Excel At Life--Dedicated to the Pursuit of Excellence in Life, Relationships, Sports and Career
CBT Jealousy Depression Relationships Conflict Self-efficacy Happiness Goal-setting Motivation Wellness Sport Psych

Popular Articles

Crazy-Makers: Dealing with Passive-Aggressive People

Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

When You Have Been Betrayed

Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)

Excellence vs. Perfection

Depression is Not Sadness

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Happiness is An Attitude

Guide to How to Set Achieveable Goals

Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?

Popular Audios

Panic Assistance

Motivational Audios

Mindfulness Training

Rational Thinking

Relaxation for Children

Loving Kindness Meditation

Self-Esteem Exercise

Lies You Were Told

Choosing Happiness

Audio Version of Article: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

Audio Version of Article: Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

Audio Version of Article: Happiness Is An Attitude

All Audio Articles

PsychNotes Index

More PsychNotes: Weight Control and Body Image

March 6, 2017       

Why Dieting May Be Painful and What You Can Do About It
by Monica A. Frank, PhD

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. Virginia Woolf
It's commonly known that many people tend to eat when stressed. How often do you see a movie or TV show and someone reaches for a carton of ice cream when dealing with a distressing situation? For some people, stressed eating may create a disordered relationship with food which becomes difficult to reverse. Why is that?

Why does stress make it difficult to lose weight?

One answer may have to do with the experience of pain. Researchers found that when healthy people fast for 24 hours their sensitivity to pain increases (Pollatos et al., 2012). Although this study examined fasting, some people may be even more sensitive to the pains of hunger and experience increased pain with minor deprivation.

As a result, dieting can essentially become a painful experience for some people which makes it more difficult to adhere to a restrictive diet. In fact, two people dropped out of this study due to physical symptoms of dizziness and nausea. When people are already confronting painful stress situations, the addition of the pain of dieting can become even more intolerable.

What steps can you take to sidestep this painful reaction when dieting?

1) Small reductions. Although counter-intuitive to the desire to lose weight quickly, if you can't maintain a restrictive diet it is best to reduce your calories very gradually. One way of doing this is to get an honest baseline of your daily intake and then reduce your calories a little at a time. So if you normally eat 2500 calories a day and should be eating 1800, don't reduce your intake by 700 calories or it is likely to be painful. Instead, reduce your intake by 100 calories at a time. Once you get used to that reduction (maybe a couple weeks), then reduce by another 100 calories. Yes, this is very slow...but it is more likely to be effective.

2) Lower calorie foods. Eat the same amount but choose a version that has fewer calories. For instance, the same food at a restaurant can have many more calories than making the food at home. Or, some foods such as butter or milk may have lower calorie substitutes. In this way, it feels as if you are eating the same amount but you are getting fewer calories.

3) More filling foods. Eat foods you like that tend to be more filling. For instance, oranges, potatoes, whole grain pasta, and oatmeal are much more filling per calorie than croissants, butter, chips, or even yogurt.

Holt, S.H., Miller, J.C., Petocz, P., Farmakalidis, E. (1995). A satiety index of common foods. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 49, 675-690.

Pollatos, O., Herbert, B.M., Fustos, J., Weimer, K., Enck, P. and Zipfel, S. (2012). Food Deprivation Sensitizes Pain Perception. Journal of Psychophysiology, 26, 1–9. DOI:10.1027/0269-8803/a000062

Questions and Comments

All comments and questions require approval so you may not see your submission immediately.

Kindle Books by
Dr. Monica Frank

Recent Articles

Analyzing Your Moods, Symptoms, and Events with Excel At Life's Mood Log

Why You Get Anxious When You Don't Want To

Why People Feel Grief at the Loss of an Abusive Spouse or Parent

“Are You Depressed?”: Understanding Diagnosis and Treatment

15 Coping Statements for Panic and Anxiety

Beyond Tolerating Emotions: Becoming Comfortable with Discomfort

Emotion Training: What is it and How Does it Work?

How You Can Be More Resistant to Workplace Bullying

Are You Passive Aggressive and Want to Change?

When Your Loved One Refuses Help

Newest Audios

Building Blocks Emotion Training

Hot Springs Relaxation

5 Methods to Managing Anger

Panic Assistance While Driving

Autogenic Relaxation Training

Rainbow Sandbox Mindfulness

Mindfulness Training