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Does Loving Yourself Lead to Weight Loss?

love yourself

(This article first appeared in The Huffington Post)

I’ll bet that you’ve heard that you must first love yourself to lose weight. So many of us hate being overweight, even hate ourselves for it, and we think that we need to lose weight to be able to like ourselves. But we’re told that we have it backwards, that to lose weight, we need to first love ourselves the way we are. Well, how is that possible when you don’t like yourself or if you hate yourself and what you’ve made of your life? How can you just decide, “I love me!” when everything inside you says it’s a lie? It’s impossible.

I don’t remember who first told me that I had to love myself the way I was, to love my fat body, as it was, in order to get better. It seemed crazy. She told me to hug my enormous thigh and say “I love you, thigh.” How could I do that? I hated it.

Soon after we are born, we discover that we must “measure up” to be OK, to be praised and rewarded. Often, when we don’t, we are scolded and punished. Then, later, we discover that to be accepted by our peers, we have to be a certain way, act a certain way, and look a certain way. Otherwise, we are rejected, or worse, teased and tormented. If we are good at “making the grade”, we are showered with acceptance and love, and assisted in life. If we don’t, we are punished by parents and teachers, and rejected, teased and tormented by our peers. Instead of being loved, we are not only disliked, but hated -scorned. We get abused rather than showered with affection and given opportunity and assistance by those in our world.

This is the system most of us learn. It is “the way things work” that we learn to deal with, and it never occurs to us to change it. How could we? It’s reality. It’s the way the world works.

So, we adopt this system ourselves. We judge everything we encounter, and if it measures up, we accept it. If it doesn’t, we reject it. If it’s really wonderful, we love it and shower it with praise and whatever we can give it. If it’s awful, we treat it with scorn, withhold our love, and maybe even trash it, kick it to the curb. This is how we regard everyone and everything we encounter. This is the way we think and treat everything in our lives — including ourselves.

It is the unusual person who encounters something ugly and rotten and hugs it, who forgives those who have committed the sins of our society. We want to punish! Sure, there are those who preach about loving our enemies and forgiving those who have committed the worst sins, but nobody except saints takes that seriously. Those who break the rules and fail to live up to our standards deserve to be scorned and punished. That’s just the way it is. They deserve it. And in our culture that worships physical beauty and success, there is hardly anything worse than a big fat failure. And that’s what I was at age 33 at 320 pounds, a diet failure for 25 years.

The weight loss industry preys on people who hate being overweight and often hate themselves for failing to fix it. Most people believe that the way to earn their self-respect and like themselves is to correct this flaw, to lose the weight and become a weight loss success. Then they would be able to like themselves. And this idea is promoted and accepted. And the truth is that it is wonderful to become successful at it. You feel so much better about yourself. It can’t be denied. However, to maintain the belief you must succeed in order to be OK and lovable, that only success and beauty should be loved while ugliness and failure should be hated, is a trap. It’s a trap I was caught in until I changed what I believed.

The problem is, we don’t take good care of things we hate. We throw them out, or under the bus. However, we bend over backwards to take care of the things we love. If we have an adorable little puppy that we love, we give it everything it needs and more. We lavish it with love and toys. But if we are given a snarling mangy stray to take care of, we are more apt to take it to the pound and leave it. That’s the way we’ve become. It’s normal. It doesn’t make us the devil, but the truth is, we don’t help things we hate recover from whatever affliction they suffer. When we confront ourselves and our faults and failures, we tend to hate. We are more apt to beat ourselves up or let ourselves go without what we need to get better.

If we are to thrive and get better, to recover from our flaws and failures, we need to be nurtured and helped, not neglected and abused. That loving behavior has to come from a conscious decision to be loving and forgiving when confronting those things that are not beautiful and successful, instead of judging and punishing. That doesn’t mean that you let the mangy stray sleep in your bed and bite you, but that you realize there is probably a reason it’s the way it is and you start treating it right instead of abusing it, and you see that it gets what it needs to thrive. That means that you make a conscious decision to not only be loving and forgiving to others, but to yourself as well, to love yourself like the puppy, not because you earned it, but because it needs it to be OK, because you need it to be OK.

