Slenderize Your Mind

Start slender-thinking yourself to a healthy body size!

Six Challenges You Must Master to Succeed at Weight Management

It was a typical day in my counseling practice. Angie sat before me, her eyes brimming with tears. “I know what to do to lose weight! I just don’t do it! I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” At 250 pounds, Angie had been a yo-yo dieter for years, without success. Angie isn’t alone with this problem, of course. We are all familiar with statistics showing that 95 percent of people who diet get no lasting results.

Let’s face it. Most adults don’t manage their weight very well. That’s why two thirds of adults in the U.S. and other Western nations are overweight or obese. There are many reasons why so many people are tipping the scales in the wrong direction. Experts point to stress, genetics, processed foods, and too much sedentary activity.

Nevertheless, solutions abound. There is no shortage of information on how to get a healthy, slim body. Information about healthy living is everywhere: in news papers, magazines, on television shows and documentaries, and of course, all over the Internet. We are constantly advised to eat nutritious, natural foods, avoid sugary foods and drinks, pursue moderate exercise, and get adequate sleep. This advice is plain old common sense.

So do most people find it impossible to follow this practical advice? Why is it that for so many people, weight management is a formidable endeavor, fraught with failure, frustration, and setbacks? Obviously, there is something missing in the equation. That something is self-discipline.

“But, I just totally lack self-discipline!” my overweight clients tell me. My theory is that overweight people don’t lack self-discipline. They just don’t apply self-discipline in weight management because they don’t know how. “Self-discipline” is an abstract concept that is hard to put into practice until you know exactly what it means in terms of attitudes and actions.

In fact, self-discipline can be summed up in terms of six challenges to meet if you want transform your body from fat and flabby to fit and healthy. Here are the six challenges of self-discipline you must master for weight management success.

  1. Value behaviors that lead to good health and devalue behaviors that lead to poor health and weight gain. 

Ariel was 40 pounds overweight, even though she exercised every day. She was otherwise in good health. She had a yearly physical checkup. She slept well and took vitamin supplements. She was happy in her work and her marriage. Obviously, her weight gain was due to her food intake. There was no other explanation. We both agreed that the problem was that she loved pizza and beer and consumed large quantities two or three times a week. The remainder of the time, she said, she ate sensibly.

Ariel insisted that, even though she wanted to reduce her weight, she was simply not going to modify her intake of pizza and beer. It seemed incomprehensible to her that she would have to alter her behavior in any manner to get the results she wanted.

Yet she insisted that she needed to weigh less. When I asked her how she intended to do it, she said she couldn’t think of an answer. When I asked if she was willing to change her intake of pizza and beer, she said “No, I can’t do that. But I do want to lose weight.” After an hour of this circular conversation, I finally told her that she would have to decide which was more important to her happiness: eating pizza and drinking beer, or taking off those 40 pounds. I said if she chose the former, she had no reason to engage my services.

Ariel was unwilling to implement the obvious solution to her problem. To get her result, she would have to learn to devalue pizza and beer. She would have to find value in an alternative eating behavior that would lead to weight reduction.

To devalue unhealthy behavior and value healthy behavior is the first major challenge of habit modification. If you honestly want a healthier body size you have to stop glorifying unhealthy foods: stop regarding them as a source of comfort, pleasure, or reward. You have to stop ignoring or minimizing the health risks and discomforts of excess weight. You have to start valuing healthy foods and regular exercise. You have to start valuing a healthy body and its attendant advantages. You have to want a healthy, fit body more than you want to eat unhealthy foods. You have to tie having a healthy body to something meaningful to you: attractiveness, confidence, vitality, romance, or maybe even a way to get even with someone who made fun of you because of your weight. 

2. Develop sufficient resiliency to the point that you no longer turn to unhealthy foods or drinks when feeling anxiety or discomfort.  

Stress makes people gain weight. Stress activates addictive eating behaviors by lowering serotonin. With lower levels of serotonin, many people feel depressed or anxious. These feelings drive many people to seek comfort by over-eating the foods that stimulate the brain’s “reward” center. Comforting foods are typically made of sugars and starches (refined carbohydrates) that raise blood sugar levels and give a temporary boost to one’s mood. These foods generate excess glucose that gets stored in the fat cells, causing weight gain.

Stress also takes advantage of genetic vulnerabilities, influencing gene expression. If you have a genetic predisposition toward obesity and sugar addiction, too much stress will propel you toward the nearest ice cream shop.

Lastly, stress causes the body to pump out a hormone called cortisol. Over the course of several weeks or months, excess cortisol can cause a host health issues, including the buildup of body fat.

