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7 Golden Rules for Weight-Loss Success

Dr. Phil McGraw offers seven keys to permanent weight management. From the #1 bestselling phenomenon The Ultimate Weight Solution

In order for you to overcome your weight challenges, you have to first know exactly where you are starting. Where you are now with your weight struggles, everything you are, everything you do, begins with and is based on what I call your personal truth. By personal truth, I mean whatever it is about yourself and your weight problem that you have come to believe. This personal truth as it relates to your weight, and indeed to your entire life, is vitally important, because if you believe it, if it is real to you, then it is for you the precise reality you will live every day.

For instance, if you believe with utmost certainty that you will fail and never, ever, be able to manage your weight, then failure is what your personal truth dictates for you. What’s more, your personal truth will show up as a heavy load of disgust, shame, guilt, hurt, self-hatred, and other self-critical voices that do nothing but drag you down. All of this gets incorporated into your deepest understanding of who you are and what you think you can accomplish, and it has the power to set you up for a specific outcome. And whatever your way of thinking, it provokes a physiological change. As a result of every thought you have, there is a corresponding physical reaction — reactions that may suppress your energy and prevent you from having what you truly want.

If your personal truth is riddled with counterproductive thoughts and beliefs, then my job, our job, is to get real about those parts of what you believe about yourself that aren’t working for you, so that you can regain control over your weight. This is precisely what Key #1 — right thinking — helps you do; it unlocks the door to Self-Control. Because your life is created from the inside out, you must first get right with yourself on the inside. With what you will learn and do here, you will put the past behind you, and confront your personal truth about your weight.

When you do this, you gain access to your real power, your real opportunity to impact your personal weight control. What this key enables you to do is discard all the toxic messages, replace them with realistic, positive thoughts, then act on this new, more constructive way of engaging the world.

Moving through this first door will be a challenging journey for you, one you have probably never undertaken because it means letting go of some long-standing and powerful forces in your life. But once you do this, once you step through this door, you will reclaim an incredible level of self-control. When you do the important work of this key, you will be able to fully and completely overwhelm your history and past negative momentum, and completely break the cycle of what it means to live as an overweight person.

It is no big news flash that many people — you included — eat as a way to medicate themselves, usually in response to negative emotions such as anger, guilt, loneliness, stress, or boredom. You may also eat in response to positive emotions, such as happiness and joy, and in doing so you use food as a form of celebration. You have developed a strong emotional attachment to food, and this is one powerful reason why you turn to food when you crave love and emotional support. Emotional eating has figured hugely in your weight problem.

With the second key — healing feelings — you will unlock the door to Emotional Control and learn how to break the cycle of overeating in response to emotions and stress. You can’t eliminate emotional triggers and stress — they’re facts of life — but you can learn how to heal counterproductive responses to life’s challenges and gain a new sense of control over your eating.

Glossing over this key, or denying that you have emotional issues with food, is a deal breaker. Your weight will never be lower or healthier unless and until you stop emotional overeating. This key helps you identify why you pursue emotional eating, and gives you a process, broken down in manageable steps, to unlock a newfound control over your eating behavior.

The third key unlocks the door to External Control, the ability to shape, design, and manage your environment so that it is virtually impossible for you to fail at weight control. With this key, you will concentrate on the personal landscape of your life that includes everything from your home to your office. You will focus on areas within this environment that must be “cleaned up” in order for you to lose weight.

This key is all about burning external bridges: minimizing opportunities that invite needless snacking, overeating, and bingeing; getting rid of the clothes of your plus-size life; and re-engineering your environment for success. With this key, you will do away with all reminders that could lessen your resolve and could, if you let them, fool you into thinking that it’s much easier to go back to your former life. If you expect to succeed over the long haul, there is no regression or retreat to what you have always done before, or to what you have always been.

This key is amazing in that it will create immediate changes in how you act, think, live, and feel. With this key, you will make your life look different, feel different, and be different. When you begin to do different things, trust me, your actions will gain positive momentum. And through it all, you’ll begin to feel better, more energized, and more focused mentally.

