I'm asked all the time, "What finally made you decide to solve your weight problem?" as if it didn't bother me being overweight for 25 years. The truth is that I sincerely wanted to solve my problem when I was 12! But I wasn't successful until 20 years later. It took me that long to learn what I needed in order to be successful.
Wanting, even with all your heart, to lose weight does not make it happen, as anyone with a stubborn weight problem knows. Hopefully, it won't take you 20 years to learn what I learned. You can learn it from me!
For my first 30 years, I was overweight and out of control, more than 300 pounds as an adult. Only in my early 30s was I finally able to succeed, losing 140 pounds and becoming my ideal body weight. I've maintained it handily since. Now I help other people and I wrote a book about what I eventually learned that made me successful. Here are a few of the most important things, five key requirements to make 2014 the year you solve your weight problem for good:
1) You must make it the priority in your life. You need to decide that being healthy in body, mind and spirit is more important than anything else and that your weight problem must be solved. Losing weight must become your No. 1 one concern. More important than your job. More important than your relationships, family, friends, favorite pastimes, clubs, hobbies or comforts. You must become like a religious zealot who forsakes all else, a soldier in the field facing life and death where losing this battle means losing everything. Nothing else can stand in the way of doing what you need in your effort to solve your weight problem.
Some may criticize this as being unreasonable and off-centered. I understand their criticism, but for most of us, this is one of those things where you will not make it unless you are totally devoted. Approach it as if it's life and death. To enjoy all of those other things you cherish, you've got to get this right. Nothing less than total dedication will do. It's like wanting to make it to the top in a music, sports or business career. Nothing else can get in the way of doing what you need to do to succeed. It cannot take a back seat to anything else, cast aside when something else "comes up" as if it were more important. Controlling your weight is more important.
2) You must respect the science that tells us that we need to eat fewer calories than we burn to lose weight. We must accept the fact that we need to develop habits where we consistently eat within our caloric "budget" to keep it off.
There is no mystery to the science of weight control. It has not changed in eons. Eat too many calories and you get fat. Eat fewer than you burn and you burn it off. Accepting this reality does not by itself solve the problem, but there is no hope until you do. Hoping for a way around this fact will prevent you from ever succeeding. There is no way around this, no magic pill or surgery that will relieve you of having to limit your caloric intake. Fight this reality and you'll never succeed. Accept it, and you're on the path to success. In over 20 years, I have never had a client not lose weight when they eat the way I teach them.
3) You must learn how to train your mind to program yourself and master your habits, desires, impulses and feelings. The idea that your behavior and feelings are a matter of just making up your mind or wanting it badly enough is a fallacy. We are not born with well-developed "will power" and conscious control over the things that go on in our mind and body. In fact, most of what goes on is unconscious and a product of conditioning and programming that we were not even aware of. Habits and impulses were not chosen and they can seem to have a life of their own beyond your control. However, you can learn the programming and conditioning techniques discovered in behavioral and cognitive psychology as well as the ideo-dynamic phenomena that hypnotherapies use. The techniques I teach in my method are not unknown to science and behavioral medicine, but we are not born knowing them. They must be learned.
4) Make your goal the development of new permanent habits, rather than weight loss. Don't focus so much on pounds but rather on the way you are living.
The most common approach to weight loss is doing something out of the ordinary for a while, like eating a special diet or going on an exercise crusade, and then going back to "normal" after a while. This is self-defeating. Even if we lose the weight we want, the "normal" that we have learned is what makes people fat, so we'll just put it back on.
We are suckers for these diets and schemes because usually, we don't want to change our habits. We are fond of doing the things we do, snacking the way we do, enjoying our favorite foods and restaurants and not having to think about it. We don't want to give those things up. We've tried and we couldn't do it or it was so miserable we gave up the idea.
However, we don't have to give up enjoying food. In fact, one of the keys of reprogramming is that the new behavior must be satisfying. I enjoy food now more than I did when I was overweight. But just wanting and "willing" yourself to change habits is not the way it's done. There are reprogramming techniques you need to use. The first step is to realize that our goal needs to be a change in our habitual behavior. When that happens, the weight comes off automatically. Focusing on weight loss instead of a change in yourself and your habits will not work.
5) You must be honest and sincere. I used to say things like "no matter what I do, I can't lose weight." That's crazy of course. If I somehow got myself to eat very little, I'd lose weight. If I kept it up long enough, I'd starve to death. People who don't have food in the Sudan are not fat. I was telling myself nonsense, lying to myself.
I used to say, "This won't matter" if I cheated or "I just don't care anymore" when my self-control flagged. Neither was really true. Everything counts. When I got discouraged and caved, I cried "uncle" and gave up in that moment, but I never stopped caring. I never stopped hating obesity and wanting something better. I still cared. Saying, "It doesn't matter" was a lie.
Behavioral science teaches us that what we say to ourselves affects how we feel and how we act in an almost magical or mystical way. When we tell ourselves this nonsense, we are literally programming ourselves to overeat and become overweight, just as if we were using hypnotherapy to gain weight. When we say, "I just can't lose weight," we are using cognitive therapy techniques to make ourselves feel hopeless and depressed and self-hypnosis to unconsciously sabotage any efforts to succeed.
I used to engage in foolish talk, like a child, unwilling to get serious. We need to stop being childish and foolish in our thinking. Changing the way we think and talk is essential to reversing obesity. Getting honest and serious, truly sincere about what we want, is one of the most important keys.
So, what do you think? Can you say, "yes" to these five key requirements? If you can't, and you are a person who has been overweight and unable to fix it, you now know where you need to start to make changes. We are not going to solve this problem by accident. We need to be very intentional and meet these requirements.
If you think back to your younger days or prior attempts, you'll recall you may not have met these requirements. If you meet them now, you are on the path to success. That's progress! Keep going.
William Anderson is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in weight loss, eating disorders and addictions. He is the creator of "Therapeutic Psychogenics", which helped him lose 140 pounds permanently thirty years ago after years of obesity and dieting failure. He has written a book about it, The Anderson Method, and he is teaching these techniques to individuals and therapists all over the country.