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  • Writer's pictureLouise Atkinson

The psychology of slim: you are WHY you eat

Updated: Mar 2, 2019

By Dr Meg Arroll

So here’s this thing…in my nearly two decades as a psychologist, I’ve noticed something: patterns. I’m definitely not the first, and certainly won’t be the last to observe similarities in the way people think, feel and behave, but what I have found surprising is how this is often patterns are completely ignored in mainstream healthcare.

These patterns, which in behavioural terms might be called personalities, are incredibly important because they hold the key to being able to make lasting changes to our health.

I stared my academic career studying the many different factors involved in fatigue. As part of my doctorate I spent years trying to undercover the reasons why some people experience debilitating fatigue, and became adept at using advanced statistical models and theory (fascinating for me, big yawn for many!)

My interested expanded to a range of other health conditions, and it became very apparent that there is a cluster of behaviours which can just as easily support, or damage our health. When these pieces fell into place I honestly felt like Neo in the movie The Matrix. Finally I could see what was really happening in people’s health – and why. It was a revelation for my own health too.

I discovered that eating behaviour is fundamentally important. It can, without us realising, be either supportive of, or completely destructive of our fundamental health. That’s when I knew I wanted to write a book about eating behaviour, and to pack it with insight about how we can use the knowledge of our own individual patterns to support our health and maintain a stable weight.

The idea percolated in my mind for years, until I met Louise Atkinson. And when I say ‘met’, what I really mean is this unbelievable force of a human being fizzed and popped onto my horizon, more so than any luxury bottle of bubbly!

This chance encounter at a Christmas party started the Shrinkology ball rolling. Louise has an encyclopaedic knowledge of every diet, weight loss programme and exercise regime going, and she was fascinated by the idea that our psychology, history and experience could be the key to unlocking weight loss success.

This meeting of minds was like a cartoon ‘epiphany’ moment…Louise brought the nutritional skills from reviewing and condensing every new diet plan as part of her work for the Daily Mail, and I brought an abundance of research with my therapeutic background to match personality types to behavioural traits – in other words, to fit the patterns together.

I always wanted to be able to give people real solutions not just in terms of the psychological and habitual underpinnings of eating behaviour, but to be able to help them know what to do and where to go once the foundational work is done. That’s why meeting Louise was a dream - she has all the ‘what now’ knowledge in abundance.

What would be the point of helping people understand their eating behaviour if they couldn’t then do something about it? I knew I could provide the foundations, and Louise had all the answers.

The big thing about diets is that they do work – in the short term at least. There wouldn’t be a multi-billion pound weight loss industry if they didn’t. But diets can have addictive qualities: you try one, it works, and you feel great!!! But then the effects wear off and you start to feel rubbish about yourself so you eat to feel better, then, at some point, start hunting around for your next diet ‘fix’.

Our mission when we set out to work together was to find a way to make whichever diet anyone decided to try to be as effective as it could possibly be.

It’s only when we truly understand the reasons why we overeat, skip the exercise class, or sleep poorly, that we can start to map effective diet, exercise and lifestyle plans onto our lives. This pre-planning and psychological preparation is the best way to make provision for long-term weight maintenance that doesn’t feel like a prison sentence.

When it comes to diets, there’s no one-size-fits-all. I’m sorry to say that no matter how much the diet industry would like you to believe otherwise, there is no magic weight loss bullet for the entire population. Some diets might work well for certain people, but they might not so be effective for others. It’s all about patterns and personalities – and finding the right match.

There’s been growing trend for respected professionals, practitioners and researchers to move towards a more ‘personalised medicine’ perspective but it will take time for any new developments to trickle down into mainstream care.

The good news is, you don’t have to wait.

It’s my strongly-held personal and professional belief, based on my 20 years of academic research and therapeutic work with individual clients over many years, that our personal traits and characteristics offer an effective roadmap to successful overall health, including positive body image and weight control.

Shrinkology is the answer.

Take the quiz. Find your type. Change your health for good.

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