In my early thirties, I had failed so many times at permanent weight loss that I gave up on the idea. I left that dream behind. But then I bought into this way of thinking that embraced love and forgiveness instead of judging and punishing. I decided that not only others needed to be loved regardless of their conditions, but that I also was worthy of that consideration, even though a big fat failure. I decided to love that body, the poor thing, and be kind about my faults and failures instead of mad and mean. Coincidently, I started being able to make changes and get better.

It’s been 30 years now since I lost my excess 140 pounds, which is a wonderful thing. But I’ve come to know that the more important change I’ve made is the way I think and the way I am on the inside. The outside counts for something, but it’s not the end-all, be-all, and often times we can’t change those conditions we find ourselves in. What makes us better is deciding to love ourselves no matter what. We need that. And when we do that, sometimes we open the door to miracles.

Read my book and maybe a miracle will open for you!

Can a Drug or Surgery Solve Your Weight Problem?

Successful Weight Loss
(Published first in The Huffington Post)

In a word, no. Can they help? Perhaps.

Last month I wrote an article that spoke somewhat favorably of the new weight loss drug, Saxenda. I said it was perhaps the most important weight loss medication ever developed.

Wow! Did I get lambasted! I got all sorts of email blasting me for going over to the dark side and becoming a drug pusher and lackey of Big Pharma. I even got an email from my favorite professor of counseling at the University of Massachusetts, now friend, Allen Ivey, Ph.D. Besides being a friend, he is a big shot in the counseling field, the father of Microcounseling and developer of “active listening”. He said he was “sad” to see that I seemed to be pushing drugs. He is the last person on earth that I would want to be mistaken about my views on the solution to obesity. We’ve since gotten that misunderstanding corrected, but I want to make sure it is clear with everyone who reads my blogs.

I am still the world’s staunchest advocate of the behavioral therapy I teach to reverse the condition of obesity. It works -like a miracle, some say. But not 100% of the time. For some, it is not enough.

After 30 years successfully helping people to lose weight permanently, I am convinced that a percentage of the population is dealing with a physiological condition that creates more persistent and intense degrees of craving and compulsion than the rest of us have to deal with. My approach teaches people how to overcome the habits and feelings that make them overweight but sometimes those cravings and compulsions are so strong that nothing on God’s natural earth will quiet them.

If you’ve ever had a blister on your foot or a pebble in your shoe, you’ll remember that your brain is getting the message loud and clear that you need to relieve that pressure and you need to relieve it right now. You will feel the drive to relieve it until you do. It won’t go away until you do whatever it takes. There is no “will-powering” it away. Something is going on in the body, physiologically and chemically, that is triggering a response in your brain that will bother you until you satisfy it. It isn’t exactly the same with the food cravings that some have, but it gives you an idea of what some people are dealing with. Hold your breath for as long as you can and see how powerful the urge to breathe becomes. This is the kind of relentless drive that a small percentage of the population is fighting in their attempts to stop eating too much.

For them, some sort of intervention or tool that would make it easier for them to eat less would be a Godsend. Then, perhaps what they learn in a good behavioral approach would be enough. Self-programming and cognitive techniques like I teach work like magic for many people, but they would be so much more productive for these folks with eating hyperdrive if we could reduce that drive, which the pharmaceuticals can do. Or in the case of surgery, an additional tool to use behaviorally.

Make no mistake about it, drugs or surgery will not by themselves solve your weight problem. To solve your weight problem, you need to make a permanent change in your behavior, made possible with behavioral therapy, taught in my book and by my therapists. Success comes with learning how to eat what you like in ways that keep you at your desired weight and it becoming habitual and a new “normal” for you. Now, with these new medical interventions, success may be possible even for those who have suffered from an abnormally intensive eating drive. Weight loss drugs or surgery may now enable them to overcome the obstacles that prevented them from being able to make those behavioral changes.

