Weight loss is all in your head

In the battle against fat, the heroes achieve what most of us only long for -- lasting weight loss. They're so unusual, they've become the subjects of ongoing research by scientists trying to finger just what it is that makes them stand out from the rest of dieting humanity. Registrants -- some 4,500 -- must have dropped at least 30 pounds and kept them off for a year or more, though the average member has lost twice that much and maintained it for about five years. In one of the latest studies, Inga Treitler, Ph.D., a cultural anthropologist, and a fellow researcher intensely interviewed and observed 10 of the registrants, focusing not on what they ate or did for exercise but on how they lived -- the books they read, the photos they kept, their pets, careers, friends and hobbies -- before and after the weight loss. The question, again, was basic: What had enabled them to triumph where so many others falter? One of Treitler's aha moments came after the study subjects took a 120-item multiple-choice questionnaire that assesses thinking styles, called the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI). Simply put, the theory behind it goes like this: We all naturally tend to process information, solve problems and relate to others in a particular way, and such inclinations roughly correspond to four different quadrants of the brain -- two on the right, two on the left. These preferences are like mental defaults your brain automatically resorts to when evaluating the world unless otherwise prompted and most people employ some combination of quadrants. • "A" quadrant (upper left): People who favor this area are analytical, mathematical, logical problem solvers. Drawn to statistics and the workings of machinery, they can overanalyze a situation so much they have trouble taking action. • "B" quadrant (lower left): These people are controlled, methodical, disciplined sticklers for structure and routine. Punctual and neat, they always have a plan, timetable and calendar with appointments penciled in. • "C" quadrant (lower right): Lower-right thinkers are emotional, spiritual and focused on people and human connection. • "D" quadrant (upper right): "D" types are strongly visual and easily bored, attracted to new ideas, fun and risk taking. Which quadrant makes a successful dieter? "We found that those with the most dramatic losses scored noticeably higher in favoring 'B,' the lower left," says Treitler. This makes sense to her, having observed many people struggling with weight. Someone inclined toward plans and routines, who sees life through methodical eyes, would be the most comfortable with the mundane details of calorie counting and portion control. She would also be more able to coolly observe herself and catalog obstacles and failings without succumbing to an emotion like self-hatred. Breakthrough number two occurred during another study with the NWCR volunteers. When Treitler listened to subjects' stories, something stood out. They'd all gone through an inner transformation almost like those celebrated in traditional rites of passage. Each had found a coach, mentor or guide for the journey; had pulled back and separated somewhat from his or her old environment; and then was "reborn" into a different way of life. The newly thin person became a leader rather than a follower, a change that opened the door to further goals and achievements, often in fields completely unrelated toweight loss. One subject asked a chef at the university where he worked to develop an aggressive diet for him and dropped nearly half his body weight. Then he took a leave from his job to help start a law school in Africa and became a passionate long-distance walker and bird-watcher. "All the subjects had incorporated some meditative element into their lives," Treitler says. "It might have been walking or yoga, but it was self time, a white space where they could disengage from the old, obsessive behavior." This

If these activities seem grating. They can be done in stages. While most of us can't remove ourselves from daily life as radically as that man who went to Africa. we can create the conditions that make rebirth possible. . • Timing. it trains your brain to become accustomed to new ways of thinking. no matter which cognitive type you are. the effort won't feel so alien. you go forward. "It may be teaching. Then. she says. • Organize. CEO of Herrmann International. Alphabetize your CDs. simple activities practiced over a period of about three weeks can bolster your inner bookkeeper. she can suggest concrete steps to change a habit that have nothing to do with food or exercise or any other behavior you're wrestling with. then your tax papers. people-oriented--. which developed the HBDI." From this strengthened position. Treitler says the goal is to build up familiarity and comfort with those approaches.could teach her niece to balance a checkbook. Based on Dr." A "C"---emotional. says Ann Herrmann-Nehdi. Without a new self who's clearly different from the old. risk taking] could dream up something she wants to achieve in a year's time. Think of these activities as physical workouts. suggests Treitler: "When you practice them regularly." says Treitler. it's too easy to revert to former unhealthy habits. you can make them more appealing to your naturally dominant brain type. Keep a time log of your daily activities and start being punctual for every appointment. According to Herrmann-Nehdi. Sit down and map out a week in advance. then. balancing your checkbook once a week." to "stretch" the brain quadrant boundaries in which you feel at home. HerrmannNehdi says: "A 'D' [conceptual. working backward. overweight one. The fact is. a few days later. The most important aspect of redefining yourself is "doing something empowering. • Plan." Later. So for people who have no natural inclination to be systematic and detail oriented ("B" strengths). • Step-by-step thinking: Cook from a recipe exactly as it's written. Treitler's observations.anything that allows you to take on new status and to be in the position of helper rather than one who needs help. It's also helpful to follow a routine jogging a certain course every other day. A few days after that. create a timeline and checklist of what needs to be done. not back.transformation of identity appears crucial in keeping weight off. you can "learn to shift to another mode of thinking. knit from a pattern. volunteering -. rearrange your closet. learn a computer program by following a tutorial or manual. when an actual diet plan requires steadfastness and attention to detail. your spices.