weight loss and the law of attraction: a dialogue

yesterday, we had a guest post by david about using the law of attraction to lose weight. since david’s and my views are a bit different, i promised you a dialogue about it. so here we go. i will start with some of the ideas with which i agree:

i completely agree that our expectations are an important part of how we each create our own unique worlds. there is a lot of research that supports that, e.g. on self-fulfilling prophecies and other expectancy beliefs such as self-efficacy beliefs (the “i can do it” factor).

introducing more self-love into our lives and stopping harmful self-judgment are very important; personally i believe that they are a significant ingredient in not only improving our personal lives but also in improving the lives of those around us (hence my tagline: making lives better, making better lives).

appreciating and loving our bodies is a crucial element of this. currently, denise wilfley at washington university is working on finding out whether improved body image can have an effect on weight. it is well-known that a disturbed body image is connected to low self esteem.

lastly, i also agree that paying attention only to negative statements (“if i eat that, i’ll get fat”) is counterproductive. we shape our reality according to our attentional biases.

now let me point outwhere i don’t share david’s point of view.

we can’t deny that eating certain things on a consistent basis will make most people fat; that’s one of the main reasons for the obesity epidemic in north america. i doubt there was a big change to the negative in terms of body image in the last 60 years; but we know that the arrival of fast food and an insane amount of choice of overly fatty, sweet and salty food coincides with the rise of obesity.

also, research points to the fact that obesity does have a genetic component, and most people who’ve tried would say that “it’s hard to lose weight” is a statement of fact. i think it’s important to keep these things in mind (without dwelling on them) because they can help with weight loss. e.g. it’s useful to know that 2 cups of carrots have the caloric equivalent of one slice of bread.

david says, “when you love your body, then naturally your body will feel better and will become healthier. as this happens your body will naturally shift to fit the image that you are holding in your mind: a healthier, thinner body.” i am not sure how that mechanism is supposed to work. has it worked for you?

existing research does not show that a better relationship with one’s body results in weight loss (maybe ms. wilfley’s work will change that; we’ll have to see). also, the experience of fat acceptance people would refute the claim; people who are part of the fat acceptance movement often put much effort into having a positive, loving relationship with their body, without a resulting weight loss.

finally, david writes, “you will never lose weight while you judge yourself fat. that is rule number 1.” unfortunately, that is not true at all. the people who arguably have the worst problem with body image – people who struggle with anorexia or bulimia – do precisely that. so does just about every other person who diets.

summarizing all of this, i’d say that when aiming towards a healthy body weight, it’s useful to pay attention to how our minds shape our uniquely experienced version of reality, and to love our bodies. it is also important to keep in mind that a positive body image does not equal a weight that your doctor would be happy with; and that body weight is correlated with caloric intake, exercise, metabolic rate and genetics.

and of course, let’s not forget that much of this is very individual. i don’t doubt for a minute that improving one’s body image can be the solution to someone’s weight issues (which is different from saying that it is the solution for everyone).

it is interesting to note that a large-scale study on the effectiveness of various treatments for obesity recommends intensive counselling as the best approach. since the best counselling is counselling that is tailored to the individual’s need, i would hope that those for whom improved body image holds the most promise will receive exactly that type of intervention.

over to you, david and of course you, dear reader – what do you think? what’s your experience?

(this article was included in the 50 best blog posts on the law of attraction

71 thoughts on “weight loss and the law of attraction: a dialogue

  1. Evan

    1. It’s important to be fit. Fatness is really an approximation for fitness, from the physical health point of view.

    2. Our own perspectives will influence our behaviour and weight I’m sure.

    3. The question unaddressed is, why people want to lose weight. For health (slightly overweight is better) or for image or to please others? This doesn’t get addressed in the usual advocacy of weight loss. I hope these things are examined in any weight loss counseling that people do.

  2. JoLynn Braley

    Hi Isabella,

    I do believe in the power of self-love and that you can love yourself thin. However, with that self-love comes action – I agree with you that thoughts aren’t enough – positive action must be a result of our positive thoughts.

    Where some people can get tripped up with the law of attraction is by thinking that things will change by only changing their thoughts. We still have to take action though, and when it comes to weight loss, there is definitely some action that must be taken! 🙂 Not only physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

    JoLynn Braley’s last blog post..Cut 100 Calories a Day and Solve The Obesity Epidemic?

