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  • Mike McCann

Why a look at our dieting and weight loss regain history is important.

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

Every time we feel we need to lose a couple of (pounds/kilos) the first thought to pop inti our mind is we have to start on a new diet. Why don’t we realise all the times in that past we have tried this solution and here we are again today deciding that the solution that hasn’t worked permanently in the past is the best way forward?

Our brains have a mechanism that saves them and us mental overload by relying on our previous learned and remembered experiences. When we’re unfamiliar with a situation and learning something new, we research the Net, magazines, ask friends or use the library to gather information. We think through all this information and come a decision. In the case of losing weight, the quickest answer that pops into your mind is probably, I need to diet.

This decision has over time become the embedded view of the weight loss world in your mind. It’s mental image you hold about the complex process of losing weight. Note the model likely has nothing about the process of regaining weight or the workload, mental and physical involved in the dieting process. Your mental model pops out an answer to, I need to lose weight, therefor I need to diet.

Daniel Kahneman explains this approach to life decision making as thinking fast and slow. When you first looked at weight loss, you considered all the options, listened to friends, and took input from magazines. The energy demanded by your brain to perform all that work was not wasted. Your brain remembered and built you model to make further decisions about weight loss simple. Let’s use what we’ve already worked out it says. Okay, you know from experience this is unfortunately right. Right? Not always it seems.

So, this is why a look at your weight and dieting history is so important. You have to let your brain see and register that the simple answer it has been trotting out to you for all those years hasn’t help. It and you need to sit down and get ‘thinking slow’ out and re-evaluate. Why? Because your brain needs evidence that it’s ‘thinking fast’ answer is not working. Once you see the repeating cycle over the years, you’ll be able to work with your brain to develop a new understanding of why your weight keeps coming back. Why simple answer like eat less and move more are dealing with a symptom and not the source of the weight loss regain problem.

Why does weight keep coming back despite your best efforts. Well, there’s a complex system running that involves your history. This system includes input from your work and family life, the rules you learned at home as a child, eating as a teenager and what the media tell you. All this information is stored as interacting and sometimes competing systems running in your mind.

According to Jay Forrester, whom I paraphrased here … the human mind is not adapted to interpreting how these systems behave. These mental systems are multi-loop non-linear feedback systems. And evolutionary processes did not give us the mental skills to properly interpret the dynamic behaviour of systems… See you’re not alone with this type of problem.

Weighting for Happiness use our skills in Systems Thinking to guide you through the task of identifying your history and seeing why that history is a key step in getting out of the weight loss regain cycle. You’ll then be able to identify what types of eating are ok for you and which ones cause you problems.

Each of us uses models constantly for decision making. These mental images of the world around us we carry in our head. We don’t have a city or Government in our head, only a mental image. All our decisions are based in these mental models. Unfortunately, the mental models are developed for quick response thinking which is why the answer to weight loss is usually either one of: “eat less-move more” or “Diet”.

Drawing out the timeline of your history, let’s us see and our brain internalise the idea that all those quick answers it gave us for weight loss in the past haven’t worked out. By looking at our weight and dieting history, we can tell if your history shows there is a loss-regain effect, then we have to look deeper. We need to uncover the system running underneath the dieting.

There is an interesting article by a British policeman who is a Systems Thinker at:


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