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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Think positive to lose weight

Find out how mental well-being helps to sustain weight-loss efforts
The Straits Times - March 8, 2012
By: Joan Chew
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Think positive to lose weight A group of Lose to Win participants talking to Ms Sng. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

The key to losing weight successfully is in the mind.

While diet and exercise are the ways to shed pounds, the state of one's mental well-being is no less important.

After all, the way people think and feel has an impact on their behaviour and lifestyle choices.

Said Ms Sng Yan Ling, a psychologist and the deputy director of mental health education of the adult health division at the Health Promotion Board (HPB): 'When people have a negative mindset, they make unhelpful choices regarding their diet and may feel unmotivated to exercise.'

On the other hand, having a positive mindset can help one overcome life's challenges to achieve and maintain an optimal weight.

This is why a component on mental well-being has been added for the first time to the HPB's 12-week weight-loss programme, Lose To Win.

Launched as part of the HPB's National Healthy Lifestyle Campaign in 2009, Lose To Win has since attracted more than 1,000 participants.

The first run of the third edition of Lose To Win started in January with 450 participants, while a second run will start next month. Registration has closed.

Participants attend group exercise sessions and nutrition and mental well-being workshops.

The four sessions on mental well-being take participants through goal-setting, emotional intelligence, self-esteem and problem-solving.

These are spaced out over 12 weeks so the trainers can help participants address issues that crop up and boost their spirits as they grapple with the changes they must make to their lifestyles.

At one session, participants gathered in groups of five or six and wrote down the factors which have helped them in their weight-loss journeys.

One man shared how he avoided a particular route home which passed by an eatery that would tempt him to break his diet. Others pointed to the encouragement from friends and family which helped them stay the course.

When people implement changes in their lives and work towards goals, it is important for them to acknowledge achievements along the way, said Ms Sng. She is part of the team of mental-health professionals, including counsellors, who are leading the workshops.

Doing so helps to build positive self-esteem and increases their awareness of what has worked for them.

Ms Sng stressed that each person's weight-loss journey is unique and will have its ups and downs, so he should not expect to meet his expectations all the time nor compare himself with others.

Weight-loss goals that require a person to exercise every day or avoid sweets totally are regarded as 'all or nothing' goals which contribute to unrealistic expectations and are damaging to one's morale.

In fact, weight-loss efforts are commonly associated with lapses in behaviour at some point. Ms Sng advised participants to set realistic goals and view obstacles as opportunities to learn.

This way, they stay motivated and avoid feelings of frustration which can prompt them to give up.

One upcoming mental well-being session will focus on emotional eating, that is, eating as a way of coping with feelings or emotions that can be either positive and negative.

Food does more than fuel bodies, said Ms Sng. Sometimes, people eat because they are happy and want to maintain the good mood. Other times, they turn to food when they feel sad or bored.

Participants will be taught to recognise the specific emotions that trigger their eating behaviour and interfere with their weight-loss efforts. They can then draw up a list of alternative activities to engage in when confronted with such emotions, such as calling a friend or watching a movie.

During one such exercise, homewife Low Cheng Yee, 39, discovered the trigger that would lead to her overeating.

She realised she had a habit of finishing up leftovers from her three children - five-year-old twin boys and an 11-year-old girl.

Since she is the family cook and is thus able to control food portion sizes, she has now reduced the amount she prepares for family meals, so that she will not have to eat the extra helpings.

She also diligently works out for 45 minutes at home daily, doing squats, lunges, step-aerobics and kick-boxing - moves picked up during the group exercise sessions with fellow Lose To Win participants. Her efforts have helped her to shed 3.5kg from her initial 88kg when she joined the programme.

With her height of 1.61m, her body mass index (BMI) - a measure of the amount of fat based on weight and height - is now 32.6, down from 33.9. Asians with a BMI of between 24 and 27.4 are overweight and those whose BMI is beyond this range are obese.

Ms Low's husband, clinical manager Eugene Baey, 42, is also in the programme.

Choosing to lose weight together has its benefits, as Mr Baey now does not resist eating fibre-rich brown rice after learning about its benefits during the nutrition workshops.

Ms Low said: 'We learnt that bak kwa (barbecued pork slices) is bad for us, so we chose not to buy any during Chinese New Year.'


Brought to you by Health Promotion Board



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