How the 'Cell Phone Diet' Works

10/12/2012 03:07 pm ET | Updated Dec 12, 2012

Every time her cell phone rings, my patient, Rose, hears the Rocky theme. Each time she looks at her cell phone, she sees her target picture. It is a photoshopped picture of herself at her goal weight. Every morning, she plans what she'll eat with her calorie-counting app, and then enters the calories of what she ate throughout the day. She says, "I have it with me all day, every day, so it's like having you at my side all the time, helping me be successful."

My patients are calling it "The Cell Phone Diet." They apply as many of my "therapeutic psychogenic" techniques as they can think of with the use of their cellphones. They download my eBook, The Anderson Method, and re-read a little here and there at lunch or in the waiting room at the doctor's. Now, their phones not only help them remember appointments, birthdays and things to do -- they also help them lose weight!

I've been teaching people how to lose weight for over 25 years using principles from behavioral medicine that I discovered as an addictions counselor. I applied them myself in 1984 to lose 140 pounds permanently after 25 years of dieting failure, and then I began teaching them to others. How do we lose weight and keep it off? Not simple, but very doable. We "reprogram" our habitual way of thinking and eating so that it becomes normal for us to be fit rather than fat. With cell phone technology, it's easier than before.

Here are three ways you can start using "The Cell Phone Diet" today to help solve your weight problem:

1) Make your ringtone, and all your other alerts, sounds that will motivate you to stay on track and keep losing weight. The Rocky theme made my client imagine herself athletic and trim every time she heard it. This is an automatic way to continuously practice self-hypnosis. Your email alert can be a playback of "You go, girl!" Your voicemail alert can say, "One day closer!" (to your goal), and your text alert can say, "New dress (size) soon!" All day long, you'll be hearing encouragements that make you think of losing weight and reaching your goal. It's a great way to automatically trigger imaging or visualization and positive self-talk, both very powerful self-hypnotic techniques.

2) Make a target picture of yourself at your goal weight and make that the wallpaper you see every time you look at your phone. I've been teaching clients to do this for years, posting their target picture on their bathroom and bedroom walls at home. Years ago, we did this by making Xerox copies of our head from a recent photo (extra chins and jowls trimmed away), pasted on bodies that we cut out from magazines. We'd use the zoom feature of the copy machine to match the size of our head to fit the magazine's body, and then cut and paste to make a composite picture that looks like we will look at our goal weight. Now, we can scan this and make it our phone's wallpaper, or, if you're tech-savvy, use Photoshop to make a more sophisticated image. This idea comes from the psychological theories of cybernetics, postulating that the mind develops an actual picture self-image, and then unconsciously works to have you become it. We need a new one, different from the one we've been looking at in the mirror or imagined by looking at our relatives.

3) Download a calorie-counting app (there are lots of them) and start keeping track of the calories you eat every day. Just do an app search for "calorie counter." Rather than use an app's diet plan, use the phone to simply keep track of the calories you're eating every day, and work to eat what you like without exceeding what your metabolic rate will be at your goal weight. You can estimate that by using the Harris-Benedict Equation. You'll find that if you plan ahead, you can eat just about anything you like without exceeding your goal weight's metabolic rate. You'll lose weight steadily when you begin eating less most days of the week, allowing yourself up to your metabolic rate several days a week, which will prevent you from feeling deprived. This will also help you form habits of eating what you like in portions and frequencies that will prevent weight regain when you've reached your goal. If you get the majority of the days down to half of your metabolic rate, the weight loss can be pretty fast, especially if you exercise. However, it is not advisable to average less than 1,000 calories per day for most women or 1,500 for most men.

These are just a few ideas you can use to start your "Cell Phone Diet." I imagine that as the technology develops, a lot more ideas will come. I helped pediatrician Dr. Robert Pretlow develop an app to help kids lose weight, and he incorporated a feature that would help kids to resist their most addictive foods. I can imagine a feature where you'd push a button anytime you felt a craving and you'd hear a message that encouraged you to stay on track, such as "keep fasting, keep burning fat, you can wait until mealtime." Soon, you'll probably be able to just tell your cell phone what you ate, and it will keep track for you!

It's said that there's nothing new under the sun. That's true when we're talking about the laws of thermodynamics that say you need to eat fewer calories than you burn in order to lose weight. Don't count on that changing. However, now I'm introducing "The Anderson Method Cell Phone Diet™." It's new and I think it can be a game-changer that is here to stay.

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