11/06/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Is Your Mind Expanding Your Girth?

I'm fat again.

Well maybe not fat fat. But I've fallen off the exercise wagon, and five pounds has become 10, and I'm toddling down the road towards tubby. Again.

But this time it's not my fault. I have recently unearthed scientific evidence proving that it's not my love for Cheetos that's keeping me fat, it's the faulty neural pathways in my brain.

I know what you're thinking - excuses, excuses, excuses. And yes, I have gained and lost the same 20 pounds about 30 times, so it's not like I'm coming from a position of moral authority on this.

But hear me out. A layperson might think that the fact that I can't talk on the phone, watch TV, drive or handle an emotional crisis without sugar in my mouth is the problem.

However, I recently spoke to an expert who confirmed that my slothlike habits aren't the real reason I battle the chubbies. My eating habits are merely symptoms of a larger problem, which is the way my brain is wired.

During my free introductory one-on-one with life and wellness coach Janice Taylor, author of Our Lady of Weight Loss: Miraculous and Motivation Musing from the Patron Saint of Permanent Fat Removal I learned that many humans - the annoying thin ones - believe that food is an appropriate response to hunger. However, my brain is wired to connect food with a whole plethora of emotional issues.

Bad day? I deserve chocolate and a martini. Just got in a fight with my kids? Nothing that a little cheesecake won't cure. Having fun at the pool party? Chips and a big burger will make it even better.

It doesn't matter what the occasion, I make the mental leap to food faster than you can say Pavlov's poodle.

According to Taylor ( I'm not only suffering from Mom Fat: the "I have to buy chicken nuggets and pizza because I have kids" syndrome. But I've also been so programmed to connect food with certain events and emotions that I have literally changed the physical wiring of my brain. The little paths in my mind that take me from stress (or pleasure or pain or boredom) to food have become so strong that they override my best dietary intentions.

I call it the "It wouldn't be a blank without blank" disorder. You know - it wouldn't be a birthday party, funeral, Friday night or Tuesday afternoon (fill in event here) without ice cream, tuna casserole, lasagna or Fritos (insert high-calorie food of your choice).

Taylor says, "We all have a stay fat strategy," the drama our subconscious creates to justify our behavior. According to Taylor my "stay fat" strategy is working quite well (Hey, they don't call her an expert for nothing)

But she also advises, "Let's be honest, at least with ourselves."

"Are you baking cookies for your kids, or so you can eat one?" she asks.


So how is emotionally-wired drama queen like me supposed to change? Taylor, who lost 55 pounds herself seven years ago, reports, "Science used to think you couldn't change your brain, but now we know when you create new neural pathways they eventually become more dominant."

The key, she said, is swapping negative habits and self-talk with something more positive. "Despair gives you the energy to start, but you can't stay hating yourself and give yourself the gift of weight loss."

So every day I'm telling my brain, "I deserve to be thin, I deserve to be thin." It's working, but I'm still wondering when the little voice that says I deserve an Almond Joy is going to shut up.

Lisa Earle McLeod is a syndicated columnist, keynote speaker and the author of Forget Perfect and Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear.
She specializes in helping organizations and individuals create happiness and success, no group hugs or trust falls required. More info -