Many years ago, when I was at my heaviest, I joined a "diet" program that promised you could eat anything you wanted and be thin. All you had to do was repeat certain affirmations, go to the weekly class, listen to the hypnosis tapes and voila, you would be thin. Affirmations like: "Everything I eat makes me thinner and healthier now." "I am thin, healthy and beautiful." "I can eat anything I want and I'm thin."
So, I was a diligent student. I did everything I was told, especially the eating everything I wanted part, and guess what? I gained weight. I even worked with the woman who started the program privately, thinking that would do the trick. One day she asked me what I was eating. I told her and she said, "Oh, that's too much." What? How could it be too much if everything I eat makes me thinner and healthier now? I felt foolish for spending all the time and money on something so silly. A girl can dream, though.
So the question is, how much do your thoughts contribute to your weight? Is weight all a matter of calories in/calories out, or are there other aspects to consider?
Since I am a psychotherapist specializing in weight control and eating disorder treatment, I admit I'm biased toward the thinking that our weight is a combination of our genes, our thoughts, our feelings and our behaviors. Our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are the things we can exert some control over, where our genes we cannot.
So, how can we use our thoughts to help us lose weight? Or can we?
If you have thoughts like: "I can never lose weight." "I've tried every diet and nothing works for me." "I've always been fat, I'll always be fat." "I start out great but then lose my motivation and stop." "Oh well, I've blown it so I'll start again on Monday (when it's Friday)", then you can go on a thought-cleansing diet and perhaps begin to be successful.
Self-awareness is the key to long-term weight loss and weight maintenance. That means paying close attention to what we think, what we put into our bodies and how we feel. If these thoughts are below the conscious level, then we can do nothing to change them. We need to be aware of them first.
So the first step on the thought-detox diet is to pay attention. At this time of year, watch for thoughts that rationalize holiday overeating. Thoughts like: "Oh, it's OK if I eat this now because it won't be here again until next year," "I'll start after New Year's," or "No one can lose weight over the holidays," for example.
Next step, once you have the awareness, is to bust yourself. The thought police need to come in, guns drawn, and arrest those nasty, self-defeating thoughts. They need to go to thought prison, where they can stay. No trial needed.
Then, and most importantly, those thoughts need to be replaced with thoughts that will help you reach your goal. This works with any goal you are trying to achieve, not just weight control.
Some helpful replacement thoughts might be, "Is that a choice that will move me in the direction I want to go?" "I can reach my weight-loss goal." "I am successful and will continue to be." "My weight is in my control." "I can do this."
Just as we need to change our eating habits to lose weight and keep it off, we need to change our thought habits as well. They go together. If I can get control of my self-defeating thoughts, I will have a much easier time controlling my behavior and ultimately reaching my goal.
Can I think myself thin? No not really, but I can think myself to the behaviors that will make me thin. You can do this. It is in your control. Even now during the holidays.
So, have a great holiday season and get started on your weight loss goal right now. Start with your thoughts. You can lose weight! You can keep it off! You can be successful!
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