Think Yourself Thin
Maintaining a healthy weight doesn't just depend on what you eat or how much you exercise. How you think can make a big difference as well. Indeed, people who are naturally slender or who have successfully lost weight and kept it off often think differently than those who constantly struggle with their weight. You too can think yourself thin. Here's how:
Learn the difference between hunger and appetite.
Hunger is a physiological state, while appetite is a psychological one, explains John Foreyt, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology and is the director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. If you have a gnawing feeling in your belly, that's a sign of hunger. But if you just have a taste for ice cream or potato chips, that's your appetite calling.
Think yourself thin: Listen to your body. If you are truly hungry, have something to eat and focus on enjoying your food, then stop eating when you feel satiated, not stuffed -- even if that means leaving food on your plate. But if it's just your appetite nudging you toward the kitchen, take a walk, call a friend or engage in another distracting activity until the urge to eat passes.
Don't feed emotions with food.
"Many people who have trouble with their weight confuse the emotion they're feeling -- tension, loneliness, boredom or anger -- with hunger," says Foreyt. If your stomach's not rumbling and you're thinking about food, figure out what you're truly feeling (because it's not hunger), then deal with that emotion -- without turning to food.
Think yourself thin:
Ask yourself if your hunger is actually an emotion in disguise. If it turns out you're really just bored, find a fun project that doesn't involve food. Feeling lonely? Reach out to an old friend, not a box of cookies. Stressed? Angry? Don't raid the refrigerator; try meditating or working out instead.
Indeed, exercise is one of the best ways to avoid emotional eating. "If you can find an activity that you like to do when you're upset -- whether it's jumping rope, taking a walk or dancing -- it will alleviate the anxiety and depression you're feeling" without involving food, explains Sandra Haber, who has a doctorate in social psychology and is a psychologist who specializes in weight management. This is because exercise "shifts around the endorphins in your body in a way that reshapes your mood," she says.
Anticipate challenges and figure out how to handle them in advance.
If you're about to face temptation -- while you're at a big party, at your favorite restaurant or on vacation, for example -- don't just wing it. Think through your behavior ahead of time.
Think yourself thin:
Plan what you're going to eat and how you'll get physical activity in, then anticipate problems and how you'll deal with them, advises Dan Kirschenbaum, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology and is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.
Don't beat yourself up for overindulgences.
So you succumbed to a rich dessert or ate too much at dinner. Don't sweat it. "Focus on it as a problem to be solved and not an awful tragedy to get emotional about," says Kirschenbaum.
Think yourself thin:
"Instead of beating yourself up or viewing it as a moral failure, look at what you did, how you could have handled the situation better, and what you could do differently next time -- then get back on a consistent plan," advises Kirschenbaum. In other words, put thin thinking back on track, and your behavior will follow.
Stacey Colino has written for The Washington Post's health section and many national magazines, including Newsweek, Woman's Day, SELF, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Parenting, Sports Illustrated and Ladies' Home Journal. Stacy is a frequent contributor to Live Right Live Well
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