My Latest Amazon Review (now 65 5-Star out of 86 Total!)

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I just received my 65th 5-Star rating on Amazon’s reviews. Book critics may not like my book, but the people who want to lose sure do! I’ve sold over 10,000 books so far and my therapist network has worked with thousands. The reviews and testimonials we get are so wonderful to read! We love knowing how our work is helping people.

But, there are over 300,000,000 people in the U.S. alone (the book is sold all over the world) and 70% of them need to lose weight for a healthy and happy future, so we have a long way to go!

If you’ve gotten my book and you like it, please write a nice review on Amazon,  and you’ll have my sincere gratitude for life! If you haven’t gotten my book, please do! Here’s Amazon’s link: http://www.amazon.com/The-Anderson-Method-Secret-Permanent/dp/1935097288

If you have a question or a request, don’t hesitate to make a comment here or email me at the email address on the media page.

The 7 Elements of Easy Weight Loss

Lady

Can weight loss ever be easy? Many people I work with have said just that. But there are reasons that they are able to describe their success as easy. What sets them apart from those that have been unable to succeed?

1) Focus on behavior and personal change, not weight.
Our body and weight is a result of our everyday habits, the way we think and act, today and for the rest of our lives. Changing habits and attitudes is the way to lose weight permanently, not getting hung up on pounds and the scale.

Many people are very attached to their pleasures, favorite snacks, favorite restaurants and party friends. Using diets and products to lose weight while continuing the same way of living and thinking will only make matters worse.

When we decide we want to change and are willing to give up the things that stand in the way, we’ve taken the first step. When we’ve decided to measure our progress by looking at our behavior and beliefs instead of the scale, we’re on the second step. But just wanting to change is not enough. We need to learn how.

2) Mastering behaviors, not willpower.
Most people think that the way we act and feel is a matter of choice and that personal change is a matter of will power. The reality is that most of us are not aware of why we feel and act the way we do and we don’t know how to change.

The way we are is a product of conditioning and programming, most of it unconscious. We are like a pet that perks up and comes running when it hears the can opener. We do the things we do because we have been conditioned or programmed to. It’s reflex. It’s automatic. That’s the way a part of your brain works that’s been in control of your feelings and habits. Changing that is not just a matter of willing yourself to feel and act differently. You need to be reprogrammed, and that will take practice and effort using known techniques and principles. Weight loss and good health needs to become automatic. That’s the province of behaviorism.

3) Be willing to work hard to make things easy.
When I and my clients say that permanent weight loss has become easy, we are not saying that we did not have to work at it. We are saying that it has become automatic. It’s like learning to ride a bike or drive a car or play a musical instrument. At first, it may feel awkward, uncomfortable and unnatural. But after a while, some difficulty and practice, it becomes automatic and natural. You just jump on the bike or in the car, and your hands and feet know exactly what to do, without effort or thinking. It’s like something else is taking you where you want to go. In the past what we felt like doing made us overweight. Now, it feels natural and satisfying to do the things that keep us at our ideal weight.

4) Being Responsible 
Because we’ve tried and failed and lost faith in ourselves so many times in the past, it often occurs to us that if we could get someone else to make it happen, then we might be successful. So we hire a personal trainer or a coach. Or we ask a friend or family member to take on the responsibility. It may even seem to work for a while. But it doesn’t last. We cancel or change our mind and stop doing what’s necessary to succeed.

To succeed, you must accept the job of being responsible for your success. No one else has as much to gain or lose. You are the only one, and if you don’t take the job, no one else will. There is only one person in the world who has so much at stake, so much to gain, so many reasons to create your success.

You are in the driver’s seat of your life, and you need to own that job. No one else can take the wheel for you. But to succeed, we need to learn how.

