Think of your mind as an iceberg; the portion above the surface of the water is the conscious mind; the much larger portion below the surface of the water represents the sub-conscious mind. The conscious mind is the analytical and “rational” part of our mind. We use it to make day-to-day decisions. It also contains our short-term memory. The sub-conscious mind is the emotional part of our mind. It is the seat of our habits, patterns, and long-term memory. A good majority of our memories throughout life are stored in the subconscious mind, even memories we cannot access using the conscious mind. Think of it like a powerful computer with enough memory to hold every experience you have had. When comparing these two parts of the mind, the sub-conscious easily has much more influence over our behavior than our analytical mind. This does not necessarily mean we are slaves to the desires of our sub-conscious; we can learn how to use our conscious mind to influence the sub-conscious mind in order to change behavior, which I will explain how to do in this article.

Many of us fail to follow up on goals because we try to use our “willpower” alone to achieve this. Think of willpower like adrenaline, it starts strong and then quickly burns out. The reason willpower often fails is because we are trying to use just our conscious mind to make the change, when on the other hand, the subconscious mind may not be in agreement with how we are going about pursuing our goal. When this happens it’s like there is an internal tug-of-war going on; part of us really wants to make the changes; another part of us is resistant to the change because there are positive intentions for not making the change (fear of failure, protection etc.). Which part of the mind usually wins this battle? The subconscious prevails.

You might be wondering how this happens and what can be done to prevent this from occurring. Most of us do not know how to communicate with this deeper part of our mind or even where to begin. Before I address this issue, I would like to talk more about the subconscious mind, and how it operates in order for us to understand it better so we can communicate with it effectively. As I mentioned previously, think of the sub-conscious like the most powerful computer you will ever use; now think of that computer being operated and controlled by you as a five-year-old!

Five-year-olds are impulsive, emotional, focus on short-term gratification over self-control, and often take the words they hear literally; their mind has not developed to a high degree of critical thinking yet. You might have heard the term “Your Inner Child” before. I believe we all have an inner child within us that sometimes comes out in various ways, whether it surfaces when we are having fun being silly, arguing with our significant other, or when we have been hurt emotionally. This inner child is behind the keyboard of that supercomputer (Mind) that dictates our behavior. Just like a five-year-old child, this “Inner Child” is very sensitive to the words we use to communicate with it. How do we communicate with this inner part of the mind you ask? We do it in two ways:

1. Through our external dialogue-what, we say aloud about ourselves.

2. Through internal dialogue- consists of self-talk and the mental images or “movies” we run in our head about ourselves.

If we put ourselves down through our external and or/internal dialogue, we automatically create negative images within our mind. Even though these negative messages might not be true, our inner child might take that dialogue literally, (as if it were true) and program these messages into the subconscious, which does not know the difference between reality and fantasy. It processes the messages it receives as being true if those messages are continually reinforced through repetition of thought (internal dialogue and images held in the mind). This is particularly true about making changes to our health. Words can mean all the difference to achieving our fitness goals. For example, how many times have we told ourselves repeatedly, “I need to lose weight!” We say this repeatedly externally and internally. It is quite possible the sub-conscious will process statements like this by taking the statement literally by focusing on the “lose” portion of the statement. The inner child of your mind starts thinking, “Losing doesn’t sound very fun to me! Who wants to lose anything? I sure don’t!” So begins the sub-conscious mind’s mutiny against our goals. Another example is the word “Diet.” This word has many negative associations with people. Drop the “t” off the diet and what word do you have the word “Die!” So already, we start with good intentions but we use words with negative associations, not exactly the best way to convince our sub-conscious to help us!

You might be thinking, “That’s just silly that such simple words can have that much influence on our behavior!” Let me repeat that the subconscious mind is child-like and takes repeated words programmed into it very literally regardless if they are true or false and will seek to manifest this programming into the physical reality!

