If you have ever tried to lose weight, you know that eating healthy food and moving your body are important components of any weight-loss plan. But did you know that reaching or maintaining a healthy body composition happens in both your body and your mind? In fact, if you have tried repeatedly to lose weight but have never been successful or you lose weight but then gain it back (and then some!), it is most likely that your thoughts and beliefs—not your diet—are holding you back. That’s because excess weight is a reflection of your mental or emotional state. And the number one reason people fail to lose weight is that they neglect to make changes in their subconscious mind to support their conscious goals.
I’ve spent more than 45 years studying nutrition and its effects on women’s bodies, minds, and spirits—both personally and professionally. Being born with a body that my parents termed “solid,” I’ve had to work consciously on accepting my size and weight for most of my life. And, having worked with thousands of women with the same problem, I can assure you that I know what works and what doesn’t.
How Your Beliefs Can Thwart Your Weight-Loss Efforts
Women receive negative messages about their bodies all their lives. It’s no wonder that the diet business is booming. With more and more people turning to diets, exercise, and gimmicks to control their weight, it’s a no-brainer that diets just don’t work. Yet many women try to lose weight rapidly, often before attending a special event such as a wedding, school reunion, or vacation. But almost 90 percent of the time, they regain the weight because the plan was not sustainable. Thus, these women develop the limiting belief that they will never be able to lose weight or maintain their optimal weight.
Other common limiting beliefs that can keep you from achieving your weight and body size goals often stem from fear. For example, if you were sexually abused when you were younger, you may fear that, if you lose weight, others will find you attractive and hurt you sexually. Or perhaps you are afraid that if you lose weight but then don’t find a partner, you will be considered a failure. Some people hold on to weight out of the fear that more will be expected from them once they are thin. Others may fear that if they lose weight, they will be rejected by their family or friends. There is also the common fear that if you aren’t “the fat person,” you won’t know who you are.
The reason these beliefs are limiting is because, in order to release unwanted weight, your conscious and subconscious minds must agree. If your mind says, “I want to lose weight, and I believe I can do so easily,” and your subconscious mind agrees, you will lose weight. But if your subconscious mind holds the belief that you will never be able to achieve your optimal weight, you will most likely struggle to lose weight despite your conscious desire.
How to Reshape Your Body with Your Thoughts
Assuming you don’t have a metabolic issue or medical problem preventing you from reaching your weight-loss goals, the first step to losing weight is to become acutely aware of your story. This may be the story of your past, such as a relative always pinching your abdomen and calling you “chubs.” Or it may be a more recent story that you began telling yourself. For example, you may repeatedly tell yourself that weight loss is hard because of your inability to eat right and exercise due to the long hours you spend at work.
Remember, your thoughts and beliefs create your reality. So, before attempting to change your diet and exercise routine, it’s a good idea to work on changing your thoughts and beliefs.
Here are 12 practices for reprogramming your subconscious to achieve permanent weight loss:
- Listen to your self-talk. Self-respect and self-acceptance are the cornerstones to achieving optimal weight. But most people can’t lose weight because they engage in body-shaming talk and behavior. It’s important to know how you’ve been talking to yourself before you try to lose weight. If you have been telling your body that you hate how it looks for most of your life or pinching your skin in the mirror in disgust because someone used to do this to you, your subconscious mind will believe the negative programming. By talking to your body in a positive, loving manner—the way you would speak to an innocent child—you can rewire your subconscious brain. Look in the mirror and identify what you love about your body. Touch the parts that you want to change and say, “Thank you for keeping me safe.” Assure your body that it is safe to lose weight. Do this every day. Over time, your subconscious will align with your conscious desire to lose weight.
- Write a new story. Instead of just saying you want to lose weight, write down exactly what you want to achieve and why. Maybe you want to lose 5 pounds (or 50 pounds) so that you can keep up with your grandchildren. Or maybe you want to make better food choices so that you have more energy. Be sure to write down how you feel now and how you will feel when you achieve your goals. For example, if being overweight keeps you from enjoying bike rides with your friends and this makes you feel left out, write down this specific situation and emotion. Then write down how you will feel when you lose the extra pounds and can join in the fun. As you start to uncover your emotions around reaching your weight goals, continue to write them down. Be sure to tell your new story to yourself every day. Let it seep into your subconscious and every cell in your body.
- Try Tapping. Tapping, or the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), helps to align your subconscious mind with your goals on an energetic level by addressing the underlying emotions, patterns, beliefs, traumas, and more that can lead to weight gain. You start by stating your current limiting belief followed by stating how you love and accept yourself while tapping on specific acupressure points. For example, you can say, “Even though I have a hard time losing weight, I love and accept myself completely.” This reduces stress hormones in your body and helps to release the emotional memories and beliefs associated with the unwanted pounds so you can break old habits and heal. (Learn how to perform a tapping sequence here.)
