Trying to lose weight? Start with your mind.

Trying to lose weight? Start with your mind.

The most popular resolution this time of year is to lose weight but of the millions of Americans who make this New Year's resolutions, only 8 percent actually keep them.

If you struggle to lose weight and keep it off, experts say you may need to focus on a different part of your body.
As a mental health counselor, Shekyra Decree talks to students almost every day about ways to handle stress, but for years was completely unaware that the way she handled it was to eat.

"That would be my go-to. So even the time of day, me coming home from work, that was something I emotionally associated with time to eat," she says.

Thanks to a change in her diet and exercise routine, in one year Shekyra lost 100 pounds. But experts say she's keeping it off because she learned a simple secret most people don't. 

"Your brain can help make you fat," says Dr. Diane Robinson, a neuropsychologist.

She says when it comes to losing weight; most people focus only on the physical side.

A national survey by Orlando Health asked people to name the biggest barriers to weight loss, and found nearly 6 out of 10 said diet and exercise. Only 1 in 10 mentioned the mental aspect.

Food can release dopamine in the brain's pleasure center, the same as drugs or alcohol, causing a strong emotional connection. 

"Our brain actually recognizes it as a reward and it can become very difficult to separate that kind of emotion and the physiological response that food can have in us," said Dr. Robinson.

Robinson says to break those emotional connections, keep a journal to track your food and your mood. Identify foods that make you feel good and write down the reasons why.

And before every snack or meal ask yourself; am I eating because I'm hungry?

"If the answer is no, then you really know there's a strong emotional component here and it's giving yourself a clue to say, what's going on with me?" said Dr. Robinson.

It was only when Shekyra learned to spot those clues that she made a change for good.

"The fact that I was able to overcome that struggle, that's the thing, mentally, that is so freeing," she says.

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