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Tips on Losing Weight: Optimism and the Power of Positive Thinking

Posted Sep 25 2009 10:35pm

by Maria' s Last Diet

A lot has been made of the power of positive thinking. We have all heard the idea that thinking positively has a beneficial effect on health.

Optimism, one form of positive thinking, has actually been found to both promote healthy behavior and to undermine healthy behavior. The distinction here is based on whether the optimism a person exhibits is "defensive" or "functional".

Defensive optimism is exemplified by the person who believes she is in less danger of disease than others. With functional optimism, a person might see herself as capable of coping effectively with challenges and adversity. The functional optimist takes care of her health by engaging in disease-preventing behaviors. The defensive optimist does not take these same precautions, because she sees herself (unrealistically) as less vulnerable to disease than other people.

Thus, you can' t say that thinking positively if you are a defensive optimist is an adaptive strategy when it comes to matters of your health.

What kind of positive thinker are you when it comes to dieting and losing weight? Are you the defensive optimist or the functional optimist?

Here is a typical declaration from someone who wants to lose weight: Next week, I' m definitely going on a diet, and this time I' ll stay on it.

Now that' s a pretty optimistic statement. Is it functional or defensive? Is it defensive—not realistic—or is it functional, meaning realistically positive? How can you tell?

You can tell if you look below the surface of the resolution, dig a little deeper, ask questions which will show if she is just blindly optimistic or if she has good reasons for being optimistic.

Here are the questions:

  • Has she set a goal that is within the realm of possibility?
  • Has she spent time creating a plan of action?
  • Does she anticipate challenges along the way?
  • Does she have plans in place to help her meet those challenges?
  • Does she believe in her ability to follow through?

It takes realism PLUS optimism to reach a goal.

In other words, if it is to work, this woman needs to back up the resolution "next week I' m definitely going on a diet, and this time I' ll stay on it".

Can you?


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