The truth is that, compared to keeping it off, losing weight is a piece of cake (unfortunate metaphor, we admit). In fact, 95 percent of dieters gain their weight back. Sometimes they gain even more than they lost.
So what do the 5% know that the rest of us don’t know?
Researchers are discovering that the secret of people who lose weight—and keep it off—might not be in what they know, but in how they think.
A study of 4500 successful dieters has revealed that people who are successful at keeping weight off tend to process information using the lower left quadrant of their brain (let’s call this “B” quadrant). People tend to have a dominant quadrant through which they process information. This doesn’t mean they can’t process information in other ways, but the “favored” quadrant is like a mental default the brain automatically uses unless intentionally directed otherwise.
People who favor the “A” quadrant (upper left) tend to be analytical problem solvers, while people who favor the “C” quadrant (lower right) tend to be more focused on emotions and relationships. “D” quadrant (upper right) thinkers are visual thinkers who like fun and risk.
“B” quadrant thinkers, however, are inclined toward structure, discipline and routine. People who lost 30 to 60 pounds and kept it off—often for five years or more—scored noticeably higher in using this portion of their brain. This makes sense since planning meals, counting calories and maintaining a consistent exercise schedule all rely on the kind of structure-friendly skills concentrated in that portion of the brain.
Does that mean those of us who are analytical, relationship-minded, and/or visual thinkers are doomed to be yo-yo dieters forever?
Thanks to studies of brain plasticity, we know the brain never loses its ability to change and adapt. That means there are lots of things you can do to strengthen the brain skills responsible for structure, discipline and routine.
One article, entitled Weight Loss is All in Your Head, recommends the following four activities to strengthen the “B” quadrant of your brain:
- Organize. Alphabetize your CDs. Then, a few days later, your spices. A few days after that, rearrange your closet, then your tax papers.
- Pay attention to details. Keep a time log of your daily activities and start being punctual for every appointment.
- Plan. Sit down and map out a week in advance. It’s also helpful to follow a routine jogging a certain course every other day, balancing your checkbook once a week.
- Follow directions. Cook from a recipe exactly as it’s written, knit from a pattern, learn a computer program by following a tutorial or manual.
Inga Treitler, Ph.D., one of the researchers on the study, compares these activities to physical workouts for your brain, adding that “when you practice them regularly, it trains your brain to become accustomed to new ways of thinking.”