Resilience is determined by the amount of stress we encounter as well as the intensity of the stress we encounter, and the duration of stress. Eliminate unnecessary stressors when you can do so safely and sanely. For unavoidable stressors, you must find sensible ways to engage in active problem-solving. You can buffer the stress in your life and increase resilience with adequate rest, meditation, proper nutrition, moderate exercise, and supportive relationships. To develop your coping skills, you may need guidance from a coach or a therapist. 

3. Structure your time to allow for exercise, meal planning and preparation, and adequate sleep.  

Moderate exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep are the foundation of a healthy body and brain. Yet consistently finding sufficient time for these activities might seem a formidable challenge. To accomplish it, apply time management skills. You might need to delegate some activities, say no to some requests, reduce your obligations, and cut back on your commitments. Maybe you need to identify your priorities and eliminate activities that waste your time. Careful planning is in order.

To reach your target weight, you need to somehow find time for you. You might have to negotiate with friends and family members so that they respect the time you’ve set aside for high priority activities: no requests, expectations, or interruptions. 

4. Set reasonable, realistic rules for yourself and follow them without equivocation.  

Rules simplify our lives. They save us from the hassle of having to make the same decisions over and over. Thus, they conserve our self-control. To be effective, rules must be specific. For example, if you make a rule to “Eat less ice cream,” it’s too vague to be effective. How much is less? A better rule is: “I will have only six ounces of ice cream only on Saturday nights.”

When it comes to a risky behavior, such as eating sweets, you can decide for yourself: do you stop altogether, or do you modify your behavior so that you eat sweets sparingly? This brings us to the subject of moderation versus abstinence. It’s essential to decide for yourself which tactic will best serve your interests. In other words, is it easier for you have ice cream just once a week or not at all?

Some people would find it easier to stop eating ice cream altogether. The advantage of abstinence is that it’s easier to say no, once and for all, than to endlessly vacillate. It simply requires less mental effort.

Some people, however, would rebel at the thought of abstinence, finding it intolerable. For many people, prohibited foods actually seem more appealing and irresistible. If ice cream is “off limits,” it suddenly becomes more tantalizing and harder to resist. The problem with moderation, however, is that it can present a slippery slope to indulgence. One bowl of ice cream easily leads to two or three. Moderation requires more discipline than abstinence.

“Without equivocation” doesn’t mean that you have to follow the rules perfectly, without fail, because, sooner or later, you will break a rule. It just means that once you set a rule for yourself, it doesn’t help to complain, cheat, doubt, quibble, or otherwise question your own rule. If a rule doesn’t serve your needs, change it. If you aren’t willing to set rules at all, go back to Challenge #1, above, and decide where your values lie. 

5. Develop the determination to regroup in the face of failure, modify your plan, and keep pressing toward the results you want.  

Two axioms apply here. The first is: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If you make a plan to release excess weight and you keep failing, maybe the problem isn’t your tenacity or willpower. Maybe the plan itself is the problem. If your plan is too ambitious, failure is inevitable. If your plan is too easy, it might not bring sufficient results.

The second axiom is this: Failure is feedback. Failure doesn’t mean you’re a dolt, or you should give up, or you’ll never succeed. It means you achieved an outcome different from the one you intended. Failure leaves clues – information about how to modify your plan for better results. Failure points to areas for correction and improvement. Failure presents an opportunity to do things differently to get another result.

Every time you overindulge or override a rule to the extent that the numbers on the bathroom scale won’t budge, or you regain the weight you’ve reduced, it means you’ve failed to accomplish an outcome. In the language of recovery, it is a relapse. When it comes to sugar addiction, relapse is to be expected. To succeed, you must regroup, renew your commitment, modify your plan, and resume your efforts. 

6. Practice new behaviors, repeating them until you perform them habitually and consistently.  

By now it should be evident: If you want to reach your target weight, you must change certain behaviors and develop new habits. When it comes to behavioral change, you have four options: You can stop an existing behavior, start a new behavior, do less of a specific behavior, or do more of a specific behavior.

When it comes to making these behavioral changes, again, specificity will help. If the new or more frequent behavior is something such as exercise, or packing a healthy lunch, or getting to bed by 10 pm, when and how often will you do it? If the change involves stopping or doing less of a behavior, what is your rule? This question matters because you want know that you are achieving the outcome you choose. Lastly, whatever change you choose, you have to do it often enough and long enough to get results. If you aren’t getting the results you expect, go back to Challenge #5 above. Re-evaluate and modify your plan.

