Weight Loss & Fitness: Think Like a Thin Person (cont.)

"Be in the moment," Hudnall advises. "Think about whether you're really hungry. Think about the taste of what you're eating. Don't be caught up in preconceived ideas of what you should or should not do."

That means you don't necessarily have to forgo ice cream. But really pay attention to what you're eating. If you do, one scoop should satisfy you as much as an entire pint. "It's really about being mindful," says Hudnall.

Ellen Astrachan-Fletcher, PhD, professor of clinical psychology and founder/director of the Eating Disorders Clinic at the University of Illinois Medical Center, wants people to focus not so much on being thin, but on being healthy and fit.

"My main goal is to help people think about food in terms of nutrition and energy ... the reasons we need food in our lives," she says.

Focus on Health and Fitness

People with weight issues too often see food as more meaningful than it really is, Astrachan-Fletcher adds: "Food is not comfort, it's not a method of coping. Changing how you think about food and its role in your life will help you think, and live, like a healthy person."

A healthy person, for example, doesn't use food as a substitute for personal relationships. If you're feeling lonely, says Astrachan-Fletcher, explore social options and make new friends.

A healthy person also incorporates exercise into his or her life, Astrachan-Fletcher adds. "Exercise is not only part of a successful weight loss or weight management program, but it also helps you alleviate, or even avoid, depression, stress, and anxiety."

Develop Your Skills

To reach your weight loss goal (or any goal, for that matter), you must develop a set of skills that will help you become successful, says Howard Rankin, PhD, psychologist for the international support group TOPS (Taking Off Pounds Sensibly), and author of The TOPS Way to Weight Loss: Beyond Calories and Exercise.

Some of the skills that will help you live your way to a thinner, healthier body, says Rankin, are:

  • Patience. Take things one step at a time. Give up one of your "downfall" foods at a time, for example, not all of them at once.
  • Visualization. Think about a specific situation you're going to encounter and how you will deal with it. "See" yourself going out to dinner and eating a healthy meal.
  • Accountability. Rely on a support group, friends, or even a therapist to whom you have to report.
  • Self-control. Realize that every time you resist successfully, you're developing self-control. Congratulate yourself each time you do this.
  • Goal-setting. Think in terms of small goals. You don't need to lose 60 pounds; all you need to lose is one pound next week. Each small goal you achieve will reinforce your motivation and set you up for success.
  • Journaling. Keep a written account of your actions, your thoughts, and your feelings, as well as what you eat. This not only increases your self-awareness, but also helps you let out feelings you may try to "stuff" back in with food.
  • Assertiveness. Learn to say no. Ask yourself, "Is this going to get me closer to my goal or further away?"

Remember the Rest of You

Finally, remember that you are more than someone who is trying to lose weight. This is especially true if you're a woman.

"Women tie too much of their self-esteem on their body image, which is likely to be distorted in a negative way, and not enough on other factors of their life," says Salvatore Cullari, PhD, professor emeritus of psychology at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa.

The more "possible selves" a woman has, says Cullari, the less likely she is to be overwhelmed by body image issues, which can lead to self-consciousness, depression, vulnerability, and crash dieting.

"Avoid even thinking about the aspect of yourself that makes you feel inferior, like your body, and focus on another aspect of your life in which you are very successful," says Cullari. "For example, you may be a businessperson, a mother, a wife, a doctor, a gardener, a skier, etc. Allow yourself to concentrate on those other aspects of your life where you feel more satisfied."

SOURCES: Linda Spangle, RN, MA, owner, Weight Loss for Life; author, Life is Hard, Food is Easy. Marsha Hudnall, MS, RD, program director, Green Mountain at Fox Run, Ludlow, Vt. Ellen Astrachan-Fletcher, PhD, professor of clinical psychology; founder/director, Eating Disorders Clinic, University of Illinois Medical Center. Howard Rankin, PhD, psychologist, Taking Off Pounds Sensibly; author, The TOPS Way to Weight Loss: Beyond Calories and Exercise. Salvatore Cullari, PhD, professor emeritus of psychology, Lebanon Valley College, Annville, Pa.

Originally published March 26, 2004
Medically updated April 14, 2005

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Last Editorial Review: 5/10/2005 4:51:46 PM