  3. Mark Ivar Myhre

    I agree with Evan above that it’s important to look at your motivation to lose weight.

    I also agree that the ‘Western diet’ makes almost anybody gain weight.

    And genetics plays a HUGE role in your weight.

    I personally know some quite-powerful people who know a ton of info about the so-called law of attraction – and they’re still overweight.


    The best weight-loss product I’m personally familiar with is called The Neuropsychology of Weight Control – a cassette tape program I ordered in the 1980’s from Nightingale Conant.

    It put forth the ‘setpoint’ theory which says our subconscious mind determines our weight (to over simplify) and that by going into an altered state of consciousness (meditation-visualization) we then vividly imagine and feel what it’s like to be thin.

    I did the exercise ONE time and went from 167 pounds to 160 pounds in seven days. (I wasn’t really that overweight to begin with; since I’m 5′ 10″)

    I guess I was too naive at the time to have doubts it would work. But, you see, I don’t have those ‘fat genes’.

    But the older I get…

    Mark Ivar Myhre’s last blog post..Why I Stopped Trying

  4. isabella mori

    @evan, i think the question regarding the WHY of the weight loss is very important. what’s the motivation? is the motivation in sync with the person’s values?

    @JoLynn, i really like your balanced approach. i remember your 31-days-to-love-yourself-thin posts. great idea!

    @mark, thanks for participating in this discussion. genetics plays an important role – and we don’t know yet to which degree. perhaps nutrigenomics will uncover some of it.

    what is often overlooked in the discussion about genetics and obesity is that genes can be dormant. as long as one eats sensibly, e.g. in a culture where people don’t gobble french fries like there’s no tomorrow, these dormant genes may never express themselves. but add our crazy approach to nutrition, and the sleeping genetic giant may just be awakened .

  5. David Hooper

    Good comments!


    1. When you are in alignment with something, the action comes along with it.

    For example, if you’re somebody who is a fit person and go to the grocery store after a great workout, you’ll find yourself drawn to foods that will help you with this lifestyle– grains, veggies, fruits, etc.

    This good enables you to keep up that pace.

    Think about when you’re stressed out…maybe before a big test in school or work assignment. You want the “comfort foods” of grilled cheese, cookies, ice cream, whatever…

    Now, you may be saying, “Hey, David, when I workout, I really like to reward myself with a donut afterwards.”

    And I’d argue that you’re “stressed” with your workout and that it lacks a sense of ease…much like that test or work project you are preparing for.

    2. “It’s easy if you know how to do it.”

    Even the most complicated tasks are easy for some.

    Drive a stick shift? When you first started, you’d get out in traffic and your palms would sweat. But now, there is a sense of ease.

    And these is a sense of ease to maintaining a healthy body as well…you just have to find that.

    What you call “genetics” is more related to thoughts than body.

    For example… Pro sports people have kids who play pro sports. Pro musicians have kids who play music.

    Is it genetics or do they just know that it’s possible for them to do this?

    The environment you grew up around (and surround yourself with now) affects you more than “genetics.”

    Pygmalion effect defined…

    David Hooper’s last blog post..How Passion Energizes Law of Attraction

  6. Mark Ivar Myhre

    Yes, I agree 100%.

    (And a little cheeeeze never hurt anything!)

    Also, we attract (or ‘create’ – as I like to see it) everyone else’s opinion.

    Or rather, we create the opinions we’re aware of.

    The other person creates their opinion. If we’re aware of it, then we’ve created it in our reality also.

    ‘Overlapping realities.’

    Whatever we’re aware of, we created.

    Which gets a little confronting sometimes. A little uncomfortable, too.

    Mark Ivar Myhre’s last blog post..Why I Stopped Trying

  7. isabella mori

    thanks for joining the conversation, @david!

    you say, “what you call “genetics” is more related to thoughts than body.” – what do you base that on?

    you also say, “the environment you grew up around (and surround yourself with now) affects you more than “genetics.” – i don’t think that can be said with authority. people have been thinking about and researching the whole “nurture vs. nature” issue for decades and the best anyone can come up with is that they both influence us.

    @mark – i’m intrigued by how you talk about creating reality. maybe it’s a bit similar to the old adage, “it takes one to know one”?

  8. Wendy

    “…david says, “when you love your body, then naturally your body will feel better and will become healthier. as this happens your body will naturally shift to fit the image that you are holding in your mind: a healthier, thinner body.”

