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Can You Think Your Way to a Thinner You?

Can You Think Your Way to a Thinner You?

One of my coaching clients – let’s call her Nadine, see her testimonial here – once asked me what I thought of using positive affirmations to lose weight. Will repeating “I am losing weight every day” to herself and posting “I love to eat healthy” on her fridge help her drop a jeans size?

My answer? Yes, but mostly no.

If pastries have some magic pull on you, it may be a symptom of high stress.

If affirmations boost your confidence that you can implement changes, then by all means go ahead. However, they won’t by themselves lead you to success if you’re a cookie monster. You have to change your habits.

That being said, thinking differently can indeed help you act differently and create real change. Here are my 4 top thinking tips for anyone trying to lose weight.

  1. Know you can. Is there a mindset for getting in shape? You bet! There’s a lot of research behind it, but in short, if you believe you can make progress with regards to your health habits, you can. If you think you’re stuck, you are. To see how you can develop the right mindset for your health, see Build a Growth Mindset on p. 34 of our book.
  2. Relax! Stress hormones prompt you to eat more, specifically more high-sugar high-fat food. Worse, in an effort to make sure you can survive the stress, they prepare your body for starvation by stockpiling as many of those extra calories as possible. See Stress and Appetite in a blog post by my colleague, Dr. Heidi Hanna. Avoid this double-whammy by allowing yourself regular intervals of mini-relaxation throughout the day. Do a Mini on p. 42 of our book can help you find specific techniques to try.
  3. Eat for nutrition first, pleasure second. Not the other way around. With our daily exposure to publicity for juicy burgers and melting chocolate, it’s easy to forget that we should eat primarily to feed our bodies. If that’s a challenge for you, use the chapter Eating by Design on p. 106 of our book to bring things back into perspective. Hint: identifying all the functions food serves in your life and finding other activities for any functions that aren’t related to nutrition is a great first step.
  4. Exercise is a privilege – not a chore. Imagine being paralyzed for a minute. No, no – don’t read on before you’ve done it. Close your eyes for 12 seconds and imagine you can’t move your body as you please. Imagine you depended on others to get you up in the morning, feed you, bathe you. We take it for granted, but having the ability to move is a pleasure and a privilege. See if thinking this way can propel you to action.
So can you think yourself thin? Sure you can. But you’ll need more than positive affirmations to get yourself into action.

If you’d like Kathryn and me to answer your habits-related questions in future posts, email us your questions.

MJ Shaar – in 20 seconds


MJ is one of the most sought-after experts blending positive psychology and health promotion. She spent over 15 years coaching, teaching, speaking, researching and testing smart health habits. Marie-Josée Shaar received her undergrad at McGill University in Organizational Behavior, followed by a Master of Applied Positive Psychology at University of Pennsylvania. She's certified as a Wellness Culture Coach, a Personal Trainer, and a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant.

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