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Want to Lose Weight? Focus on the Why, not the How

Many of us have a few unwanted pounds on our bodies that we would love to shed. If you are one of those people looking to start a diet or are even in the midst of losing weight, you most likely know the HOW. Our email, TV programs, Facebook feeds, and the Internet sites we visit are all inundated with ads for the latest diet programs.

After all, the dieting industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and diet plan companies go to great lengths to ensure you know HOW to lose weight. But they are not really interested in teaching you how to keep it off. They know that the statistics show most of us will fail at mainstream dieting and be repeat customers down the road, which is great for their bottom line.

Gregg McBride, a film and television writer/producer, and author of Weightless: My Life as a Fat Man and How I Escaped, says that it is much more important to focus on the WHY. And why should we listen to his advice? Well, Gregg lost over 275 pounds in one year and has kept the excess weight off for more than two decades.

Let’s take a look at his story and some research that backs up what he says:

Well-Meaning Diet Control Lead to Mass Consumption

Gregg’s weight gain started when he was in first grade. His parents, meaning to improve his diet, told him that he was no longer allowed to eat junk food. Instead of setting a healthy example, they created a forbidden fruit for Gregg. This strict diet encouraged an out-of-control eating lifestyle, pushing Gregg to steal money in order to secretly buy and consume junk food.

Over the next several years, his food addiction grew worse, leading to him consuming a staggering 9,000 calories per day: multiple cartons of Chinese food and milkshakes for lunch and family-of-four-size meals from fast-food restaurants for dinner. Gregg’s weight reached an all-time high of 450 pounds during his college years.

During those years, Gregg had attempted to lose weight several times, trying every diet imaginable from the tried-and-true institutional diets to the wacky and dangerous ones. Nothing worked. In fact, the more he attempted to restrict his diet, the more he would crave food, leading to all-out binges and increases in weight gains.

It wasn’t until he was at work just after college that a supervisor suggested, “Just stop eating so much.” At first, Gregg resented the supervisor’s suggestion. Then the words began to resonate with Gregg and he soon made it his mantra.

Articulate or Visualize WHY You Want to Lose Weight

Gregg began to exercise his body while exercising control over his calorie intake. He changed his eating habits, going from mounds of junk food to small portions of healthy food, restricting his calorie intake in between 1,500 to 1,800 calories daily. Over the course of one year, Gregg lost an amazing 275 pounds and has managed to keep it off for 20 years.

Source: Gregg McBride

His number one tool for accomplishing this feat? His Me Book. Gregg created a scrapbook of sorts which included magazine articles about health or cutouts of whatever motivated him, even if it was just a picture or image. Clothes he wanted to wear, pictures of happy couples to help inspire him to visualize a romantic relationship, advice, and healthy recipes all made it to his Me Book. All of this help to remind him of WHY he wanted to take off the excess pounds.

Any time that Gregg was tempted to stray from his diet or exercise plans, he would just pick up his “why I want to lose weight” book and thumb through it, reminding him of all the reasons he had committed to really achieving dieting success.

Gregg maintains that to truly have success in a weight loss journey, you have to put your dreams into focus. Place reminders of your dreams in a scrapbook, Pinterest or some similar program and remind yourself often of all the WHYs you want to lose weight, especially when you are faced with temptation.

Research Backs Up Visualization as a Weight Loss Aid

Gregg is not the only one who has had success using visualization to lose weight. In 2014, Dr. Leonard H. Epstein of the University of Buffalo reported to the National Institute of Health (NIH) that his group’s research shows conclusively that visualizing a positive future event can help control the impulse to overeat.

Dr. Epstein is a SUNY distinguished professor of pediatrics and chief of behavioral medicine. Epstein told the NIH conference attendees that “Food is a powerful reinforcer. In animals, it’s even more powerful than heroin or cocaine…and it’s strongest in food with high sugar content.” He goes on to say that babies respond right away to a sweet reward, which releases dopamine within the brain, registering pleasure in the infant. An infant knows how to eat, but learning to delay gratification comes later in childhood.

Delaying gratification takes place in the prefrontal cortex and is not fully developed until the mid-twenties. Everybody wants immediate gratification, but some people have a harder time than others resisting their impulses. Research shows a connection between impulsivity and differences in the prefrontal cortex. Dr. Epstein explains that “obese people become sensitized [to high-calorie foods], so the more you eat, the more reinforcing it becomes,” which makes it harder to delay gratification.

Dr. Epstein’s research shows that by encouraging people to think about a long-term goal or event they are looking forward to in the future, they can improve their ability to delay gratification, putting into practice a positive change in healthy behavior.

If you are looking to lose a few unwanted pounds, make sure that your focus is on your WHY and not the how. Use visualization to remind yourself of your WHYs. It will help to keep you on track and make those temptations to thwart your plans less likely to derail you.