• Dr Sally Norton


I've said it many times.....one of the reasons I think diets ultimately fail, is that we usually start them in a negative frame of mind, feeling bad about how we look or feel.

What’s more, for the majority of us who have been on loads of diets, it is difficult not to feel that this one will end the same way as all the others – with all of the weight and more, going back on.

A negative frame of mind, science shows, means we are less likely to succeed at what we do.

We don’t help ourselves to feel good when we promise that we will get that new haircut or buy those new clothes or treat ourselves to a special event WHEN we have lost that weight and not before! As if we don't deserve to look good beforehand.

I believe that a major factor in helping us to lose weight is to develop that positive frame of mind BEFORE you start your small and sustainable steps towards weight-loss.

Many people see positivity as a genetic trait – something they are either born with, or not. In the same way that we talk about eye colour or height, we may describe ourselves as naturally optimistic or pessimistic. But, did you know your brain can change! In the same way that we can train our brains to love healthier food, we can train ourselves to have a more positive outlook on life.

When you find yourself thinking those negative thoughts about yourself, your circumstances, or even about others, STOP! Instead, force yourself to think of three positive things instead – there will always be something. If you persevere with looking for the good, instead of the bad, it will become a habit. It’s well worth the effort – the benefits of being more optimistic are now being recognised in numerous studies …

More likely to succeed You might think that succeeding in your weight loss or other endeavours is the only way to become happier, but in actual fact, it may work the other way round. Studies show that positivity and a happier outlook will increase your chances of success. For example, did you know that ¾ of our success at work is linked to our optimism and how well we manage and deal with stress, rather than our IQ?

And being positive could help you to achieve better results in smaller tasks too – in fact, studies have shown that people who are encouraged to think positively before a maths test actually did better than others!

Better chances of ditching the junk food Struggling to lose that last half a stone? We all know that when we’re feeling negative, we instinctively turn to sugary and fatty foods that will give our bodies a quick burst of energy and feel-good hormones. However, this is swiftly followed by a crash in our blood sugar levels – leaving us feeling even worse than before and adding to those negative feelings that left us reaching for the junk food in the first place! So instead, try focusing on the positives – think about how hard you’ve worked so far, and how good you’ll feel when you finally reach your goal weight, and you’ll find those negative yearnings for junk food soon dissipate!

More likely to stick with your fitness goals Thinking about fitness in a negative way will make you more likely to bail at the first opportunity. Studies show that a positive frame of mind helps people to stick with their fitness regimes as well as their healthy eating goals. Once you get exercising, that positivity is helped even more by the endorphins or feel-good hormones that exercise releases. If you find that the thought of heading to the gym leaves you feeling miserable (I don’t blame you!), then ditch the gym! Try finding different ways you could keep fit – fitness classes, swimming, or brisk walks in the fresh air. There’s something out there for everyone, and when you’ve found an activity that you really enjoy, those positive feelings will make you more likely to stick with it for the long-haul.

Better health

According to a new study from the University of Illinois, having a positive outlook on life could help your heart. The study of more than 5,100 adults, found that those people who were most optimistic, were twice as likely to be in ideal cardiovascular health, compared with their pessimistic counterparts, with significantly better blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Not only this, but the optimists were also more likely to be physically active and have healthier BMIs (lower weight for their height).

References: Hernadez R, Kershaw KN, Siddique J, Boehm JK, Kubzansky LD, Diez-Roux A, Ning H, Lloyd-Jones DM. Optimism and Cardiovascular Health: Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Health Behaviour and Policy Review 2.1 2015