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Why Diet and Exercise Doesn’t Work For Everyone

It’s long been misunderstood that the only thing you need to lose weight is diet and exercise. Obviously they’re important , but a key element is often overlooked. Mental health. Oftentimes our eating habits are controlled by impulse. But, where do these impulses come from, and how can we fix them?

It’s not your body that’s craving questionable food choices, and it’s not your body that’s telling you it doesn’t need exercise. It’s all starts with a thought. That thought becomes an image in your mind, that image becomes a feeling, and that feeling becomes an action. RTT works by finding the starting point of the impulse. Everyone has automatic processes going on in the background, and they often come from our childhood experiences. Children can’t understand the world quite like we can as adults, yet many of us are still unknowingly making decisions based on the coping mechanisms we made as children. In this article we’ll be looking at a few different reasons people unknowingly hold on to excess weight, and what we can do to fix them.

Pushing your feelings down

You’ll sometimes hear people describe themselves as emotional eaters. This is an accurate description for so many people. This often results from a childhood where feelings weren’t heard, we were unable to express ourselves, or had an emotionally distant parent. It’s not only a psychological response, but a very physical action of ‘swallowing’ feelings. Children that can’t safely express themselves, become adults that don’t feel free to express themselves. When emotions begin to arise, they take to the coping mechanism they developed in childhood, and attempt to push them down. 


Many of us were offered treats as a reward. This one is tied rather closely to the association of food and love. You accomplish something, and you receive food as a reward. So here we are as adults having accomplished a hard day’s work, and our brains are now seeking that same reward. I worked hard today, I deserve a treat.

If this sounds like you, take a moment to try this quick exercise. Imagine you accomplished something you’d normally reward yourself for. Now imagine not rewarding yourself. Take note of that feeling. The result for many is that they’d feel surprisingly bad. If I don’t get a reward that means.. what? Why do I feel this way? This is what we can find the answer to, and in turn help you to move away from it.

Food and love

Food is so closely linked with memory, it’s not unusual that we can associate food with love or good feelings. We have happy memories of birthdays, or sharing snacks with people we care about. Parents that substitute love and attention with, sweets and chocolates. Meal time may be the only time everyone isn’t fighting. Many people develop a belief that food will make them happy, even though that’s not true. Commercials and ads further perpetuate the belief that fast food, carbs, and sugar will make us happy. When in reality, it doesn’t make us happy at all.  Quite the opposite, it often times makes us feel even worse.


Feeling and believing food won’t always be available is a huge factor in excess weight. On such a deep prehistoric level we are programmed to eat certain foods while they’re available, because they may not always be there. In modern life, this can be triggered in our childhoods by certain foods being limited to us, by having siblings or parents sneak food off our plates, or food being scarce.

We have learned that trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, brain, and body.

Bessel A. van der Kolk,  The Body Keeps the Score


This one may come as a surprise to some, and make a lot of sense to others. Weight can be a safety mechanism. This can kick in for a lot of different reasons, some not particularly mild. Weight as a safety mechanism can be triggered by traumatizing events where we were unable to protect ourselves or someone else, receiving unwanted attention, or being in an environment we perceive as unsafe. Gaining and holding onto weight can be a natural human response to the desire to protect oneself or others. 

There was a study done on overweight participants in which they were put on a strict diet. Many of them did lose a lot of weight. At the end of the experiment, when the participants were asked how they felt, many reported strong feelings of anxiety, depression and a general feeling of being unsafe. It may seem counterintuitive to some, as losing weight is societally seen as a good thing for ones mental and physical health. However, if the excess weight has the mental function of protection, you’d feel terrible if you were to lose it. There’s a lot more going on under the surface that needs to be dealt with first.

So, why doesn’t diet and exercise work for everyone?

If your mind is working against you, diet and exercise often isn’t enough. There are very deep and psychological reasons that are tied to weight. If events in your life have created a connection that weight or food represents; love, survival, or good feelings, it can feel nearly impossible to let the weight go with effort alone.

What can be done?

RTT, Hypnosis and cognitive behavioural therapy are incredibly effective for letting go of the psychological desires and impulses that keep you holding onto excess weight. I work together with you to explore the triggers that cause habits you want to let go of, and to understand what’s preventing you from forming new and better ones. By breaking unhelpful mental connections, your mind and body can start working together in harmony.

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