Our subconscious mind does not do well in processing negatives. For example, when we say things like, “Don’t eat that piece of cake”, it translates to the sub-conscious as, “Eat that piece of cake.” If I told you, “Don’t think of a pink elephant wearing a tutu.” You will most likely think of the elephant because you had to think about what I told you not to do! Instead of thinking about what you do not want, focus on what it is specifically you want to achieve, this way you are giving direct instructions to your sub-conscious mind. As a parent of two young boys, I know first-hand how ineffective it is to keep telling my kids, “don’t do this” or “don’t do that!” When I do this, they do not process the word “don’t” and end up doing the opposite of what I want! It is more effective in the end to tell them what I would like them to do instead of what I do not want them to do. It takes some time to learn to communicate in this way as many of us have grown up in families where we were told what not to do as opposed to what it is our parent’s wanted us to do. It is the same when we communicate with our “Inner Child.” Give direct, simple instructions that focus on the outcome we want to achieve; leave out the negatives and reinforce the positives.

Okay, we know that words can have a tremendous impact on the subconscious, but how do you know what words to use influence it in a positive direction? Here are some examples of the wrong and right way to go about it:
It is essential that you positively phrase your self-talk to reflect what it is you specifically want to achieve not on what you don’t want to achieve. Instead of telling yourself things like:
•I don’t want to be fat anymore.
•It’s going to be a lot of hard work to achieve my weight loss goal.
•It’s hard to stick with this weight loss program.
Instead, focus on the positive outcome
(Affirmations retrieved from
•I am choosing to release this excess weight.
•I always make time to exercise; it energizes me whenever I’m tired.
•I am peaceful & calm.
•I feel good.
•My body naturally sheds unneeded fat.
•I have full ability to control my weight.
•My appetite is easily satisfied with a small amount of food.
•My body gets all the nutrients it needs.
•My body is dissolving excess fat for it no longer needs it.
•I am strong and healthy.
•My appetite for fattening foods has dissolved.
•I see myself slender, fit, and trim.
•I am easily satisfied with meals.
•I am calm and relaxed when I eat.
•I have tremendous self-control.
•I have a strong urge to eat only health-giving and nutritious foods.
•I feel good about myself.
•My body is strong and healthy.
•I take good care of my body.
•I do a healthy amount of exercise regularly.
•I like myself.
•I have perfect control of my weight.
•I eat healthy foods only.
•I love nutritious foods.
•I am attaining and maintaining my ideal weight.

Write out some positive affirmations on sticky notes and place them where you can frequently see them; on the bathroom mirror is a great place as it usually the first place you go in the morning and the last place in the evening.

The more you use positive affirmations and self-talk the more ingrained it will become your mind. The words we use, both internally and externally, create mental images in our mind, which, with enough repetition backed by emotion, are manifested, in the physical realm.

Motivational Strategy
I think it is important to address this issue, specifically as it pertains to weight release. As humans, we are motivated by two primary factors- ways to gain pleasure and ways to avoid pain. It seems for some people to get motivated to change they need to focus on what the consequences will be if they do not change. For others, what motivates them is to focus on the all the benefits they will gain by making the change. Both strategies can work, but being motivated by consequences can put more stress on the mind and body than if one focused on the positive changes. I believe in the end it is healthier to use positive motivators more than negative ones.

Take the time to write out your health goals and review them on a regular basis. There is something powerful about expending the effort to transfer your thoughts to paper; it helps reinforce your intentions. Here are a few questions to write out an answer in order to generate some positive


1. What are the benefits of making this change?
2. How will this change affect my life?
3. What is important about making these changes?
4. How does it make me feel?
5. How will my life be different after having made these changes?

It is important for you to examine your motivational strategy and learn what it the best way to get leverage on yourself. For some people, making a public commitment to reach their goals can help add the leverage needed to follow through. Another great way to get leverage on yourself is to work with a professional coach or trainer. This is a powerfully effective way to achieve health goals because you are working with someone who wants you to succeed and will hold you accountable to your commitment.


