Control your mind, control your body

‘The real reason we’re gaining weight is that our mind hasn’t been conditioned to lose weight.’

BY SHARLENE EDWARDS, MPH, RN, CIC, Health & Wellness Coach

You’ve gained some weight, and you know it! You think you already know why you’ve gained weight, but you don’t. You think it’s because you don’t have enough time and motivation to exercise. You think it’s because you love food and don’t quite have enough willpower to cut back sufficiently.

What if I told you these are only a small part of the story?

The real reason we’re gaining weight is that our mind hasn’t been conditioned to lose weight. Have you ever noticed how fast athletes gain weight when they retire from competition? It’s crazy. The reason that athletes are good at sports is the same reason that later causes them to bloat.

They have been trained to fuel their bodies for tremendous athletic feats; this doesn’t just disappear once they retire. If you understand the mechanism, you can learn to control your weight without diet, suffering, or a crazy exercise schedule.

We think we’re in control

Fact: the immediate cause of weight gain is what you eat and how you live. I’m not preaching any false science here, and I think most people will quickly agree with this statement. However, controlling what you eat and how you live is complex, and I will tell you why. If you think you can change your behavior pattern with pure willpower, then you just haven’t really tried yet.

Sure, you and I pride ourselves in being adults, in control of our choices and destiny. But that’s just not true. In truth, we rarely ever do anything that brings us discomfort for an extended period of time. You think I’m wrong?

Go take a straight-cold shower just to prove who is in control. Go without solid food for two days. It won’t hurt you; it certainly won’t kill you, but it will make your body very angry. And the fact of the matter is that we are slaves to response patterns established by our bodies. So, who’s really in control?

You are what you think about

Training your body is all about training your mind. We’re not talking calculus here; we’re talking about your subconscious mind — where deep emotions, established patterns, habits, and instant responses live. Right now, most of us live in a trinity of an idle body, an indecisive conscious mind, and a subconscious that does most of the work.

You probably already know that the subconscious mind provides emotional responses to reinforce “good” behavior (like eating a piece of cake), but what you might not know is that the subconscious is also responsible for all athletic abilities. Even simple stuff like walking or typing is a constant interaction of conscious commands and unconscious responses.

For example, when you learn to shoot a basketball, what you are doing is using the conscious mind to burn in a pattern that develops into a subconscious skill set. You “no longer have to think about it when you’ve truly mastered a move.” If you’re still thinking about the mechanics of a dance step — it’s a sign that you have not “learned” it yet. That is, your subconscious cannot yet take over. Once you have “learned” the skill, your conscious mind need only call out the command, and the subconscious does the action.

You are limitless

What are you really capable of? Honestly, you have no idea. Your limitations are defined by childhood experience — and have no relation to your adult capabilities. You are emotionally tied to childhood ideas, and most of your adult personality is just a protective cage built by a scared child. What would you give to have the power to redefine yourself?

Now for the good news: your mind has a small, clever, conscious aspect that gives you the ability to reprogram your entire mind. That’s right, and your conscious mind can completely re-write and take control of your entire mental reality. This ability defines humans — it makes us the most flexible animals on earth and allows us to train our minds to do amazing things. From playing concert piano to extreme sports, the vast power of the mind is tapped by this uniquely human capability.

How does this help me lose weight?

The real question is, “how do I teach my subconscious to lose weight?” Here’s the one thing people need to understand, our subconscious mind ignores most of what we tell it because we bark at it in the wrong language. The language of the subconscious mind is EMOTION. Using our emotion as a gauge, the subconscious mind determines the importance of any behavior.

For example, say that you’re trying to learn a new skill. You’re working hard to understand, but you are not enjoying the task, and your emotions are saying, “this sucks,” “I wish I were elsewhere,” “how much longer is this going to take?” Well, it will take a lot longer because you’re broadcasting to your subconscious mind the message: “ignore this activity, just move along, there’s nothing to see here.” It may not feel like it, but you’re fully controlling your conscious emotions. And this is the fundamental method of programming the subconscious mind.

Now that you understand the basic mechanics of programming your mind, you can put it into practice right away. What you are going to do is replace the types of foods you crave. This technique is fun and very powerful because, rather than working against years of food programming, you will do some mental Ju-Jitsu and simply translate an existing food craving into a desire for healthy options. Magic? It’s better!

It’s pretty simple: first, you’re going to stop eating for a while (non-sugary drinks are ok). This is not a diet plan; we’re not yet trying to lose weight. We’re just trying to stimulate a hunger response. When you begin to feel the initial sense of hunger, do this: Breath in deeply, relax, and feel the hunger — then don’t think of your normal food options. Instead, imagine yourself eating a healthier option and absolutely loving it. That’s right, visualize yourself hungry and eating healthy food options and let a feeling of joy and satisfaction flood over you. Then return to whatever you were doing.

In a few minutes when the next pang of hunger comes, repeat this mental exercise. Keep it up for an hour or so, and then have a light snack. While eating, visualize yourself loving it — associate hunger, food, healthy option, and joy in your imagination. Now give it a try!

Sharlene Edwards, aka Nurse Shar, is a public health practitioner and community advocate with a master’s degree in public health epidemiology. For more blog posts, visit

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