5) Gaining the knowledge and skill sets to get where you want to be.
Are we born knowing how to drive, how to master will, how to be healthy and successful? No. Not on your life.

But we are born with potential, the ability to learn and the ability to acquire knowledge, skills, beliefs and behaviors. As babies, we are like little programmable robots, ready to be outfitted with the data and programs to take us to the stars.

Unfortunately, most of us had some bad programming and learned how to be unhealthy instead of healthy. Are we doomed to follow our early programming, stuck with the bad information and behaviors we’ve been trained with? No.

Regardless of our age, we still have the potential we were born with. We still have the equipment needed to learn, that can rid us of bad information and behaviors and replace them with healthier ones.

6) Faith in the potential and power within you.
All living breathing things, including you, have a power in them that generates their life. You did not make this. It made you. It predates you and has a wisdom beyond our comprehension. It beats your heart, channels impulses through your brain and nervous system, had instinct from the day you were born, and has the miraculous ability to heal broken bones and wounds. While philosophers and psychologists try to understand and discover how it works, we do not fully understand it. But we know it is in us.

Sometimes, we lose sight of this and doubt our potential. This is crucial, because the part of us that runs our programs and runs our life will act out what we believe is possible rather than what it is really capable of. So, if we believe we do not have this power and potential within us, it’s like we are turning it off. If we do that, the wisdom, genius and miraculous is being told to stop working.

If you are alive and breathing it is there. Have the faith that it is always there. We may have let ourselves down in the past, lost faith in our own little self, but it is essential to believe that the power that generates the miracles of life is still there, at work, coursing through your every cell. It is ready to respond when you are ready to call on it and put it to work. That Faith is not only rational, but absolutely needed for that power to be active in your life.

7) Desire
The word desire is derived from a root word that means star, like the sun, a source of energy. Some people have said that desire is something to shun. I certainly think a desire for unhealthy things causes suffering, but I know that a desire for healthy things causes good things to happen. A strong desire is absolutely necessary when the object of your desire is difficult to attain, requires work, or has obstacles to overcome.

Don’t be afraid to kindle a burning desire for your success. It will give you energy. You need that energy to accomplish what we want here. If the dream of being at a weight you’d love stirs you, dream it. If the thought of doing what you’d like to do at your desired weight, wearing what you’d like to wear, feeling how you want to feel excites you, stoke it.

Successful weight loss was an elusive goal for many of us for many years, but it certainly is possible, and for many of us, it’s become easy. It most certainly is worth everything you can muster to put these elements in place. Think of what your life would be like if you could solve this problem.

William Anderson is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in weight loss, eating disorders and addictions. He is the author of  The Anderson Method.

 

How to Know When Weight Loss Surgery Is The Right Thing to Do

Bariatric surgery
When I was twelve, after countless days of torment over my weight and inability to control it, I would have given anything to have the surgery that would solve the problem for me. I’m glad it didn’t happen. I went on to discover how to lose weight permanently while enjoying eating more than ever, lost over 100 pounds after years of dieting failure, and went on to teach others how, and to write the book about it, The AndersonMethod.

Some think of me as the weight loss counselor’s counselor who is against bariatric surgery, so people are surprised to learn that I’ve recommended bariatric surgery to a number of clients.

In fact, I’ve worked hard to convince some people that weight loss surgery was something they needed to be open to and look into. At times, I’ve told them I think it must be done ASAP. And while my weight loss method is a behavioral approach, teaching people how to form the habits and unconscious behavior to achieve permanent weight loss, I work with many people who have had the surgery. That’s because, even with the surgery, you still need to change your eating habits and change them for life. More on that later.

