Stress, anxiety and intrusive thoughts–many of us have been struggling with one or more of these things–especially in the last few years. 

Have you ever considered that they all actually might be the same thing??

Join me For the 77th episode of the Thin Thinking Podcast, where psychologist, coach, speaker and author of The Little Book of Big Change Dr. Amy Johnson joins me and shares her groundbreaking new approach on how to manage and master stress, anxiety, and intrusive thoughts. 

Dr. Amy also gave the first two chapters of her book The Little Book of Big Change for free in the show notes.

In This Episode, You'll Learn:

Subscribe and Review

Have you subscribed to the podcast yet? If not, go ahead and click the ‘subscribe’ button for your favorite podcast platform! You don’t want to miss a single episode.

If you enjoyed this episode, it would be very helpful to us if you would leave an honest review on Apple Podcasts. This review helps people who are on the same weight loss journey as you to find us and soak up all the wonderful insights and lessons I have to offer.

If you aren’t sure how to leave a review in Apple Podcasts/iTunes, view our tutorial by clicking here.

Subscribe and Never Miss an Episode


Rita Black: Negative habits, anxiety and intrusive thoughts. Many of us have been struggling with one or more of these things, especially in the last few years. Well, today's guest on the thin thinking podcast sees them all as the same thing. Dr. Amy Johnson takes a different approach to these things because she sees all three are essentially the same. They are just all our relationship with and understanding of thought. Interesting. Right? Well, come on in and learn more on the 77th episode of the thin thinking podcast.

Rita Black: Did you know that our struggle with weight doesn't start with the food on your plate or get fixed in the gym? 80% of our weight struggle is mental. That's right, the key to unlocking long-term weight release and management begins in your mind. Hi there, I'm Rita Black. I'm a clinical hypnotherapist, weight loss expert, best-selling author, and the creator of the Shift Weight Mastery Process. And not only have I helped thousands of people over the past 20 years achieve long-term weight mastery, I am also a former weight struggler, carb addict, and binge eater. And after two decades of failed diets and fad weight loss programs, I lost 40 pounds with the help of hypnosis. Not only did I release all that weight, I have kept it off for 25 years. Enter the Thin Thinking Podcast where you too will learn how to remove the mental roadblocks that keep you struggling. I'll give you the thin thinking tools, skills, and insights to help you develop the mindset you need. Not only to achieve your ideal weight, but to stay there long-term and live your best life.

Rita Black: Come on in my friends and a shout out to our global thin thinking community. I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge you all for tuning in over this last now year and a half, that we've been going at the thin thinking.

Rita Black: So hello to all of you in Finland, in Paraguay and Israel and India, and all our friends all over the world. I appreciate you. And the time we spend together every week. And speaking of that, I want your ideas for episodes. So talk to me, I would love to turn some of your thin thinking questions or concerns or challenges into upcoming episode. So please, please, please find the questions link in the show notes of this episode and ask away. We wanna hear from you. So now let's dive into today's episode, my interview with the amazing and insightful Dr. Amy Johnson, Dr. Amy Johnson is a psychologist coach, author, and speaker who shares a groundbreaking new approach that helps people find lasting freedom from unwanted habits, anxiety, and self doubt, via insight rather than willpower. She is the author of being human, the little book of big change, the no willpower approach to breaking any habit and just a thought, a no willpower approach to end self doubt and make peace with your mind.

Rita Black: In 2017, she opened the little school of big change, an online school that has helped thousands of people find freedom from anxiety and habits and live a more peaceful life. Amy also shares the no willpower approach in her top rated podcast changeable, and she's trained over 70 coaches in her change coach training program. She has been a regularly featured expert on the Steve Harvey show and as well as in the wall street journal and self magazine. Well, hello, Amy. And welcome to the thin thinking podcast. I'm really excited to have you on here today. I look forward to hearing about your approach to anxiety and habits and intrusive thoughts. How did you get interested? I'm really curious about what brought you into wanting to help people in this way.

