Focus on mental health to lose weight

Thursday, December 3, 2015
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Experts say the key to weight loss is both physical and emotional.

Shekyra DeCree has finally found a way to shake off extra weight and keep it off. With exercise and a healthy diet, she's lost 100 pounds.

But she says the real secret to her success was changing her mindset. DeCree says she used to be an emotional eater - she would eat to relieve stress from her job.

"So, coming home from work every day, the first thing I would go to would be the refrigerator," said DeCree.

Dr. Diane Robinson, a neuropsychologist, says most people don't recognize the mental aspect of weight loss. She says food can release dopamine in the brain's pleasure center, causing a strong emotional connection.

"Our brain actually recognizes it as a reward, and it can become very difficult to separate that kind of emotion and the physiological response that food can have in us," said Dr. Robinson.

She says to break those emotional connections, keep a journal to track what you eat and your moods. Identify foods that make you feel good, and the reason why.

And before every snack or meal, ask yourself, "Am I eating because I'm hungry?"

"If the answer is no, then you really know there's a strong emotional component here, and it's giving yourself a clue to say, 'What's going on with me?' " said Dr. Robinson.

DeCree learned to spot those clues and found a healthier way to manage stress.

"The fact that I was able to overcome that struggle, that's the thing, mentally, that is so freeing," said DeCree.