Losing weight doesn't start with diet or exercise. It starts with believing that you deserve to be healthy. If you believe you deserve better, you will create better for yourself.

When you look at those people whom you admire—the ones who are skinny, glamorous, seem to have it all—do you say the following to yourself? "They are better than I am, and I will never be able to look the way they look or feel the way they seem to feel. I guess I'll never have what they have; I've seen myself try and fail too many times." You may still feign excitement or get temporarily pumped up about some quick-fix fad diet, but do you really believe you can do it? If not, you won't do it.

If, on the other hand, you look at your role models and think, "Now it's my turn," then this is your chance to make it so. If you do different, you will have different. If you begin to require more of yourself, that in and of itself is different.

Start by adjusting your thinking. You've got to abandon all your negative beliefs about yourself and replace them with positive ones. You have to identify and embrace what it is that you are good at, as well as the qualities, traits, and characteristics that make you a worthwhile human being.

I'll give you an example from my life. When I was a kid, my personal truth was severely damaged. My family was dirt poor, my father was a bad alcoholic, and there were even times growing up when I was hungry and homeless. I had to rally just to feel like a second-class citizen! But eventually, and with a lot of help from some coaches, I found something I could be proud of. As it turned out, I was a good athlete.

Now, obviously, I was no Tom Brady, but on the football field, I could run pretty darn fast and jump pretty darn high, and I seemed to be able to catch and hang on to the ball better than most. Once that whistle blew, my team didn't care where I lived or who my family was; they cared that I could play football. And when I looked around to find that all of my teammates whom I held in high esteem were suddenly deferential to me—they believed I was superior—I thought, There must be something good about me because they're choosing team captain, and they choose me. So I focused on that one area, and that was enough for my self-worth to begin to grow.

Finding value in that one area gave me enough traction to stop putting myself down for what I wasn't blessed with and focus instead on what I was blessed with and worked hard doing. I was giving myself a fact-based attribution to my self-image. You can do the same. Here are four steps to get you started:

1. Decide what you are good at or what is good about you.

2. Observe yourself exhibiting those qualities or characteristics or mastering a given function or activity.

3. Acknowledge that you are living up to your potential and having some mastery in your life.

4. Make an attribution to yourself regarding that competency.

Now we need to apply this approach to how you feel about your body and losing weight. You've got to decide, and really believe, that you can be good at losing weight. As you learn to eat healthy and incorporate exercise into your daily routine, you will observe yourself mastering weight loss, because the scale and the measuring tape will reflect that fact. You will change your personal truth to reflect the new reality you've created. And as your personal truth begins to change, you will stop beating yourself up for all the mistakes you've made in the past. Then you behave your way to success, because once you've changed your thoughts and beliefs about yourself, your behavior follows.

Dr. Phillip C. McGraw's daily talk show is in its 13th season. He has written seven best-selling books; his latest book is The 20/20 Diet: 20 Key Foods to Help You Succeed Where Other Diets Fail (Bird Street Books).


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