- Meditate. Meditation is another tool that can help you become more aware of your thoughts and beliefs so that you can carve a path to successful weight loss. You can use your meditation practice to uncover your motivations for wanting to lose weight, understand any emotional or subconscious blocks, and even use imagery of how losing weight may look and feel to positively rewire your brain and develop more compassion for yourself. If sitting in meditation is not your thing, try moving meditation, such as yoga or Qigong. You may also like listening to audio meditations, such as the free meditations from the Center for Mindful Eating.
- Set sustainable goals. Your ultimate goal may be to lose 80 pounds, but if you’re bent on achieving that right away, you may be setting yourself up for failure. Instead, set smaller, sustainable goals. For example, start with goals you have control over, such as eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day or staying hydrated by drinking (and eating) more water. You can also set a goal to get 8 hours of sleep per night. You may find that these sustainable goals alone help you lose weight. If you want to set an actual weight-loss goal, make sure it’s no more than 2 pounds per month. I know this sounds low, but 2 pounds per month is sustainable, and in 1 year that amounts to 24 pounds!
- Eat mindfully. Studies show that mindfulness—concentrated awareness of your thoughts, actions, and motivations—plays an essential role in long-term weight loss when used with other weight-loss strategies. Practice mindfulness as you go about preparing your meals and eating. Try to be mindful of feelings of hunger and fullness. Pay attention to tastes, textures, and the acts of chewing and swallowing your food. Also, be mindful of how your body feels after you eat certain foods. This practice can help reduce bingeing and make you more aware of habits that don’t support your weight-loss goals. When you start connecting what you eat with how you feel, you won’t need to diet to lose weight. It will happen effortlessly. When you change your attitude about food as self-nourishment, your body composition, and body image will also be transformed. When you connect with your body and nourish it from a place of compassion and self-respect, the feelings associated with that self-respect create a metabolic milieu in your body that is conducive to optimal fat burning.
- Say affirmations. Affirmations help to reinforce the new story you are programming your subconscious to believe. They work well when they are believable. However, if you say, “I will be 80 pounds lighter in one month,” your subconscious won’t believe it. Instead, try saying, “I’m becoming the naturally slim person who lives inside of me!” Or say, “I now make healthy decisions that support my optimal weight.” You can even make a ritual of saying your affirmations. For example, you can smudge your room or home of stagnant energy, light a candle, sit with your eyes closed, and say your affirmations 3 times in a row. Do this 2 or 3 times per day. You may want to say some version of your affirmations just before you fall asleep when your subconscious mind is most receptive to suggestion. Remember, affirmations need to be in the present tense as though they have already manifested. In the words of Michael Beckwith of the Agape Church, “Affirmations don’t make something happen. They make something welcome.”
- Stop weighing yourself. While weighing yourself is not inherently bad, many women put too much emphasis on the number on the scale and even allow their weight to determine their mood, thoughts, and actions. This behavior is self-destructive. Don’t step on the scale until you are able to view the information from a place of health rather than use it to define your self-worth. The beauty of this practice is that once you stop weighing yourself, you’ll learn when and what makes your body feel good. Then the number on the scale doesn’t matter. I haven’t stepped on a scale in two years!
- Breathe. When you take time to breathe fully and deeply, you become more aware of your body. Breathing with intention can also help to lower your body’s stress response. Try deep diaphragmatic breathing or Kapalabhati breathing, a yogic breath practice that helps to reduce stress. There are many other breathing techniques. You can learn about them and how to do them on YouTube. Or simply breathe in deeply through your nose for a count of 5 and hold for a count of 5 at the top of your breath. Then breathe out for 5 and hold for a count of 5 at the bottom of your breath. Repeat for several minutes. This is called “block breathing,” and it instantly creates a parasympathetic “rest and restore” biochemistry in your body while digesting stress hormones.
- Forget the cleanse. Detoxes are huge right now, and some can be very good for you. I am currently doing a heavy metal cleanse that includes coffee enemas, lemon juice, and celery juice. Releasing toxins from your body can assist with weight loss. However, no detox or cleanse will work until you do the emotional detox.
- Say “good-bye” to Energy Vampires. One of the most striking things I’ve observed in relationships between vampires and sensitive souls is the disparity in their tendencies to gain weight. Your life and your relationships reflect your ability to nourish yourself. If you are in an imbalanced relationship where you are constantly giving to and trying to please another person, your efforts to lose weight will be in vain because you are constantly taking on the energy of your vampire (which could even be a situation—not a person). This causes excess stress and cortisol and drains your own precious energy. As a result, you seek out sugar, carbs, and/or alcohol. And you will keep excess weight on no matter what you do—even when you stop eating the carbs—because the weight acts as an extra layer of “self-protection.” It’s cognitive dissonance in the body.
- Live “as if.” Your beliefs are your reality. That’s why I love Mario Martinez’s advice. He suggests taking a picture of yourself today (or find a recent picture that represents how you look now). Then find a picture of yourself from a time when you liked how you looked and felt really good about yourself. Once you have your two pictures, live for 10 days “as if” you are still the self you felt good about. At the end of 10 days of living “as if,” take a new picture of yourself. You will look much like your former self whom you loved and respected.
Have you struggled to lose or maintain your optimal weight? What is your weight story? Please leave your comments below.