Positive Attitude Key to Weight Loss Success (cont.)

What about motivation that's not exactly "pure," like losing weight for the class reunion or for vanity reasons, not just healthy reasons?

I think it's fine if that motivates you, to have a goal that's not spiritual or health related, but I think the more reasons you can find, the stronger your motivation will be. Try to look more at the big picture of the returns you're going to get beyond the class reunion or beyond looking in the mirror or stepping on the scale. Most people who lose weight find there are other benefits they receive, from health to psychological benefits.

Did your weight loss masters in your book have success more when weight loss became a health issue and not a "trying to fit into those jeans" issue?

There doesn't seem to be a strong correlation between the turning point or reason for losing weight and whether or not you'll be able to keep the weight off. Some experts suggest doing the following exercise: make a list of all of the benefits of losing weight all the things you will gain if you lose weight. For example:

  • I'll have more energy.
  • My feet will hurt less.
  • I can wear more trendy clothing.
  • My blood sugar will come down.

Then make a list of your reasons why you might not want to lose weight or things that are getting in your way, which might include:

  • I like to eat.
  • I don't want to limit what I eat.
  • I'll have to buy new clothes, which is a financial expense .
  • I hate to exercise.

This helps people sometimes really sort out whether they're ready to change, and it often will help them to figure out whether their reasons for losing weight are more compelling than their reasons for staying right where they are. In other words, it helps you better identify the returns or benefits of losing weight.

Doesn't weight loss always just come down to eat less, exercise more?

Yes, that's the bottom line. The trick is how to get yourself to do it. For the masters, most of whom had dieted and regained the weight many times before they were finally successful, it really wasn't that simple. There were many things that had to happen before they were really ready to lose weight for good. One of them was that over and over they told me "I wasn't ready to lose the weight until I was doing it for me, not because somebody was on my back or my parents wanted me to do it, but I was doing it for me."

They also talked about how, when they were finally successful, they accepted responsibility; in other words, I heard things like, "I finally realized there was no magic bullet; it was up to me and in my power to lose weight." The masters shared many other psychological strategies that they used in order to be able to get themselves to eat less and exercise more.

Another example that I heard over and over again had to do with getting more out of life. People told me that when they lost weight they had to find other ways to find fulfillment and happiness than turning to food. For a guy, that might be taking an afternoon and going fishing. Women told me things like, "Now I take time to get my nails done." One woman even occasionally sends herself flowers. They learned to gratify themselves and reward themselves with things other than food.

Do you think some people are just naturally big? My sister runs, bikes, eats right, she even did a triathlon. But she'll never look like Julia Roberts. What do you think?

Yes, I think that many of us are biologically programmed to be bigger than other people. In other words, to a large extent our weight is genetically predetermined. However, that doesn't mean it's all genetically predetermined. At least 50% of weight is determined by the environment and individual choices and how much exercise you get. Many of the masters are somewhat heavier than their initial goal weight. They found it was easier to maintain at a weight somewhat higher than their fantasy weight.

I talk about the concept of a comfortable body weight in the book. A comfortable body weight is a weight at which you can say, "I feel pretty good, given where I've been" (it may not be your dream weight). A comfortable body weight is one where you have no medical problems caused by your weight, and finally it's a weight where you don't have to starve yourself and exercise like a fanatic to maintain it. For most of us, that means not being model thin.

I continue to try to lose weight but it is so hard to stay away from the chocolate. What to do?

Most of the masters told me they do not deprive themselves of their favorite foods. When I asked them, in an open-ended question, to describe their eating habits in 25 words or less, one of the top five responses was, "If I want something, I have it." This does not mean they're eating hot fudge sundaes every night. It means they occasionally allow themselves to have treats.

Some people did tell me they had "trigger" foods they had to stay away from, but most people allowed themselves their favorite foods some of the time, but they also use control strategies to make sure that eating these foods does not get out of hand. For example, for our chocolate lover here, rather than buy a pound of chocolate and bring it into your home, the masters might suggest buying an ounce of your favorite or a delectable truffle and enjoying that one truffle.

Some people told me they eat desserts only in restaurants where the portion is controlled or they share it with a friend. One man told me he loves nuts, but he'll only buy an ounce or two at a time. Most people did tell me they make an effort to avoid keeping their most tempting foods in their homes, and if they do have them they keep them out of sight.

We are almost out of time, Anne. Before we wrap things up for today, do you have any final words for us?

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