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Motivated Weight Control
By Jaime V. Pitner MICP, RHC

You know that saying "you are what you eat", It could also be said, "you eat what you are".  What are you?  You are your lifelong collective experiences, how you've grown, experienced and learned everything in your life - this is what you are.

Your collective experiences are kept in the vast storehouse of your memory.  Deep in the in the depths of your unconscious mind everything about you is recorded. Scientists have calculated that your memory has the capacity to store billions of bits of information every second of your life.  This virtually limitless memory collects your life's experiences with all the sensory data of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell, and emotion, back to your birth, and perhaps even prior to birth.   

There’s so much information there that your unconscious mind must have a process to determine what you need. Everything you've learned in life lies in your unconscious waiting for you until you may have a use for it.  With certain cues it can be accessed to automatically engage your body, or given to your conscious mind for you to act upon.    Your unconscious mind has ways to access information that it believes you need, but lacking judgment it may also be accessing unwanted behaviors. This process is called unconscious learning. In fact, all learning occurs in your unconscious.

There are three primary pathways to unconscious learning; repetition, association, and emotion.  This is how the unconscious mind sorts out needed information and initiates certain behaviors, or habits.

The more you repeat a behavior, the more likely you will repeat it, as the unconscious mind makes a easy pathway to it.  Think about the repetition in eating, something you must do everyday, and several times a day.  Like many often-repeated behaviors you don't have to be consciously active in the behavior.  Your unconscious mind and body do all the work for you like when you eat while watching TV, reading, talking, or working at your computer.

When the behavior is associated with other events, or sensory cues, those events or cues can become triggers for the behavior.  Association links them.  That's why when most people sit down and turn on the TV, they automatically feel like snacking.  

The third primary pathway of unconscious learning is emotion.  Emotions can access dynamic and powerful mind-body resources.  Isn't it true that your most distant memories are brought forth by emotion. The experiences in your life that have no emotional value are long forgotten.  Behaviors tied to strong emotions are the one's most engrained.  That’s why many people describe their unhealthy eating as “emotional eating”.

The behavior of eating goes back to the day your were born.  Your unconscious mind learns as you are held close to your mother's warm body.  No words are needed; the powerful communication of this sensory experience is understood.  Your mother holds you, as you feel her unconditional love and acceptance while being fed.  The emotions and sensations during nursing form powerful associations that may affect your eating behavior later in life.  There’s a lot of meaning behind the familiar phrase “comfort food”.

Soon your parents begin to introduce solid food.  They guide you as you learn to eat.  Parents offer praise to motivate you: "that's a good boy… that's a good girl".  You now learn the ability to gain praise and make your parents happy just by eating.   

As a toddler you enjoy your birthday celebrations.  And what is a birthday, but the mere acknowledgment of your existence.  A profound experience of your own self worth.  Birthdays are celebrated with sweet and high caloric foods.  Associating sensory cues to the event.  On your birthday you don't even have to eat a proper dinner, you can dig right in to the cake and ice cream.   With a confident feeling that you can do no wrong, you get to smear it all over your face while loved one's clap and take pictures.   

As you get older you find that every significant event in your life is celebrated and acknowledged with food.  Eating is there at all the happy times. And it’s there when everyone else has abandoned you. Is it any wonder that your unconscious mind now associates food with comfort, love, acceptance, self worth, confidence, happiness, and being in control.  Yet food doesn't really do any of these things.

There are many sensory associations that trigger certain eating behavior.  Perhaps it's that feeling after dinner that you just got to have some ice cream or chocolate.  You feel full, maybe even very full, but you have a strong compulsion to have something sweet.  It may be that after you eat something savory, that that taste on your palette triggers an association for something sweet.  You may have unwittingly connected these sensory cues every time you followed eating savory food with a sweet food.   That's why when you’re full you have that urge to complete the unconscious pairing of sensory information.

When most people think about food it brings about certain thoughts and feelings.  Most of those thoughts and feelings could be summed-up in one word; pleasure.  But you know that food is really fuel for your body.  Sure food should taste good, but that's only part of it.  The top priority for food is to fuel your body.

When your car needs fuel you take it to the gas station.   If you want your car to run optimally you fill it up with “super.”  Conveniently your car has a fuel gauge which tells you when you need fuel and when your tank is full.   You’d never let it run past full into the trunk or back seat.  Just because gas may be cheap or available, doesn’t mean you should stop at the station more often, or take any more than your tank is designed to hold.

If you own a pet you know how to feed it.  Dogs eat dog food, cats eat cat food, and birds eat bird food.  You’d never feed your parakeet dog food.  Intelligently you know that every animal has it’s own type of food to keep it healthy and sustain long life.  You even know that if you have a dog that’s a little older you may need to feed it that special “fit and trim” dog food.

Isn’t it a fact that most people take better care of their cars and pets than they do themselves?  These examples provide the mind with powerful metaphors for your life.  When you associate the same feelings of how necessary, important, and wonderful it is to take care of you car and pet, with how you take care of yourself, this is a powerful learning for your unconscious mind.

Isn’t it true that you only do what you’re motivated to do?  Anything done begrudgingly doesn’t last long.  Just using will power doesn’t work either.  That’s because when you start a diet, the unspoken truth is that you know it’s only temporary.  By will power you can follow just about any diet no matter how difficult or strange, because deep in your unconscious mind you know it won’t last long.  That’s why “dieting” doesn’t work.

There are many things you do in your life in which you have great motivation.  You have certain standards that you’ve set for yourself, lines that you will not cross, and strong feelings on important areas of your life and the world.  When you think of those things you hold dear to you, that are the driving force in your character, you will find a feeling behind those thoughts.  That feeling in your heart and mind is emotion.  Emotion is what creates motivation.  It is the origin of motivation, and it is lasting.

