When you think about weight loss, my guess is that you think of hard workouts, burning muscles, and a lot of sweat. But is weight loss all physical? Sure, to lose weight, you have to be able to tolerate repeated physical intensity, but what about emotional and relational intensity? Do intense emotions and intensity in our relationships affect weight loss? Even a rudimentary understanding of weight loss will answer this one. What do most of us do when we feel bad, or have an argument with someone, or get dumped? We eat, plain and simple. Each one of these situations represents some form of either emotional or relational intensity, and clearly, if we do not have a plan for managing intense emotions or relationship friction, guess what we will continue to do.
But having a plan is only the first step. Just like with physical intensity, we can have a plan for our exercise program, but the likelihood that the plan will have meaning to us depends directly on our ability to understand it. So, in the case of emotional and relational intensity, we not only have to have a plan to manage them, but we have to understand why they are happening. What this essentially means is understanding what situations can cause you to experience intense emotions, and similarly, what circumstances in relationships can cause you to experience intensity.
So let’s talk first about a plan for weight loss that includes managing emotional and relational intensity. When we think of managing intensity, it is important to clarify the meaning of this. Managing intensity is not about diverting from it, it is about tolerating it. When we divert from something, we make an attempt to avoid it, disguise it, or in some way, disengage from it. On the other hand, when we tolerate something, we control our response to it. Tolerating something allows us to experience the effects of something without the effects causing us to change our behavior. Essentially, we will not do anything different as a result of the intensity. Instead, we will continue with all of our daily activities, relationships, interests, hobbies, etc. When our emotions hit the boiling point, we will not look for the solution in the bottom of the ice cream container.
Emotions boiling or not, tolerance allows us to continue on with our lives, and our weight loss plans, uninterrupted. Putting things succinctly then, diverting from intensity causes us to interrupt our lives, and weight loss efforts, whereas, tolerating intensity causes us to continue on, without interruption. What provides the necessary foundation for tolerance, is a firm conviction for the things in your life that matter to you. Whether this is a passion, goal, hobby, your sense of honor and morals, or your desire for weight loss, you will not waiver from these things when they have significant importance to you. The more importance they have to you, the more protection against emotional intensity they provide. To be sure, focusing on what matters in your life, puts things back in control, and supports tolerance. A large component of this foundation for tolerance then, is the feeling that things are in your control. As you will see when we explore understanding the causes of emotional and relational intensity, often, it is the feeling that things are out of control, and therefore, focusing on what is in your control provides a powerful antidote for emotional and relational intensity.
So what does cause emotional intensity? To answer this, it is first necessary to define emotional intensity. Emotional intensity is the experience of our emotions rising to the point that they affect our thoughts and behavior. Emotions can come and go, and frequently, we do not notice them until they have risen to the point that they change the way we are thinking and acting. We may not notice if we are a bit blue on Monday, but we will notice if we can’t get out of bed on Monday. So when our emotions have risen to this point, and they jeopardize our behavior, and weight loss attempts, the second part of learning to tolerate them, is understanding why they are happening. We must know what things in our lives are causing us to feel the way we do. Perhaps we are feeling abandoned, rejected, invalidated, futile, useless, or worthless. Whatever the case may be, we will only understand it, when we can ask, what is happening that I am feeling this way? As past experiences always create emotional imprints that can then be reactivated, the answer is almost always in your history. Maybe you felt this way from early on, and this particular experience is simply pouring salt on an old wound. The key to managing intense emotions, and consequently, weight loss, lies in a thorough understanding of yourself, your experiences, and your tendencies. When you understand these things about yourself, you will also understand the events and situations that can cause you to experience emotional intensity. This understanding will automatically reduce emotional intensity as it will provide an answer to the question of what is causing me to feel this way. Clearly, when you understand what is causing you to feel the way you do, it is much easier to tolerate this feeling, as you can change either what is causing you to feel as you do, or at least, change your response to the things that are causing these feelings. When it comes to weight loss, this is of pivotal importance.
Also of prescient importance in the world of weight loss, is the understanding of relational intensity. Understanding relational intensity is much the same as understanding emotional intensity in the sense that early relationship experiences cause relationship imprints that can then be reactivated in later relationships. When this happens, we experience relationship intensity. However, relationship intensity differs from emotional intensity in the sense that emotional intensity portends to emotions that cause us to feel out of control, whereas, relationship intensity portends more to the feeling that we are not getting our needs met. As we are social creatures, we enter relationships because we have social needs. However, within the context of social needs, we are all unique in the sense that everyone has slightly different needs. Some people have a higher need for control, some for recognition, some for compliance and acceptance. Whatever the case may be, we can have early relationship experiences that contribute to, and perpetuate, these needs. When this happens, essentially, relationship imprints will be created, causing us to react to any relationship that approximates this imprint. Simply stated, if we have always felt rejected, and thus, have a high need for acceptance, we will react strongly whenever we again, feel rejected. Again, the key to relationship tolerance, and weight loss lies in understanding your relationship history, needs, and tendencies. Once you understand these things, it is much easier to change them, or change the way you react to them, thereby reducing the relational intensity. So just as with emotional intensity, the ability to tolerate relational intensity is directly related to the understanding of it.
But before any of this understanding can have any benefit for you, you have to first get your head out of the refrigerator, and into understanding yourself. As long as you are nursing your emotions or relationship distress in a bucket of ice cream, you are going to continue to feel out of control and at the mercy of your emotions. If you want to change this, you have to start looking for the answers in your understanding of yourself. When you do this, you will not take back control of your emotions, but you will also take back control of your weight loss.