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The Real Reason Why You Can't Stick To Your Diet

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The Real Reason Why You Can't Stick To Your Diet

3 Talks to Have with Yourself about Weight Loss
Neha  Sangwan M.D.
Neha Sangwan M.D. More by this author
Apr 09, 2015 at 08:30 AM

You’ve read all the books. You’re inspired to improve your health. You’ve even posted a recipe for your favorite green juice online. So why is it that a few weeks later, your sugar, salt or caffeine strategy is back with a vengeance? And, most depressing, the needle on the scale is stuck or moving in the wrong direction. In my new book, TalkRx, I reveal why your efforts are not paying off.

It’s All Connected

As an internal medicine physician, I learned that physical problems “required” physical solutions. And, often, that’s true. But after treating thousands of patients, I’ve discovered what I wasn’t taught in medical school—that when communication breaks down, so does your body. And I’m talking about a few different conversations that you might not even be aware are undermining your health.

Yes, there’s the physical dialogue between you and your body—and how you choose to nourish it. Your body sends you signals like headaches or fatigue to let you know if it likes how you’ve fueled it. It also might send you signals to let you know your metabolism is off or your internal systems are off balance.

When you don’t follow through on the plan you were once so inspired by, something else is getting in the way. And some form of stress is often the culprit. So the question became “What’s at the root of all that stress?”

With my patients, a pattern emerged. A few key “conversations” were repeatedly undermining their efforts to achieve their health goals. And they’re quite possibly affecting you, too:

1. The conversation between you and your BODY (what you put on the end of your fork and how you physically feel)
2. The silent conversation in your MIND (beliefs, judgments and negative self-talk)
3. The conversation in your HEART (your emotions and sense of belonging with others)

Your Comfort Food Has the Answer

 Let me tell you about a patient named Joanne. She would often eat when she wasn’t hungry. When she came to see me, she was 20 lbs. overweight, exhausted and not sleeping at night. She had tried every diet and was desperate for help. Once we optimized her thyroid function and got her on a healthy detox plan with a gluten-free, dairy-free diet, she made good progress. But a few weeks later, she reverted to her previous patterns and I received a long email confession. So, I asked her to bring her favorite comfort food to our next session. With a huge smile, she showed up with a Lindt chocolate bar and proudly turned it in. “I’ve never gotten to bring a chocolate bar to a doctor’s appointment!” she professed.

“Oh no. This isn’t for me,” I said. “I heard how disappointed you were in your email and decided to get creative. So, let’s find out what’s getting in your way. Can you please tell me what physical signals your body sends that make you want to you reach for chocolate?”

“Sure. I get a pit in my stomach and my heart starts racing.”

“Great. You’re clear about how your body talks to you.” Then I asked her to put one square of dark chocolate in her mouth and tell me what emotions she experienced. She replied, “I feel peaceful, loved and safe.”

“Now we’re getting somewhere,” I said. “Let’s figure out what’s causing you to feel turmoil, unloved and unsafe in your life and we’ll know why you eat when you’re not hungry. And once we do this, you won’t need chocolate; you’ll choose to have it when you want it.”

Tears welled up in her eyes as she went on to describe feeling unsafe in the presence of her partner’s angry outbursts. She felt trapped in her marriage and thought if she chose divorce, it would be a disappointment to her parents. Plus, she was worried that she couldn’t financially support herself. The mental, emotional and social stress in her life was undermining her ability to lose weight.

“I hear how scared and powerless you feel, Joanne. How might your need for chocolate parallel the stress in your life?”

“I’ve never thought about it,” she said, “but eating chocolate is predictable. It changes how I feel inside every time—even if it’s just for a few seconds.”

“It sounds like chocolate has been a temporary coping strategy that has served you well. And I’m wondering if the extra weight has served as protection from the anger of your partner? Until you learn to manage yourself in the face of anger and feel strong and independent—there isn’t enough chocolate in the world to give you lasting peace, love and safety in your world. That’s an inside job.”

Together we transformed her self-talk and how she related to anger. She nourished herself with whole foods and for the first time found it easy to follow her healthy eating plan. Within six months, Joanne had lost 15 lbs. and gained confidence to stand up for herself. She was surprised at how the dynamics of her relationship changed for the better when she found the courage to dig deeper and heal what she was really hungry for. She and her partner began having honest conversations and rekindled the spark in their relationship.

Examine What’s on Your Plate

If you have struggled in the past and are ready to reach your ideal weight—and maintain it—it’s important to engage in the conversation with your body and pay attention to what you’re putting on the end of your fork. Then, get curious about the other simultaneous conversations in your mind and heart that directly affect your body. And you’ll get to the root of stress and figure out what you’re really hungry for—because it’s not the food.

Easy Action Steps You Can Take Right Now

1. Watch this video below to see what Dr. Mark Hyman and I prescribe to detox your body’s emotional relationship with food.

2. Join Dr. Mark Hyman and me for a FREE online event where we explore the conversations happening between your body, mind and heart that undermine your ability to attain optimal health. It's called "Two Doctors Talk Detox Secrets: De-Stress, Lose Weight, Feel Great!" Claim your spot here (it's free!). 

Neha Sangwan, M.D., CEO of Intuitive Intelligence is an Internal Medicine physician and communication expert combines the science of medicine with the art of communication to empower power people to strengthen their relationships, decrease their stress levels and improve their health. Doctor Neha is the author TalkRx: Five Steps to Honest Conversations that Create Connection, Health and Happiness. Visit to learn more.


About Author
Neha  Sangwan M.D.
CEO and founder of Intuitive Intelligence, is an Internal Medicine physician and corporate communication strategist empowering healthcare practitioners, organizational leaders and corporate employees in their own self-care. Dr. Sangwan is an inter Continue reading