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Positive psychology for losing weight

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Those extra pounds

Have you ever tried to change your diet, and ended up making it worse?  Have you ever resolved to eat more fruit, and then discovered that you are eating to much sugar?  Have you tried to cut down on snacks, then got so hungry that you raided the automatic vending machine and bought a chocolate bar?

The NY Times, this weekend describes a community weight-loss programme, that doctors believe will be no more successful than our solo attempts to lose weight.  Despite its laudable goals, and ideas like taxes on carbonated drinks, doctors believe, it will ‘bounce back’ just as our personal attempts to diet come back to haunt us.

Why is it so hard to change our behaviour and achieve important results?

Dieting is hard, partly because we go about it the wrong way.

What I want to do today is to show you what the relatively young field of positive psychology offers, to help us with the age old problem of  ‘too much of a good thing.

What is positive psychology?

First, I need to tell you what positive psychology is, and somewhat ironically, it is easier to say what is not.

Positive psychology is not positive thinking.  I don’t say to myself it is OK to be overweight, or that everything will be alright.

Positive psychology is not the setting of high but isolated goals such as “I will get more exercise”.

Positive psychology is not the righting of wrongs such as “I will eat fewer calories” or “I will eat less junk food”.

Our behaviors exist in a network of behaviors, and changing one thing requires changing others.  We may badly want to do more exercise, for example, but we may have such long commutes that we have no time.  We might be able to park our car further from the train and walk, but that also might take us past junk food outlets when are tired and hungry.  Often our ‘bad habits’ are locked in to a system.  To ask ourselves to change behaviours, flys in the face of reality.

Positive psychology and losing those pounds

Positive psychology advocates setting positive goals, living life sociably and in context, and doing more, of what we already do well.

Here are five positive approaches that will work for you.

Stage One. Write down all your good eating habits and the ways you take exercise, underline the ones you really enjoy, and do more of them.

Stage Two.  At the end of each day, or at a suitable time like on the commuter train, jot down what you have eaten and what exercise you took, and ask yourself “Why did I do so well?”  Disregard the parts you bombed out.  Concentrate on why you did so well during the last 24 hours.  The strong systems will become apparent and you can do more of them.

Stage Three. Savor your food.  I know we were told to eat more slowly as kids.  That’s important, I believe.  I mean enjoy what you are eating.  Eat what you enjoy and really savor it.  Celebrate each mouthful.  Enjoy the taste, the texture, the smell, the colour, the combinations.

Stage Four. Say grace if you are religious.  If you aren’t, look down and count up the things on your plate that you really love.

Stage Five.  Eat with others, if you can, and make a meal into a social occasion.  Cook together.  Thank the cooks.  Cook what others enjoy.  Wash up together.

I am almost certain that never, ever, in all the times that you have dieted, have you tried Stage One writing down your good habits and doing more of them.

Come with me

Shall we do it together?

And compare notes at the end of the week?

Shall we see if  life becomes more enjoyable and more stylish, and if we are feeling a little more comfortable, and a little less stuffed with the excesses of Christmas?

Are you up for it?

P.S. If you are unwell, or already under the supervision of a doctor, nutritionist or other health professional, you can join us in writing down your good habits, but please don’t change anything until you have consulted your medical advisers.  And if you are unwell, do that soon, you hear?




  1. Ned Ned

    This is excellent. I have never heard anyone give such advice. Considering how much information there is on weight loss out there, that says something.

  2. Jo Jo

    The truth is I have never done exercise 1 myself. So I will do it this week. I want good food at a reasonable price that does as little damage as possible given my work is not very physical.

    Let’s see! I am looking forward to hearing other people’s efforts.

  3. Danielle Danielle

    Just wanted to say this really helped me i really cant seem to motivate myself to get off my ass and loose some weight its so depressing looking at me just a year ago and me now. i want to do something about it i just dont have the drive to actually get up and do it.

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