1. 5 Psychological Tricks to Help You Lose Weight

    May 17, 2013

    Positive psychology to lose weight

    by Matthew Denos

    You’ve tried flexing almost every muscle you have in the battle of the bulge, but you may have overlooked the most important one.  In fact, you are using it right now to read and understand – it’s your brain! The mind is a powerful thing and positive psychology teaches you how to program your brain to get results you want. You can have amazing results and bring about the weight loss and a better health you so desperately want to achieve.

    Interested?  Here are five of the best psychological tricks to “manipulate” your mind to get the healthy body you want.

    1. Give Yourself a Written Guarantee

    In a published psychology study, scientists wanted to test the theory that writing about something important—not related to health, interestingly—might actually boost weight loss.  They had a group of college women come in, have their weight and Body Mass Index (BMI, a index that shows if you are obese or of normal weight) documented, and then write a list of things important to them in their lives.  Things like religion, friends, and relationships all topped most lists, with less significant things at the lower end.

    The group was split in half, and the first half was asked to write a free form essay for 15 minutes (in other words, just sit down and write, no structure required, no grading) about one of the top items on their lists and explain why it is important for them.  The other group was asked to write about something far down the list, and not how it related to their own lives, but how it might be important to someone else.

    Over half of the women were already overweight or obese, and the others were at a BMI very close to overweight.  All of them were unhappy with their weight.

    After the 15 minute writing exercise, the women left, and came back to be measured again 2-3 months later.

    The group who had written about strong values important to their own lives had lost an average of almost 4 pounds, while the group who had written about lesser values and not even relating them to their own lives had gained an average of almost 3 pounds! And the group who lost weight also had smaller waists, regardless of BMI.  None of these women had been told that the writing exercise had anything to do with losing weight.

    Researchers conclude that writing about things important in our lives can trigger calm, centering us back to what is really important, and giving us a way to deal with stress and daily setbacks in life without reaching for food as a coping mechanism.  It can make us feel better about who we are, and free up mental resources to focus on goals and willpower.  Pretty amazing.  Go get your pen and start writing!

    2. Give Your Body A Good Review

    The more acceptive you are of who you are right now, the more likely you are to be able to lose weight.  People who have a negative self image of their bodies are much more likely to have trouble losing weight and keeping it off than their counterparts who don’t worry about their size, shape, or what others think of them.

    A study I read in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity noted that women in the study who were taught techniques to handle diet setbacks, and to have a better body image all lost more weight than a second group who didn’t get that same training.

    In some ways it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy—when you think you aren’t good enough, you act on those feelings, and undermine your own efforts with losing weight and being healthier.  So give yourself a break, and focus on all the great things about you.  When you are happier with yourself, you will treat yourself better, and know that you deserve to lose weight and feel good.

    3. Eat With The Right Size of Fork


    Another little mind game to win at weight loss is to use the big fork to eat at restaurants and the small fork to eat at home.  This one is a clear example of how your mind controls so much that you do, and you aren’t even aware of it!

    Researchers from the University of Utah did some field experiments and found that, for a variety of reasons, diners in restaurant settings didn’t use the same cues to realize they were getting full as when they were at home.  When we eat at home we rely on our hormonal signals (feelings of satiety) in order to stop eating. Since it takes several minutes for our brain to send these signals after food reaches our stomach, by the time satiety kicks in those who eat fast using big forks end up taking in more food than those who eat slow using small forks.

    In contrast, when we dine out researchers say that we pay attention to a visual and more immediate satiety signal: The size of the dent in the food on our plate. This is because when we go to a restaurant, we invest more time and money toward satisfying our hunger than when we eat at home. We are therefore more eager and impatient to see we are progressing toward our goal of satisfying our hunger.  Using a big fork means we make a big dent in our food and therefore we get an immediate and perhaps unconscious feedback that we are progressing well toward our goal. We soon stop eating. Using a small fork, on the other hand, means we make small dents in our food, and we receive a weaker cue of goal progress. You therefore keep eating for a longer time and end up eating more food.

    That’s it.  Use the small fork at home and take small bites to help you eat less, but when you are dining out, bigger is better (in your cutlery at least!)

    4. A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words… and Too Many Calories!


    One study actually proved what most of us have always known—you see a picture of a delicious something, and you want to eat that delicious something, right now.  I know I’ve been watching TV and a food ad comes on—and suddenly I am hungry, no matter how much or when I just ate.

    Researchers took a group of young males and studied how their bodies reacted to looking at pictures, of food and non-food items.  The ones with food had an immediate release of the food hormone ghrelin, which can give you that “I want to eat right now” feeling.

    If you are on a diet, be aware of how sneaky advertising and cooking shows can be in tricking your mind into wanting to eat when you see pictures of food.

    5. Sleeping Enough Can Mean Eating Less

    Your body and mind need adequate cycles of sleep to function in top order.  Think of a car—if you never tune it up, put in the worst fuel, don’t wash it, and let the tires get bald and low on air, that car will never perform right and eventually you will ruin the worth.  You are like that too; your body needs to be treated well to perform well.

