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Pink Elephants Make You Fat: How To Think Thin

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 3 6

Getting Some Perspective

It's true! you know the old adage...Someone tells you not to think about pink elephants and what happens? Pink elephants take over your brain. They are everywhere that you look and even the words... pink elephants, pink elephants, are chanting through your head, all just because we are told NO! Whatever you do don't think about pink elephants! It's the way the human brain works. We don't like deprivation and the more you focus on not doing something the more likely you are to actually do it. This is the reason that diets don't work. Even if you can ward of the deprivation issues for a short time, time doesn't make it any easier.

What We Do To Our Brain When We Diet

Small Tummy
The brain is so powerful yet we day in, day out take it on! We fight our own little battles inside our heads and seem to almost look for ways to make ourselves suffer. Our brain really dislikes rigid structures with no room to move. In the case of dieting, the structure would take form of a schedule of what we can and can't eat and when we can eat it or show things that we should never eat again. Immediately we are set on the back foot because we instantly feel deprived, which leads to us feeling overwhelmed and thinking how impossible it all seems. Often this can all take place before we've even started.

What Our Brain Likes

Small Steps

When someone drops a mammoth task on your desk the feeling is overwhelming. Look at all that work and I haven't even started yet. This kind of scenario is often a good reason to make people procrastinate. They feel so overwhelmed that they don't know how to start, so they don't, they keep thinking about it instead. If however, the big task is split into smaller easier to digest portions, small steps at a time, with no time constraint and the freedom to approach it from whatever angle makes you feel comfortable, wouldn't that make life a whole lot easier? The same principle can be utilised for helping to think yourself thinner by taking small, comfortable steps and praising yourself when you do something beneficial...no matter how small it may be, which actually leads us to the next point...


We often only focus on what's wrong. With our brain stuck in the negativity mode, we are quick to pull ourselves up on our faults, but unfortunately rather slack when it comes to noticing our good points. This includes any achievement no matter how minuscule it may seem. Turn it around. When it comes to something like losing weight, start to notice anything you do that you know is leading you in the right direction. The little bit of extra exercise you put in today because you vacuumed the house. You made an effort to climb the stairs because you had the time, even if it was slowly...it's still a positive that you should praise yourself for. Any small effort or achievement all tallies up to one big accomplishment.


Flexibility, our brains love this wonderful freedom to change with the wind. If we set goals that we have to accomplish our brain finds this difficult. Rather than doing that, we can gain more satisfaction and be more likely to achieve positive results, from striving towards something without shackles on.

"One thing is for certain and that is nothing is for certain" ~ unknown

Our daily life and routine rarely stays exactly as we planned. Too many external things come into the equation and we need to be able to change with the days, weeks or years as they unfold. When we are not flexible and find we can't live up to our lofty expectations that we set for ourselves, it leaves us feeling like we have failed.

What Our Brain Doesn't Like

Psychological Deprivation

Yummy Chocolate Cake
Step 1 - Think of a food you really dislike, your least favourite food and picture it in your mind. Next tell yourself that you can never ever eat this food ever again in your whole lifetime, ponder that for a little while and then recognise how it makes you feel. It's highly likely that it doesn't bother you one little bit. If you really don't like it, then you're not likely to miss it.

Step Two - Now think of a food that you really love...Luscious chocolate cake, ice-cream, roast chicken...whatever really gets your mouth-watering and make sure you visualize it in your mind. Then do the same as before and tell yourself that you can never have that food ever again, for your whole life. Now how do you feel? Apparently many people report feeling tense, anxious, depressed, angry and resentful. Our brain doesn't like this thought at all. This thought and feeling is what Lavinia Rodriguez Phd (author of Mind Over Fat Matters)  calls Psychological Deprivation. We won't die if we don't have that food... but it almost feels like we will. Kind of sounds a little similar to dieting, don't you think?

Mind Over Fat Matters

Mind Over Fat Matters:: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management
Amazon Price: $34.65 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 19, 2013)
Get all the information first hand in Lavinia Rodriguez's book.

The Role Of Habitual Learning

Once... at some stage in our lives, we all used to be natural eaters. We didn't think about the consequences of what or how much we ate. Social conditioning over time changed that and most of us have at some stage or another had some kind of eating rules set into place. These kind of things tend to stick in our minds. Even if we are not currently dieting but we eat something that has been included in our rulebook as BAD at some stage of our life...it automatically can bring up feelings of guilt when we eat it.

It seems that we can establish the fact that depriving ourselves of something labelled as bad in our rulebook, is in turn likely to make us over indulge in that thing (for example chocolate cake) at some stage when given the opportunity...here's the equation

                  Rules = psychological deprivation = loss of control

Does this mean that by getting rid of the rules can reverse the cycle? It should also be noted that when we indulge in something we really love to eat, we often don't enjoy it as we should. If we are going to eat something delectably delicious (like chocolate cake), we should at least thoroughly enjoy every moment of eating it and not do it the injustice of concentrating on how bad   this "evil piece of chocolate cake" is for tempting us to indulge! We very easily get into the totally wrong mind set. 