A final tip: Don’t let perfection get in the way of meeting these challenges. When it comes to getting the weight you want, persistence beats perfection any day of the week.

 

Disclaimer

The blog postings on this web site are intended for educational purposes only and are not to be construed as any form of treatment or advice/recommendations that would replace proper medical and/or mental health care.

Any references to clients, past or present are to be regarded as examples that do not identify any specific person. The details of such examples have been altered in such as way as to protect privacy. Some cases are based on a composite, rather than the experiences of any one individual. While you are invited to contact the author to inquire about her services, emails asking for therapeutic advice will receive no response.

Articles in this blog may not be reprinted without permission from the author.

Judith E. Pearson is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, endless.com, smallparts.com or myhabit.com.

 

What the Biggest Loser Study Means for You

On May 2, 2016, the New York Times broke the story: “After The Biggest Loser, Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight”. Columnist Gail Kolata reported on a study that followed Season 8’s (2009) Biggest Loser reality TV show contestants to find out what happened after their dramatic weight loss efforts. The researchers found that, except for one contestant, all regained most of the weight they had discarded within the six years following Season 8.

The main reason advanced for these findings was that the extreme calorie restriction and hours of daily exercise caused the contestants to have a dramatic drop in metabolism. Contestants lowered their calorie intakes by 500 calories a day.

Prior to going on the show, the contestants’ metabolic rates were tested and found to be normal. In the years after the show, testing found that the contestants’ bodies were burning hundreds of calories fewer, on a daily basis, than would be expected, even though they continued to eat nutritional meals and remain physically active. Moreover, the contestants “constantly battled hunger, cravings, and binges” due to plummeting levels of leptin, a hormone responsible for regulating appetite. The findings may explain why so many people fail at dieting altogether and why those who succeed in losing extra pounds eventually manage to regain the pounds they lost.

Other media outlets carried the story, bringing in their own experts to comment. Some experts said that the contestants might have experienced their problems due to the extreme and rapid measures with which they subtracted hundreds of pounds. They stated that slow weight loss with small percentages of calorie restriction would not cause such problems. In a follow-up article, on May 4, Kolata disagreed, citing studies that any calorie restriction lowers metabolism and eventually causes people to regain the pounds they have shed.

Moreover, neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt has written that long-term dieting does nothing to improve health and does more harm than good. She wrote that obese men “have only one chance in 1,290 of reaching the normal weight range within a year; severely obese women have one chance in 677.” She cited a study showing that only 1% of dieters ever succeed at permanent weight reduction. She cited long-term studies showing that dieters are more likely than non-dieters to become obese within one to 15 years of their first attempts at dieting.

Is there any hope at all for large people who want to weigh less? Are these results inevitable for anyone who is unhappy with their size? Despite the results of the Biggest Loser study, there is a small percentage of people who do keep the pounds off. How do they do it? I decided to look into these questions for more information. Here’s what I found.

Avoid Calorie Restriction

Calorie requirements are determined mainly by weight, activity, and gender. A moderately active 200 pound man, for example, requires an average daily calorie intake of 21 calories per pound; 4200 calories. A moderately active 150 pound woman requires an average daily calorie intake of 18 calories per pound; 2700 calories a day. Pregnant women should add 300 calories a day. Lactating women should add 500 calories a day. Women past menopause should subtract 250 calories a day.

Calorie restriction causes the body to go into calorie conservation mode, producing constant hunger and cravings. Higher levels of calorie restriction cause faster weight reduction and almost always guarantee weight regain. This explains what happened to The Biggest Loser contestants.

The equation for weight management is not so simple as calories consumed minus calories burned. All calories are not equal. Calories from refined carbohydrates are the ones most easily converted to body fat. Sugars, starches from grains, and processed foods are most likely to play havoc with blood sugar levels and insulin efficiency, both of which factor into weight gain. What you eat matters more than how much you eat.

Recommendation 1: Stop counting calories and stop calorie-restricted dieting. Instead focus on eating fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables for fiber. Get lean proteins from fish, chicken, turkey, nuts, beans, eggs, and mushrooms. Include fat from oils and butter in your meals. Avoid or minimize refined carbohydrates – anything made from sugars and starches – as these are the types of foods that pile on those extra pounds.

Develop Stress Management Skills

Chronic stress plays a role in weight gain, producing an abundance of cortisol, a hormone that changes metabolism and causes the body to retain fat. For people with a genetic tendency toward excess weight, stress is also a trigger to eat refined carbohydrates, which cause weight gain.