    I wholeheartedly believe in this. Look at those who have cured themselves of cancer by using visualization. So often, when we don’t like our body, we turn against it and treat it like an enemy. We want to beat it, deprive it and punish it. There may not be overwhelming scientific evidence that “loving” your body helps you lose weight, but I believe there is evidence that shows, when one is in a much calmer, more peaceful state of mind, physiologically, the body does respond better.

    In terms of the law of attraction, it’s not that self-love makes fat melt off the body. The law of attraction is all about getting into a positive state of mind which then helps you move toward your desired outcome with ease. And while I can’t cite any formal studies, I think it goes without saying that when you approach weight loss with a gentle approach rather than a militant one, the weight will come off–and stay off–more successfully.

    Wendy’s last blog post..Byron Katie video

  9. David Hooper

    Wendy is right.

    Also not scientific, but ask any doctor working with a sick patient and he’ll tell you that PMA (positive mental attitude) has a big affect on how things go with treatment.

    Same for weightloss.

    We all know this though, right? Will see if I can dig up some studies to link. 🙂

    David Hooper’s last blog post..How Passion Energizes Law of Attraction

  10. isabella mori

    in the face of research evidence, even the most hard-boiled skeptic would have to agree that a positive mental attitude does promote physical health.

    however, i don’t remember a) reading anything about that in regard to weight loss and b) i know many people who are struggling with their weight and the positive mental outlook is simply not enough. there is even a word for it, “fat serenity”.

    to all of these who are reading this – in your personal experience, how does your positive mental attitude motivate you to take action, and to keep taking action, year after year?

  11. JoLynn Braley

    Hi Isabella,

    In my experience, motivation is usually the largest part of staying fit…..I can’t speak right now for staying motivated year after year, right now I’m working on it one day at a time. However when I feed my mind with the positive every day, each of those days will add up to months and then years….the trick is to keep doing it.

    I also find that as long as I keep exercising that in turn helps keep my thoughts positive – it all works together. Positive thinking, visualization, that can lead to action, or you could be one who first takes the action (exercise and cleaning up your eating), which then leads to improving your thoughts.

    Yeah, it really all works together, which is why I firmly believe that telling someone to just “diet & exercise” isn’t enough to both get the weight off and keep it off.

    Staying motivated to keep the weight off still comes from making a complete lifestyle change….in body, mind, and soul. If a new diet & exercise plan were enough, then there wouldn’t be so many repeat dieters in the world.

    JoLynn Braley’s last blog post..Cut 100 Calories a Day and Solve The Obesity Epidemic?

  12. Evan

    I’d like to offer a different perspective on motivation.

    When we are having trouble with motivation it is because we have two (or even more) motivations. It helps me to know what the other motivations are. Perhaps as well as wanting to get fit I want to also lighten up on myself (loving my body and such). We can honour both motivations – finding ‘exercise’ options that are fun – dancing, walking, gardening . . . whatever.

    I think it can be helpful to think of ourselves having different motivations and then finding ways to get our different motivations moving in the same direction.

    Hope this makes sense. It makes a big difference to me.

    Evan’s last blog post..If stress causes dis-ease what causes stress?

  13. Nancy

    @Evan – kinda reminds me of the quote by Kierkegaard “To will the one thing”. I believe he was talking about devotion to the divine (ie. not my will but thine) but I suppose it could be applied to movitation and likelihood of success.
    @david – if thinking can reduce body size, is the reverse true: that thinking caused the over-weight?
    @JoLynn – I accidentally trained for a 10k – just a way to connect with someone who interested me, ie., training together – and lo and behold if I didn’t do the freaking race in a respectable time. I doubt I would have visualized myself into doing it, but having done it once, now I know it’s possible.

    Nancy’s last blog post..Freebie Wednesday: 4 awesome freebies this week – concert, gail vaz-oxlade seminar, birthfest, rrsp e-book

  14. Jan Karlsbjerg

    A positive mental attitude doesn’t cause you to get a healthier body. You cannot “think yourself fit”.

    But a positive attitude can get you to the gym more often because you figure that it will help, you can get healthier because the situation isn’t hopeless. For the same reasons a positive attitude can improve your eating habits (sometimes you’ll eat an apple instead of a candy bar, when you have ice cream you’ll stop after one bowl instead of emptying the container, etc.).