If you are stubbornly overeating, bingeing, or otherwise continuing in some repeated pattern of self-destructive habits and behaviors, discovering why you do this is not only worthwhile, it is essential to achieving permanent weight loss and control. With Key #4 — mastery over food and impulse eating — you will unlock the door to Habit Control. Here, you will learn how to control and reshape your behavior, first by identifying why you persist in these bad habits, and second, by replacing them with actions designed to weaken their hold over you.

At some conscious, rational level, you know that it is counterproductive and extremely unhealthy to overeat, to binge, or to medicate yourself with food. But at some other level, these behaviors are rewarding you enough for you to keep doing them. Put another way, you are getting “payoffs” from your behavior. It is a law of life that “people do what works,” and so your behaviors must work for you in some way. You are feeding some sort of need, or perhaps an aggregate of needs. As long as those needs are there, you will keep feeding them. While you continue to live like this, you reinforce habits and behaviors that become more difficult to weaken over time. Using this key, you will find and control the payoffs, unplug from those payoffs, and leave behind self-destructive behaviors.

We will also look at the specific ways you hurt your weight control efforts — the ways you interact with food that are in direct opposition to healthy behavior. You’ll learn how to wipe bad, weight-gaining habits from your life and replace them with successful behaviors that will produce far more positive results. What’s more, you’ll find out how to manage your eating so that you are no longer controlled by impulses and urges. If — and only if — you can master this key, your personal control over your eating behavior will dramatically increase.

You are intelligent enough to know that if you take in more food than you burn off, you will gain unhealthy and unsightly amounts of weight. Yet you continue to choose the wrong foods in too-large amounts, putting taste and convenience ahead of nutrition and, as a result, no one has to shake the sheets to find you. The fifth key — high-response, high-yield nutrition — unlocks the door to Food Control: an approach to nutritional balance that is nothing short of revolutionary, and amazingly powerful in its simplicity.

There is no counting calories or grams, no measuring, no memorizing exhaustive food lists or exchanges. You will learn about food in a completely different context — in a way that no one, and no diet book, has ever discussed or previously put into widespread practice. This approach to nutrition is absolutely the most effective solution to managing food in your life. As you will find out, there are only two things you need to know about food — just two! With this key, you’ll program your body to lose pounds and inches at a pace that is right for you. This is a key you can keep for a lifetime so that you can finally end your energy-draining battles with dieting and start living with a control over food you have not had in ages.

Exercise is now counted as one of the top lifestyle factors to help you lose weight and keep it off for good. But the problem is, most people are so exercise-averse that they will never be in danger of drowning in their own sweat. If this description fits you, rest assured that I will not be asking you to spend endless hours in a gym, train to become an Olympic athlete, or grind yourself to the ground with boot camp-type calisthenics. Quite the contrary. With the sixth key, you will unlock the door to Body Control, the power to keep pounds at bay with a maximum-results workout strategy that you can start slowly and continue at your own pace.

One of the worst things I see with people trying to lose weight is that they become obsessive about exercise, so much so that this concern rises to a level of disordered, self-defeating behavior that can inflict a great deal of physical and psychological damage. Instead, you will be introduced to a balanced approach of simple strength-building and heart-conditioning exercises that provide a concentrated caloric burn. Yes, you will push yourself a little harder but you will feel amazed by what your body can do, and you’ll feel so revitalized for doing it.

Using specific motivational tools, you will discover how to make exercise a focus of your energies — a permanent fixture in your life. This is a real chance for you to get control of your body, no matter how long it has been since you last exercised.

Finally, using the seventh key, you will unlock the door to Social Control, with which you assemble a support circle of people who will encourage you and provide the accountability you need to achieve your goals. There is motivating energy in active, supportive ties to family and friends. If you want to truly lose weight, then you must try your best to surround yourself with a group of like-minded people who want you to do it, too. With these people in your life — your supporters — the more likely you are to succeed.

Phillip C. McGraw, Ph.D., is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Ultimate Weight Solution (Copyright © 2003 by Phillip C. McGraw), Life Strategies, Relationship Rescue, and Self Matters. He is the host of the nationally syndicated, daily one-hour series Dr. Phil. One of the world’s foremost experts in the field of human functioning, Dr. McGraw is the cofounder of Courtroom Sciences, Inc., the world’s leading litigation consulting firm. Dr. McGraw currently lives in Los Angeles, California, with his wife and two sons.




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