Dr. Phil
While most of us recognize Dr. Phil for his relationship savvy; what's less well-known is that he has spent 30 years helping people slim down. His new book, based on not only his own practice but exhaustive medical, psychological and nutritional research, identifies seven keys to what he calls weight-loss freedom.

Diets fail, he says, because we rebel and we don't have a system in place to support us when we're not in the mood to stick to our plan. In the following excerpt, Dr. Phil explains step-by-step how to examine and challenge your habits of mind—and stop medicating yourself with food.

Rethink Weight Loss  
Regaining control of your feelings is not only the key to losing weight, but also to your overall well-being. These seven steps will show you how to do it!
Imagine you apply for a job you really want but you're not hired. Your reaction could be: "Hey, I don't like getting turned down. But I know in my heart I am talented and competent, and I'll apply for another job." You're being rational and realistic, yet you're not likely to get upset and suffer a huge blow to your self-worth. On the other hand, maybe your reaction is, "I'm such a loser. I blew the interview, and I got what I deserved. That job was too good for me. They knew I couldn't cut it. Give me a bag of chips so I can feel better." What happens in the wake of that thinking is a feeling of stress, and maybe depression. You believe that not getting the job made you upset, when in fact, it was your thinking that hurt you.

Whatever the situation, you can choose your reaction. The events in your daily life have only the meaning you assign to them. This is why one of my life laws states that there is no reality, only perception.

If your response is counterproductive, test your perceptions more often and become more accountable for how you react to problems. Stop being overly sensitive to the negatives, while filtering out the positives. Recognize where your outlook is distorted so that you can make adjustments.

Make no mistake: I'm not suggesting you interpret everything in a Pollyanna fashion. If you experience one of life's top stressors—say, the death of a child or a divorce—it's not rational for you to interpret that in any way as being good. But you have a choice about whether that event will be your undoing or whether it becomes something you deal with in a constructive manner, creating meaning and purpose out of your suffering. That can take any number of forms, from counseling other victims of tragedy to volunteering for a cause. The most important choice you have is what you do now. The past is over. The future hasn't happened yet. The only time is now.

Rethink Weight Loss  
Regaining control of your feelings is not only the key to losing weight, but also to your overall well-being. These seven steps will show you how to do it!
You can either sit around and stew, or you can make the choice to take action and adopt a solution-side approach. If it's a bill you can't pay, whining and worrying won't satisfy your creditor. If it's an argument with your spouse, withdrawing and brooding won't bring things to resolution. What's more, none of these situations will get better if you respond by stuffing yourself with food. Stop living reactively and begin to choose the right attitude and the right behavior to generate the right results. Remember that action—not reaction—gets meaningful, constructive results. Those old sayings have long lives because they're true: No one ever climbed a hill just by looking at it. You can't get anywhere unless you start. When you're accountable for your problems and their solutions, you are an agent of change.

Rethink Weight Loss  
Regaining control of your feelings is not only the key to losing weight, but also to your overall well-being. These seven steps will show you how to do it!
Changing your emotional responses, and the unwanted eating behavior that flows from them, requires slowing down, listening to your thinking, evaluating your reactions, and altering them. That's why you must learn to put your mind into slow motion like a videotape. I know this sounds like a tall order, but let me assure you that it will be one of the easiest and most effective ways to manage your emotional life. If you have open emotional wounds, then you will "feed the need." Food can be a great comforter and can create weight that is a great excuse to drop out of all or part of your life.

Sandra, a former patient of mine, was a clear example. At 5'2" and 195 pounds, she professed to be desperate to lose weight. Consciously, she hated her appearance and feared for her life, knowing she was at high risk for a heart attack or stroke. Yet despite repeated attempts at dieting, she would put the weight back on every time she got close to her goal. It was clear to me that Sandra was getting some kind of payoff for this self-sabotage. Somehow, someway, she unconsciously felt uncomfortable giving up her obesity. I began to dig deep, and it didn't take long to solve the mystery.

Starting at age 10, Sandra had begun to show signs of becoming a young woman—changes that did not go unnoticed by a sick and depraved uncle who molested her. The violation continued for years, and these were years marked by the shame and guilt of a confused little girl. Blaming herself and her body, Sandra discovered that as she inadvertently put on weight, the unwanted attention seemed to lessen. As she became more obese and her sexual characteristics were, in a sense, camouflaged, a feeling of safety came upon her.
Sandra and I began to see that remaining overweight insulated her from the opposite sex. Every time she would lose weight and receive compliments from men, she'd panic and gain it back. I asked Sandra to slow her thoughts down, relax, and recall the painful incidents with her uncle, and to tell me what messages were going through her head. With practice she started listening to what had become automatic, internal statements. She was shocked by what she'd been telling herself: "I'm dirty. I'm disgusting. I'm just another piece of garbage on the heap that no man would want for anything other than sex. I'm afraid and ashamed of intimacy. I need my weight as a place to hide." With jolting clarity, Sandra realized that her unhealed feelings had held her prisoner. As long as she needed that weight, no diet would ever be able to take it away from her.

How about you? Do you need weight as a coping mechanism? Are you sabotaging yourself for some unapparent reason? You must go through the same process in which I guided Sandra. Slow your thoughts down, and listen attentively. Trust me; you did tell yourself something if you now feel angry, mad, anxious, frustrated, sad or depressed. From now on, whenever you get upset, listen ever so carefully to what you're telling yourself. Be sure to write your thoughts down. This helps you appraise them more objectively and allows you to get some perspective.

Rethink Weight Loss  
Regaining control of your feelings is not only the key to losing weight, but also to your overall well-being. These seven steps will show you how to do it!
By overriding your mental conditioning, you can reprogram yourself and better manage your emotional life. Ask yourself:
  • Are my thoughts true?
  • Do they serve my best interests?
  • Do they advance and protect my health?
  • Do they help me achieve my weight-management goals?
When you do this reality check, your beliefs, attitudes and evaluations of yourself will begin to change, no matter how long-standing they are.

To be liberated from the control of negative emotions, you'll need to see the truth in the fact that you're responsible for upsetting yourself. It's wrong to continue in the belief that something or someone is causing you to feel emotions you don't want to feel. I know I keep knocking this into your head: You can't change other people or conditions; you can change only your reactions to them.

Rethink Weight Loss  
Regaining control of your feelings is not only the key to losing weight, but also to your overall well-being. These seven steps will show you how to do it!
If you allow ugly emotions to take root in your heart and mind, they will not remain specific to the situation that provoked them. They begin to contaminate all your relationships, and the person you once were begins to die. Maintaining anger, hurt, vengeance, hatred and other burdens eats away at your body and soul. If emotional pain or problems have cropped up in your life, you must insist on getting closure. This means you address the issue, then you slam the book shut and put it away. Whatever that takes, do it. A powerful process that I use to help people get emotional closure is what I call your Minimal Effective Response (MER). The operative word here is minimal. Let me explain what MER is not. For one thing, it is not seeking revenge or plotting ways to undermine other people. Taking such actions only harms you in the long run because you're still holding on to self-destructive emotions. MER seeks to satisfy your need for emotional resolution without creating a whole new set of problems. Maybe it means confronting yourself or the other person. Maybe it means taking legal action. Maybe it requires forgiveness or making an apology. Maybe it means writing a letter to someone or stomping on a wrongdoer's grave. Maybe it involves seeing a mental health counselor or turning the situation and its emotional battle over to God. There are many different ways to obtain MER; the key is to get maximum results for minimal expense. When you initiate your MER, trust me, it will lessen your need to use food as medication. To map out your MER, you can use the following questions:
  • What action can I take to resolve my emotional pain?
  •  If I were successful and achieved this resolution, how would I feel?
  • Does the feeling I will have match the feeling I want to have?
  • Remembering the word minimal, could there be some other economical action that would give me the emotional resolve I need?
 After considering your own emotional responses, and the nature and degree of the suffering you have endured, what is your MER? Maybe all you need to do is compose a letter and write down all your thoughts and feelings. Maybe you need to mail the letter. But whatever your MER is, you need to identify it and you need to do it. You need to say, "Okay, it's done. I've had enough. I will no longer allow you to rob me of my self-control."

Rethink Weight Loss
Regaining control of your feelings is not only the key to losing weight, but also to your overall well-being. These seven steps will show you how to do it!
There's one more facet to this vitally important action called Minimal Effective Response (MER). The key with which you unlock your emotional prison and set yourself free may be forgiveness. Initially, forgiveness might be very hard for you, because you probably feel that it demonstrates weakness rather than strength. I submit to you that this powerful human act does anything but, and it may be absolutely essential in order for you to make positive change.

