Kelly Brook has al­ways been one of my idols so I’m thrilled to fea­ture her in this week’s mag­a­zine. Her cheeky side has al­ways been very en­dear­ing, as has her hon­esty about her weight fluc­tu­a­tions and her up-and-down ro­mances – she’s al­ways seemed like a real girl-next-door. Which is why I was thrilled when she ad­mit­ted in to­day’s in­ter­view on page 32 that her life in­volves more muck­ing in on the farm than hit­ting A-list par­ties these days – we all have to learn our lim­its! Our cover star Ais­ling O’Lough­lin is equally hon­est on page 20 as she re­veals that get­ting used to stay­ing at home with her chil­dren rather than in­ter­view­ing stars on the red car­pet has taken a bit of get­ting used to, but she’s fi­nally get­ting there. She also says that her re­la­tion­ship with her ex-part­ner and fa­ther of her three chil­dren Nick MacInnes has never been bet­ter since they split up – a weird phe­nom­e­non that many cou­ples seem to ex­pe­ri­ence. Fi­nally, if you – like me – bat­tle with fluc­tu­at­ing weight, it could be that the yo-yoing is not so much to do with the food we eat as the way we eat it. Gob­bling meals in a hurry or grab­bing snacks are ways we in­ad­ver­tently pile on the pounds.

Ithink it’s time to ac­knowl­edge that ‘the diet’ is dead. After ex­am­in­ing a wealth of stud­ies on di­et­ing, re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia found that up to two thirds of di­ets fail, with sev­eral stud­ies in­di­cat­ing that di­et­ing is ac­tu­ally a con­sis­tent pre­dic­tor of fu­ture weight gain.

Last­ing weight loss is not about what you eat – it’s about why and how you eat. As a psy­chol­o­gist, I have met many peo­ple who are dis­il­lu­sioned and frus­trated, feel­ing guilt about their body and their re­la­tion­ship with food. By fo­cus­ing solely on the ex­cess weight, we have lost sight of the cause.

Be­ing un­happy with how you look and be­ing over­weight is a symp­tom of some­thing deeper. Your habits, be­liefs and the story you tell your­self all con­trib­ute to the size you are. Rather than re­duc­ing the prob­lem to calo­ries in and calo­ries out, you need to take a more holis­tic ap­proach. I want to show you how to re­spect your body. Once you do this con­fi­dence will fol­low, for to lose con­fi­dence in one’s body is to lose con­fi­dence in one­self.

It is your mind that de­cides what and how you eat. By chang­ing how you think and feel about your body and the food you put into it you can learn to en­joy food in a whole new way. Only then will you lose weight eas­ily and keep it off for life.

Recog­nis­ing how the brain re­sponds to di­et­ing helps you to un­der­stand why weight loss can be so chal­leng­ing. The neu­ro­sci­en­tist San­dra Aamodt in­tro­duced me to the con­cept that your body acts like a ther­mo­stat. The brain estab­lishes a ‘set point’, a range of 10lb-15lb around your ‘op­ti­mum’ weight, that your body is com­fort­able with. Your life­style choices can move your weight up or down, but it is quite chal­leng­ing to move out­side your set point be­cause the brain fights to stay within this range, re­gard­less of how over­weight you are.

The hy­po­thal­a­mus – the part of the brain that reg­u­lates body weight – con­trols more than a dozen chem­i­cal sig­nals that tell your body to gain or lose weight as con­di­tions change, act­ing like a ther­mo­stat that keeps the tem­per­a­ture in your house sta­ble. When you try to change the tem­per­a­ture in your house by open­ing a win­dow, the ther­mo­stat re­sponds by turn­ing on the boiler to main­tain the same level of heat.

Your brain works in ex­actly the same way. When you limit your food in­take, your brain re­sponds by ad­just­ing hunger, metabolism and ac­tiv­ity in an ef­fort to main­tain your set point. So when you re­duce your calo­rie in­take, you be­come hun­grier and your mus­cles burn less en­ergy. Re­search has found that peo­ple who have lost ten per cent of their body weight burn 250 to 400 fewer calo­ries a day be­cause their metabolism is sup­pressed. To main­tain weight loss you need to eat less con­sis­tently and not just while you’re on a diet, be­cause suc­cess­ful di­et­ing doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily lower your set point. Re­search shows that even after you have kept weight off for as long as seven years, your brain pushes to try to gain the weight back. Psy­chol­o­gists clas­sify eaters into two groups.

