The Full Mind Weigh® to Lifelong Weight Management, a program of the Institute for Lifelong Weight Management – teaching you the skills you need to keep the weight off forever!
Having an attitude of gratitude helps us to combat dread, anger, frustration, disappointment and stress. It’s a mood lifter. It can shed a spark of light on the darkest of days. It’s a psychological anti-depressant with no chemical content and no nasty side-effects. Unlike many psychiatric drugs, it costs us nothing. In addition, an attitude of gratitude is a gift we give to others that also costs us nothing. Like exercise, gratitude is one of the most underused “antidepressants”.
Why is gratitude important for lifelong weight loss maintenance? Because making positive choices for our health becomes less likely when we’re feeling bad – when we’re feeling resentful, upset, anxious, and generally unhappy with our lot in life. It’s at these times that we’re more at risk for engaging in emotional eating, stress eating, or comfort eating. When you feel grateful, your life feels good and looks good. This isn’t about wearing rose-colored glasses, or having your head in the sand. It’s about being able to transcend the disappointments and frustrations that exist for all of us. It’s about focusing on what’s right about ourselves and our lives, rather than focusing on what’s wrong or missing. When we focus on what we have, instead of what we don’t have (especially the “small things” we so often take for granted), we feel at least content and more likely happy, at least more so than we would if we dwell on what’s missing from our lives.
In fact, research has shown that teaching people the skills to become more positive thinkers had a direct impact on their eating habits and on their weight loss. The positive thoughts and feelings that come from an attitude of gratitude make it more likely that we’ll avoid unhealthy, high-calorie foods in an effort to “feel better”. When our mood is positive we’re more likely to persist in the face of challenges, and a maintenance lifestyle can certainly be challenging at times.
Gratitude lowers stress hormones and increases energy. Stress produces hormonal changes that affect appetite and contribute to weight gain. In fact, when we’re grateful we produce “feel good hormones” that are the same ones we produce when we’re indulging in unhealthy comfort foods!
I’ve worked with lots of stressed-out, overwhelmed people who sometimes proclaim, “I don’t have much to be grateful for”. But as the quote by Wale Ayeni goes, “Your life, no matter how bad you think it is, is someone else’s fairy tale.” It’s not happiness that makes us grateful. It’s gratitude that makes us happy.
Gratitude teaches us to appreciate our body, and when we do so we’re much more likely to make healthy choices in order to take good care of our body. When we’re grateful we’re more likely to appreciate the healthy meal that’s on our maintenance food plan, rather than wishing we could just eat junk food instead.
How to increase your level of gratitude:
- Start a gratitude journal. Each day, before you go to sleep, jot down five things you’re grateful for. Don’t just write down the same things each day. And be specific, not vague or global. Here’s an example to illustrate what I mean. Rather than writing down every day, “I’m grateful for my health”, think about the countless things your body does for you each day, and focus on each of them individually. For example, if you have a functioning liver, what is it doing for you each day? Get the idea? Rather than writing, “I’m grateful for my family”, think deeply about your family members and what you’re grateful for.
A client recently told me, “I’m grateful to my father, who passed away 20 years ago, because he instilled in me the character qualities that I’m most proud of – service to others, spirituality, and care of the environment. It’s through his example that I’ve been able to participate in some of the most meaningful experiences of my life, and to teach the same values to my children. For example, although serving as a volunteer in a community that was hit by a natural disaster had its challenges, it’s one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done, and it resulted in some of my most meaningful friendships. I’d never have gone out on a limb like that if it hadn’t been for my dad’s example.
2. Write gratitude letters, even if you choose not to send or deliver them. Think about the countless numbers of people who’ve helped you out and shown you kindness over the years. For inspiration, read the book “365 Thank Yous” by John Kralik.
Another client, a successful writer, wrote a gratitude letter to her third grade teacher, who had no doubt long passed from this earth. Her teacher had seen the potential in her and encouraged her to use her vivid imagination to write stories, without ever censoring the ideas that even her parents had criticized. Her teacher’s encouragement led her to persist in becoming a writer, despite the many rejections and disappointments along the way.
3. Make a visit to someone who’s important to you and express your thanks.
A few years ago, a client visited the mother of a former boyfriend. The boyfriend’s mother had so resented the relationship that she was instrumental in breaking it up. My client decided to thank her, because if things had gone otherwise she’d never have met the wonderful man she’s been happily married to for over 14 years.
If you’re having trouble reaching your weight management goals, coaching can move you forward. If you’re interested in getting unstuck, contact me for details: firstname.lastname@example.org.
With your continued health in mind,
Doreen Lerner, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Lifelong Weight Management
Creator, The Full Mind Weigh® to Lifelong Weight Management
The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management provides education and training. The Full Mind Weigh® is strictly an educational program and is not a substitute for medical or psychological evaluation or treatment. If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder, please consult with a qualified mental health professional who is trained to evaluate and treat eating disorders.