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Women Gaining Weight Back: Conscious vs. Unconscious

Posted Aug 27 2010 2:00am

Keeping yourself aware of your own actions and their consequences is an important deterrent to regaining weight you’ve lost. But what happens when your actions begin outside of conscious awareness, and what can you do if you don’t know they’re there?

Whether we realize it or not, we are primed to think and behave by what we experience— internally as well as externally. It happens so fast. You can’t help it because thinking a certain way or reacting to specific cues has become habit. If it’s habit, we may not have a chance to stop it or choose another way.

But what is habit and outside your conscious control is still you. Everyone who has found herself humming a favorite tune or mentally reciting lyrics knows this effect. It is you, despite the fact that before you know it, you’re doing it.

When you’re trying to maintain weight you’ve lost, one fix for this “unconscious you” is to make yourself more aware. Freud called this making the unconscious conscious. This has its limitations though. Your habitual actions, for the most part, are always partially outside of your awareness. You are not conscious of wanting to hum the tune or recite the lyrics until you do it. And this is the way it can be for food too. You splurge or binge or go overboard or lose your grip and slip because it’s you, conscious or not.

A more sure-fire approach is to get the “unconscious you” to not deter the “conscious you” from your goal. This is what the work of psychoanalytic psychotherapy is all about, making what’s outside of your awareness, but still inside you, be in tune with what you consciously want for yourself.

As you can see, vigilance alone won’t do it. It helps, but the best way is to transform your unconscious. Make it what you want so the “conscious you” has an easier, more successful time of it.


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