    When you don’t get adequate sleep—7-8 hours or more really is best—your mind is much more likely to let you overeat. And since lack of sleep is becoming pretty common, it might explain part of why today 2 out of 3 people in the US are overweight or obese.

    Uppsala University researchers did a study involving a group of young men who were deprived of a night’s sleep and then tested in a variety of ways.  Brain activity and hormones showed high levels of wanting to eat. Moreover, the participants metabolism was lower the morning after not sleeping. A low metabolism, eating more, moving less, and feeling more stressful are all things that tend to go hand in hand with weight gain, or trouble losing weight.

    So listen to your mother, and get a good night’s sleep!

    Your mind can be your best friend while dieting. If you take for granted all the things your mind can do, you might find yourself struggling with weight gain and the inability to lose it for reasons you can’t explain. Fill it with positive thoughts and the right images, and you are programming the power of your brain to help you lose weight and be healthy.  No wonder you always hear, “think thin!”

    Image Credit: Hilde Skjolberg

  2. How to start believing in yourself

    February 21, 2013

    “If you don’t believe in yourself, no one will,” people say. Every one of us has our own set of beliefs about ourselves and our abilities. These beliefs define our thoughts about what we deserve in life and what we can and cannot do. These beliefs define our actions.

    Sadly, it is these beliefs that stop many people from going to the new heights in life and fulfilling their dreams.

    positive beliefs

    Photo by Fairuz Othman

    Do you have limiting beliefs?

    If you are unhappy with your current situation for years, but unable to get out of it, you may be a victim of limiting beliefs. More often than not, people stay in conditions they don’t like because deep inside they believe they either don’t deserve or cannot achieve any better.

    This is true for all sorts of situations, such as having the right relationships, getting better health or finding one’s true calling in life.

    –          How many people do you know who constantly complain about their current relationship, but don’t call it quits?

    –          Do you know anyone who hates his job for years, but never looks for another one and never starts his own business?

    –          How about a person who wants better health and leaner body, but never does what it really takes to get it?

    People site all kinds of external obstacles as their reasons to stay in situation they are discontent with.

    They may tell you they stay in an unhappy marriage because everyone lives this way.  They don’t look for another job because you can only get a job if you know the right people. They don’t start a new business because they are afraid to fail. They don’t work on improving their health because “high blood pressure and heart disease runs in the family.”

    In reality, other people around them find better relationships and better jobs, and become the first ones in the family to break the vicious circle of disease.

    They do it because they believe it is possible for them.

    What belief is holding you back?

    To break free from limiting beliefs, it is important to understand where they are coming from.

    Beliefs are formed based on our life experiences and interactions with other people.

    –          We may believe that we are not pretty/witty/interesting enough to get into a relationship with a better person because we never have in the past.

    –          We may believe that a person of our background can NEVER get a better job or become leaner because this is what our parents and our social circles kept telling us.

    Often, people pass their limiting beliefs onto their children. You have likely received some from your family, too.

    Three steps to believing in yourself

    Once we understand what particular belief holds us back, it is time to develop a new belief. Just like an old belief, a new one should be based on experiences and interactions.

    Step 1. Shut off negative noise

    As a first step, shut off anything and anybody who reinforces your old belief. A husband who believes that you can never succeed in business, a friend who thinks you cannot lose weight, and parents who believe it is too risky to change your life situation and that it will only get worse. Naysayers only reinforce your old limiting beliefs and don’t give you a chance to practice new experiences.

    Step 2. Find proof that what you want is possible

    Secondly, you need to find proof that it is possible to achieve what you want. Look for real examples in life. Are there people who did what you want to do and have succeeded? Try not to think about those who failed, because this is an argument that will get you nowhere. You need to list as many examples as you can find. Even if you want “to boldly go where no man has gone before”, there are a lot of examples of people doing so.

    Step 3.  Start small and celebrate mini-successes

    Lastly, you need to start gaining new experiences that prove your new belief.  Too often we concentrate on mulling over our failures instead of celebrating every little successful experience or interaction.  It is through mini-successes in life that we gain that confidence and belief that we CAN DO and WILL DO better.

    Get social support

    There is a simple bullet-proof way to get new experiences and get inspired by other’s doings. You need to surround yourself with people with similar goals and people who already achieved what you are striving to achieve. It is very hard to fight this battle alone. So find yourself a community, offline or online, that operates on a different set of beliefs than your current social circle.

    If you have identified that your limiting belief comes from the people around you, it is time to put your blinders on and associate yourself with other group of people. You really need people who will provide you with enough proof that what you want is achievable, and encourage you to make those mini-steps towards your goal.

    Every big goal is achieved in mini steps. If you want to lose weight, celebrate every time that you chose to eat healthy. Take this as a proof that you are a type of person who makes good decisions, however small they are.  If you want to change jobs, start networking on LinkedIn. Send an invite to people in higher position despite nagging feeling that they will never connect with you. You will be surprised how many actually will, and you will have another reason to celebrate getting a new connection.

    Believing in yourself starts with defining what stops you and eliminating the influence of people who enforce limiting beliefs on you. By finding examples that what you want is possible, making small steps and celebrating your successes, however small they are, you will inevitably start believing that you can and will do better. And then, sky is the limit!