Weight loss is usually perceived as a body issue: what you put into your body, how it processes it, and how your body looks as a result. But have you ever considered why it is that you eat the way you do or feel the way you do about your body? An understanding of how the mind works and your personal relationship with food is a key part of the weight-loss journey. Lindsey Smith, nutrition coach and author of Junk Foods and Junk Moods, believes that it is key to recognize “the physiological connection between what we eat (food) and how we feel (thoughts and emotions). It serves as a guide to living a healthier lifestyle by bringing awareness to the root cause of our eating habits and cravings.”
The reason many diets and weight-loss programs don’t work in the long run is that they address only what you eat. Before you even start thinking about what to eat and what not to eat, identify how you can change the way you think about food and your body.
1. Get to the root of your eating habits.
Are you an emotional eater? Do you use food as a reward or to cope with stress, sadness, or frustration? Do negative thoughts cause you to reach for junk food? Did you grow up in a household of overeaters? Being aware of why you eat the way you do can help you find healthier ways to cope with life’s ups and downs.
2. Change your view of food as the enemy.
“It will actually digest quite differently if you practice loving and appreciating it,” says Smith.
3. Change how you perceive yourself and your physical body.
Poor self-esteem and body image can actually make it more difficult to lose weight. Laura Fenamore, a weight-release coach who lost 100 pounds, says, “It’s only when you choose to love yourself and deal with the mental and emotional reasons behind weight gain that you will see real, lasting results in your physical appearance. . . . [You must] remove the shackles of indecision and self-abuse that allowed excessive weight gain to happen in the first place.”
4. Start replacing negative thoughts and messages with positive ones.
Using affirmations such as “I love and respect my body,” even before you completely believe they are true, can start to shift the way you think about yourself.
5. Don’t go it alone.
A strong support system is crucial to rebuilding your mental relationship with food. You might want to seek out the services of a professional, such as a weight-loss coach, personal trainer, nutritionist, or counselor who can help you identify and work through your attitudes and baggage surrounding food and your body image. And finding other people dedicated to losing weight the right way can provide encouragement and accountability.
6. Create a positive mental picture.
The mind’s power can be harnessed to visualize the result that you would like to achieve. Physical trainer and life coach Sandi Berger says, “The mind thinks in pictures, and our words describe those pictures. Change those incantations, and you change your mind pictures. Then follow up with creating an actual vision board of how you would like to look and feel; and look at your vision board daily.”
Sara Rowe is a writer and editor who lives in Wilmington, Delaware.