Dr. Amy Johnson: Yeah, well, thanks for having me. I'm happy to be here. I is it's odd. Actually. I was a very weird kid. I was, I was hiding in my bed when I was like eight and 10 years old under the covers with my mom's Wayne Dyer books and Verian Williamson and all the like self-help and spirituality and stuff that was big in those days that she was reading. So really from a really early age. And I think it just came from, kind of being a little bit of an anxious kid, myself and seeing, and feeling a lot of anxiety and a lot of worry from the adults around me. I was just so fascinated and like, why, why are they so stressed out all the time? Like this doesn't feel like it should be happening. They have a nice life, like just relax, go play, you know. And yet the adults around me had a lot of conflict and they talked, worried about money all the time. And I just remember my little kid head was like, why, you know, chill out. And then, and then I started to pick up on many of those habits and I did have a lot of anxiety as a child, into my teen years and into my early adult years. Kind of coming to a head when I was in graduate school where I was having lots and lots of panic attacks and really was kind of a agoraphobic for, for a bit there. I got some support and that seemed to go much better. But then it sort of my, my worry and my little OCD tendencies tended to kind of move over into food related things. And so I struggled with the eating disorder off and on for about eight years.

Rita Black: Okay.

Dr. Amy Johnson: Yeah. So, and I see that and we can talk about this, it's all the same, it's all that same busy mind. But it took those different forms as yeah. Attacks and anxiety and eating issues. So yeah, I knew from the time I was little and that it was just confirmed the whole way through that. I, I wanna understand how people work.

Rita Black: Wow. And then, so you dove into that. You studied and, and then how did you cultivate your, your modality, the way that you work with people? How did that, how did that come about?

Dr. Amy Johnson: Yeah, well, it, it, it definitely was an evolution that I think probably hasn't hope hasn't ended. But yeah, so I studied psychology, you know, and I kind of did the traditional route for a while and sort of realized, somewhere in graduate school that kind of looking at people as, sort of diseased or disordered, just didn't resonate with me. And I was starting to hear, and I, like I said, even as a kid, I kind of had the flip side of like this approach. That's like, Hey, we we're innately healthy. Like we, we have so much going for us. And yet we're just thinking a lot. And we confuse our thoughts with who we are. So that side, not the traditional psychology side, but the kind of more spiritual side really resonated with me more. So when I left graduate school with my, my degree, I went more in the direction of coaching.

Rita Black: Oh, okay.

Dr. Amy Johnson: And, and even my coaching has changed a lot. So I used to coach more around the content of people's thinking and, you know, reframing thoughts and doing things with feelings and a lot of that stuff that, that we do. And now it's really evolved, into, into kind of more of like seeing just the fact that that thought is always happening and that we live, not what we're thinking so much, cuz what we're thinking is all over the place, who knows different by the day and different by the mood. And you know, it just doesn't feel that important to dive into the what of thinking, but to see the, the VA of thinking the

Rita Black: Got the thinking that

Dr. Amy Johnson: We're always thinking. And so, for, for myself as well, I'm doing this as a career all along, but I was also, as I mentioned, kind of still had some eating issues and some stuff. And for me, I had a lot of insights that, that allowed my bulimia to really go away very, very easily and quickly. And then that, so that kind of became the essence and it's much of what I share today. You know, some of the things I saw that, that became how I helped other people.

Rita Black: Oh, well, cool. So I, so just so you guys all know that, Amy is an expert in helping people find freedom from anxiety, intrusive thinking and habits. So that's a big mouthful, you know, those are three big what we would typically see as separate entities in a way habits, intrusive thoughts, anxiety. So, but you kind of see it all as one. So can you unpack that for us and kind of walk us through your way you deal with these things with others? Yeah,

Dr. Amy Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. So when I was struggling with my eating disorder, I heard something at some point that that was kind of the beginning of the end of that for me and it was, it was the speaker. I was listening to a conference talk that I was listening to and the person said every one of us is sitting in the middle of perfect mental health. We, we, at our essence, at our core, we are, have everything we could ever possibly want and need. And we're constantly thinking there's a role of thought just constantly playing, right. And, and this isn't necessarily what they said, but this is what I heard in this is that the only, only thing going on is when we get identified with that thought we're run around because everybody knows our thinking is crazy. I mean, it really is. There's no way about it.

