So why don't diets work?
Diets don't work because what you are doing is taking something external and trying to change an internal issue. Eating is an internal issue.
What is the first thing you do when working with someone who wants to lose weight?
The first thing I ask people is, "Do you want to lose weight?" and I see what kind of response I get. If there is a 10-second pause, it won't work, because they are not committed enough. There has to be a combination of mental and physical commitment. If your mind is saying one thing and your body is doing something different, it is not going to work.
What is important besides strong commitment?
What we do is also create a goal. We need to have a powerful goal or target. ... I have them set a series of three or four goals and put it in their future timeline. These are weight-loss goals where they see themselves thinner; they are losing weight; they are feeling fitter, better and more energetic. At the same time, they see themselves as someone who no longer eats because they feel lonely or no longer eats because it is a reward at the end of the day. ... When you create a goal that is so powerful like that, it's just going to pull you along. If you don't do that and just go on a diet, you are not going to have something to keep you on track and pull you in that direction permanently. In three to nine months, most people go off the diet. It is very important to set a goal. This is one of the keys to keep the weight off.
What else do you emphasize?
The other thing I emphasize is comfort level. I get people to focus on how their stomach feels and how comfortable their bodies are so they have a real sense of stomach comfort and body comfort. ... When they are eating, I want them to focus on how hungry they really are throughout the meal. I get people very aware. I want people to go on sensory alert when they are eating.
Why is that important?
Most people really have an overeating problem. So I give them a strategy to stop over eating. The strategy is based on using the same senses to stop eating they use to get started. The other thing I do is give people a way to change how they present the outside food world to themselves.
Tell me about that.
If you are wildly enthusiastic about something, the way you present it in your mind is different than if you think about something that is dull or boring. Your body language is different; the way you present it to yourself is different. And trying not to think about something is very difficult. What you can do is think about things differently. If you start to picture these irresistible foods like pizza or pretzels differently, instead of imagining them having what I call big thoughts, you can reduce the image so it is the size of a distant food stamp. So if you start to look at your food reduced, darker, dimmer, in one of the corners of your visual field, you start to talk to yourself about it differently so that the content is the same but you are talking about it more slowly and quietly.
Does that change the enjoyment of eating?
No, it won't really change the enjoyment, but what it does do is it gives you a handle on the thoughts and the way you build everything up. People do a tremendous amount of anticipation about food they are not aware of. You get very enthusiastic. What I try to do is get them to think about it and get the information so it doesn't grab them by the neck. By putting the thoughts in the distance, and having small food thoughts, it doesn't change how you enjoy the food. What it does is when you are hungry, you eat and enjoy your food. You constantly monitor your stomach. And when your stomach is no longer hungry and feels satisfied, that is a signal to stop eating.
Any other secrets to permanent weight loss?
There has to be a love affair between the stomach and body. It takes patience and time. It needs to be nurtured.