As many of us can relate to, Alejandro Chaban struggled was stuck in the yo-yo dieting trend until he discovered there was an integral piece missing. Chaban grew up in Venezuela and struggled with his weight, topping off at 314 pounds, but today, lean, lithe, and handsome, Chaban has become a source of inspiration and guidance for millions of fans worldwide.
His new book, Think Skinny, Feel Fit: 7 Steps to Transform Your Emotional Weight and Have an Awesome Life, has taken bestseller lists by storm.
Chaban took a few moments to speak with HuffPost about the importance of coping with one’s emotions on the road to losing excess weight.
Michael: You’re a Number One bestselling author in The New York Times, Amazon, and USA Today. Did you see that kind of success coming?
Alejandro: It’s been an amazing experience. In 2009, when I started pitching the book idea, someone said, “Oh, just forget about it. You have no talent. You’re not a writer. You will never become one.” It’s a great way of proving that hard work and persistence just pays off.
Michael: Were you tempted into emotional eating while you were working on the book?
Alejandro: Actually, no. I had my protein shakes. Working on the book was motivation for me. I knew that when the book came out, I would have to be in shape. That was actually a motivation for me to work really hard and stay in shape.
Michael: Talk to me about the concept of emotional weight. Why is it so important?
Alejandro: It all starts with your emotions and the way you feel about yourself. When I lost all the weight, I still carried a huge emotional burden. Without healing my heart and my soul, without paying attention to my emotional obesity, I wasn’t able to fix the underlying problems.
We aren’t just what we eat, or what our body looks like externally, or even what others think about us. I think that we’re more complex than that. We are complex beings that need to find balance from within, in all aspects of our mind, body and soul, in order to start the healing process. For me, learning about emotional weight has forever changed my whole life, my whole experience and my whole perspective of our lifestyle today. The process needs to be from the inside out, in order to actually transform.
Michael: You write about “emotional obesity.” What does that mean?
Alejandro: We are overweight or even obese from our own emotions — our thinking and our negative thoughts. Sometimes, it’s even harder to get rid of those overweight thoughts than it’s harder to get rid of the physical weight. For me, when I actually started losing the weight, I found out that I had two struggles. Two battles. My physical weight battle, and my “mental weight.” I was obese in my mind as well. I was obese and I was fat and I was overweight in my thoughts.
I had to step back and say, “Wait a second. I’m going through this experience of bulimia and anorexia and I still feel overweight. I still feel ugly. I still look at myself in the mirror and I still see this 314 pound human being.” I had to go back and rework my whole self image.
Michael: It’s not about what the scale says. It’s about what you told yourself.
Alejandro: Exactly. I understood that it wasn’t about how many pounds I was losing, and it wasn’t about what the scale said. It was about the concept I had about my own health and the way I was looking at myself.
It was my own deep thoughts about me and how “poor” I was in terms of tools and self-awareness. I was totally empty. I had to rework these thoughts. I started to work on getting rid of those obese thoughts and the obese mentality. I had to really understand that for me to achieve health, I needed to start having healthy thoughts, healthy habits, and a healthy mindset.
Michael: It’s about coping with your emotions at their core; is that correct?
Alejandro: You have to be stronger than your negative thoughts, and you need to be stronger than your negative habits, because that is the easy path. That’s the easy way. In order to achieve anything, you really need to get rid of that fear and get rid of your comfort zone and work harder. You have to be willing to befriend your struggle.
Michael: It’s really hard to change your thinking. How did you do it?
Alejandro: I’m still doing it! It’s an ongoing, everyday process. Every day, when I wake up in the morning, I have the choice of having positive thoughts or negative thoughts—the choice of being grateful, or just complaining about what’s going on, the choice of looking at the glass half empty or half full. I make the choice every day, and I make the choice every three hours when I have my meals, because I changed all of my eating habits.
Those emotions sometimes say, “Okay, let’s celebrate with pizza.” “Okay, let’s have a drink.” Then I go, “Wait a second. You already celebrated on Saturday, and you already celebrated on Friday. Why do you keep celebrating? Why is food part of your celebration? Why can’t you go celebrate with a workout or with a healthy meal?” I’ve never craved broccoli. I’ve never been like, “Oh, let’s celebrate with a salad.”
The coolest thing is that I have made peace with that little overweight kid that likes to be entertained with food. I can say, “Okay, I understand your emotions. I understand what going on. I know you were looking for your dad’s love and your dad’s support and your dad’s applause in food, but that was part of the past.”