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Win the Diet War!

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Win the Diet War!

Tackle your emotions instead of those cravings.
Dr. Christiane Northrup
Dr. Christiane Northrup More by this author
Apr 28, 2011 at 10:00 AM

I’ve struggled to maintain my body weight my entire life, like many of you. I like to think I’m going to be rewarded for this effort by coming back in my next life as a tall, thin person who can eat whatever she wants and never gain weight. (The only thing that worries me about this fantasy is this: What if the “ideal” in the next time and place is that of a robust Rubenesque woman? But I digress. ) Recently I shared the “How-to’s” of weight loss in the article “Be a Lean Midlife Goddess.” As a seasoned veteran of the “diet wars” (and also perimenopausal weight gain), I know that, without addressing the emotional aspects of eating, you’re likely to keep struggling to keep the weight off.

The following is a Six-Week Weight Loss Program that addresses the emotional aspects of eating. If you get a handle on these, the rest will take care of itself. I’ve seen this repeatedly with both myself and with many patients over the years.

The connection between emotions and eating is backed up by solid research, including a brand new study from Dr. Gene-Jack Wang and his colleagues at the Brookhaven National Laboratory1 on Long Island, New York. The study showed that the belly communicates with the hippocampal area in the brain, where our emotional memories are stored. In a press release about his study, Dr. Wang said, “Our emotions and desires are more related to overeating than we thought.” His research confirms that overeating may be the brain’s way of soothing negative emotions stored in the hippocampus.

The Six-Week Weight Loss Program

You don’t need to weigh yourself as part of the six-week program. Just follow each of the steps every day for one week. When you’re finished with week one, move on to week two. During week two, continue to do the exercise from week one and so forth. They build on each other.

Week One: Love yourself exactly where you are.

Okay, I know it’s tough. You look in the mirror and your inner critic starts in. But trust me, that critic won’t help you. You really truly have to love yourself—even if you hate how you look. It’s a paradox. Trust me. I know.

When you catch yourself putting yourself down in any way, stop. Then say, “I love myself for feeling __________.” (Fill in the blank.) Remember that what we resist persists. But when we release resistance, our deepest insights can bubble up to the surface. And this frees all kinds of energy that we may have been pushing down with food.

Week Two: Imagine living your dreams.

Women who tend to hold onto pounds also tend to hold onto dreams. In fact, one of my medical doctor friends, who used to weigh over 300 pounds and then lost the weight and has kept it off for years, said to me, “Fat is dreams in storage.”

Have you always wanted to learn how to dance, but felt that you couldn’t until you got down to a size 10? Forget it. Sign up for those classes now. Get yourself to a venue that teaches country line dancing, Swing, or Salsa on Saturday nights. Or at least rent a video and practice in your living room. If you’ve always wanted to travel to Greece, then start collecting travel brochures. You get the idea.

Week Three: Make a “Desire and Pleasure” list.

Make a list of everything pleasurable that you imagine yourself doing once you’ve reached your ideal weight. Write those things down in exquisite detail. For example, maybe you’d love to get a professional massage once per week. Imagine how great that would feel. Experience those dreams with your senses, and savor them. Notice if your inner pessimist tries to discourage you. Love yourself for having that voice, and thank it. But know you have every right to have whatever you desire. Review your desire list once a day or more. Have fun imagining yourself as the new person you’re becoming.

This “Desire and Pleasure” list is your blueprint for releasing fat—those “dreams in storage.” Spend two minutes a day imagining yourself doing and having the things on that list. Do a few of the easy ones. Start simple.

Week Four: Undershoot on exercise.

Everyone knows that exercise is the key to permanent weight loss. But those who don’t exercise also realize how much resistance they have to doing it. So undershoot and don’t sabotage yourself. Start an exercise program that consists of the following: Put on your walking shoes. That’s it. You don’t have to walk. Just put on your shoes and shorts and go stand outside. Take a few steps. Realize that you can stop whenever you want to. Play with your resistance. Enlist a friend to “play” with you around this.

Week Five: Eat like a pampered queen.

Enjoy every mouthful. For you who say that you love the taste of food and can’t get enough, commit to eating sensually, slowly—like dancing a romantic dance in the moonlight with a lover. Take your time. Eat like a pampered queen, knowing that you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want it. Notice how you feel when you eat leisurely like this.

Week Six: Do some mirror work.

Stand in front of a mirror naked and say, “I accept myself unconditionally right now.” Do this once in the morning and once at night. Find something about your body that you admire. Spend some time appreciating that area.

There you go. That’s my program. Try this new “diet” for six weeks. Do the exercises faithfully. And visit my Facebook page and tell me what you learned. I’ll bet you’ll be amazed—and see how these new habits will support your pursuit of vibrant health and happiness.

P.S. If you find yourself longing for some hardcore dietary information and guidance, then I direct you to the diet chapter in Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. These sources suggest healthy, nutritious foods and explain the science behind weight gain. The key to getting yourself to actually do it, is the program I’ve outlined above!

This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. All material in this article is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.


  1.  Wang, G.J, (2006). Gastric stimulation in obese subjects activates the hippocampus and other regions involved in brain reward circuitry, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A., Sept 5. 103 (42): 15641-15645 (originally published online Oct. 5, 2006).
About Author
Dr. Christiane Northrup
Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and the world’s leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. A board-certified OB/GYN physician who graduated from Dartmouth Medical School and did her residency at Tufts New Engl Continue reading