Your brain is the most powerful “muscle” in your body. And if you’re dieting, you really need to harness the power of your brain, because most of the work in weight management is mental. These strategies will help you understand yourself and your motivation better and think your way to healthy weight loss.

Think Yourself Thin Image - Masterfile

1. Time it right.

Start a diet program only when your life is reasonably stable. You need to have the time and energy to make weight loss a priority and to exercise control over your food and your physical environment for a stretch of time. If you have significant stressors—work or relationship issues, severe financial problems, illness, even an extended vacation—wait a bit.

2. Pick the Perfect Plan for You

There’s no one ideal weight loss program. A good diet should challenge you but be one that you can realistically follow 80 percent of the time. It’s also important that the food be affordable and easy for you to obtain and prepare. Finally, you should choose a program that’s flexible enough that an occasional meal out won’t derail you.

3. Conjure Up a Positive Images

Even before you start losing weight, think about how your life will change once you reach your goal. Visualize how you’ll feel walking up steps without getting winded, the numbers on your scale going down, how you will look in your clothing.

4. Pinpoint Your Motivators

Identify your personal and compelling reasons for losing weight. For some people it’s the desire to reduce their high blood pressure medication, for others it’s fitting into a pair of jeans. Look at what’s inspired you to overcome past challenges. Try to come up with three motivators, so you have a backup system.

5. Be Realistic

Unrealistic goals are a top reason people fail at weight loss. You didn’t gain 50 pounds in three months; don’t expect to lose it in three months. An average weight loss of 1 to 3 pounds a week is realistic, attainable and safe.

6. Know Your Tolerance for Temptation

If you can’t have one cookie without eating the entire bag, keep those cookies out of your cabinet.

7. Practice Distraction

If you’re a mindless muncher or an emotional eater, remember: The more active you are, the less likely you are to think about food. Fill up your time with physical and intellectual activities. Go for a walk, read a book, chat with a friend, take a class. Get your mind off food.

8. Have a Mantra

An affirmation—especially one that you make up yourself—makes a big difference. Keep yours short and simple; something like, “I can do this” works fine. Repeat your affirmation as often as you need to.

Ian K. Smith, M.D., founder of the 50 Million Pound Challenge, is the author of EAT (St. Martin’s Press, 2011)

From our sister publication, Remedy’s Healthy Living, Fall 2011

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 28 Jul 2011

Last Modified: 17 Mar 2015