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Article by © Diana Thurbon

Are you about to embark on a new diet? 

  • Or have you lost the weight and want to keep it off?

  • Did you know only about 10% of people who achieve significant weight loss keep the weight off long term? 

  • Most gain it back and then some more.  So how can you be in the 10%?

The most important part of weight control is between your ears.

The therapeutic approach that focuses on changing destructive mental habits and cleaning up your thinking is called Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). 

“Cognitive” means thinking.  Note that in CBT the “thinking” comes before “behaviour” CBT is geared towards helping people to identify errors in their thinking, to learn how to challenge negative thoughts and to reframe these thoughts into rational, realistic and healthy ones.

CBT is a very efficient and effective form of therapy. 

What you think – that is, how you talk to yourself and what you say to yourself about your body image and your efforts to become slim and fit– is the most important element in weight loss and weight management. 

People who learn to use self monitoring to track their eating and the thoughts behind their eating are the people who succeed at permanently slimming down.

Whether you stay overweight and fed up, or whether you gain and lose the same number of kilos over and over again, or whether you lose your excess weight forever, is always determined by your mental habits and beliefs.

What do you think will happen if you tell yourself constantly that you can never get it right, that you are going to fail? You will “know” that failure is the most likely outcome, and you will  establish a pattern that supports that notion.

For instance, each time you embark on your latest diet, you may be telling yourself: “Don't know why I'm bothering. I won't get anywhere, another diet that is destined to fail; I will lose weight for a while and then it will all come back.”

You are lost before you start, as you already TOLD yourself you will fail.

You may be replaying the negative labels, others have given you such as “you’ll always be fat,” or “you’re lazy.” Such ideas can easily seep into the core of your being and take root.

Do you think that's nonsense?  then STOP and listen to the chatter in your head. 

You might be saying something like “You think you can do it, but you know you can't!”  When we internalize negative messages about ourselves, we accept them and repeat them to ourselves without even realising it not surprisingly, repeating these harmful thoughts causes emotional pain.  How do we deal with emotional pain? By numbing ourself eating automatically! 

What did you do last time you felt upset or unhappy? 

Automatic and binge eating is a response to a negative feeling which has followed a negative thought.  

Another way we attempt to avoid feeling bad is to cling to mental habits that feel familiar and that keep us where we are used to being,  in other words staying  fat. You may avoid changing unhelpful mental habits as a form of self-protection: “If I don’t try, then I won’t fail and feel frustrated or disappointed”.

Poor self-esteem may feel very familiar, but how’s it working for you?

Do you say to yourself a hundred times a day “God I'm fat!”  Or “I'm just hopeless.” or “I'm never going to change.”

Are you even aware that you are saying this or something similar?  If you are - does this help you to move closer to your goals of health and fitness? You may feel that you need to go to the opposite extreme –   eating, and exercising perfectly – or it won't be “good enough”. However, these extreme ways of thinking typically amount to setting yourself up to fail.

It's easy to see that setting your standards too low means you’ll never get off the ground. Well,  having too high a standard is also counterproductive – the mountain is too high to climb, causing you to feel overwhelmed and discouraged before taking the first step. It’s hard to imagine being a size 10 when you are a size 20. 

Therefore, it is important to not only have a realistic long range goal for weight loss and fitness, but also to break it down into short-term, manageable chunks that allow you to experience  rewards as you progress. 

You may wonder what to do about your negative thinking.

Well, the first thing is capture those thoughts.  Listen very closely and carefully to your internal dialogue which is the content of what you say to yourself, as well as how you’re saying it.

Practice listening for the thought you have before you have that fruit bun or chocolate bar or coke.  Hear yourself, and WRITE IT DOWN. Keeping a diet diary or journal is the best thing you can do for yourself. 

In your journal record not only your food, but your thoughts about the program you are on – how well you are doing – how you have sabotaged yourself etc.  What you were thinking before you ate that muffin. If you don’t write it down, you will be at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to examining and working with your thoughts to achieve your goals.  

You might not want to actually SEE your thoughts in black and white, but it doesn't help if you deny your mental habits.

The thoughts are there, and the impact is just as strong. So write down these unhelpful thoughts.

Next, subject each of these thoughts to a reality test:

Is the thought fact-based and absolutely irrefutable? If the thought is true, then acknowledge and accept it. If it is an opinion or a prediction or an unhelpful thought based on how you feel, then it is just a perspective or perception.

Your perceptions are SUBJECTIVE, and here is where the work needs to be done, but the pay off is enormous. This is the point at which you can begin to make huge changes to your life, as you’ll find that almost everything you tell yourself can be modified.

Ever hear it said that there is no reality, only perception?

That means that you create what you manifest in your life, such as the condition of your body and your eating and activity habits. Sometimes you will find thoughts behind the thoughts.  You may be telling yourself "Thin people eat ice cream so why should I have to go without!" 

When you challenge that thought you might find it is based on resentment thoughts about a particular person. Then there may be thoughts behind that thought of negative body image that are driving you to maintain the status quo. We don't all share the same biology – fair/unfair doesn't come in to it.  If ice cream makes you fat then ice cream makes you fat.  Acceptance of your biology is vital for long term weight loss and control.

After you identify your negative thoughts and unhelpful mental habits and challenge them, you need to REPLACE them with more rational, realistic, and constructive ideas and beliefs.

It is necessary to not only refute the mental thought habits  that keep you fat but to go the distance in formulating a more appropriate replacement thought while in the process of re-engineering your internal dialogue. This is an ongoing effort – changing old mental habits, and building new ones that help you. This is not an easy or simple task. It will take effort.  Look upon it as an exciting treasure hunt with a slim fit healthy you the prize at the end of the hunt.  To lose weight eating and activity habits must change.  Behind all these habits are thoughts – hunt them out, write them down  and change them.

Learning and practising CBT techniques and applying them to the way you eat, exercise and see yourself, will enable you to finally stop sabotaging yourself and step through the door to a slim fit you and a more satisfying and fulfilling life.


Article provided by:

Diana Thurbon


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The information provided in this article is intended for general use and for personal interest only. It should not be used or understood as suggestion or medical advice.

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