Recommendation 2: Reduce or eliminate stress as much as possible. Develop the coping skills you need to manage unavoidable stress. Consider daily Mindfulness Meditation. It has proven to lower anxiety, promote well-being, and reduce cortisol levels.

Metabolism Matters

Slow weight subtraction, based on healthy nutrition, should help to maintain metabolism. If weight reduction seems impossible despite your best efforts, have your thyroid tested. Low thyroid levels can play havoc with metabolism. Hypothyroidism can be easily corrected with medication. Here are additional steps to bolster your metabolism:

Recommendation 3: Boost your metabolism in these ways:

– Consistently get adequate sleep. Studies show a high correlation between obesity and poor sleep because 1) lack of sleep contributes to low metabolism, and 2) inadequate sleep inhibits the production of leptin: an essential hormone for regulating appetite.

– Drink green tea on a daily basis – it’s loaded with anti-oxidants and is good for metabolism.

– Get daily exercise. Strength training and interval training will do the most to increase metabolism, although the effect on calorie-burning is negligible. The easiest way to do interval training is to do 15 – 20 minutes of an aerobic activity, with a 2-minute warm-up, then alternate 30 seconds of high intensity with 90 seconds of easy movement, ending your set with a 2-minute slow cool down.

– Get 2,000 milligrams of Omega 3 fatty acids daily to reduce inflammation, balance blood sugar, and regulate metabolism. You can get Omega 3 from salmon, herring and tuna. You can also get Omega 3 in an over-the-counter supplement. If you dislike the fishy taste of fish oil-based supplements, switch to a flaxseed oil supplement instead.

– Drink adequate amounts of water because dehydration slows metabolism.

Balance Your Leptin Levels

Leptin is a hormone that tells your body when your stomach is full. It signals the brain so that you stop eating. Overweight people generally have low leptin levels. Dieting, long-term fasting, and calorie restriction can lower leptin levels, creating a tendency to overeat.

Recommendation 4: Increase your leptin levels in these ways.

– Get sufficient sleep. Leptin is manufactured during sleep.

– Avoid refined carbohydrates, especially sugars. These foods set up leptin resistance, which makes your cells less receptive to the effects of leptin.

– Eat foods high in zinc such as spinach, lamb, seafood, nuts, beans, mushrooms, and pumpkin. Alternatively, take a daily zinc supplement.

– Get moderate exercise.

When Should You Eat?

Some sources I consulted stated that people who want to subtract pounds should eat five or six small meals a day so that they boost their metabolism; they never feel hungry and thus will not overeat. Several sources also said that eating a high-protein breakfast will help with metabolism.

Dr. Joseph Mercola, however, differs. In Effortless Healing, he stated that there is no relationship between eating breakfast and weight reduction. In fact, he wrote that skipping breakfast is a good way to eliminate cravings and hunger throughout the day. He wrote that the value of eating several small meals a day is a myth.

Instead, Mercola advocated “intermittent fasting” for healthy weight reduction. Intermittent fasting means eating only within an eight-to-ten hour window, say from noon to 8 pm. He stated that this method reduces sugar cravings, normalizes hunger levels, boosts brain health, improves gut bacteria, lowers risk of heart disease, and slows the aging process.

The method you choose is up to you. You could experiment with each to find your best fit. In the meantime, here is one sure-fire recommendation that I can give you.

Recommendation 5: Eat when you feel hungry and stop when you feel full. Overweight people consistently eat for reasons other than feeling hungry. They eat according to external cues (seeing food, smelling food, watching other people eat, etc.). They often base eating decisions on their emotions. Diets don’t help because they teach people to eat according to charts and menus, instead of their bodies’ natural signals.

Learning to eat when you feel hungry and stop when you feel full means you will begin to eat intuitively, the way naturally slender people eat. If you can’t detect sensations of hunger or satiety, or if you feel “hungry all the time and never satisfied” it’s most likely because you are not yet consistently following the previous four recommendations. Additionally, it will help you to eat mindfully – this means eating slowly, without distractions, conscious of the sensations of tasting, chewing, swallowing, and the changes taking place in your body as your stomach fills.

Maintenance Requires Vigilance

Gail Kolata’s article on the Biggest Losers received over 2000 comments, some from people who have actually succeeded in keeping the weight off. They had a common theme: constant vigilance. These people reported that they keep close track of their weight, they are extremely careful about what and how they eat. They are highly selective in their food choices. They exercise often. They tolerate feelings of hunger between meals. They turned hope into reality.

