to do the job, its another to do it in a way that brings harmony rather than tension to the team.  The interviewer will want to gain a sense of who you are and what you are like to see if you are going to fit in with the organisation. Here is your opportunity to sell your attributes and the strengths of your personality.

Example questions: What type of work environment do you prefer? What are you passionate about?

Question four:  What will you cost us? Every employee comes at a cost to the organisation, both financially in terms salary and the resources of the organisation needed to support the employee in the position (eg. Staff training, IT support etc). Often the question of salary is set at the interview; however there may be some scope for negotiation.  The employer will assess your skill set and the needs you will place on the organisation as an employee. 

Example questions: What are your salary requirements, both short and long term? What are your training requirements over the next 12 months? The job interview needn’t be as daunting a task if you are organised and prepared.  Having a clear idea in your own mind as to who you are, your skills, what your career goals are and what you want from your career is a great preparation to helping you do a great interview. What have been your interview experiences?  What are the questions you have found challenging to answer?


Facing depression

Joann Lukins - Tuesday, July 10, 2012
This post was first written on Inshape News in July 2012.
Depression can be experienced in many forms and with varying severity, from mild to severe or psychotic. However, there are a number of strategies that a person can adopt which will assist with their functioning and general well-being.
These are as follows: 
1.  Enhance the positive areas of your life. Engaging in activities that you enjoy is a helpful step towards overcoming depression.  Ask yourself, “What have I stopped doing that I used to enjoy?” Perhaps it is:
  • Reading a book.
  • Catching up with friends for a coffee or meal.
  • Exercising.
  • Going to the park.
To overcome depression, spend some time reflecting on the positive aspects of those activities and remember times when you did them. Try to increase the number of positive activities and events in your daily routine.

2.  The way you think. One role for our mind is to generate our everyday thoughts. The way we think directly influences our mood and therefore our resulting behaviours. For example, if we think we are lazy, we may feel sad, which may result in us not being physically active. How we interpret our lives can be constructive and helpful or negative and harmful. How we think is an active choice. Negative thinking is an unhelpful habit that we can overcome with practise and persistence. Just because we think something, doesn’t necessarily make it true. When you feel depressed negative thoughts can weigh on your mind. You may doubt yourself, wonder if you can cope, or feel like it’s all too hard. To overcome this, start by listening to that inner voice. Ask yourself, “What are you saying to yourself?” Being aware of your negative thinking serves two purposes:
  1. Knowing your internal ‘chatter’ can act as an early warning sign that your thinking is not being helpful.
  2. Knowing your internal ‘chatter’ allows you to take action towards more helpful thinking.
Listen to your self-talk. Ask yourself, “Is it positive? Is it helpful? Would you speak to others the way you are speaking to yourself?”  If the answer is no, then challenge these negative unhelpful thoughts and replace them with something more beneficial. There are various self-help books that can assist you to do this or you may wish to seek guidance from a counselor. 

Replace negative thoughts with positive, helpful thinking. Challenge yourself to think differently and create new positive thinking habits.

3.  Make positive choices. Often when we are feeling depressed we turn to food, alcohol, and cigarettes, as well as being inactive or reducing our social contact as a way of coping. Unfortunately these strategies may have negative consequences for us, especially if they are over used, particularly in the long term. Broadening your decisions and considering the range of options you have may help you to consider other behaviours or actions that will benefit you. If you’re feeling down perhaps you could go for a walk or if you find yourself seeking solace in the fridge choose fruit or another healthy choice. 

Depression is a serious condition affecting a large proportion of the population. It is important that in cases of a depressive disorder — particularly a severe one — that a person seek assistance from an appropriate health practitioner. Psychology offers a number of therapeutic approaches and strategies to assist people in facing depression. It is important that you take steps that will best benefit you. Seeking help and adopting some of the strategies mentioned in this article may be helpful for you.  

Mental strength and weight loss (In Shape News)

Joann Lukins - Thursday, June 28, 2012
Whilst losing and maintaining weight loss requires physical actions (what you choose to eat, whether or not you exercise), much of your success of comes down to overcoming the associated mental challenges (feeling tired, losing motivation or losing confidence). To read more, click here.

Embracing adversity ... the good side to when things go wrong!

Joann Lukins - Monday, June 25, 2012
Ancient Greek, Epictetus wisely said:
It's not what happens to you, but how you react that matters
The flip side of the joy of life is that we at times face challenges and hardship.  Whilst we look for the silver linings, we unfortunately also need some days to look into the clouds.  Much of this is unfortunately beyond our control - a factor that for many of us becomes very disconcerting.  However there is an upside to adversity and knowing how to grow and develop beyond these challenges is where we can find the silver lining. A few things to think about next time you face adversity. 

