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Winning Mental Strategies for Weight Loss

Realistic expectations lead to lasting lifestyle changes.

Your Own Worst Enemy

People have way too much negative speak. One of my patients is a lawyer in downtown Washington, married to a lawyer, and they have three kids. You can imagine her balancing act. She came to me last year at 5'5" and 250 pounds -- at only 44 years old. She was not in great shape. But she started in with me and plugged along on her weight loss plan, losing two to five pounds a month. Well, she just hit 198 pounds. While she still has a way to go, she's knocked off 52 pounds! She looks like a brand new woman. But you know what she said to me? Instead of rejoicing and saying "What an achievement!" she said, "God, why did it take me so long?"

She completely missed the point. I don't care if it took her 25 years -- she dropped 52 pounds. Although she hit plateaus several times, she never went back. She didn't gain weight during her most stressful times. I caught her at it and she said, "I had no idea I was thinking that way." Don't beat yourself up! When I trained Olympians, I asked them how they handled a crappy day or a bad week. Invariably, they never beat themselves up. They acknowledged what it was, and just got over it.

Talk To Yourself

To do that, substitute positive self-talk for negative self-talk. Come up with your own repertoire, a new vernacular of encouragement. Sometimes I say to myself, "You're having a crappy day, but you go girl. You're doing just fine." Find something that speaks to you, something that's all yours.

I have another patient at high risk for diabetes, her blood sugar and cholesterol levels were terrible, and she was terrified. But that only lasted so long. In the morning she was motivated, but by 3 p.m. she was in an eating trance at the vending machine.

I said, "You've told me about health risks and diabetes, and obviously that's not motivating you enough. Tell me something that really ticks you off." She said, "The other day my mother told me that if I get any bigger, I'm going to have to start shopping at Omar the Tentmaker's. I own this fabulous Armani suit, it's size 12, and I can't fit into it."

So this woman's motivator, when 3 p.m. rolled around and she had a choice of a healthy snack or stupid stuff from the vending machine, wasn't about diabetes or cholesterol -- it was about Armani. If you elect to eat appropriately, then the answer is Armani. If you eat badly, then the answer could only be Omar. By honoring Armani, she's stepping away from diabetes. That's one of Dr. Peeke's "get real" rules. Health is important, but you've got to make it more personal. It may be superficial, but it was worth it to her.

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