Your subconscious mind comprises 83% of your brain mass and is responsible for 98% of your perceptions and behaviors, including habits and beliefs, memory, personality, and self-image. It cannot tell the truth from a lie or the real from the imagined. It accepts as true every thought or image you send it.

The ideas that are fixed in your subconscious have been determined by your education, conditioning, and repetition. They involve all your senses and they affect every aspect of your present behavior. Therefore, if you, like Beth, have fixed in your subconscious that you are overweight, your daily behaviors will be directed toward fulfilling what it is that you believe about yourself. Your subconscious will be working to ensure that you remain overweight.

To show how your subconscious may be driving your behavior and perceptions, imagine that you have a subconscious memory attached to a particular scent or aroma. It could be anything from the scent of your mother’s favorite perfume to the smell of burning wood. If your mother’s perfume reminds you of her coming to kiss you goodnight, it has a positive connotation; if it reminds you of her going out in the evening and leaving you home alone, it will have a negative connotation for you. And the same goes for the smell of burning wood. If it reminds you of happy family evenings in front of the fireplace, that’s good; if you were once trapped in a burning building, that’s bad. Now imagine that you’re in the middle of a conversation with someone and suddenly you smell that same perfume or burning wood. If your subconscious memory is favorable, the conversation you are having will strike you as positive, or, conversely, if your associations are negative, the conversation will take a wrong turn. You won’t know why, you certainly won’t associate the outcome with what you smelled, but your subconscious mind will be affecting what’s happening in your life at the moment.

By the same token, if something in your past has led you to believe (on a subconscious level) that you are fat or that you are a couch potato, you will, without realizing it, be making your outward behavior conform to your inner beliefs. Let’s say, for example, that your mother used sweet treats to bribe you to behave well. Your subconscious has been programmed to associate sweets with reward. You may be able to override those beliefs temporarily by using your willpower, but, over time, your internal beliefs will always be stronger than your willpower. To create any permanent change in behavior, you must first change your negative inner beliefs. Failing to do that is why so many people go on a diet or start an exercise program and ultimately gain back all the weight they lost or simply stop exercising.

The good news, however, is that you can bring your subconscious thoughts and beliefs into consciousness, and once you are able to do that, you can change them. In the pages that follow, I’ll be helping you to do just that.

Getting in Touch with Yourself

What I’ll be asking you to do first is an essential part of the process of getting to know yourself, understanding the underlying beliefs that have been driving your behaviors, and finding the deep-seated desire that will create your commitment to change. Before you start, however, I’m going to ask you to commit to taking the time to look deeply within yourself and answer the following questions as fully, openly, and honestly as you can.

The problem for many people is that they’ve become so used to looking outward for validation and satisfaction that they’ve lost touch with their ability to look inward. So, if you’ve been telling yourself that you “need” or “ought” to lose weight—because, for example, society tells you it’s better to be thin, or because a fitness trainer tells you to do it, or even because a doctor tells you’ll be healthier if you exercise more—I’m here to tell you that you’ve been looking for motivation in all the wrong places. Your behavior has always been your choice; it is generated from within. No one else has made you behave the way you do, and changing your behavior must also be your choice, because no one else can make you change or impose a reason to change upon you.

You may have been listening to other people for a very long time: your parents, your spouse, your friends and coworkers, or the many “experts” you see or hear or whose opinions you read in the media every day. You may even have determined what you “think” other people want you to do without their ever having voiced an opinion.

It may be that when you were a kid, you thought you knew it all and didn’t listen to anyone. But then, as time went on, you became much more attached to the opinions of others. You may even have got to the point where you believe the opinions of others are more important than your own. Now is the time to begin listening to yourself again, because whatever is going on in the world around you is not nearly as important to you and your future as what’s going on inside you.