In­tu­itive eaters: peo­ple who lis­ten to their body and eat when they’re hun­gry.

Con­trolled eaters: peo­ple who try to con­trol their eat­ing through willpower, like most di­eters.

In­tu­itive eaters are less likely to be over­weight and they spend less time think­ing about food be­cause they eat when they are ac­tu­ally hun­gry. Con­trolled eaters are much more vul­ner­a­ble to overeat­ing as they con­stantly over­ride their hunger sig­nals in or­der to lose weight. When you are in a pat­tern of con­trolled eat­ing, a small in­dul­gence such as a piece of cake is more likely to lead to a binge.

My clients of­ten tell me that when they are un­happy with their body they strug­gle to feel con­fi­dent. I had one client, Kather­ine, who was four stone over­weight. She had tried ev­ery diet go­ing and had come to me hop­ing for some mag­i­cal solution. I could see she was de­pressed. Con­sumed by how much weight she had to lose, she strug­gled to be­lieve that she could achieve her de­sired size.

Most di­eters, like Kather­ine, en­gage in di­ets that are struc­tured around de­pri­va­tion, re­ly­ing on con­trolled eat­ing, a po­si­tion of self-pun­ish­ment to which they even­tu­ally have to con­cede de­feat, be­cause they are fight­ing against their brain’s nat­u­ral dis­po­si­tion to seek plea­sure and avoid pain. Psy­cho­log­i­cal re­search also in­di­cates that we have a fi­nite amount of self- con­trol. Willpower is like a mus­cle: when you use it you get tired.

This is ev­i­dent when it comes to crav­ings. If you tell your­self, ‘I can’t have that take­away curry be­cause it’s not al­lowed on my diet,’ then all you can think about is that curry. The more you try to sup­press a thought, the more it pops into your mind and the weaker your willpower be­comes.

In­stead, ac­knowl­edge that crav­ing rather ➤

➤ than try to sup­press it. You can ac­tu­ally have what­ever you want to eat. But in­stead of buy­ing a take­away, tell your­self that you are go­ing to make a health­ier ver­sion for your­self ‘and it’s go­ing to taste de­li­cious’.

Psy­cho­log­i­cal re­search on suc­cess­ful di­et­ing sug­gests that peo­ple who lose weight and keep it off don’t see them­selves as be­ing on a diet. They do not un­dergo de­pri­va­tion and self-pun­ish­ment. They do not bat­tle with them­selves on a daily ba­sis to avoid the foods they love. In­stead they see it as a pos­i­tive life­style change. Once Kather­ine stepped off the yo-yo diet tread­mill she be­gan to lose weight. By shift­ing from over-in­tel­lec­tu­al­is­ing what she could eat and when, to eat­ing when she was ac­tu­ally hun­gry, en­joy­ing her food and then stop­ping when she was full, she started to re­spect her body. It took a bit longer than she would have liked, but the weight came off slowly and steadily.


Find a quiet, com­fort­able space where you can think about your fu­ture. What will hap­pen if you con­tinue on the same path and don’t make the changes you need to at­tain the body you de­sire? Pic­ture your­self in a year’s time, stand­ing in front of a full-length mir­ror look­ing at your re­flec­tion. What do you look like and what are you wear­ing? Have you got big­ger? How is your health? Is this a pos­i­tive im­age and are you sat­is­fied with what you see?

Next, take a minute to vi­su­alise your­self in a year’s time hav­ing achieved your goal. Do you like what you see? Are you smil­ing, healthy and con­fi­dent? Now tell your­self that you can take ac­tion to cre­ate that fu­ture. These are truly achiev­able goals. Go to art­ful- eat­ to access a free down­load with more vi­su­al­i­sa­tion ex­er­cises to help you pre­pare for a new be­gin­ning.


