You Already Know How to Lose Weight. Here's Why You're Not Doing It

05/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Noah St. John Inventor of Afformations; founder of Power Habits Academy,

Let's face facts: everyone on the planet knows that in order to lose weight, all you have to do is eat right and exercise. But as reported in Huffington Post and NPR, a new diet book appears on the bestseller lists about as often as Hollywood releases a movie starring Seth Rogen. So why, with this avalanche of "how to lose weight" information, are Americans still getting fatter by the nanosecond?

The surprising answer no one's talking about is this: It's NOT because you need more "how-to's" of losing weight. It's because you need to uncover your hidden Why-Not-To's of losing weight.

Judy Mitchell, a 55-year-old grandmother from Texas, had tried every diet and exercise program on the market. She'd lose weight temporarily, then gain it right back in a few weeks.

I asked her in our coaching sessions why she didn't want to lose weight - to list her Why-Not-To's of Losing Weight. After journaling about it for less than an hour, she realized for the first time that she believed that keeping the excess weight would protect her.

When I asked her, "Protect you from what?" she said that excess weight gave her a feeling of security, because it shielded her from unwanted advances and allowed her to feel "mostly invisible".

The irony is that many of my female clients have said the exact same thing over the years. Shedding excess weight means a number of things to the human psyche -- and while we think they're all positive, not all of them are.

Once Judy identified her hidden Why-Not-To's of Losing Weight, she lost 24 pounds in the seven weeks leading up to Christmas 2008. Yes, you read that right: she lost weight precisely when the rest of America was packing on the holiday pounds.

Oh sure, you're saying. It's one thing to lose weight. But did she keep it off?

You're right. As of today, nearly four months later, Judy isn't down 24 pounds any more. She's down 42 pounds.

If you'd like to save yourself a lot of time, money and frustration, stop looking for the magic "how-to" of losing weight. Instead, ask yourself three simple questions:

1. What will I GAIN by losing weight?

These are your Why-To's of Losing Weight. These should be relatively obvious: "I'll look better, I'll be healthier, my clothes will fit better, I'll live longer, I'll feel sexier."

2. What will I LOSE by losing weight?

Now we're getting to it -- because these are your hidden Why-Not-To's of Losing Weight.

Your Why-Not-To's hide in your subconscious. That means, you don't go around thinking about what you're going to lose when you lose weight; but your Why-Not-To's are there all right, lurking beneath the surface of your consciousness like the bottom 90% of an iceberg. And unbeknownst to you, they're secretly controlling your behavior.

My clients have discovered many surprising answers to this simple question, including: "I'll lose my ability to disappear; I won't feel safe; I'll feel vulnerable; I'll have to buy a new wardrobe; what if my partner/boyfriend/spouse isn't attracted to me any more; what if my friends are jealous of me?"

That last one can be particularly prickly, because, well, women can be downright mean to each other. You'd think that your friends would support you in your weight loss efforts, right? Try losing 20 pounds in seven weeks like Judy did, and you'll learn who your true friends are (and aren't).

Once you've answered those two simple questions, only one question remains:

3. Which one is greater: my Why-To's of Losing Weight, or my Why-Not-To's of Losing Weight?

No one can tell you whether you should or shouldn't lose weight. That's a personal, private decision only you can make.

But you can -- and should -- answer the question for yourself, once and for all. And let go of the angst about (and stop looking for the "magic pill" for) losing weight.