iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
William Anderson, MA, LMHC

GET UPDATES FROM William Anderson, MA, LMHC
 

How the Fattest Kid in School Became the Weight Loss Guru

Posted: 03/27/2012 8:33 am

"How on earth can you help me?" overweight clients would ask me when I first opened my practice, sure that I had never had a weight problem. There I was, at a perfect, ideal body weight, looking like a naturally-thin person. They didn't know that I had spent 25 years hopelessly out of control with my weight, morbidly obese, over 300 pounds, a chronic miserable failure at diets and exercise attempts.

2012-03-23-WilliamAndersonLMHCbeforephoto1.jpg

Most of my thousands of attempts to diet didn't last a day. I had no willpower. One year, I paid the whole year's membership at a gym, thinking it would make me go. I went only once, hated it and never went back. I was so ashamed. And it wasn't fair. It seemed like a lot of my friends ate just as badly as I did. They didn't go to gyms. But I got fat. They didn't.

Now I'm known as the "Weight Loss Guru" in Sarasota, Fla., ever since a TV news anchor dubbed me that. People don't wonder if I can help them now. They know I solved the problem and they know I have helped many others to solve it. Now, instead of skepticism and fear, they come with hope.

In 1984, as a behavior therapist and addictions counselor, I finally figured it out and lost 140 pounds in 18 months. There I've stayed, at my ideal body weight, over 25 years, something I didn't think possible most of my life. Now I'm helping others with this obesity problem, and I believe I have the real answers to our obesity epidemic.

If you can identify with some of the things I've said about being overweight, and you've been thinking, "No matter what I do, I can't lose weight," please stop. I guarantee that if you do what I teach my clients, you'll lose weight. Not one client, and I've worked with thousands, has not lost weight following my protocols. There is no mystery to how to lose weight. It's thermodynamics and food science. We know what needs to be done -- physically, anyway. The problem is that we have such a hard time getting ourselves to do what's required. We try and we fail. It seems impossible. We lose faith in ourselves. So we look for some way around reality, like a pill, or a magic diet food that makes the calories just disappear. You will not succeed with pills, magical diets, shots, or magic fairy dust on your food. But this problem can be solved, even if you're a hopeless case like I was. The solution is in behavioral medicine and behavioral therapy, a kind of magic where we can reprogram ourselves to think and live in a way that makes us thin and keeps us that way. Is it easy? No. But it is doable.

You've heard of "The Secret"? Well, it's not a secret. The methods to change ourselves, to change our reality, are known to behavioral medicine. Things like visualization and affirmation are known as cognitive techniques in psychotherapy. They are not hocus-pocus. They work, and they can be learned. And when you learn and practice them, your life can change. Your habits can change. Your body can change. You would be amazed at how they can change.

2012-03-23-BillatHiltonPool.jpg

I was 7 years old when I was put on my first diet. That was the beginning of the process that really started my obesity. I know now, because of my knowledge and training in psychology and behaviorism, how we have literally programmed ourselves to be obese. I became the fattest kid in school, a miserable way to live. I tried and failed to lose weight so many times that I came to hate life, hate being fat and hate what I had become. I was so mad at myself, my flaws and my weakness. I spent 25 years with that curse. But what can be programmed can be reprogrammed, even when it seems too late. When you know how to do the programming, just like with a computer, you can change the programs. When you don't know how, you don't stand a chance, even when you want it badly. Just wanting new programs or deciding to have them is not enough. You need to know how to do it.

I was so lucky to choose counseling and psychology as my field of interest. I learned how behavior and habits, even feelings, can be shaped, even when the subject, be it a child or a pet or even our own self, doesn't seem to want to cooperate. It was a godsend. By the time I was in my 30s I had assembled enough pieces of the puzzle and practiced with them enough to actually solve the problem. I finally found the solution and lost 140 pounds in 18 months, and it hasn't been too hard doing what needs to be done to maintain that success. I'm sure I would have died long ago if I hadn't learned about behavior medicine, behavior therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and self-hypnosis, among other things. (My clients don't know the names of all the things I teach, so don't let the jargon throw you. They just learn about some "tricks and ideas" and use them.)

So, if you are a "hopeless case" like I was, morbidly obese, a chronic failure for 25 years, start using a new script. Instead of saying "No matter what I do, I can't lose weight," start saying "I know I will lose weight if I can figure out how to get myself to do what we know works to lose weight." That will be a good start. There is a solution to our obesity. It is in behavioral medicine.

Check out more of our inspiring weight loss stories below:

Loading Slideshow...
  • John BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/17/i-lost-weight-john-henderson_n_5515251.html" target="_blank">Read John's story here.</a>

  • John AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/17/i-lost-weight-john-henderson_n_5515251.html" target="_blank">Read John's story here.</a>

  • Christina BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/14/i-lost-weight-christina-liendro_n_5485541.html" target="_blank">Read Christina's story here.</a>

  • Christina AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/14/i-lost-weight-christina-liendro_n_5485541.html" target="_blank">Read Christina's story here.</a>

  • DeAnna BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/07/i-lost-weight-deanna-taylor_n_5379433.html" target="_blank">Read DeAnna's story here.</a>

  • DeAnna AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/07/i-lost-weight-deanna-taylor_n_5379433.html" target="_blank">Read DeAnna's story here.</a>

  • Paul BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/10/i-lost-weight-paul-jay-birch_n_5474633.html" target="_blank">Read Paul's story here.</a>

  • Paul AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/10/i-lost-weight-paul-jay-birch_n_5474633.html" target="_blank">Read Paul's story here.</a>

  • Kourtney BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/03/i-lost-weight-kourtney-luster_n_5406288.html" target="_blank">Read Kourtney's story here.</a>

