It is absolutely no secret to anyone who has been on the diet track throughout their lives that losing weight is more than just about combining “rabbit” food with mind-numbing exercise.

Even if you find a diet plan that you can stick to for a while, and an exercise that is enjoyable enough that you will at least grudgingly participate, sooner or later it’s off the wagon and the hard-won weight loss is lost.

Statistics abound that cite the problem of “yo-yo” dieters. You lose the weight, you gain it back and more, then lose some weight, and gain that back and more. Many of us beat ourselves up for having little will power, but in our heart-of-hearts we know the entire weight loss phenomenon is so much more than food, activity, and will power.

Research is now showing that the weight gain itself has a great deal to do with emotion. Emotional eating is something almost every over-weight person can relate to. We stuff our feelings down with food, hiding from emotions such as fear, guilt, shame, and anger.

The gallon of ice cream, the box of cookies, the bag of chips all become our friends. Feeling friendless and alone, with nowhere to turn to deal with “undealable” emotions, foods that stimulate the “feel good” center of our brain often become the only coping mechanism we think we have.

And, if that weren’t bad enough, the stress we feel when we do emotionally eat, as well as the stress we inevitably feel when we are trying to stick to a diet, causes an increase in the stress hormone cortisol. One of the functions of cortisol is to help the body hang on to excess fat during dieting as the body thinks it is in a famine.

So, if emotion got us in our over-weight state in the first place, and is helping keep us on the yo-yo dieting plan, then it can also help us out of this dilemma.

Think back through your experiences with weight loss, and ask yourself these questions:

· When did you first notice that you weren’t happy with your body?

· What diet or exercise did you try then?

· What came next?

· How did you feel during that time?

Tell your story to a friend, or write it down. What you are doing is starting to peel the layers of the onion back until you discover the real emotional reason that you are over-weight.

What is it that you are afraid of? What do you feel guilt, shame, or anger about? Where does the sadness come from?

Let your body talk to you. Listen and it will help you tell your story.

Then, you can start to be kinder to yourself. So many over-weight people have a real hate relationship with both their bodies and themselves. They see their bodies as ugly and repulsive. They see themselves as unworthy.

However, you take care of things that you love. Now that you know what the emotional reason is for carrying around that extra weight, you can offer yourself and your body the compassion that you would a small child. And as you begin to see yourself in a different light, you might find that you have a completely different – emotional – attitude to dieting, thus releasing the stress around it.

Here is a very first step for you:

Say out loud to yourself “Even though I am overweight I love and accept myself and I’m okay.”

You may find yourself struggling to say those words the first time, but persist through that first initial block, even if that statement doesn’t feel true to you right now.

That statement is empowering, and along with looking at the emotional reasons for over-eating, and starting to feel compassion for yourself, it is unbelievable what happens. That emotion, instead of you fighting against it, just flows through you.

What we want to do is love ourselves as we are and when we do that, that fear no longer has the same control over us. The biggest challenge is seeing something about yourself that you can love because you’ve been so judgmental and critical about your body in the past.

It's so important for you to say that you love and accept yourself, and to really appreciate your body in this moment , because - we take care of what we love.

Lisa Ruderman is a licensed Marital and Family Therapist, certified Emotional Focused Therapist, supervisor and trainer. She teaches her clients valuable relationship skills that create life long, healthy bonds. Lisa is a co-founder of the San Diego Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy.