Can Your Thoughts Make You Fat?
So what is the magic that some people seem to have that keeps them slim and energetic. For some fortunate individuals weight does not seem to be a major concern. These are the people that many of us look scornfully at and say they are lucky they have good genes and good metabolism. You know the ones some of us hate because they seem to be able to eat anything they want and don’t appear to gain a pound or show an inch around their waist. Many others struggle and it seems that if they just look at food the wrong way they gain weight. Of course most of us would agree that looking at food does not actually make us fat, but how many of us would we agree that our thinking might make us fat? The answer to this question is without a doubt, “Absolutely Yes”. Is it possible that the people who have fewer struggles with their weight, think differently about food and themselves than the ones who tend to be overweight and suffer with weight related concerns?
How does our thinking make us fat and what is the relationship between our thoughts, beliefs, behavior and the food that we choose to eat? It might be helpful to begin looking at the foods and beverages we have grown to believe are good for us. What we have learned in the past is likely to be inaccurate. Today, as well as yesterday our thinking and our parents thinking has been influenced by the media and advertising campaigns. We often accept without much conscious thought what the experts tell us is good for us. Unfortunately the experts often have their own agenda and put great effort into influencing our thinking about what we need and what we should have. We all need to make money and one great way to make money is to convince people to give it to us. We give them our money and they give us their product (For better, or for worse). I believe that one great piece of advertising today is the phrase “Gotta have Wawa”. I personally like Wawa coffee and the subtle message that I gotta have it resonates with my own desire and possible belief that I need or “have to have” a second cup of coffee on the way to work. There is evidence that watching too much television is associated with weight gain. It is not only that watching TV is a sedentary activity but it has a a powerful influence on our thinking. We are greatly influenced by the subtle messages we receive regarding food and beverages. What we learned as we were growing up and what we learn as we watch TV today may be contradicted by what researchers now tell us is healthy and consistent with maintaining optimal health and weight. I grew up believing that drinking lots of milk, steak, and pork chops made people healthy and strong. Of course I knew that there was a limit and that too many pork chops might not be so healthy. Probably in mind after four or five chops the health benefits would begin to diminish. As a child and teenager I never developed a belief that too much milk would ever have a detrimental health impact. After all milk makes strong bones, and as a teenage male that is exactly what I wanted “strong bones”. My parents, however, did make it clear that too much soda, cake, and candy were not healthy choices. The irony was that we always had cake, candy and soft drinks in our house and “always” offered these to our guests. As the saying goes we always hurt the ones we love, but and in this case I guess we just poison them. The only reason I would avoid sugary food and drink as a teenager would be related to concerns that my skin would break out or I would gain weight which were both problems for me. The beliefs that we have developed over the years often have a strong impact on our behavior. A kind gesture to another human being carries more power and influence than the coffee, or tea we are offering. There are subtle messages that are communicated which are related to affection, love, and acceptance. In addition we may associate these kind and tender moments with the beverage and food that is offered. In my family traditions which developed around food and sharing would help family members express affection for each other. Very rarely would a family member say “I really care about you” or “I love you” Offering food and help to others in need were the major vehicles for self expression. These were the ways that family members nurtured and expressed concern and their love for each other. Offering nurturance was a way of life. As I became a young adult I would carry the family tradition of offering my desire for others to be happy, experience pleasure and relieve suffering by extending nurturance to others through food and drink. To take this a step further I believe that I learned to care and nurture myself in a similar manner. How can I make myself feel better when I have an unpleasant experience and what are the ways that I have learned to nurture myself. Dr.Martin Seligmen while discussing positive psychology points out that what gives us pleasure does not necessarily make us happy. When we need nurturance or are feeling low we may offer ourselves a cup of coffee, candy, or pastry to help us deal with a difficult emotional situation. The beliefs we develop and our thoughts about how to care for ourselves both consciously and unconsciously powerfully impact our behavior. Not only do we develop beliefs about how to nurture ourselves but we develop beliefs about our ability to control what we do. These beliefs and thought patterns ultimately define our behavior. Self statements such as I can’t get through the morning without a second or third cup of coffee actually determine our behavior and actions.
How do we begin to challenge our thinking and beliefs so we can be more successful at developing better nutritional habits? If we can be more aware of our personal needs and accept that we are vulnerable to the influence of advertising and social pressures we can begin to move forward. Our energy needs to be focused away from excessive self-criticism and focused more on developing healthy thought processes related to self acceptance, self appreciation, our general health, and good nutrition. For many of us we need to improve our ability to meet our personal needs, reduce stress and reduce unnecessary conflict with others. It is helpful for us to gradually cultivate the belief that we can be successful at meeting our goals and consistently practice visualizing ourselves as successful. In addition it is helpful to accept personal responsibility for our actions and avoid blaming others when we do not meet our goals
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