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Weight Loss Secret: It's All in Your Head

Updated on September 19, 2012

Awareness About Eating

If you want to lose weight, it's all about the food you put in your mouth. If you want to get that under control, it's all about the thoughts you put in your head.

I have been gaining and losing weight for the last thirty years. I've read tons and tons of diet books and tried a few different diet programs, several times each. I've had success, but each time, the weight always comes back. Why? Because I aways fall back to the same food habits. Now I realize that those habits begin not with the food, but with the thoughts in my head.

Recently I started an Easy, Three-Step Diet program. It's simple and has three steps. One: Be Aware of your eating. Two: Get rid of the scale obsession. Three: Exercise.

Specifically, I weigh myself once a week only. No exceptions. I exercise every day for at least thirty minutes. And I am aware of my eating and food choices. In future articles, I will discuss the scale and exercise. But in this article, it is awareness that I'm going to discuss in detail.

What Our Thoughts Can Tell Us

Eating should just be to replenish our bodies. Therefore, we should only eat when we are hungry and stop when we are full. But we all know that for most of us, that just isn't the case. We eat for many other reasons besides hunger and those other reasons are what often cause us to gain weight. If we want to lose weight, we need to tune in and be aware. We need to be aware of why we are eating when we're not hungry and why we make the food choices that we make. And the way to do that is to tune into our thoughts.

It is our thoughts that drive our actions. Therefore, our thoughts drive us to overeat. When we overeat, we are often left thinking, what just happened? Why did I do that? Why did I overeat? But there is always a thought behind the overeating. The first step is to become aware of the thought. What are your thoughts, for example, when you get on the scale? Are you aware of what you are saying to yourself when you see that number staring back at you? Now that I am aware of my thoughts, I realize that when I get on the scale and see that the number is up, my thoughts are, "this is horrible! How can that be? I'm disgusted. Screw it, I'm pigging out today! I'll just start over tomorrow." My thoughts, therefore, lead to my action of overeating.

Now that I am tuned into my thoughts, I am also aware of how I turn to food when I am anxious, bored, feeling down, or stressed. When I am overwhelmed by household tasks, my anxious thoughts are, "Oh my gosh. I have so much to do. I don't know how I can ever get this all done." Then boom, I reach into the cabinet for a package of cupcakes. When I'm bored, like just watching TV, my thoughts are "I should really be doing something. I need to do more. I feel like my life should be more exciting." Then boom, I make popcorn or get ice cream. When I am feeling down about myself, such as in a social situation when I've compared myself to someone else, I think, "I wish I could look like that. I've never been that thin. She looks great. I feel frumpy." Then boom. I go home and start mindlessly eating. And once I start eating, my thoughts become, "Well, now that I've blown it, I might as well eat till it hurts and I'll just start over tomorrow." My thoughts about "starting tomorrow" lead to a downward spiral and a full-out binge. But it's the thought that starts it all!

I realize now that when I am anxious, stressed, or bored, I turn to food instead of turning to a solution to my problems. Why? Because food is a much faster, easier escape. I turn to food when my self-esteem is down because it comforts me to eat. But behind these feelings of anxiety, stress, or boredom, there are thoughts, so if we can change those thoughts, we can change our habits--and that is when we will finally have weight loss that lasts! I can tell you firsthand that this really works because I am losing weight with these techniques!

 Our thoughts lead us to overeating.
Our thoughts lead us to overeating. | Source

Changing Your Thoughts

First, face them.

Once we are aware of our thoughts, we can catch them, and then change them. For example, when my thoughts are about being overwhelmed, I know that my action is to grab a treat before I tackle what needs to be done. By eating, I am not facing what needs to be faced. Once I became aware of how my thoughts led to overeating, I knew that I needed to face those thoughts head on. Here is how my thought process would work. Just before I reach for food, I am aware of my previous thoughts. "I have to do the dishes and the laundry and balance the checkbook and make all those calls and start dinner and work on my writing! It's too much. I'll never get it all done." Instead of facing those thoughts, I would instantly grab a treat to escape it all. But now I stop and catch my thoughts, and change them.

Next, change them.

Now, instead of thinking negative thoughts, I think, "Eating right now is not going to help those tasks. You don't need to eat. You are not hungry. Work on a task instead!" These new thoughts instantly direct me to positive action, rather than avoidance and escape into food. When I am bored, I now think, "What can you do instead? Can you read while watching TV? Work on your writing right now? Paint your toenails?" I also remind myself of my blessings, let myself know that it's ok to relax for awhile, or face that deeper thought head on: "my life should be more exciting." I examine that thought and challenge it, realizing that I am truly happy and content. When my thoughts are about comparing my life to someone else's--a tropical trip they took, a new car they bought-- I examine those thoughts and realize those things would not define my happiness anyway. By facing the thought head on, and changing it, rather than avoiding it, I subvert the need to escape in some junk food.

Then Apply Them For Lasting Weight Loss Success.

Once you are aware of the self-defeating thoughts that lead you to overeating, you can then change them. And when you change your thoughts, you can apply them to why you eat, when you eat, what you eat, and how much you eat.

Next time you overeat, eat when you're not hungry, or make an unhealthy food choice, ask yourself what your thoughts were just prior to the action of eating. Were your thoughts about being anxious, or bored, or were you feeling low in self-esteem? If so, face the thought head-on and see how you can change it to a positive thought that leads you to progress rather than pounds. Can you take action? Face a fear? Feel the feeling? Challenge the thought? Try to think of something better that energizes you and gets your hand out of that chip bag. The key is to catch the thoughts that lead you to overeat, so you can face them, and then change them. By catching, facing, and changing your thoughts, you will be able to stop turning to food because you will be attacking your issues rather than attacking your cupboards.

Final Thoughts

In order to lose weight once and for all, it is imperative that you get in touch with the thoughts that led you to the extra pounds in the first place. Diet programs may change your eating habits temporarily, but lasting weight loss needs more than just a change in eating; lasting weight loss requires a change in thinking, too.

Try These Books that Examine Mindfulness for Weight Loss


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    • g-girl11 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thanks Patty! It's been the best diet advice for me so far.

    • Patty Kenyon profile image

      Patty Kenyon 

      6 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Interesting and Useful!! I believe that saying "mind over matter."


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