Author Archives: William Anderson, LMHC

What Makes Life Worth Living?

What do you wake up for?

You may think of me as the weight loss guru, the man who lost all that weight, kept it off, and now teaches others. Well, that’s true, but I’m a trained and Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has worked with all sorts of people wanting help with all sorts of problems and wanting help achieving all sorts of things.

In private practice, I work with high performance successful people who want help with one area of their life that’s giving them fits: their weight. In my community mental health work, it’s mainly unhappy people who have not been able to get out of the rut of unhappiness they’ve been living in.

How about you? Are you happy with the way things are? When you wake up, are you dreading the day? Or when you wake up, are you excited about what’s ahead? Are somedays filled with happy anticipation, like when you are meeting someone you miss, or heading to an event you’ve been looking forward to? Are other days lacking?

You’d be surprised how many people wake up dreading what’s before them. A lot of them hate their jobs. Some hate their lives. Even those that don’t have severe angst are often feeling lost, not knowing what’s missing, but knowing life is not as happy as they’d like it to be. They are just going through the motions.

Victor Frankl, author of Man’s Search For Meaning, discovered that the energy to live and thrive, despite the most difficult of challenges, was born by having an important purpose, something to live for. Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist in Austria when the Nazis came to power., In 1944, he became a prisoner in Auschwitz death camp in WWII Germany. There, he observed that some prisoners would whither and die while others survived. He often saw that the only diagnosable difference was having a vitally important purpose to live, a burning desire to stay alive for a reason. They needed something they would vividly imagine and pursue with a vengeance. It caused them to survive where others without such an important purpose did not. He went on to form a kind of therapy based on his findings, logotherapy, to help people overcome problems, and thrive.

We need to experience more than Thoreau’s “lives of quiet desperation,” with our needs unmet, body, mind and spirit. And we need to do more than succeed in one arena, like business and career, while the other aspects of our lives whither. We need to be truly happy, thriving. So we need an important purpose that feeds our whole being, not just an aspect of our life.

Frankl found that even an evil purpose, like exacting vengeance on one’s mortal enemy, could help a person survive, though hate leads to decay of another kind. It is the same with an important purpose like reaching the pinnacle of career or financial success, but lacking in attention to the well-being of the body, mind and spirit.

What is it that you live for, that excites you when you dream of it, that you wake up craving to experience? The goal to thrive is a good one. When we thrive, we have attended to our needs for a healthy body, for healthy relationships, for satisfying purpose and worthwhile work, and fun too— for satisfaction of all our needs, body, mind and spirit. Picture yourself thriving in that way, and let that be what you dream of and what you wake up for.

The Two Best Weight Loss Ideas, From Weight Loss Successes

Clients and readers from all over the world losing weight cite two specific techniques as having almost mystical power for them, both techniques from the field of cognitive psychology. They engage both the power of “cognitive restructuring” and the hypnotic power of suggestion and imaging.

Fasting

In my method, “fasting” refers to abstaining from anything with calories between planned meals. Planning ahead is an essential technique. We don’t do spontaneous no-rules eating. Having a plan engages imaging and suggestion, triggering hypnotic-grade power to help you actualize what you have imagined you’ll be doing, rather than being open to other suggestion and hyper-vulnerable to urges.

We structure our lives in a very black and white fashion. Several times a day, we have our planned meals, the time and content entirely our choice, and the rest of the time we are fasting. Several time a day, the eating switch is on, and we have our meal, and the rest of the time, it’s off, and nothing goes into our body except non-caloric beverages.

Thinking of it as fasting is a form of cognitive restructuring called reframing, changing the meaning and experience of what we are doing. Rather than experiencing a woe-is-me deprivation of doing without, a period devoid of anything good or meaningful, we are actively engaged in the very important devotion of fasting, burning calories and fat, and accomplishing something very important to us.

We’ve borrowed fasting from the spiritual traditions, casting our activity not as a “nothing” period without something satisfying, but as a sacred activity, full of meaning. It’s a devotion of ourselves to something greater than ourselves, our health, in a holistic sense.

Clients rave about the power they derive from this, their new ability to abstain, and the exhilaration, thinking they actually feel their body burning off calories and fat. It’s a mental experience that must be experienced to be understood, something I and my clients talk about and contemplate with wonder. It is one of the two ideas clients consistently remark as being an almost magical help to them.

Hunger means you’re burning fat.

This is another cognitive restructuring, reframing technique. We change the way we experience hunger, the meaning of it and the actual experience of it.

Feeling hunger is a normal human experience, nothing to fear or avoid. I didn’t always think this way. I remember when I saw it as a reason to eat something right now! It was an excuse, too. The dietician told me to listen to my body, and my body said to eat! The problem was, it said it far too often, and it told me to eat a lot, so that I became fat.

I used to say I was starving. I’d say I was dying of hunger! What I was telling myself caused me to experience something awful, to feel awful. Something in me heard this and responded accordingly. It always rescued me from this terrible suffering in the nick of time! Unfortunately, it made me fat.

What we tell ourselves has power, almost like a hypnotist whispering in our ear. When we change the script, the suggestions, our experience changes.

When we undereat, eating less than we burn so that we start burning our stored fat, it’s normal to feel hunger. We don’t have to be afraid of it or work frantically to avoid it. We need to experience it in a new way, not as a terrible torture, but as a sign of success, as evidence that we are burning fat off our body, losing weight. If we ate something to stop it, we’d stop the burning. We don’t want to stop the fat burning! We want to keep up the fat burning! Burn, baby, burn! Hunger means you’re burning fat!

We can drink a glass of water to quiet the hunger. In fact, what we experience in our brain (where we actually experience everything) as hunger is often actually a need for water. Have a drink of water and continue to fast until that next meal you have planned. Then give yourself a pat on the back for abstaining, for your strength! You’ll make a habit of it.

Successful weight loss is more about what you think than what you eat.

These two techniques are the ideas most often cited by my clients as being surprisingly helpful. They give them power that they hadn’t had before, and developing this power is more about learning how to operate your mind than simply dieting or “making up your mind”. Therapeutic Psychogenics is a term I coined to identify what really gives a person the ability to successfully lose weight and control their weight. It’s about using behavioral technique to change the way we think, feel and act, rather than just using “will power”, which never worked for me. There are a lot more in this bag of tricks, but these might get you started.

William Anderson is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in weight loss, eating disorders and addictions. He was an obese heavy smoker and workaholic until his early thirties, and burned out, but survived and changed direction. He changed in many ways, among them, losing 140 pounds permanently. Health, in a holistic way, is now his mission. He’s trained a network of therapists in his methods and he is the author of The Anderson Method of Permanent Weight Loss.