Start to re­in­force your goal by con­di­tion­ing your en­vi­ron­ment so that you are con­stantly re­minded of it. Choose a pho­to­graph of your­self at your ideal weight and place copies in key places such as on the front of your wardrobe to re­mind you of how won­der­ful it will be when you can wear what­ever you like, and on the fridge or bis­cuit tin so that each time you go to eat some­thing you are re­minded of your goal and can ask your­self if you are re­ally hun­gry. Make this pic­ture your screen saver and change all your pass­words to your goal weight so that ev­ery time you type in your pass­word you are send­ing strong mes­sages to your brain. By hav­ing these cues strate­gi­cally placed where you can

see them, you are send­ing a strong mes­sage of re­in­force­ment that will help you.


Ev­ery­thing you eat and ev­ery un­healthy habit you have formed is down to your de­ci­sions – ei­ther con­scious or subconscious – and it is from these de­ci­sions that your body is shaped. You can have the body you want, just by mak­ing a de­ci­sion to change. If you don’t make a de­ci­sion about how you’re go­ing to be, then you have al­ready made a de­ci­sion to con­tinue as you have been, car­ry­ing ex­tra weight and feel­ing un­happy in your body. The most im­por­tant thing is to let go of all your pre­con­ceived ideas about how to lose weight.


In or­der to ex­pe­ri­ence free­dom with food, you have to ad­just to eat­ing enough food to sus­tain you. Eat­ing less won’t shrink your stom­ach but it will help re­set your ap­petite so that you won’t feel as hun­gry. Food is de­li­cious fuel. What we eat nour­ishes our body and our brain. We have be­come dis­en­gaged from this ba­sic truth and that has led to an un­healthy re­la­tion­ship with what we eat. It’s time to start en­joy­ing food. The only elim­i­na­tion I en­cour­age is guilt. Once you be­gin to en­joy food, things will start to change in an ex­cit­ing way.


The en­emy isn’t sugar, fat or car­bo­hy­drates, it’s overly pro­cessed foods. The most sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence you have over your health is in what you eat and this is noth­ing to do with calo­ries, as all calo­ries are not cre­ated equal. With each bite you take, your brain re­ceives in­struc­tions that change your bi­ol­ogy, al­ter­ing your gene ex­pres­sion. De­pend­ing on what you eat, you are turn­ing on ‘fat genes’ or ‘skinny genes’, healthy genes or dis­ease genes. This in­for­ma­tion also con­trols your im­mune sys­tem and turns in­flam­ma­tion on and off. Calo­ries high in sugar and starch slow down your metabolism, whereas calo­ries high in fat speed it up, so it is cru­cial to un­der­stand that foods can­not be sim­ply re­duced to their calorific value.

In­stead think of the food you eat as in­for­ma­tion that af­fects your hor­mones, in­sulin lev­els, blood sugar, sex hor­mones, adrenals and so on. These changes don’t oc­cur over time, they hap­pen minute by minute. So by elim­i­nat­ing overly pro­cessed foods from your diet, you will sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove your bi­o­log­i­cal make-up in a very short space of time.


Take some time to think back over your own life story in terms of weight and your re­la­tion­ship with your body. When did you first start di­et­ing? Was there ever a time when you were happy with your body? What have other peo­ple said about your ap­pear­ance? Then re­write your story for the fu­ture, fill­ing it with all the hope, love and kind­ness that you de­serve. Read that new story ev­ery day as you start mov­ing to­wards your goal weight. Record it on to your phone and lis­ten to it ev­ery morn­ing and evening to re­in­force that fu­ture, for you have the power to cre­ate mas­sive changes in your life.


How you view the size you are and your re­la­tion­ship with your­self is to do with the po­si­tion you take up in the world, not your cir­cum­stances. If you change the lens through which you view your ex­pe­ri­ence of the world, you will dra­mat­i­cally in­crease your level of hap­pi­ness, well­be­ing and self-love. So think about mak­ing changes in your life. Psy­cho­log­i­cal re­search has proved that to lose weight suc­cess­fully, and keep it off, a per­son­alised ap­proach works.

This is an edited ex­tract from Art­ful Eat­ing: The Psy­chol­ogy of Last­ing Weight Loss by Ka­rina Melvin, pub­lished by Black and White and out now, price €18.99


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