Breakthrough number two occurred during another study with the NWCR volunteers. When Treitler listened to subjects' stories, something stood out: They'd all gone through an inner transformation almost like those celebrated in traditional rites of passage. Each had found a coach, mentor, or guide for the journey, had pulled back and separated somewhat from his or her old environment, and then was "reborn" into a different way of life. At this point, the newly thin person became a leader rather than a follower, a change that opened the door to further goals and achievements, often in fields completely unrelated to weight loss. (One subject, for example, asked a chef at the university where he worked to develop an aggressive diet for him, dropped nearly half his body weight, then took a leave from his job to help start a law school in Africa, where he reemerged as a passionate long-distance walker and bird-watcher.)   "All the subjects had incorporated some meditative element into their lives," Treitler says. "It might have been walking or yoga, but it was self time, a white space where they could disengage from the old, obsessive behavior." This transformation of identity appears crucial in keeping weight off. Without a new self who's clearly different from the old, overweight one, it's too easy to revert to former unhealthy habits. Can you reprogram your brain?


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