No Way? Eat What You Want?

Pink Elephant
How scary does that sound? We have got to the point where we don't trust our brain or body anymore, so if someone said to you...You should eat what you want when you want, we think...I really can't do that! We feel afraid because the deprivation we are used to feeling has given us a preoccupation with food and weight, which leaves us feeling the effects of that simple statement.. big time. We don't believe that we have the will power to stop binge eating or overconsuming but what we don't realise is that it's the restrictions "The Pink Elephant" that has made us do this in the first place. Dr Rodriguez believes that if we do away with the deprivation, our body starts to relax. Binge and compulsive eating stops, the amount of food we need to satisfy us decreases and we feel more in control and positive with our new flexible routine. 

Brain Power

Think Thin: Live Thin

I think most of us have an idea that weight loss is linked to psychological aspects. The tricky thing is understanding how to make your brain work for you and not against you. Like trying to meditate doesn't bring about successful meditation and "pink elephants"... well you can stand in front of a mirror and say I'm thin till the cows come home but there has to be something deeper than that for it to become ingrained in the neural pathways. You have to trigger the change internally not just on the surface. Visualization is a good way to help kick start this into action.  See yourself in what you want to wear, how you want to look and how you want to feel...but one of the biggest things you can do, is to pull yourself up on any negative thoughts that cross your mind. Not only the ones putting yourself down because of weight...anything! Exchange those thoughts for positive alternatives. For example if everytime you think I hate my job, you take that thought and automatically link it to an alternative positive. If you are wanting to lose weight, you could link I hate my job to a thought and visualisation of you looking slim and fantastic in your new hip cloths that you bought with your wage. 

Footnote and Disclaimer

Big Jeans
When it comes to dietary and psychological issues and concerns nothing can take place of professional help. If you need help, please seek it from a trained professional.

I want to add this personal footnote as to the reason for this article as I feel it may be of benefit to some people. As a person who has always struggled with sometimes a little, sometimes a lot of extra weight, I encountered something that I couldn't really explain regarding weight loss. It was a period of about five years, that started with a blood group diet (that was of course unsustainable) but managed to budge a few kilo's. This initial weight loss continued even when I had stopped the diet. It kept going and then sustained at a healthy weight for close to 5 years. In this period I felt I was thin (even when at the beginning I wasn't). I dressed the way I wanted, felt good about the way I looked, and I really thought I could eat anything and wouldn't put on weight. This didn't mean I ate crazily, and I also walked regularly for exercise. The difference was that I just stopped worrying about what food I put into my mouth. I didn't doubt at all ever, that I couldn't remain as this perfect size me.  It is only with in the last year that I have slipped out of that mental zone, and suddenly found myself with a few extra pounds, hence why this article has been written. It was whilst searching for answers about what I experienced, that I found information about "thinking thin". I really believe that it points to what happened to me. Personally, I think it seems to make a lot of sense. As someone who believes in and knows the strength of our own minds and the benefits of turning negatives into positives, I believe this style of thinking works for everything not only weight loss.



Jun 22, 2013 9:46am
I really enjoyed reading this thought provoking article. Negative thoughts usually lead to failure; whereas, positive thoughts typically lead to success. I am currently trying to lose some weight so I will try to focus on the clothes that I can wear and not stew over the ones that I can't wear yet.
Jun 22, 2013 4:43pm
Hiya southerngirl, Yeah our minds are so powerful...we just need to harness our thoughts in the correct way and get them working for us and not against us.Because of the way the neural pathways alter with a continuous certain way of thinking, we can in a sense re train our brain so that it becomes natural to think in a positive manner...meaning it's not always as hard as it seems when we initially start to try and change our thought patterns. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks for commenting :-)
Jun 24, 2013 3:27am
Interesting way of thinking. I would like to try it once in the blogging world. Ask my readers NOT to comment, and NOT to like the article and see if I get more likes and comments that my other articles...
Jun 24, 2013 4:33am
:-) Now that would be an interesting experiment! "What ever you do, don't like or comment" :-) I guess when it relies on other peoples minds and not purely your own...it may not have quite the same affect...but then again, you just never know!
Jun 24, 2013 6:04pm
This is a great example of mind over matter. Our way of thinking is often the difference between success and failure. People will get more done and be more effective if they do things a little bit at a time. Trying to do everything at once can be exhausting and ineffective. You did a great job of explaining the likes and dislikes of the brain and I think that more people should explore this. Wonderful article!
Jun 25, 2013 1:51am
Thanks for that, glad you enjoyed the article. It sometimes feels like we have a bad habit of trying to go out of our ways to make things more difficult than they actually are. Too much baggage we carry around, clouding our perspective. Thanks again!
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  1. By Dr. Lavinia Rodriguez "Thinking Your Way Thin - The Psychology Of WeightLoss Success." www.fatmatters.com. 1/05/2013 <Web >
  2. "8 Ways To Think Thin." Web MD. 2/05/2013 <Web >

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