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Why Diets Don't Work: Doctor Edition

choice coaching negative behaviors negative emotions negative thoughts numbing overeating Feb 12, 2022
Stethoscope and chart by Darko Stojanovic of Pixabay
As much as we say “diets don’t work,” we still try them. Yes, even Physicians. Again and again. And each time, we start thinking that we will do xyz until we get to goal weight, and then “figure it out, because I can’t do xyz forever.”
But we often barely get started before we quit. Why?
Because dieting often feels terrible. Why?
Because for many of us, food (and/or alcohol) has become our only source of pleasure/release.
Read that again.
We work long hours, often without being able to attend to our own needs, serving other humans. Finding the time/energy to have fun or pleasure has often fallen off the table.
When you use food to feel better before, during, or after a stressful day, and you don’t have other sources of fun, pleasure, reward or comfort in your life (because Human Giver Syndrome, see post from 2/5/22), restricting your food takes away what little fun, pleasure, reward or comfort you have in your life.
And it feels awful.
It’s why you start craving certain things. HARD.
Because your brain is used to getting dopamine from food or alcohol. And not a little bit of dopamine from a great-tasting orange. A FLOOD of dopamine from a sugary donut, or fries, or 3 glasses of wine. Our brains love concentrated sugars, carbs and alcohol. “REWARD!” the brain shouts! And sends you back for more.
So when you are restricting, your brain fights you. Cravings, feelings that you need/deserve the thing. And it’s exhausting to use your prefrontal cortex to argue against the dopamine hit.
Am I right?
So, then what?
When I am working with someone on weight loss, one of the first steps is trying to figure out where else to find dopamine/pleasure/reward/comfort/fun. What do or could you enjoy, that is accessible, and in line with your long-term goals? I’ll be honest, it feels really hard sometimes to find something, and COVID has not helped. And when your brain is used to being flooded with dopamine, the natural pleasure from a bath, a run, a cuddle with your kids or your cat, doesn’t feel as strong or compelling at first.
But it’s necessary.
Find what is fun, pleasurable, rewarding or comforting. What little things can you do in your day to build a habit of having fun, pleasure, reward and comfort in your life?
Enjoying and really savoring the first few sips of coffee.
Taking a walk by yourself first thing in the morning before dealing with other humans.
Taking a little dance break at lunch (exam rooms are great for this).
Connecting with a coworker on the regular for non-work-related talk, even for a few minutes.
When we build these things, with intention into our day, even in little moments, it’s easier to create an eating plan that supports weight loss and doesn’t feel terrible. Truly. I’ve done it. And I can help you do it too. But first, we gotta find you some fun…

Hi There!

I'm Megan. I'm a Physician and a Life Coach and a Mom. I created this blog to help other Physicians and Physician-Moms learn more about why they feel exhausted, burned-out and overwhelmed, and how to start to make changes. I hope that you enjoy what you read, and that it helps you along your journey. And hey, if you want to talk about coaching with me, I'm here for that too! I offer a free 1:1 call to see if we are a good fit. Click the button below to register today.

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