I struggled with my weight for years. My childhood was characterized by yo-yo dieting and binge eating. And when I first lost weight (over 50 lbs) I starved myself and over-exercised in an attempt to garner some control over my body. Nothing I did worked or had any lasting effect until I started looking at the root of my dysfunctional relationship with food and my body.

With hundreds of different diet plans claiming to have the solution to weight loss, why is it so hard for people to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight? This is why: eating begins in the mind.

Before any action you do, you have a thought that proceeds it. Depending on the level of your consciousness, you have varying degrees of awareness as to the thoughts, motives, and urges that guide your actions. If you want to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight, what you eat matters. However, more than that–or should I say before that–your state of mind matters. Here are 4 essential ingredients to have in place before making any changes to your lifestyle.

1.) Connect with others–I find that loneliness is one of the main reasons people over eat. When we feel alone in the world and disconnected from others, it’s because we feel disconnected from our own hearts. Pausing several times throughout the day to breathe into your heart center allows you to be more loving, kind, and compassionate with yourself. When you cultivate a relationship with your tender heart, you become more clear about what it is you really need instead of turning to food for a quick fix.

2.) Develop a strong inner eye–The degree to which you are connected with your body is the degree to which you actually know what your body needs. When you spend all day, everyday identifying with your mind, you maintain a disconnect with your body. No wonder it’s hard to regulate your eating to meet the needs of what your body really needs. Spend time each and every day strengthening your inner eye to become fully embodied. Lay down on the ground,close your eyes and stretch. Notice what it feels like to move and breath. Attune to your emotions by connecting with the somatic experience of anger, sadness, fear, joy, and love. You need to know how you feel in order to know what you need.

4.) Turn on your awareness–We turn off our awareness all day long with food, media, alcohol, drugs, shopping, and so on. Spend time each day turning on your awareness and turning toward your self. Aside from meditation, one way to do this is with your breath. Every time you go to eat, pause and take three long, slow, deep breaths. Check in to see how your feeling. Are you really hungry? What to you need? Is there an uncomfortable feeling or thought you’re trying to turn away from? Be curious about your inner world.

5.) Get really happy–The mind can easily generate thoughts that are self-limiting, fear-based, and judgmental. If you identify with your mind and believe that it’s thoughts are true and that reality lives in your mind, you allow yourself to get pulled away from connection, love, and solution. You cannot identify with the thoughts of your mind and be connected with your heart at the exact same moment.  Happiness does not live in your mind. True happiness comes from the depths of your heart, where you feel loved, cared for, and connected always. Live from this deeper place and nourish yourself with love. From here all of your actions are guided by love, and there is no need to feed the discontent.

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