obese thinking

5 Tips For Moving Past Obese Thinking After WLS

December 11, 2017

Obesity isn't just a physical disease, it's a mental and emotional disease as well. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), obese individuals are more vulnerable to the obesity-depression cycle.

Obese individuals can experience discrimination, bullying as a result of their weight, relationship and career-related issues, and are susceptible to "lazy" stereotypes. It is also noted, however, that behavioral lifestyle change is a huge factor is breaking the obesity cycle and helping individuals break free from "obese thinking."

Part of the cycle is repetitive self-sabotaging behaviors, part of those behaviors are poor food choices, another part of which are a lack of movement as a result of physical or emotional pain. There is a lot of emotional baggage tied to obesity and just because you change physically there is no automatic process that will ensure you change emotionally unless you work on it.

The emotional cycle that occurs among obese individuals can be overwhelming at times. There can be blame, shame, and guilt regarding eating behaviors, not living up to one's own expectations, and at times feeling like a failure because one might not fit "society's mold". This can be painful and frustrating.

Additionally, obese thinking can also be feeling "not that big" when overweight or obese to feeling "big" or "huge" once that individual has lost a lot of weight, in relation to their expectations. As you lose the weight, some of this will change as you begin to see yourself differently. However, some of these old thinking habits stay behind because many of our thoughts and behaviors are habitual. It’s time to shift the habits and get out of your own way.

Getting past obese thinking begins with knowing more about it.

What is Obese Thinking?

There are many ways to describe "obese thinking" that can impact your behavior.

  1. Mis-judging yourself physically, and being overly judgmental of self, feeling fat when you've lost a significant amount of weight, or having unrealistic expectations.
  2. Thinking that you've "got it handled" meanwhile, you are overeating or eating too much for your pouch.
  3. Head hunger and subsequent 'giving in' to head hunger such as grazing in between meals.
  4. Thoughts that lead to unhealthy behavioral patterns such as "well, I'll have just a little bit of soda" or "bread with dinner won't hurt" Other thoughts that lead to self-sabotaging actions “I’ll just eat one,” or “Just this once” behaviors lead individuals right back into the old (comfortable) patterns.
  5. Not feeling worthy/deserving. Thinking that you are failure, not good enough, so why bother?
  6. The thoughts and feelings that food will soothe you and as a result, you subsequently eat to soothe yourself emotionally.
  7. The thinking of “not enough”. Not good enough, not thin enough, not smart enough, and the list goes on!

If you see yourself falling into these patterns, it’s time to get back on track and stop obese thinking.

5 Tips to Move Beyond Obese Thinking

1. Use affirmations and visual aids and Think SMALL

Affirmations and visual aids can be amazing tools to help you shift your mindset. You want to affirm and reinforce the positive things you are seeing. This is because your brain is programmed to see the negative. So, when you affirm the positive and reinforce them, you are reprogramming your mind at the same time, which helps you release that old way of thinking.

Examples are:

  • I look amazing!
  • I can do this!
  • I love seeing myself in the mirror!
  • I have a great shape!
  • I’m doing this!
  • Who is that hottie looking back at me? (ME!)

Using visual aids such as visual reminders on your refrigerator of uplifting phrases or even pictures of places you’d like to visit or things you would like to do. You can put these all over your house as reminders of what you can do now that you’ve lost the weight, or as you are continuing to lose the weight.

While the rest of the US may be supersizing things, consciously try to minimize everything and feel special because of it! Get a small water, a small tea, or a small coffee. Ask for a small plate for your food. You used to upsize things asking for a bigger chair, a belt extender, etc. Now it’s time to look for the opportunities to downsize, minimize and go smaller. This will help you reprogram your mind for a healthier mindset, and get you into the habit of thinking ‘smaller’ as you are becoming smaller.

2. Ask for what you need

One part of obese thinking is putting everyone else first. Boundary setting is a big part of shifting out of “obese thinking” because you may not think you are “good enough” or feel bad “putting someone out”.

You are worthy and deserving of good things, part of which is a healthy body!

Believing and behaving in a way that shows deserve good things is treating yourself with love and respect. If you feel put in an uncomfortable situation where everyone is eating pasta and you feel triggered, ask for a special plate, ask for them to make a lasagna without the noodles.

