The man who never says diet

Tuck in, have your choco­late. Just don’t judge your­self, a weight-loss psy­chol­o­gist im­plores

Central and North Burnett Times - - READ - BY Seanna Cronin The Big­gest Loser, Mon­days to Thurs­days at 1pm on Ten.

THERE’S no need to feel guilty about in­dulging in a lit­tle choco­late this Easter long week­end, says Dr Glenn Mack­in­tosh. The Bris­bane-based weight-loss psy­chol­o­gist, who you might recog­nise from The Big­gest Loser: Trans­formed, has ded­i­cated his ca­reer to help­ing peo­ple lead hap­pier, health­ier lives.

Psy­chol­ogy was orig­i­nally Glenn’s back-up plan. As a child grow­ing up in Vic­to­ria and, from the age of 12, Bris­bane, he fell in love with mar­tial arts.

“I wanted to be a full-time mar­tial arts teacher,” he tells Week­end.

“But my mum, in her wisdom, said ‘You’ve got a brain on your head, why don’t you do some­thing as a back-up?’ So I started study­ing for sports and ex­er­cise psy­chol­ogy.”

But Glenn soon found he was more in­ter­ested in weight loss than work­ing with pro­fes­sional ath­letes.

“I was the black sheep (in my classes); most peo­ple were in it to work with ath­letes,” he says.

“I felt my­self re­ally grav­i­tat­ing to­wards ex­er­cise psy­chol­ogy, which is about the re­la­tion­ship ev­ery­day peo­ple have with move­ment. I had a won­der­ful men­tor from the States, Dr Vic­tor Pendle­ton, who is an ex­pert in the psy­chol­ogy of eat­ing.

“For me the psy­chol­ogy of weight-loss is mean­ing­ful. You can see peo­ple trans­form­ing their lives.”

He was the Di­rec­tor of Psy­chol­ogy at the Wes­ley Life­shape Clinic – and also lec­tured at the Univer­sity of Queens­land, Grif­fith Univer­sity, and the Aus­tralian Col­lege of Ap­plied Psy­chol­ogy – be­fore found­ing his own pri­vate prac­tice, Weight Man­age­ment Psy­chol­ogy, in the Bris­bane sub­urb Tener­iffe.

Glenn be­lieves weight-loss psy­chol­ogy is the miss­ing piece of the lu­cra­tive fit­ness in­dus­try, which tends to fo­cus on ex­er­cise and di­et­ing – both of which tend to be seen as nec­es­sary evils.

“We tend to do eat­ing and ex­er­cise all wrong for the ev­ery­day per­son,” he says.

“Most peo­ple are not ath­letes, but what they try to do on a health kick is to ex­er­cise as an ath­lete would. They’re work­ing re­ally hard but the av­er­age per­son gen­er­ally doesn’t like that, espe­cially not at the start. In try­ing to get fit­ter or health­ier or lose weight, you cre­ate an un­healthy or un­sus­tain­able re­la­tion­ship with phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

“What I say to peo­ple is just fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing a pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship with ex­er­cise, do­ing what you like and feels com­fort­able. From there it be­comes some­thing you want to do reg­u­larly.

“We’re not good at stick­ing with stuff we don’t like do­ing.” Glenn’s mid­dle-of-the-road ap­proach also ap­plies to food; the word “diet’’ is a big no no in his prac­tice.

“Many peo­ple are to­tally out of touch with their own bod­ies, and un­for­tu­nately the di­et­ing process makes you more out of touch,” he says.

“Most di­ets break foods up into the ‘good foods’ I’m al­lowed to have and then the other foods are for­bid­den or bad. Psy­cho­log­i­cally this is a re­ally harm­ful thing for most peo­ple to do be­cause it cre­ates de­pri­va­tion or re­stric­tion.

“You also get the ‘what the hell?’ ef­fect. You feel like you’ve eaten some­thing wrong and be­cause you’ve bro­ken your eat­ing plan you go out and eat more.

“You don’t need to feel ter­ri­ble about your­self if you’re not eat­ing well.”

Glenn’s so­lu­tion is to take the judg­ment out of food and to em­brace the con­cept of mind­ful eat­ing.

“Part of this idea of mind­ful eat­ing is about tak­ing any judg­ment off foods. We have to see foods as morally neu­tral,” he says.

“A food I re­ally love, what peo­ple would call naughty, is burg­ers. Peo­ple will see me with a burger and I will be un­apolo­getic about it.

“Why do we eat foods like burg­ers or choco­late? We eat them be­cause they’re yummy. If you take away all the judg­ments and just fo­cus on the food then you can re­ally taste and savour the food, and – I know this sounds counter in­tu­itive – you end up eat­ing less.

An­other big is­sue Glenn tries to tackle, both with his clients and on The Big­gest Loser, is un­healthy body image.

“It’s so com­mon for us to have a dis­torted view of our­selves; it doesn’t mat­ter if you’re big or small,” he says.

“It takes a bit of time to learn to see your­self a dif­fer­ent way. One of the things we try to do is help peo­ple dis­tance them­selves from that thin ideal and all the mes­sag­ing we get to­day.

“We also sug­gest do­ing a cull of the per­son’s Face­book or In­sta­gram ac­counts of mes­sages that are po­ten­tially harm­ful. Teach­ing me­dia lit­er­acy can also help you re­move your­self from the mes­sages in ad­ver­tis­ing.”

While Ten’s re­vamped Big­gest Loser has been a rat­ings flop, and was rel­e­gated to an af­ter­noon times­lot ear­lier this week, Glenn is still proud of the show.

“I def­i­nitely wouldn’t have been a part of any pre­vi­ous ver­sion,” he says.

“I’m happy to say Shan­nan (Pon­ton), Libby (Ba­bet) and I are cre­at­ing some­thing peo­ple can take a lot of in­spi­ra­tion from and a lot of good in­for­ma­tion they can ap­ply to them­selves.

“On the show I also have the abil­ity to cre­ate these cool ex­er­cises I could never do in the of­fice to ex­plain these key mes­sages.”

So go ahead and eat that choco­late Easter egg, just make sure you savour ev­ery bite.

‘‘ Most peo­ple are not ath­letes, but what they try to do on a health kick is to ex­er­cise as an ath­lete would. They’re work­ing re­ally hard but the av­er­age per­son gen­er­ally doesn’t like that...


◗ Dr Glenn Mack­in­tosh is a weight-loss psy­chol­o­gist who cur­rently stars on The Big­gest Loser: Trans­formed.

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