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How I Lost 140 Pounds and Kept It Off For Three Decades

(The author is a psychotherapist who lost 140 lbs. when he developed his methods, and he’s kept it off for over 30 years. Read about his method in his book at the right, or listen to his audiobook, free sample provided here.)

After years of dieting failure, I had become convinced I was born to be fat.

In my early 30’s I had been trying to get control of my weight on and off for 25 years, with my first doctors diet at 7 years old. After 25 years of yo-yo dieting, I became convinced I was born to be fat. It was in my genes, my DNA, I thought, and no matter what I did, I’d be severely overweight. The problem was, it was killing me. If I was not able to change it, I was possibly near the end of my life, at 33, with young kids and a whole life to be lived if I were not obese.

When I was 33, all my years of learning bore fruit. I lost 140 pounds and have maintained an ideal 180 lbs. for 30 years. Here’s what happened.

In all those years of failed dieting and exercise attempts, I learned a lot. I learned about the sciences of nutrition and physiology, and that an obesity problem is really a lifestyle problem. If you habitually eat more calories than you burn, you’ll become chronically overweight, and the solution is in controlling your habits, developing habits where you eat fewer calories than you burn. The problem was, self-control didn’t work. I could not get control of my habits. They controlled me.

More important than learning about nutrition and physiology, was learning about behaviorism.

By serendipitous good fortune, I gravitated to the study of psychology when I was older. I learned that rather than choose our habits, we get unknowingly programmed by a process of conditioning and “hypnosis” that we really aren’t aware of. I became interested in addictions, sensing my habits were like them, and went into the work of helping people get control of their addictions and addictive behavior.

By applying the principles of science and behavior therapy, I developed and succeeded with a method that helps people change. It helped me to permanently solve my weight problem, and it’s helped others too.

Here’s what you need to know:

1) Your weight is the result of your energy balance. Eat more calories than you burn and you’ll gain weight. Eat fewer calories than you burn and you’ll lose weight.

2) To lose and manage weight, it requires more than just learning about the calories in food and what your body uses. You need to permanently acquire the habits of eating the right balance, so that weight management becomes automatic and natural.

3) Acquiring the right habits is not a matter of intellect and will power. It is a result of training and conditioning in technique from the behavioral sciences. It is a matter of learning how to program yourself and master that part of yourself that manufactures your desires, urges, habits and feelings.

4) Diets and exercise crusades don’t work. Doing something for a while, even if you lose weight, and then going back to “normal”, will make you worse, not better.

5) Success comes not from denying yourself pleasure and good food, but by forming habits that are more pleasurable, with food that you really like that causes you to become healthy and fit instead of overweight.

With study and effort, in time, you can become successful at permanent weight loss.

I have discovered methods that are scientifically proven to work if you are able to apply them. It’s not easy, just like learning to play an instrument, earn a degree or master a sport is not easy. But there is no maybe about the efficacy. I have never had a client not lose weight following what I teach.

I have volumes of information at my website (check the “Table of Contents” at the bottom left of the page) and I’ve written a book, now an eBook and audiobook, that explains everything I teach my clients. I hope it can help you too.

This story was first published on ThriveGlobal.com

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.