Ask for what you need and release the fear of judgment. Tap into your inner diva if that helps you get the job done. You are worthy! Remember that!

3. Have a self-care plan in place for when head-hunger hits

Everyone needs a self-care plan. There will be days when you are struggling. Create a self-care plan so you can get out of your own head, and out of your own way.

Use this as a life preserver when things seem to be going wrong so that you stay on the right track. Use visualizations, walk, call a friend, or ways to distract your attention away from food and toward something that is caring of yourself to do.

Also, stay away from friends and family who eagerly await to help you sabotage. Sadly, there are people in this world that may want to see you fail. Unfortunately, they are not your friends. Or they may really want to be, but may be engaging in their own self-sabotage and want an accomplice; misery loves company. Don’t allow yourself to get pulled down.

Find friends that are supportive of your new lifestyle. Surround yourself with people that want to see you succeed.

Use visualizations to help you keep the faith of what you want to bring into your life. Visualize yourself completing a marathon, or walking two miles. Visualize wearing that new dress you’ve had your eye on.

Use your self-care plan like your life depends on it, and it will support you in staying on track and shifting your mindset away from obese thinking.

4. Change your habits and release unrealistic expectations

The behavioral components are just as important as the thoughts. Changing your habits doesn’t begin with an overhaul, they begin with baby steps. This is a long-term process. Start small, and do one thing at a time.

Building habits over time are most successful and this helps you integrate new habits slowly.

There’s the old saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day!” The truth is, neither are habits, so don’t get discouraged if you still have to lock the cupboard to keep you away from the chips. Choose one habit a week to begin working on such as walking for 10min a day and increase the time weekly. Before you know it, you’ll be walking for 45-min or an hour. If you try to do it all at once you could find excuses or barriers to building the new habit such as “I don’t have time”, or “this is too hard”. This is why smaller and baby steps are better for you in the long run. Your brain will tell you to go big (see #1), but this is when slow and steady wins the race. This also helps you build consistency over time and that is the biggest key to losing weight and keeping it off.

In terms of keeping weight off, have you given thought to how you’ll look once you’ve lost all the weight?

Unrealistic expectations may be that you now feel you “should” look like a supermodel. Due to the hanging skin and different body shapes/types, it’s best to focus on what you would like to look like in your own body. While plastic surgery does help individuals, who have lost the weight in getting rid of excess skin, there are some people that still judge themselves, even more harshly due to unrealistic expectations. Be compassionate with yourself and revisit #1 to use affirmations in loving the body you have.

5. Remember this is a Journey and Celebrate Your Ongoing Successes

This is all a process. This is cliché, but oh so true! Revisiting the tip on habits, this journey will grow you on the inside while you shrink on the outside. This is an inside-out journey that changes lives when you work it. While you may lose the weight in a year, it’s important to remember that the emotional baggage you carried around for 10, 20, or 30 plus years may still be there. This is why attending to the emotional aspects are so important.

  • Be patient with yourself.
  • Be compassionate.
  • Stay the course.

The weight may be gone, or near gone, but the mindset piece may still need a little work. Remember that this is a journey and take it one day at a time. When you celebrate the little successes each day you’ll begin to see how far you’ve come!

Keep a journal and write down your successes. Share the hardships and the wins. This is how you can look back and see the steps you are continuously taking for yourself and this new lifestyle. This also helps you in building new habits and the habits shape your future.

Example: “We had a meeting at work today and they brought donuts! I decided to have a protein bar instead. I’m so proud of myself! Go me!”

This is your life, and remember that YOU are someone to be celebrated!


  1. APA. (n.d.) Mind/Body health: Obesity. Retrieved August 8, 2017 from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/obesity.aspx
  2. Society for Personality and Social Psychology. (2014, August 8). How we form habits, change existing ones. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 8, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140808111931.htm

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Kristin Lloyd, PhD is a licensed psychotherapist, mindset mentor, certified clinical hypnotherapist, and energy psychology practitioner guiding individuals to embrace healthy habits and fuller lives after WLS. A WLS patient herself, Kristin understands the challenges of WLS patients. She is the founder of Bariatric Mindset and author of the two bestselling books: Bariatric Mindset Success and Release Your Regain; both available on Amazon.
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