A few years ago, bariatric surgery started becoming a big business with magazine ads and billboards advertising the different competing hospitals’ surgical weight loss programs. Smiling doctors and attractive stories enticed people. Free seminars offered all your answers. Before and after pictures and stories excited anyone who has dreamed of solving their weight problem. It really bothered me because I knew that lots of people would be drawn to this and choose it, thinking it would relieve them of the need to change their eating habits. They thought that the surgery would be easier than counseling in behavioral therapy, a way to solve the problem for many without the surgery, not to mention being a small fraction of the cost. Many would ignore the risks and downsides of the surgery. They would choose not to consider that they would need to learn how to change their habits anyway and that many people who lost weight with the surgery had not kept it off. I know that weight loss surgery is not the right thing for most of these overweight people.

So, if I’m so sure it’s the wrong thing in many cases, what makes me think it’s the right thing sometimes? The main factor that leads me to advise people to have the surgery is emergency.

Sometimes, the threat from their obesity is so dangerous that life is at stake and there is no certain way to restore hope and eliminate the risk other than the surgery. Simply said, we’ve run out of time. There is no more time to depend on methods that are not absolutely guaranteed to produce immediate dramatic weight loss to prevent further deterioration we may not recover from.

The cases where I’ve prescribed surgery all involve clients who have made sincere heroic efforts, but have been unable to overcome the forces that prevent them from losing weight. They have all reached the point where they have given up hope that they will ever be able to lose weight. Now, let me be clear, it’s normal to become hopeless, even regularly, for people who try to lose weight, but in these high-risk cases, the hopelessness spirals them downward to a deterioration they might not recover from. With most of us, after a while, we are able to see things differently, learn more, and resume the work to get control of the weight and eventually succeed.

What is this deterioration that I say is so dangerous? In some cases, it is mobility. They are just not able to move around without great pain and difficulty, reducing their movement while destroying their spirit. With some, it is a profound hopelessness where nothing but misery and an early death is imaginable, driving them further down a black hole that is dangerous in itself. Some are so medically compromised with dangerous heart conditions and diabetes that they are a ticking time bomb and time is running out. Nothing has worked and they are getting worse.

In all these cases, as soon as the decision to go ahead with the surgery is made, hope is restored. They are able to believe, without doubt, that they will be able to lose weight, because it is the new physical condition, the alteration of their gut, that will cause them to lose weight. They don’t have to depend solely on their own efforts.

Another characteristic that may be present in those I’ll recommend for bariatric surgery is an unusually powerful eating drive that I am certain is biologically based. It is a drive so strong, like that associated with the worst addictive drugs, that we are unable to overcome it, even with the best behavioral interventions we employ. With most people, we are able to answer the cravings in a way that overpowers them, and also employ methods that will reduce or eliminate them. In these worst-case scenarios, the people are unrelentingly tormented by these drives that cannot be overcome. The surgery acts as an additional tool in their toolbox that strengthens their ability to manage their eating, physically limits what they can process and absorb, and may have an important impact on the production of hormone, as we know it does related to diabetes, that influences eating drive and behavior.

How has it worked? I’m happy to say that I am hearing “I’m doing great! I have my life back, better than ever” more often than ever, more often than when I only offered behavioral therapy in my weight loss counseling work. My clients who were spiraling down are getting better, having hope. They are able to apply the behavioral techniques with increased effectiveness. Like my other successful clients, they are mobile again, with less pain and discomfort, ridding themselves of the diabetes and high blood pressure and the medicines they needed to treat them. They are happier with themselves and their lives.

If you have been chronically overweight and unable to achieve the weight loss you want, rest assured that it can be done. Your habits will have to change for life, but that does not have to be by sheer force of will alone. There is a whole body of behavioral technique that I teach, that can be learned, that makes behavior change possible.

But, if you have done all that, learned all you can from me and tried your best, and things are getting worse and you are running out of time, weight loss surgery might be right for you. So says the weight loss counselor’s counselor who people think is totally against bariatric surgery.

William Anderson is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in weight loss, eating disorders and addictions. He is the creator of “Therapeutic Psychogenics”, which helped him lose 140 pounds permanently thirty years ago after years of obesity and dieting failure. He has written a book about it, The Anderson Method, and he is teaching these techniques to individuals and therapists all over the country.