Dr. Amy Johnson: It's not personal. It doesn't mean anything about any of us thought goes all over the place and it's inconsistent. It contradicts itself and it's just busy and it's just how a mind works. And when we're identified with that train of thought, life's gonna be messy and a roller coaster, and we're gonna be all over the place. But when we start to see, oh yeah, there is a mind always talking in here, but I'm not that I'm beyond that. I all is, well, I don't have habits. I don't have issues. I I'm I'm okay. Here beyond all that thinking, that's a game changer. So for me personally, even at that time, I started to see, oh, so when I get a little uncomfortable and my mind starts screaming at me to restrict food or binge on food or whatever it might be, that's just the machinery, right.

Dr. Amy Johnson: That's just a brain that's doing what it was conditioned to do. You know, it's what it thinks it needs to do to help us and really starting to see that as the machinery. That's just how I say it now. But what that did for me, I think at the time was like all of a sudden like, oh, this isn't personal. This isn't about me being a weak person. Right. This isn't about food, which I knew, I knew it never was. This isn't about any of those details. It has nothing to do with me. And it has nothing to do with my surroundings or that I, you know, that I just moved and it's a stir stressors in my life. Like, no, come on, we all have stressors all the time. It, it wasn't that it was deeper. It was just that my mind was doing, you know, what it routinely habitually did.

Dr. Amy Johnson: And I was identified with that and, and that took so much pressure off. It was like, yeah, it was, you know what I mean? When it wasn't personal. Right. And it wasn't thought about me. It was like, oh, now I can just look at this. Yeah. So the wrong answer, I know, but it kind of points to, I saw that in my eating issues. And then I started to see, well, eating issues. Again, those are just, that's just the detail. This is the same when my mind was freaking out and having a panic attack. Yeah. Or someone else's mind is shutting down and they're experiencing depression or whatever. It might be. It's a mind doing what it thinks it needs to do to keep us okay. And the only problem is we're very identified with it.

Rita Black: Right. I, I do have a saying too, that I say, you know, we are not the problem. It's really the way the brain's designed, like the way that the brain operates, like you said, the machinery. So a lot of our thinking beliefs habits, our identity gets wrapped up. We believe we are certain things when we can step out of that identity and step in, see ourselves from a different perspective in a second, and free ourselves. That's so cool. So, when you're working with someone, like, for example, with anxiety, because I think that's something that a lot of people have actually elevated anxiety during the pandemic and coming out of the pandemic, struggling with that, struggling with habits that maybe came up during the pandemic and not just around food, but you know, just also just bad habits drinking, you know, were in California here smoking more weed than usual, you know, just to manage feelings and emotions. Like when, when people are looking for an answer for that, and they're saying I'm anxious, right. They, you know, what would you, how would you blow the cap off of that? You know? Yeah. Idea.

Dr. Amy Johnson: Yeah. You know, I mean, it's a, it's a really huge thing to kind of explore our experience in that way. And I think ultimately, now I'll say this and I wouldn't, this, this isn't just take care of it. It's for each of us to kind of deeply explore this and see it for ourselves. But but you know, when there are times of uncertainty or times of stress or whatever in our mind is just running hot, basically, that's what we call anxiety. Yes. A mind is all over the place. It's wondering what might happen. It's imagining bad, bad things. We feel it physically. We feel it emotionally that those feelings aren't liked by the mind. So the mind will then say, well, let me smoke this or drink this or eat this. And then that'll make it feel better. And again, it's all this big ball of psychology.

Dr. Amy Johnson: It's really developing ball of thought and feeling that, that isn't like, even in itself, that's not a problem. Like, it's a, you know, it's like a dog chasing its tail. It's just like all wound up. Now the problem, yeah. Is like when, when we are in this experience and we are thinking it's about us or it's about our life, even that it's about our life. Like, I'll be okay when the pandemic ends or this needs to happen for me to be okay. I mean, I think we all have like a lifetime of examples of the fact that's not true and it's never gonna be true. It's never that something out there needs to change and then we'll feel better.

Rita Black: Right.

Dr. Amy Johnson: Just isn't. So the more we kind of get in that exploration of like, no, you're actually fine and what you truly are is peace, love, energy, oneness with all things. There's no problem. There's just a psychology. That's a little ramped up and it's pinning, it's ramped, upness on all these things in your life. But the more we sort of just people come to really insightfully, see, oh, that's what that is. It's amazing what happens. You can feel, you can fully feel that that anxiety, but deeply know, okay, this is just my mind doing what it thinks it needs to do. And that's that changes everything.

