In losing weight your mind is your most important ally. This is true when losing weight, too.
Yes, you’ve heard all the weight loss advice before. But have you really?
Family, friends and total strangers are forever telling us tips and tricks for losing weight. But we don’t want ‘tips’; we need facts that are supported by health professionals and scientists who specialize in losing weight.
Considering that obesity accounts for 21 percent of health care costs in America, I think it is important to share some research and what the scientists say about training your mind to lose weight.
Facts on How Your Mind Controls Your Weight
Experts say that one of the reasons people have a hard time losing weight is because they are not aware of how their mind tricks them when it comes to eating food.
Here are five scientific facts about how you can leverage your brain to help you lose weight:
#1 Stay Away from Pictures of Food
I don’t know about you, but those fast food ads on TV get me every time. I see a picture of a steaming hot burger dripping with cheese, and I am immediately salivating and grabbing my car keys to head to the nearest restaurant. Failing that, I pop into the kitchen for a snack.
Guess what? Research studies at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry prove that the mere sight of food does, in fact, make you want to eat. When we see food, our bodies secrete the hormone ghrelin. If you are struggling to lose weight, then you may find it interesting to know that this hormone is associated with appetite stimulation. It regulates food consumption and how you metabolize food.
A significant increase in ghrelin occurs specifically when we look at food. Scientist Petra Schüssler highly recommends that people who want to lose weight avoid looking at pictures of appetizing food.
It goes without saying that anyone who wants to lose weight needs to remove any trigger food from their environment (home, office, car, etc). Researchers in Italy found that when we see our trigger food, it’s too late to try to resist as endogenous rewarding chemical signals have already gotten activated. It’s hard to resist dopamine. You end up eating your favorite food just for pleasure, not because you need the calories.
This is why dietitians now recommend that the best form of willpower is not to confront food temptation and say no, but to plan ahead so that you don’t experience the temptation at all!
#2 Avoid Eating With People Who Eat Large Portions
My friend Eleanor has three teenage sons and they eat all day long. When she puts their meal on their table, they load up their plates with huge quantities of food. She never thought anything of it until the day she realized she was doing the same thing!
Common sense told her that a middle-aged woman’s metabolism was not the same as a growing teenage boy, but still she found herself piling her plate as high as theirs. No wonder she was gaining weight! I decided to let her know of the research on this. Studies show that people tend to emulate the portion size of their eating companions, especially if that companion is a healthy weight.
Three scientists from different universities performed a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research that shows that “…people are influenced, even without being aware of it, by other people’s portion choices.”
Moreover, the size of the person you dine with is affecting your portion choice. People tend to eat more if a thin person is eating more, but they tend to eat less if an overweight person is eating more. Read this again: The thinner your big-eating friend, the greater the risk to your own waistline. After reading this research, Eleanor still sits at the table with her sons for dinner, but she makes sure she eats before calling them to the table, so she is not tempted to imitate their portion size.
#3 Remind Yourself of What Matters to You
It can be so easy to forget what is most important to you. When we fail at something, like losing weight, we tend to berate ourselves and lose hope; we feel a loss of self-integrity. Christine Logel of Renison University College at the University of Waterloo says, “We can buffer that self-integrity by reminding ourselves how much we love our children, for example.”
Logel and a team of scientists completed a study that shows that pondering on things that matter to you and affirming your most important values plays a great role in your weight loss. Specifically, people who spent just 15 minutes writing down what matters the most to them, lost an average of 3.41 pounds. People who did not write gained an average of 2.76 pounds.
In addition, not only did the people who wrote out what is important to them lose weight, they also improved other psychological processes, like memory and increased cognitive processes. None of the participants engaged in any sort of diet. They just lived their normal life. Within 4 months after the participants completed their writing exercise, they saw this change in body weight. Fascinating, isn’t it?
#4 Learn to Be Happy with How You Look
This is a hard one for many people, especially those trying to lose weight. Out of all the ways to use your mind to help lose weight, this one is the toughest.
Not surprisingly, scientists have found a direct correlation between how you feel about your body and how much food you put in your mouth. Researchers in Lisbon and Bangor proved that if, as an overweight person, you accept your body and stop being concerned about your shape and size you can more effectively regulate your eating and lose weight.
The study showed that women who actively participated in programs that helped them work on how they perceived their bodies, lost 5% more weight than women who just received information about general nutrition and exercise. “…learning to relate to your body in healthier ways is an important aspect of maintaining weight loss and should be addressed in every weight control program,” says Dr. Teixeira from Technical University of Lisbon.
Researchers suggest that people trying to lose weight should set realistic goals for their particular body, keep a diary that explores why they feel critical about their body image, and use positive self-talk when writing or thinking about their bodies.
#5 Get Enough Sleep
When we sleep our mind rests. You may be surprised to find that sleep has something to do with your weight. According to researchers, getting enough sleep actually does help you to lose weight. Scientists know that our weight is determined in part by our genetics. Now they are realizing that getting too little sleep can kick our genetic code for weight gain into high gear.
Dr. Nathaniel Watson of the University of Washington says of his recent studies that, “shorter sleep provides a more permissive environment for the expression of obesity related genes.” Researchers already know that that BMI is affected by genetics, and current studies suggest that whether or not those genetic factors come into play can be directly related to getting at least 9 hours of a sleep per night. In other words, if you have a natural tendency to get fat, lack of sleep will reinforce it.
While you should not throw out your doctor’s diet or stop exercising, these tips to train your mind will help you along your weight loss journey. The different studies concerning the power of the mind and the physiological processes associated with eating habits and body image indicate that the mind is truly a powerful thing.