Not only is the sub-conscious mind influenced by what we say, but also by the images or “mental movies”, we run in our head. It is important to frequently “imagine” yourself having achieved your fitness goals. Here are some questions to help you come up with some positive mental pictures:
What do you look like now that you have achieved your goal?
What is the scene? What is going on around you? How do you feel? What do you hear?

Some of us are more visually oriented, others more auditory or kinesthetic. Try to use all of your senses as you imagine yourself at your ideal weight and/or achieving all your fitness goals. Make it a regular practice to take a few minutes and close your eyes, relax, and imagine what it is like having reached your goals. Doing this on a regular basis will help you keep focused and send powerful messages to the sub-conscious mind.

Maxwell Maltz, in his book “Psycho-Cybernetics,” said that having a positive self-image is essential to achieving our goals. No matter what external changes we make, if we do not have a positive self-image, the new behavioral changes will not stick. Holding an image of who we ultimately want to become through the practice of visualization and becoming conscious of how we talk to ourselves will help us develop and maintain a positive self-image.

Mindfulness Meditation and Eating Habits

Mindfulness is the practice of being mindful of our actions. Often times in our mind, we live in the past or the future. When we put too much focus on the mistakes of the past or the worries about the future, this mental “time traveling” creates anxiety, stress, and prevents us from living in the present moment. Not being in the present moment allows our unconscious bad habits to operate on autopilot without are conscious awareness. Many of us do what is called “mindless eating.” We eat fast, do not take the time to use our sensory ability to really enjoy what we eat, and while we are shoveling the food down, our mind is cluttered with thoughts about the past or future. We do not even give our stomach a chance to digest the food we are eating!

My eating habits were literally transformed once I started to regularly practice mindfulness meditation. I began chewing my food slower and took the time to savor the taste, the smells, and the texture, which resulted in me not consuming as much food. Before I knew it, I began to slim down, greatly reduce my refined sugar intake, and my energy level increased from the deep breathing techniques.

There are a number of different mindfulness meditation techniques; here is a simple one that I practice:
Sit in an upright position with hands and feet uncrossed. Bring your full attention to your breathing. If a thoughts pop up into your mind, do not judge them; give them a name and let them go and return to your breathing. For example, if I start thinking about work, I simply say to myself “work” and return my focus to my breathing. Feel the oxygen entering your nostrils as you take in a deep inhalation for the mental count of four. As you inhale, expand out your stomach like a balloon filling up with air. Hold the inhalation for the count of four, exhale out of your mouth to the mental count of eight. The purpose of this practice is to train our mind to focus on the breath and to detach from thought without being judgmental. This practice develops a deep level of focus, awareness, and the deep breaths help us remove waste from the body and supply oxygen to the brain. It is amazing how just doing some simple deep breathing can energize our system and relieve stress.

I do not have a set amount of time I practice; at times, a few minutes, other times it is 10-15 minutes at a time. The length of time is not the important thing, what matters is focusing the mind on the breathing. It is a valuable skill to be able to detach from our internal self-talk, especially when the dialogue is self-critical. Mindfulness can be applied to all areas of our life; communicating with others, being engaged in artistic pursuits and hobbies, on the job, learning new skills, being out in nature and noticing God’s creations, savoring a meal, and being fully present in another’s presence.


So there you have it, four techniques to help you on your journey to health and happiness:
1.Positive self-talk
2.Motivational Strategy
3.Mental imagery

I believe the amazing potential of the human mind is a gift from God, and I strongly encourage you to tap into this power when working towards your goals.

Maltz, M. (1989). Psycho-Cybernetics. Pocket Books.
Parker, J. (2011). Easy Weight Loss Affirmations. Retrieved from

Author's Bio: 

I am a certified life coach, clinical hypnotherapist, master level practitioner of NLP, and hold a Bachelor of Science degree in human development. I specialize in helping people control chronic pain. Having firsthand experience dealing with chronic pain, I have found hypnosis to be an excellent method of pain control. Other areas I assist clients with include: stop smoking, weight release, sports enhancement, increasing self-confidence, motivation, stress management, and improving study habits.