To learn more about the dangers of eating refined carbohydrates, and to understand how they cause insulin resistance and weight gain, get my free book: What’s Making You Fat and What You Can do About it. Just sign up for my mailing list on this web site.

Disclaimer

The blog postings on this web site are intended for educational purposes only and are not to be construed as any form of treatment or advice/recommendations that would replace proper medical and/or mental health care.

Any references to clients, past or present are to be regarded as examples that do not identify any specific person. The details of such examples have been altered in such as way as to protect privacy. Some cases are based on a composite, rather than the experiences of any one individual. While you are invited to contact the author to inquire about her services, emails asking for therapeutic advice will receive no response.

Articles in this blog may not be reprinted without permission from the author.

Judith E. Pearson is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, endless.com, smallparts.com or myhabit.com.

 

Weighty Words

We’ve all heard “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” We know that’s not true. Words can hurt. They can both wound the soul and heal the broken heart. Words are one of the primary tools with which we relate to and influence others – and ourselves.

This week I’m reading Power Words by Sharon Anne Klingler, one of the world’s leading intuitives. She writes that certain words transmit a “frequency” because they activate physical and emotional responses. Some words energize and uplift. Other words de-energize and drag us down.

A few years ago I read similar book, Dr. Masaru Emoto’s Hidden Messages in Water. This book has received world-wide acclaim. It was featured in the movie What the Bleep Do We Know? You might be familiar with it. Dr. Emoto conducted several experiments where he taped words to vials of water. Some vials had positive words such as “wisdom” and “thank you.” Some vials had negative words such as “you fool,” and “you make me sick.” When he photographed the water crystals, he made an amazing discovery! The negative words created crystals patterns that were asymmetrical and haphazard. The positive words created crystal patterns that were beautiful and intricately symmetrical.

So I got to thinking about the words that people use when they talk about changing their body size. When people are overweight, they often decide they “need” to “lose weight,” or to follow a “weight loss” plan or “diet.” These common words are supposed to refer to the actions that lead to a smaller, healthier body size. Do these words seem energizing to you? They don’t to me.

Let’s examine them for a moment. People don’t like to be “needy” or to be “in need.” “Loss” refers to something that brings grief. When someone dies, we say to their loved ones, “I’m sorry for your loss.” When we “lose” something, we usually want to find it or replace it. The word “diet” contains the word “die”. Say it slowly and it sounds like “die yet”, as in “Did you die yet?” Some people associate the word “diet” with food restriction and deprivation, even when that isn’t the case. The word “weight” is a homonym for “wait” – so don’t be in any hurry to get your results. Is it possible that these words are part of the reason that so many people fail when they attempt to slim down? These words are not at all motivating! That’s why I seldom use them in my writing.

We need a better vocabulary! Instead of talking about “dieting” let’s talk about “eating nutritious foods” instead of Instead of “needing to lose weight” let’s talk about “choosing actions that bring about a healthy, fit body size.” Instead of “weight loss” let’s talk about “liberating the slender self” or “creating a more attractive physical appearance.” While “exercise” is an appealing word to me, to some people it signifies boring, repetitive movement. So we could replace “exercise” with “sculpting muscle” or “supercharging the metabolism!” Think of your own creative power word substitutions for these terms.

So, here is my invitation. If you are engaged in the joyful pursuit of “reshaping your physique”, do this for a week: Change your vocabulary. Think and say energizing words when you describe the activities that affect your body size and your health. Find out how much more motivated you feel!

Until next time! – Judy

Welcome to My Blog!

I started this blog because I wanted a way to reach out to men and women who struggle with excess pounds and obesity. For years I’ve written articles about healthy habits, hypnosis, goals, exercise, effective communication, and healthy living. You can find my articles all over the Internet. Most are for the general public. For this blog, I want write specifically for a group of people very close to my heart: people who have trouble controlling their eating habits and their weight.

Diets are okay, but we all know that 95% of people who diet get no lasting results. With all the diet advice and programs out there, why is it that two-thirds of adults in developed nations are overweight? Obviously, something is missing. With over 15 years of listening to and talking with overweight clients, I’ve decided the missing factor to successful weight management is the mind. I’ve noticed that soooo many people apply fat-thinking patterns that keep them stuck in an carbohydrate addiction, while they defeat their efforts at weight management through self-sabotage. I want to change that.

The way you think determines what you weigh! What you tell yourself, what you believe, how you cope with stress, what you value – it all matters when it comes to accomplishing the outcomes that lead to your best life (and your best body size). In future blogs I’ll be giving you lots of tips and directing you to resources so that you can transform your fat-thinking into slender-thinking so you can have the weight you choose!