Adversity is a reminder I don't meet too many people who tell me that they struggle from not being busy enough!  So when adversity comes along (illness, loss, disappointment) we can be forced to take stock of the things that are important to us: our friends, our family and our health.  Consistently the research tells us that 'stuff' (possessions, fame, and money) are not the things that bring us happiness.  When adversity pulls us up we have a chance to stop and reflect on what is important and where our priorities best lie. Adversity provides guidance Maybe the time has come to change your path?

Perhaps the challenge that you face is life telling you that you now need to think about doing things differently.  Maybe there is something that you can change.  Change, when it is done well requires knowing what decision to make and careful planning.  Take care to listen to your instinct, it is often a wise place to start. Adversity makes us stronger Whilst it may not feel it at the time, the only time we learn anything is when we make mistakes and are open to learning.  Most would prefer to experience success, however it is from our disappointments that we can dust ourselves off, reassess what we were doing (that didn't work) and adjust for the future.  I have recently had interesting discussions with parents of successful athletes who have hit stumbling blocks when their child has experienced their first 'failure' and really not had the strategies to cope with it.  The advantage to not coming first every time, or not getting selected in the team is that it forces you to reconsider and grow.  We learn a great deal from when it doesn't go the way we plan.  The important questions to ask ourselves are:
  1. Why might this have happened?
  2. What was my contribution?
  3. What did others do?
  4. Was it in or out of my control?
  5. What could I do differently next time?
  6. How am I better for the experience?
In fairness, sometimes depending upon the adversity it may be some time before we are ready to face such questions, however given none of us own a time machine (although I do put it on my wishlist to Santa every year!) all we have to go with is what we can control and how we can move forward. I'd prefer the good times too, however I know that when adversity strikes at the very least I can learn from the experience and that can only benefit in the future.

Mental strength and weight loss

Joann Lukins - Thursday, June 21, 2012
This post was first written on Inshape News in June 2012. Whilst losing and maintaining weight loss requires physical actions (what you choose to eat, whether or not you exercise), much of your success of comes down to overcoming the associated mental challenges (feeling tired, losing motivation or losing confidence). There are five key areas you can focus on that will greatly enhance your chances of success in being the person you want to be and achieving your goals.

Set Goals – If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?  Research consistently shows that goal setting is a key component of success.  Begin with the end in mind. Ask yourself, “What would you like to achieve in ‘x’ months time?”  Once you know this, then you can ask yourself, “What can you do TODAY to contribute towards the final goal?”  Remember that small and regular steps are the key to achieving your goals.

Be Positive – How you talk to yourself is ‘crucial’ in determining whether you make positive decisions.  Our brain is specifically designed to offer us a constant stream of thoughts.  Over time and through habit, we determine whether these thoughts are optimistic and helpful or pessimistic and unhelpful.  Optimism has been repeatedly shown to be a determining factor for success.  So you could ask yourself, “Would I ever speak to someone else, the way I speak to myself?”  If, like many people the answer for you is NO, then work towards changing your thinking.  If your thinking is negative, challenge yourself – is what you’re saying even true?  Are you catastrophising?  Will the thing that’s worrying you even be an issue next week?  Next month?  Next year?  Replace pessimistic unhelpful thoughts with those that will move you forward in your goals.

 
Take …… And replace it with ……
“I ate junk food for lunch. I’m never   going to get on top of this. I’m hopeless.” “I ate junk food for lunch. Oh well, it   was just today and tomorrow I will have a chance to have something healthier   that I’ll enjoy.”
“I’ve only lost 330g this week. This is   too slow. I’m never going to get there.” “I didn’t lose a lot of weight this week,   but I didn’t gain any either!  Slow and   steady wins the race. It will be worth it in the end.”

Be Resilient – Challenges will come along. You’ll miss an exercise session or you’ll eat something unplanned that you wish you hadn’t.  Remind yourself it’s okay.  It’s not the challenges in life that we experience, but rather, how we respond to these and deal with them.  Chin up and face the world – you will be okay and you can survive whatever you face.  The sooner you can bounce back, the sooner you can make more positive steps to enhance your well-being.

Be Creative – Novelty is a great way to spark our interest and keep us motivated.  Perhaps there is a new healthy dish you could try or you could change the location of your regular walk?  Routine is important, however sprinkling in some creativity every now and again stops us from becoming stagnant and gives us a reason to move forward. 

Know Your Recipe – Not just for the foods you eat, but for the life you want to live!  We all have things that when we do them regularly greatly increases our chance of success.  The more mindful you are of what helps you to stay healthy and make great choices, the more likely you will continue to do them.  So, if you know that staying hydrated, going to be before 10pm, putting your exercise clothes out before you go to bed, taking a container of almonds to work to snack on are all things that help you to make positive choices, then include these in your recipe.  Your recipe for success that is. Maintaining a healthy weight is a work in progress for many people, for all of their lives.

Approaching it optimistically, with a plan, being able to bounce back when something goes wrong, including novelty and knowing what you do that makes a difference are all key factors is maintaining your mental strength.


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