May 29, 2013
Did you know there are thousands upon thousands of diet books available in bookstores and on websites? Many offer quick fixes, others have no evidence behind them other than a celebrity who claims to have lost serious poundage with only a few drops of this or that magic potion, and some have garnered serious criticism from health experts as being downright dangerous.
Even with all this information available, data from the NPD Group suggests that dieters are giving up on diets more quickly than in the past, and for those who have lost weight the percentage of success in keeping that weight off is abysmally small. One study found just 4.4 percent of those who lost 20 percent of initial body weight kept it off for a year. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests that for long-term health benefits, it’s necessary to maintain a loss of 10 percent of total body weight, yet only 30 percent of weight-loss programs are successful in helping dieters reach this goal over a five-year period.
The Key to Weight-loss Success
With all of the diet books touting advice to sleep well, take small bites off of small plates, surround yourself with healthy messages, recruit supporters, keep track of what you eat, have reasonable specific goals, expect lapses and more, what’s the secret ingredient to sticking to a diet?
My experience tells me: The link is what you think.
That’s it. Simple right?
Your beliefs about yourself, your future, your health, what you think you deserve, what you think is fair, what you think is hunger and what it really is…the link is what you think. It’s never anything else. Ever. That’s never, ever. Here’s my diagram to illustrate the point:
This box is my secret to weight-loss happiness, so I suggest you study it carefully. See the numbers? They mean something.
- Position #1 is filled with all of the situations, people, places and events related to food that actually happen to you in life.
- Position #2 is filled with your thoughts about those food-related events. These thoughts lead directly to, and fully create, what’s in the next position.
- Position #3 is your feelings—some variant of anger, sadness and worry on the negative side of the emotional spectrum.
- Position #4 is filled with your reactions and behaviors to the feelings you created within yourself by what you thought in position #2—not the event itself, in position #1. We never go from an event (position #1) to an emotion (position #3) without thinking (position #2) about the event first.
Confused? Here’s the important thing to remember—unless and until you THINK ABOUT food-related events, you won’t have any feelings or emotions about food issues.
Do you think if someone shouts, “Boo!” while you are in a coma, you’d feel fear? No, you wouldn’t, because you wouldn’t be thinking anything about that event. Now have someone shout “Boo!” while you are home alone having been told there is a prowler in the neighborhood. More than likely, your position #2 will be filled with thoughts that something terrible was about to happen to you. From there, position #3 would be filled with fear, and at position #4 you’d quickly get a baseball bat and call the police.
See? The link is what you think—not the actual event. Tell yourself (at position #2) that you know it’s just your roommate playing games with you and instead of fear you might just smile and feel happy (at position #3). At position #4, you might leap off your chair and warmly greet your jokester roommate.
Change the Way You Think
Use the acronym THINK when food-related thoughts pop into your head: Is it True? Helpful? Inspiring? Necessary? Kind? If you answer “no” to three or more of these questions, drop the irrational thought and replace it with a more accurate, logical, reasonable and rational one.
Overweight thinkers confuse a desire to eat with hunger. They often comfort themselves with food, feel helpless and hopeless when they gain weight, have a low frustration tolerance for hunger and cravings, and focus on issues of unfairness. They don’t distinguish emotional hunger, which is sudden and “above the neck,” (usually demonstrated by an urgent craving for one certain type of food, paired with a negative emotion and not satisfied with fullness) from physical hunger, which is gradual, open to different foods and based in the stomach.
Irrational food thinkers believe, “Yes, I know I ate a little while ago, but I’m starving!” Instead, try countering with a more rational food thought such as, “I’m having a craving, but that doesn’t mean I HAVE to eat.”
Remember, the link is what you think. Sabotaging food thoughts sound like, “I don’t want to have to eat differently than others,” instead of rationally thinking, “What’s the big deal? It’s worth it to get healthier.”
I suggest you do this exercise frequently and see how quickly you learn that you are in total control of your emotions, you are never, ever, “made to” feel something, and you never “get” angry, upset or worried—you create it yourself.
The link is what you think.
Michael Mantell earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and his M.S. at Hahnemann Medical College, here he wrote his thesis on obesity. He’s served as the Chief Psychologist of Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego and the Chief Psychologist for the San Diego Police Department. He provides breakthrough strategies to help business leaders, athletes, individuals and families create healthy, fit and happy trajectories in life. He is the Senior Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for ACE, an international behavior science fitness presenter, an Advisor to numerous companies and fitness organizations, on the Sports Medicine team of The Sporting Club of San Diego and is featured in many international media outlets. He is listed in the greatest.com 2013 “The 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness.”