You have positive and negative emotions, and they both have great power.  Negative emotions drive the stress response, and can be linked to bad habits and unhealthy behavior.  No one ever finds the answers they need in the height of anxiety or the depths of depression.  But positive emotions bring that feeling of accomplishment, comfort, energy, and happiness.  

The fact is that any sound nutrition and fitness plan will work to lose weight.  The key to getting started and sticking to it is…motivation.  The question is how do you become motivated to eat healthy?

I believe that knowledge is power.  Once you have all the facts you can make the right decisions.  The knowledge you gain leads to forming opinions.  Opinions bring forth the way you feel about something.  That feeling is emotion.  So as you can see, knowledge has the power to initiate emotion.

Sources of knowledge can be from empirical data and facts, or from your belief.  When you believe something strongly it has the power of fact.  To establish belief you must think that it is possible.  So ask yourself, is it possible for me to lose weight and maintain my desirable weight?  Now begin building a case for why it is possible.  Your unconscious mind will help you with its power of association.  Think of your thoughts and emotions as "magnetic" whatever you hold in your predominant conscious thinking will simply attract more of the same.  Your unconscious mind regulates your bodily systems, it will access resources to help you.

The next thing is to list why it is necessary to control your weight and be healthy.  Develop a clear understanding of why you must do this.   Your unconscious mind will establish priorities, because it is responsible for all your automatic functions of survival.  Once it understands that something is necessary it will devote more resources to make it happen.  It doesn't waste time and resources on things that have little importance.

Understand that it’s in you.  You have all the resources as a human being to make it happen.  Your power of mind over body is available to you for your benefit.

Know that at times it will be challenging.   These times of decision will form your destiny.  Overcoming old patterns of behavior and moving through difficult times can be hard.  But the things that come easy in life aren’t really worth much.  It's those things for which you work hard that make a difference in your life.  You know it’s worth it to overcome challenges.  That feeling you have when you know it’s worth it, is the feeling that keeps you motivated.

Here are some steps to employ your power of mind over body for Motivated Weight Control:
  1. Know what you’re eating. Keep a food diary and write down everything that you eat each day for one week.  Remember knowledge is power; this will make your conscious mind aware of what you are eating.  You want to eliminate unconscious eating.  Also, do research, read food labels, articles, books, and information about the content of food.  Know what you’re eating and why it’s good for you.  Discover all the delicious and nutritious foods available to you.  The unconscious mind is the center of all learning, when it knows what’s good for you it will pull forth resource to help you achieve your goal.
  2. Eat regularly, starting with a good breakfast.  This communicates to your body that food is plentiful and there’s no need to slow your metabolism to conserve energy.  Breakfast is particularly important.  Living in the wild, humans would have to begin each day searching for food.  The body tries to conserve energy until food becomes plentiful.  The body understands that food is plentiful when you eat early in the day, which means you’ve gathered enough perhaps for several days and it’s readily available first thing in the morning.
  3. Eat five meals a day.  This keeps your metabolism in high gear all day.  Your metabolic rate will improve to allow your body to burn more calories.  Eating one or two big meals later in the day tells the body that it took awhile for you to find food, so it better hold onto the calories to protect from potential famine.
  4. Eat fruits vegetables, grains, and fish, but limit red meat.  Hunters are at the mercy of available game, but when humans cultivate food they have it in greater quantities and for longer period of time.  “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him how to fish and he east for a lifetime.”
  5. Retrain your palette.  Ever have the feeling that you just have to eat that chocolate, cake, or ice cream, even when you’re full from dinner.   It may be that your unconscious mind has linked certain flavors and sensory data to initiate this behavior.  Sometimes when you eat something with a savory or spicy taste, it can be a trigger to eat something sweet.  You can retrain your palette to eliminate this unconscious association by breaking the link.  Interject other behaviors instead of eating the sweet, like drinking water, brushing teeth, eating a bite of something savory or spicy, or engage in a desirable activity.  After a few weeks your palette will be retrained and the old unconscious link will be eliminated.
  6. Use your emotion.  Eliminate any old unconscious negative emotions that may be associated with eating.  You only do what your motivated to do, anything done begrudgingly doesn’t last long.  There are some things you’ve prejudged with a negative emotion.  Let them go and be open to allow your mind and body to adjust to new healthy foods.  You’re retraining your palette and acquiring new tastes.  For lasting results, attach positive emotion to foods that you know will achieve your goals and long-term health. Consciously chose the emotions you want, and soon you will begin to feel them. You are programming your unconscious mind the way you want.
  7. Visualize.  Build a case for what you can do. Think, imagine, and visualize the foods that are nutritious, and meet your goals for health and weight control.  There are many foods you currently enjoy that are good for you, start with these first.  Let the memory fade for those old foods that you know are no good for you.  If you longingly linger on old desires for unhealthy food, that’s the direction you’ll be sending to your mind. Remember your thoughts are magnetic.  Visualize all the good things happening to your body as you eat what it needs for energy and optimal health.  See yourself getting slimmer and stronger, buying the clothes in the size you’ve imagined, and doing all the things your doing as you achieve your goals.  And most importantly, attach the positive emotion you desire to your visualization.

Here are two words to help and guide you on your path of success in motivated weight control: Delicious and Nutritious.  By word-association your unconscious mind will use these words to access all its resources to help you while shopping, preparing, and eating food.  All things nutritious are delicious to your body.  They’re the perfect fuel and energy source for your optimal health and weight.  And all things delicious must be nutritious, for why would you eat anything else?

A nationally accomplished speaker and published author of EMS and Stress Management topics, Jamie Pitner also provides instruction on Wellness, and Workplace Violence & the Management of Assaultive Behavior, Tai Chi, and Self Defense. jpitner@virtua.org

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