Let's be clear by what I mean when I use the word forgiveness: I'm talking about something that happens entirely within you. Forgiveness is a choice you make to release yourself from anger, hatred and resentment. I'm not saying that the choice is easy, only that it is necessary. You should also know I'm in no way asking you to take the position that whatever may have happened to you is now okay. Forgiveness is not a feeling that you passively wait to come over you. It is a choice you make.

By not forgiving your wrongdoers, you allow them to lock you back into your prison, and they win. You see: Forgiveness of those who have transgressed against you is not about them. It's about you.

If you're unsure how to forgive, let me help give you a voice. You might say to yourself, "I am making a choice to forgive you. By doing so, I free myself from the bond I had with you through hatred, anger, resentment or fear. I take back my power and gain the freedom that only forgiveness can bring. You cannot hurt me and you cannot control me. I forgive for myself."  

Rethink Weight Loss
Regaining control of your feelings is not only the key to losing weight, but also to your overall well-being. These seven steps will show you how to do it!
I strongly advise building simple relaxation into your daily life. If you're upset and treat yourself to a bag of candy because you "deserve it," get real. There are better ways to take care of yourself and restore calm. The alternatives include, but are not limited to, exercise (including yoga), meditation, deep breathing and listening to music. By most research accounts, these natural and inexpensive activities work directly on your nervous system by releasing endorphins, your brain's natural tranquilizers, to reduce anxiety.

Now you may be thinking: "Relaxation, breathing exercises, are you kidding? Give me something to eat!" My message to you right now is simply this: Guard against being close-minded. Your challenge is to consider all the possible coping skills available to you, other than eating, that will bring you the payoffs of peace and balance. Be willing to plunge into the unknown. Leave behind the safe, unchallenging, and familiar existence in order to have more.

As you incorporate tension-reducing activities in your life, you'll see that something as simple as breathing deeply can help you calm down so that you can avoid medicating yourself with food. As you learn to better manage your negative emotions, their frequency and intensity will fade, and you'll be less and less likely to slide back into self-destructive patterns. Your life will become much more orderly, peaceful and fulfilling. You'll push your emotional life to the best levels of who you are in your mind and heart. You'll have a newfound sense of freedom. You'll feel good about yourself and your body. You'll feel good about life, and you will live it to the fullest and best of your ability.

Rethink Weight Loss
Regaining control of your feelings is not only the key to losing weight, but also to your overall well-being. These seven steps will show you how to do it!
More than 50 percent of all overweight people use food to cope with depression, anger and stress. Are you among them? You can't change what you don't acknowledge.

Check off the reasons you eat. Please be brutally honest in your answers:
  1. I munch when I get bored.
  2. I like to eat with my friends, even if I'm not hungry.
  3. I eat so the cook will not be offended.
  4. I eat when I get depressed.
  5. I eat when I'm lonely.
  6. I eat when I get anxious about something.
  7. There are times when my eating is out of control.
  8. I like to nurture other people with food.
  9. I will eat my way through a difficult time (like a divorce, a job loss, an illness or a broken dream).
  10. I eat when I feel my energy go down.
  11. I crave some foods.
  12. I just like to have something in my mouth.
  13. I eat even if I'm not hungry.
  14. I like to celebrate with food.
  15. I think about food a good deal of the time.
  16. I have a tendency to binge.
  17. I eat to be polite.
  18. I'm sometimes embarrassed by how much I eat.
  19. I eat to relieve stress.
  20. I get upset if I overeat.
  21. I eat because I get angry.
  22. I'm displeased with my weight, but I overeat anyway.
  23. I always clean my plate so as not to waste food.
  24. I need high levels of sugar in my system.
  25. Eating is my main enjoyment in life.

For each "frequently" you checked, give yourself two points, for each "occasionally," give yourself one point, and for each "never," give yourself zero points. If your overall score is more than 35, it's likely that you have serious trouble with emotional eating and must get your self-defeating pattern under control. If your score is between 15 and 35, you struggle with emotional eating at times, and you could benefit from learning new coping strategies.


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