  • Kourtney AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/03/i-lost-weight-kourtney-luster_n_5406288.html" target="_blank">Read Kourtney's story here.</a>

  • Danielle BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/30/i-lost-weight-danielle-gilmore_n_5379289.html" target="_blank">Read Danielle's story here.</a>

  • Danielle AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/30/i-lost-weight-danielle-gilmore_n_5379289.html" target="_blank">Read Danielle's story here.</a>

  • Pamela BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/26/i-lost-weight-pamela-arias_n_5405713.html" target="_blank">Read Pamela's story here.</a>

  • Pamela AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/26/i-lost-weight-pamela-arias_n_5405713.html" target="_blank">Read Pamela's story here.</a>

  • Sherlonda BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/23/i-lost-weight-sherlonda-tyrus_n_5310512.html" target="_blank">Read Sherlonda's story here.</a>

  • Sherlonda AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/23/i-lost-weight-sherlonda-tyrus_n_5310512.html" target="_blank">Read Sherlonda's story here.</a>

  • Justin BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/16/i-lost-weight-justin-willoughby_n_5310166.html" target="_blank">Read Justin's story here.</a>

  • Justin AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/16/i-lost-weight-justin-willoughby_n_5310166.html" target="_blank">Read Justin's story here.</a>

  • Kerry BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/19/i-lost-weight-kerry-hoffman_n_5310330.html" target="_blank">Read Kerry's story here.</a>

  • Kerry AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/19/i-lost-weight-kerry-hoffman_n_5310330.html" target="_blank">Read Kerry's story here.</a>

  • Lacy BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/12/i-lost-weight-lacy-lane_n_5276296.html" target="_blank">Read Lacy's story here.</a>

  • Lacy AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/12/i-lost-weight-lacy-lane_n_5276296.html" target="_blank">Read Lacy's story here.</a>

  • Marqkria BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/09/i-lost-weight-marqkria-mcmiller_n_5226557.html" target="_blank">Read Marqkria's story here.</a>

  • Marqkria AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/09/i-lost-weight-marqkria-mcmiller_n_5226557.html" target="_blank">Read Marqkria's story here.</a>

  • Gina BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/02/i-lost-weight-gina-digregorio_n_5153436.html" target="_blank">Read Gina's story here.</a>

  • Gina AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/02/i-lost-weight-gina-digregorio_n_5153436.html" target="_blank">Read Gina's story here.</a>

  • Sarah BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/26/i-lost-weight-sarah-swagler_n_5119632.html" target="_blank">Read Sarah's story here.</a>

  • Sarah AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/26/i-lost-weight-sarah-swagler_n_5119632.html" target="_blank">Read Sarah's story here.</a>

  • Emil BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/29/i-lost-weight-emil-oprisa_n_5113935.html" target="_blank">Read Emil's story here.</a>

  • Emil AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/29/i-lost-weight-emil-oprisa_n_5113935.html" target="_blank">Read Emil's story here.</a>

  • Nikki BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/05/i-lost-weight-nikki-hauck_n_5160077.html" target="_blank">Read Nikki's story here.</a>

  • Nikki AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/05/i-lost-weight-nikki-hauck_n_5160077.html" target="_blank">Read Nikki's story here.</a>

  • Lauren BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/22/i-lost-weight-lauren-richmond_n_5111063.html" target="_blank">Read Lauren's story here.</a>

  • Lauren AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/22/i-lost-weight-lauren-richmond_n_5111063.html" target="_blank">Read Lauren's story here.</a>

  • Darrell BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/19/i-lost-weight-darrell-mctague_n_5104908.html" target="_blank">Read Darrell's story here.</a>

  • Darrell AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/19/i-lost-weight-darrell-mctague_n_5104908.html" target="_blank">Read Darrell's story here.</a>

  • Jessica BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/12/i-lost-weight-jessica-johnson_n_5002531.html" target="_blank">Read Jessica's story here.</a>

  • Jessica AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/12/i-lost-weight-jessica-johnson_n_5002531.html" target="_blank">Read Jessica's story here.</a>

  • After BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/15/i-lost-weight-amanda-clay_n_5070828.html" target="_blank">Read Amanda's story here.</a>

  • Amanda AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/15/i-lost-weight-amanda-clay_n_5070828.html" target="_blank">Read Amanda's story here.</a>

  • Miesha BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/05/i-lost-weight-miesha-avery_n_4988688.html" target="_blank">Read Miesha's story here.</a>

  • Miesha AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/05/i-lost-weight-miesha-avery_n_4988688.html" target="_blank">Read Miesha's story here.</a>

  • Rachel BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/08/i-lost-weight-rachel-reso_n_4913990.html" target="_blank">Read Rachel's story here.</a>

  • Rachel AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/08/i-lost-weight-rachel-reso_n_4913990.html" target="_blank">Read Rachel's story here.</a>

  • Shelly BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/28/i-lost-weight-shelly-matthias_n_4980658.html" target="_blank">Read Shelly's story here.</a>

  • Shelly AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/28/i-lost-weight-shelly-matthias_n_4980658.html" target="_blank">Read Shelly's story here.</a>

  • Ernie BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/01/i-lost-weight-ernie-lauro_n_4904095.html" target="_blank">Read Ernie's story here.</a>

  • Ernie AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/01/i-lost-weight-ernie-lauro_n_4904095.html" target="_blank">Read Ernie's story here.</a>

  • Dave BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/21/i-lost-weight-dave-douglas_n_4815846.html" target="_blank">Read Dave's story here.</a>

  • Dave AFTER

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/21/i-lost-weight-dave-douglas_n_4815846.html" target="_blank">Read Dave's story here.</a>

  • Meredith BEFORE

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/24/i-lost-weight-meredith-white_n_4867161.html" target="_blank">Read Meredith's story here.</a>

For more on weight loss, click here.