Give Thanks: 6 Ways Gratitude Fuels Weight Loss

It's the month to give thanks, but gratitude is something we can, and should, practice all year round...especially because it can be a great tool for your weight loss!

Thanksgiving isn’t exactly a weight loss holiday. What with all the pies and potatoes and stuffing and gravy and the whole gorge-yourself-until-your-pants-don’t-fit attitude, it tends to be sort of the opposite.

And yet, inherent in Thanksgiving is an incredibly effective weight loss tool, one that you can use all year round and that, somehow, is often passed over: gratitude. That’s right, giving thanks isn’t just a forced annual ritual that you have to get through before you can eat; it’s a powerful practice that has been shown to have a panoply of benefits, from improved sleep to increased overall happiness to, yes, weight loss.

Here are the ways that incorporating gratitude into your daily life can help you on your weight loss journey:

Reap junk food benefits without junk food consequences. Consciously practicing gratitude can change your body chemistry, producing feel-good neurotransmitters, like dopamine, in the brain. You know what else produces a surge of dopamine? Rich comfort foods like chocolate and pizza. If you’re already getting the reward from simply appreciating things in you’re life, you won’t need to reach for food to get the same feel-good effect. 

Reduce stress to eat less. When you’re taking time to be grateful for the good things in your life, it reduces the stress you may have about things that aren’t going too well. In fact, one study from Robert Emmons at UC Davis showed that practicing gratitude on a daily basis can reduce stress hormones by 23%! This is important for weight loss because stress, specifically the stress hormone cortisol, has been shown to boost appetite, increase belly fat, and contribute to weight loss overall. 

Feel happier, make better choices. The simple fact is this: noticing all the good things in your life makes you happier, and when you’re happier it’s easier to make healthy choices. Think about it—when you’re stressed or feeling down, it’s easy to make excuses for skipping the gym or eating a pint of ice cream. When you feel good, you’re much more likely to go for a jog or choose a salad. 

Give thanks for good sleep. Being grateful helps you sleep better at night (this isn’t a huge surprise, given that it reduces stress and increases positive thoughts). Multiple studies have shown that taking a few minutes to write down what you’re grateful for before bed can lead to longer, more restful sleep. Sleep, in turn, plays a crucial role in weight loss; when you’re sleep deprived, your body produces more of the hormone ghrelin, which causes the feeling of hunger, and less of the hormone leptin, which causes you to feel full. 

Appreciate your food and feel more satisfied. “Diet” food isn’t always the number one thing we want to be eating. But when you approach your food from a place of gratitude, rather than feeling deprived, you will be much more satisfied with it and less likely to “cheat” later. It’s “Wow, I’m lucky to have this wholesome bowl of goodness,” vs. “Wahhh, I wish these veggies were a pizza!” 

Set goals, and go for them. Being grateful causes you to feel more optimistic about the future, which makes you more likely to set goals and believe you can achieve them—which is the first step toward making changes.

And remember—you don’t need turkey and stuffing as an excuse to practice gratitude! Each day in each season brings you something to be grateful for—so remember to take note and give thanks!

Make it WayBetter

Interested in reaping the benefits of gratitude, but not sure where to start? A simple gratitude journal is a quick and simple way to start a gratitude habit. Just take 5 minutes each day to jot down two or three things you’re grateful for, and see how it changes you!