    And then the workouts and the improved eating habits are what improve your health – not the thin thoughts or the positive attitude.

    I’m sick and tired of the so-called “law of attraction” and all the play it’s getting.

    Nike says “Just do it!” (and they really, really mean it – they glorify the elite athletes and the dedicated amateur athletes who “do it”)

    “The law of attraction” says “Just hope it! You know, really, really hope it“.

    My money will always be on 1 pound of action over 1 ton of hoping.

    I challenge anyone who believe in the “law of attraction” to check out (certified smart young man) Aaron Swartz’ review of The Secret: The secret behind The Secret’. His 691 words of reason topple 216 pages of rubbish so, so easily.

    By the way, Isabella, a couple of months ago you mentioned that you were thinking about having a debate between faith and science on your blog. Is this that debate?

    Jan Karlsbjerg’s last blog post..A small sampling of network security

  15. isabella mori

    @JanKarlsbjerg to be fair, i don’t think that people who advocate the law of attraction necessarily argue for all hope and no action.

    apart from that, it’s hard to argue against “1 pound of action over 1 ton of hope.”

    no, this is not the discussion i had in mind. actually, what i had in mind was a friendly conversation between an atheist and a – let’s say non-atheist. coming up before easter, if you’re game 🙂

  16. sparks


    As weight loss is often an emotional issue for many people, has anyone here tried out cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)? A friend of a friend tried it and swears by it apparantly. I’m just thinking that if weight loss is largely an emotional issue perhaps we need to work on our thoughts first/too.

    It seems too many of us are looking to buy stuff which we think/hope will work.

  17. isabella mori

    hi sparks

    in the research above, they’re talking about “intensive” counselling being most helpful. i’ll try and dig up that study to see what is meant my “intensive”.

    research on counselling in general agrees with what you say, evan. the approach is not very important at all. actually, what the client does OUTSIDE of counselling matters most, followed by how a person sees the the relationship with the counsellor.

    of course it’s possible that a person feels particularly happy with a counsellor who happens to like CBT. then it can look like it’s the approach that counts when really it’s the relationship.

  18. sparks

    Hi Isabella,

    Iagree with you up to a point. The relationship between a therapist and a counsellor is of course important and I take nothing away from that, but sometime the techniques themselves do not necessarily need the patient/counsellor dynamic to be effective.

    I’ve been reading up on CBT since my last post and have found out that studies on simply reading the book ‘Feeling Good’ have consistently shown that it is hugely effective as a therapy in its own right.

    Granted the book is meant to deal primarily with depression but it outlines the emotions that cause us to behave in a particular way and once those emotions are identified and addressed, healing invariably follows.

    CBT it seems is highly effective for weight loss. Has to be worth a look : )

  19. Evan

    Hi Sparks,

    An extension of what you say is that, in one sense, all therapy is self-therapy. It is always us who does the changing.

    I think Isabella would agree with this. (Isabella?)

    The research on the effectiveness of CBT that I’m aware of shows that it is about as effective as other therapies. The research on the effectiveness of psychotherapy tends to show that it is the relationship that is healing – effective therapists are spread throught the different therapies.

    Evan’s last blog post..A Great Post on Healing the Past

  20. Dr. Shane Sheibani

    As a Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon, I can definitely attest to the prevalence of people seeking quick body solutions when their problem is much deeper and internal. Don’t get me wrong, the outside appearance is important but healthy self-esteem needs to precede any body change.

  21. isabella mori

    thanks for your comments, everyone … i’m finally replying!

    @sparks – what you say about reading a book is similar to what i said earlier – most benefits accrue outside of therapy (about 60%).

    and that’s exactly what you’re saying, @evan. all a therapist does is assist. in a way, therapy similar to what taking vitamins or exercising does to us physically, which is jump-starting or boosting an already existing immune system.

    thanks also for your comments, @terry and @dr. sheibani.

  22. isabella mori

    hi pickup of course it can help. anything can help. but i think it’s a big, big leap from saying “it CAN help” to “if you think about losing weight, then you will definitely succeed”. millions of people with weight issues think about losing weight all the time, to no avail. and yes, of course, thinking is a good first step to success (although not always). then what’s the next step?

  23. Andrew Murray

    I just believe in controlling your thinking and keeping it constructive may be one of the most difficult challenges you have ever faced. Fortunately, writing goals and reading affirmations can help get you started. And with that all weight loss and other track part is easy. So for me yes for law of attractions.

