11/01/2013 01:05 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Can Your Mind Influence Your Weight?

I've been thinking about this a lot recently. I've made an observation that when women learn a lot about health and nutrition, even though they enjoy better overall health when they act on their knowledge, they tend to get fatter over time.

Of course this doesn't apply to everyone but you might spot yourself if it does apply.

And I have to admit, I went through that phase myself. Why is this?

Today, I only have positive associations about food. When I eat some chocolate, my main thought is that I'm getting iron from it. Cheese, for me, means protein and calcium. A slice of whole-wheat toast, means selenium for beautiful skin and fiber.

But back in the day, it wasn't like that.

I was 11 years old when I owned my first book on clinical nutrition. Probably due to the fact that I wanted to be a medical doctor (well, my grandma thought I'd be a great one). Over the past two decades, I've learned a lot about good nutrition. When I was in my early teens, my diet was excellent and I had no issues with my weight.

So what was the cause of my weight battle over the years? I think the root was the fact that I became acutely aware of all the foods that were "bad" for me.

Eating bread didn't mean selenium for me. It meant refined carbs (bad) and gluten (bad). So when I ate bread (which I find hard to resist), I was really telling myself that I was taking stuff that was bad for me into my body. Gluten attacks causing weight gain, inflammation and water retention. The shift was in my mind and it was creating stress.

Similarly, I found myself obsessively reading labels for sugar and fat contents and feeling guilty when I ate something that had high contents of sugar, salt and fat. Funnily enough, I was actually imagining the internal damage they were doing to my body -- like a scary documentary in high definition.

It's okay if we avoid the foods, but it's not okay if we eat them thinking how bad they are for us.

I've been wondering if this could have created a negative placebo effect (a nocebo effect) that resulted in me getting fatter. I think it did. The solution was to change what I told myself about foods.

Of course, it is important to eat a healthy diet. Engineering a sound nutritional strategy for my clients is crucial for their happiness and vitality. A diet that works for your body type and genetic makeup can make you effortlessly thin, look gorgeous and reduce the likelihood of a number of other illnesses, as well as increase stamina and mental clarity.

But we also need to think wisely about food. It would make more sense to think of the positives that we get from all foods and then just choose the ones that we know to be better for us in the long term.

When we have a slip-up day from what we think of as "healthy" (which I think most of us do), then we might simply remind ourselves that there is actually energy and nutrients to be obtained from whatever we are eating -- and at our bodies are perfectly capable of eliminating the stuff we don't need!

And, of course, I don't think it would be wise to test the power of food's placebo effect by eating typically high sugary, salty and fatty foods and just telling ourselves that we're getting good nutrition from them.

I'm talking about a sensible balance, where we eat wisely and healthily, and indulge every now and then, but merely observe our minds a little, catching ourselves when we think negatively about what we are eating.

The difference is in the mind. That's how I think of things anyway. So that's just some of my thinking about food.

Now you know why I often say: "Guilt makes you fat. Not food. Guilt!"

  1. How often do you catch yourself thinking negatively about what you eat?
  2. Do you have some negative food associations?
  3. Does eating non-organic worry you?

Make sure to leave a comment below. I look forward to reading you.


For more by Alejandra Ruani, click here.

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