Most weight-loss stories begin with a change in diet or a new kind of workout. But Heather Jones has a different narrative to share, and although it may sound unorthodox at first, it helped her lose 70 pounds and five dress sizes. POPSUGAR chatted with Heather to find out how she made such a tremendous change in her life. In short, how did she do it? "By training my brain before training my body," she told us.
"I had given up on diets, health, and the whole fitness world."
"I had given up on diets, health, and the whole fitness world," Heather recalled. "It felt like a place where I would never belong." For decades, Heather felt uninspired about getting her health on track, and she was an emotional eater who, in the midst of a stressful situation, would "throw open the cupboard doors in a desperate search for something sugary."
There was a point in her life, though, when she realized that she had to change her mindset first before she could ever think about changing her body or losing weight. "I turned to food when I was sad, upset, or had given up. I used food to treat myself, as well as punish myself, to numb my feelings," she said. "It felt like there were very few times I was eating food that wasn't attached to my emotions."
So Heather decided to do some research on her own about the connection between our thoughts and our eating habits. That's when she stumbled upon the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which is a form of guided counseling that uses alternative methods like acupuncture and energy psychology in order to clear certain emotional connections, like how you think about and interact with food.
"Neuroscientists have been explaining for the past decade how brain training can help us build new pathways in the brain."
"Neuroscientists have been explaining for the past decade how brain training can help us build new pathways in the brain," Heather explained. "Essentially, these are new stories that dictate habits and behaviors. So I set about learning everything I could about the brain and how to change this."
Now a trained counselor in EFT, Heather spent many months studying EFT and using it to transform her own thought patterns. In a session of EFT, you and your counselor will access specific energy meridians in the body (these are the pathways used in acupuncture) in an attempt to eliminate negative psychological connections and generate new healthy ones. There aren't any studies proving the effectiveness of EFT, so the success stories you find are anecdotal, but it has certainly worked for Heather — and she's now helping many other people find the same results.
"It stopped my sugar cravings and emotional eating in its tracks!" Heather said. "I went from eating cherry bakewells for breakfast to homemade rice porridge, millet pancakes, and green juices." And instead of reaching for junk food during the day, she now makes things like "tuna, kale, and hummus salad" for lunch.
Keep in mind that Heather's change through EFT in eating wasn't a quick fix. She spent many months doing EFT and actively working on her emotional health with a trained professional in order to kick her mindless eating to the curb. Like any other therapy, it's definitely a technique that requires expert guidance.
"Your mental game is EVERYTHING. When you can see these thoughts just as thoughts, know that you can choose to change these."
"Guided by listening to what my body needs, I discovered a raw food diet and juicing. This was amazing for me, and I saw my health rocket and my weight drop," she said. "[This kind of diet] is not for everyone, though. What worked was listening into my body now that it was free from emotional eating."
After she got her eating on track, she started thinking about exercising. "After doing the brain training around food, I had so much renewed energy that I felt more inclined to work out." She started by doing a Cindy Crawford workout video from the '80s ("Still a great workout today!"), which includes boxing, yoga, and lifting weights. Once she felt comfortable with that, she moved onto using the Gaia app for yoga. As for today, Heather said, "I attend a boxing class twice weekly and lift weights at gym."
"My biggest challenge was the initial resistance to starting. I never thought changing my thoughts could have such a big impact," she said. "Retraining the original programs and thoughts about my food, body, and exercise meant I started to automatically change my old patterns, habits, and behaviors. So I persisted and I'm so glad I did!"
Heather is now well-equipped to give advice to anyone else starting out on their own weight-loss journey. "My advice to anyone struggling to lose weight is to write down your emotional connections with food. Are you a secret eater? Do you binge-eat on sugary foods regularly? How do you feel about exercise?" she suggested. "Write down the most common five thoughts you have about weight, diet, food, your body, and exercise."
"Your mental game is EVERYTHING. When you can see these thoughts just as thoughts, know that you can choose to change these," she said. "You will begin an epic journey back to natural, easy balance, being in tune with what your body is truly craving! You will surprise yourself. I know I did."