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An Effective Positive Psychology Mental Exercise for Lasting Weight Loss

Think you know it all when it comes to lasting weight loss? Think again.

I want to share an effective positive psychology exercise that will help you lose weight and achieve your weight-loss goal that has nothing to do with calorie counting! 

When they first come to meet me, my weight-loss clients always say the same thing: “I know it all. I’ve tried everything and I know exactly what I should be doing, I just need some help with motivation.”

8705332490_d5368ea52e_positivityBut such a position of certainty doesn’t allow any space for lasting change.

So please, let go of all the old inhibiting ideas you’re holding on to about weight loss and diets. They haven’t worked so far and they are not serving you.  Forget about the ‘I have a slow metabolism…’ or ‘being overweight is in my genes…’ or ‘the only way to lose weight is to stick to some strict diet and deny myself the foods I love…’


There are plenty of people with the ‘obesity gene’ who are not overweight. Fact. Isn’t time you changed your story and thoughts around losing weight and allowed for the idea that you may not know it all?

We tend to approach weight loss and dieting from a place of negativity. This is not serving you and is certainly a large part of the reason why 70% of the US population is overweight.

Recent research within the field of Positive Psychology has a lot to contribute to successful weight loss

If you ask someone why they are unhappy, they will usually tell you something that is going on in their external world, or they’ll say it’s because of their genes- that they have a family history of depression, or obesity or a neurochemical imbalance. This is the typical scientific perception currently: You are a result of your genes and your environment.

But when positive psychologists studied happiness, they actually discovered a very different picture. What they found was that knowing everything about an individual’s external world; their salary, where they live, their education level,  marital status etc. short-term happiness is very easy to predict.

If you eat a chocolate bar, you feel happier and five minutes later you may think. ‘why did I do that?’

But when looking at long-term levels of happiness: One’s happiness, joy and meaning over a prolonged period of time, having all the external information, psychologists can only predict 10% of the variability of happiness among people.

90% of long-term happiness is not about your external circumstances, it’s about how the human brain processes the world you find yourself in

How you process the life you have, the size you are, and most importantly, your relationship with yourself, has to do with the position you take up in the world, not your circumstances.  If you change the lens through which you view the world and your experience of it, you will  dramatically increase your level of happiness and sense of well being.

Unfortunately most people follow a formula for happiness and success that’s scientifically backwards, actually limiting both happiness and success. Most people think, “As soon as I lose the weight I’ll feel good about myself”…or “as soon as I fit into that outfit I’ll like myself.”

In each one of those moments, happiness is on the opposite side of success

The problem is, every time you achieve your goal your brain changes the goal posts of what your desire looks like. So if you achieve your desired weight, you suddenly feel you need to lose more.

So we need to turn the formula on its head.

What psychologists have found is that when the brain is in a position of feeling positive, our ability to achieve our goal or desired outcome improves dramatically

A lot of people think that happiness can be reduced to genes and their environment, but research proves that it’s absolutely not true.


Happiness is a pattern within the brain and research is uncovering that you can actually learn to be in a state of happiness. Not if you do isolated bursts of changes in your life, but by actually creating positive patterns in your daily experience.

Positive psychologists conducted an experiment with a group of people who were potentially ‘genetic pessimists’ and had been practicing pessimism their whole lives. They were required to record three things that they were grateful for every morning for 21 days. By the end of the experiment they had 63 things that they were grateful for.

As the pessimists started their day thinking of three things they were grateful for, their brain got ‘stuck. They started scanning the world, not just for the negatives or what they feel they were lacking, but also for the things that provided meaning. They had begun to create a happiness advantage.

By getting people to think of three things they were grateful for over the course of 21 days, they literally trained their brains to become more optimistic.

This shift dramatically changed their experience of their world and prepared them to achieve their goals much more easily

This experiment is replicable with 5-year-old children, and 85-year-old grumpy men! If you chose to do this, your levels of happiness and optimism will rise above your genetic set point, and indeed deviate from your environment.


With this in mind, I want you to start by consciously shifting to a position of gratitude and happiness in order to achieve your weight-loss goal. 

For the next 21 days commit to this experiment:

  1. Each morning count ten things that your thankful for. The key here is to really feel the good feelings of gratitude as you do this. I also want at least five of those things to pertain to you, what your thankful for about yourself, both physical and mental.

This may be challenging at first, but stick with it. Just by committing to this one simple, and I must say truly lovely, exercise you will begin to notice a shift in your thoughts as you start to move from being negative about yourself and your body, to being kinder and more respectful.

As a result your actions and behaviors around food will change and you will find that you intuitively make healthy, positive choices as you feel more positive about your body and more confident in achieving your weight-loss goal. 

To learn more about Artful Eating, an approach where I will share with you the skills and tools to lose weight, enjoy food, and achieve your dream body without the pain and restriction of dieting, check out Artful Eating: The Psychology of Lasting Weight Loss. 


Photo by MartaZ*

An Effective Positive Psychology Mental Exercise for Lasting Weight Loss

Karina Melvin, MSc, MA

Karina Melvin provides online psychoanalysis and counselling services from her South Dublin office with her team of high-level psychoanalysts. You can learn more about online counselling, psychoanalysis by clicking the link below.

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APA Reference
Melvin, K. (2019). An Effective Positive Psychology Mental Exercise for Lasting Weight Loss. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 18, 2020, from


Last updated: 20 Mar 2019
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