This brain research confirms what I have long known. I used to have a poor self-image and a great deal of anxiety. As a result, I engaged in unhealthy patterns around food and eating. I soon went from being an attractive TV soap opera star to being obese. But when I learned to forgive myself, be self-compassionate, and stop judging the way I looked, I was able to release more than 70 pounds. You can do it too. It's not about giving something up, dieting, loss, or deprivation. It's about changing the way you think.
Here are five behaviors that make you fat.
1. Denying one's emotional needs. We're taught to buck up, stop complaining, be strong, keep our chin up, and so on. When we judge ourselves for being "needy," we end up trying to fulfill our real needs (e.g., for safety, love, comfort, and so on) with food.
2. Having a negative self-perception. When we focus on our deficiencies (I'm not good enough), we start to feel defeated. Holding on to negative feelings about who we are can start to dominate our consciousness and erode our confidence--until changing our self-care, eating, and exercise habits begins to feel hopeless.
3. Viewing oneself as a victim. What we focus on expands, so focusing on what you don't want makes it inevitable that you will get more of it. When we feel sorry for ourselves (for being alone or unwanted, for example) it perpetuates a feeling of shame, humiliation, and self-judgment. In this frame of mind, it's too easy to engage in unhealthy habits that perpetuate the self-loathing.
5. Resisting change. Sometimes, even if we feel miserable and unhealthy, we don't want to take steps to feel better. Being unwilling to explore new ways to live, such as eating different foods or getting out of an inactivity rut, eventually turns into a feeling that those things are for other people, not for us.
6. Reacting from the past. Past experiences create emotions that get locked up inside us. When this happens, we end up reacting to present-day situations--such as workplace or relationship stressors--defensively. (Here I am again, getting rejected or put down.) The result? We seek comfort in food, because that seemed to help in the past.
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Freeman Michaels, who played Drake Belson on The Young and the Restless during the mid-1990s, is now a nationally known weight-release coach and seminar leader, and author of a new book about the successful approach he developed that helped him shed more than 70 pounds, called Weight Release: A Liberating Journey. You can find out more about him at www.servicetoself.com.