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Skill-Training Method Works for Weight Loss, Study Finds

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The program, Mellin says, "turns off the drive to overeat without using diets and drugs."

"We teach these developmental skills like you would teach someone how to type, until they become the natural dominant, integral way of functioning," says Mellin, who began developing the Solution Method 22 years ago as a way to treat obese youths. "When people integrate these skills, they make a leap toward soothing and comforting themselves from the inside without external gratifiers like food.

"Traditional weight loss programs provide external sources of nurturing and limits, which can go away," she says. For example, Mellin says, your personal trainer could move away, or your doctor could cut off your diet pill prescription.

During the Solutions sessions, participants are basically taught to ask themselves questions whenever they feel stressed and are tempted to overeat or engage in any other unhealthy behavior, she says. The self-nurturing questions include: How do I feel? What do I need? Do I need support? Among the limit-setting questions are: Are my expectations reasonable? Is my thinking positive and powerful?

The program, she says, works by reprogramming the limbic or "feeling" brain, says Mellin, who has written a book called The Solution: 6 Winning Ways to Permanent Weight Loss.

"Other current obesity interventions focus on information, insight, decision making, and ideas -- all processed by [the] thinking brain, or neocortex," she says. "Unfortunately, there is no significant relationship between the thinking brain and what we do on most primitive behaviors, like eating. This is why a person can have a PhD in nutrition and an eating disorder or why a licensed psychologist can also be depressed."

Mellin believes the Solution Method may one day help people with substance-abuse problems to kick their bad habits. "The drive to do anything to excess, whether it's eating, drinking, smoking, or gambling, goes away," she says.

Gail Frank, RD, DrPh, a spokesperson for the ADA, thinks Mellin's solution makes sense.

"All weight management has to have a sanity about it because if you don't try to think sensibly about food and eating, you can create very neurotic people and disordered eating," says Frank, who also is a professor of nutrition at California State University in Long Beach and an adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of California at Irvine.

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