    Andrew Murray
    The Marketing Couple

  24. mick ort

    “@andrew thanks for your comment. so – have you personally used the law of attraction to lose weight, and to successfully keep it off?”

    I did.

  25. AcaiBerry

    Yes, I agree 100%.

    (And a little cheeeeze never hurt anything!)

    Also, we attract (or ‘create’ – as I like to see it) everyone else’s opinion.

    Or rather, we create the opinions we’re aware of.

    The other person creates their opinion. If we’re aware of it, then we’ve created it in our reality also.

    ‘Overlapping realities.’

    AcaiBerry’s last blog post..Welcome To Acai Berry Lab

  26. how to lose weight

    I believe that if we have the right reason to lose weight and we treat our body rightly. Get more exercise to make our body healthier we can get shape as a bonus. Take more fiber or take the right way to eat will make our body and health better. Great oaks grow from little acorns.

  27. Belly Fat Removal

    I can tell you from exerience with my wife that weight loss is an emotional experience. There are many variables that go into her experience trying to lose the weight. Genetics does not help her efforts, that is for sure. But outside influences, like my attitude, and the support of her friends is what allows her to succeed or not. She knows that to lead a healthy life she has to exercise but she doesn’t care for the activity. She eats healthy. But she has to b e validated with her efforts. As her spouse it’s exhausting to at times to be her support system. But nonetheless necessary.

  28. Edward Litors

    I believe that if you visualize how you would like to look, the universe will guide you and lead you wherever you need to be to get that result, that happened to me. I wanted to be a certain weight, and I was given the direction on where to get the proper information to get me to that NEW ME I was desiring to be.

  29. Виктор

    Очень хороший и занимательный блог! Постоянный житель моего ридера 🙂

  30. Yes Messenger

    As a former horseracing jockey (during 23 years) I never struggled with my weight by applying the following balanced food intake formula;

    15% fats, 35% sugars, 50% proteins.

    If your physical activity is low, don’t exceed 1200 calories a day, with a high activity you can go up till 2200 calories a day always implementing the above formula.

    Overweight will melt away week after week.

  31. Starcraft

    I found that the low carb diet works wonders.. I lost about 25 pounds very fast. Also, exercise is very important for your health in general. I don’t think exercise necessarily is as effective as diet for losing weight, but exercise keeps you healthy in both mind and body and makes you toned 🙂
    .-= Starcraft´s last blog ..StarCraft 2 is Feature Complete =-.

  32. Lisa

    I’ve always been fascinated about the different ways people have created to achieve one goal, the goal of weight loss. For me, it all starts with the food you eat. I filled out this survey to help out in weight loss program research — about the dieting and nutrition habits of people. For the love of weight loss, check this survey out! http://bit.ly/4TttX

  33. Leila

    I’ve always been fascinated about the different ways people have created to achieve one goal, the goal of weight loss. For me, it all starts with the food you eat. I filled out this survey to help out in weight loss program research — about the dieting and nutrition habits of people. For the love of weight loss, check this survey out! http://bit.ly/4TttX.

  34. tom@fat burner supplement

    I use visualization in every area of my life. I started with the Law of Attraction craze an now it’s a habit. I use it before doing anything. I wouldn’t say it works as well as it does for the people who use it to find parking spaces but it does work. I use it to visualize a thin and fit me. I use it to visualize myself working out. It really does seem to help me.
    .-= tom@fat burner supplement´s last blog ..Do Follow Blog, Comment Luv Keyword Luv =-.

  35. financial adviser

    I’m really trying to focus on my weight for multiple reasons, but the biggest one is because I don’t feel attractive. I know that I am, but sometimes it feels like I can’t get a girlfriend because of my weight, and it severely lowers my self-esteem.

  36. Sonic Producer

    To begin with your weight loss project, have a strategy for slimming. If you do not, you may be tempted to start off your weight loss “tomorrow, ” and for a number of men and women, tomorrow never quite gets to today. Get going by setting objectives that you’ll be able to really accomplish with a little work, yet which are not too simplistic to complete. Consult your general practitioner or an expert trainer to determine the way to satisfy your fat loss desires. Affirmations are positive sentences written in the present tense meant to be used repeatedly to create a habit of thought. Everything you experience has to do with the way you think, and the more you observe what you think the more you turn that thought into a habit.

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