Rita Black: Yeah. That's it. That's so great to, to really look at it from that perspective, it kind of, you can see that sort of interior structure start to melt away.

Dr. Amy Johnson: Yeah.

Rita Black: That's so cool. Now you have written a book, because I know you, you work with people in different ways. You you've written a book about all of this, right. Your approach to making changes. It's it's tell us a little bit about that.

Dr. Amy Johnson: Yeah. I've written a few actually. So my book, the little book of big change is probably the one you're thinking of, and that was, hat's specifically around habits, anxiety as well, but just kind of talks through how this looks, you know, when, how, how change happens as people wake up to the fact that thought is there, or that they're thinking without having to dive into the, what you're thinking. And, and sometimes of course, sometimes we wanna look at what we're thinking and that that's helpful for us. But I think this, this way of seeing things goes a little deeper where it's like we could chase thoughts around all day and try to nail them down and think different thoughts and reframe them and see how they're untrue. And again, that has some helpfulness at times, in my experience, it was a full-time job. And it always, you know, and it always felt like, what am I even doing here? Because we kind of know, we're not even aware of probably most of what's running so right. To kind of find what you're consciously aware of and then do a bunch of work on. It just seemed like a, it could never end and it, and it didn't, it wasn't getting me very far anyway. So it's more again about seeing like your habit free by nature, your anxiety free by nature. And all experience is safe, thought, arises, intrusive thoughts, arise, habitual thoughts, arise, habit related, thoughts, arise, cravings for smoking and drinking and all the things arise. And that experience is not you. That is energy that shows up it comes and it goes completely on its own. Yeah. We don't need to manage our experience. And I think that's a huge part of this, you know, for, for me, it was with anxiety and with habits is that when this stuff would arise and it would feel really uncomfortable instantly my, our mind kicks in and says, what do I do? How do I make it go away? But truly like when we come to just be in this place where we know it's not us, and it's all safe and it's, and it's self correcting, there's nothing we have to step in and do we start to see it come and go a lot more quickly and easily.

Rita Black: Right. Right. So we're sort of, and we become able to not necessarily, would you say master the thoughts or just be more, not run by them, but be able to see them for what they are?

Dr. Amy Johnson: Yeah. I don't think there's anything to master, but we just, just not, you know, they, they just look more like the shadow on the wall but they truly are like, there's nothing to do, you know? Cause that's just a thought it's only when we're super identified with it, that we think it means something. And we think it's personal. That's where we'll step in and try to master it or chase it away or do something with it.

Rita Black: Right, right, right.

Dr. Amy Johnson: It's more a position of like, okay, this is just, what's showing up right now.

Rita Black: That's that's great. Well, thank you for that insight now are I know you've you're Amy is offering everybody the first two chapters of her book for free. Is that right?

Dr. Amy Johnson: Yeah. Yeah.

Rita Black: Yeah. Which is very generous. And hopefully that it will be the open a door for all of you. If you are, you know, suffering right now from intrusive thoughts or anxiety. I know, like I said, a lot of people are, I appreciate your coming on this show today and opening up the store in this way of looking into things. Is there any last minute thoughts or any thoughts about like the first steps forward for somebody if they're really stuck in one place?

Dr. Amy Johnson: Yeah, I would just say, you know, feeling stuck is, is thought and feeling too, and it's normal and everybody feels stuck at some point, but if anything, you've heard resonates, even if your mind, your mind can't make sense of this, but if it resonates on some level that you are a piece, you are health, everything is well. And there's just this flow of thinking and feeling that move through that you don't need to do anything about. That's awesome. Notice that, just watch it come and go completely on its own and that will start to separate you from it and just make for a completely different experience.

Rita Black: Wow. Thank you, Amy. It's been so great to have you on the thin thinking podcast. I really appreciate your coming today.

Dr. Amy Johnson: Thanks Rita. Thanks for having me.

Rita Black: You're welcome.

Rita Black: Thank you, Dr. Amy for being here and please everyone take advantage of the links to the downloads of the first two chapters of her book, the little book of big change, and also the other book. Just a thought they're both in the show notes, along with the place to ask me any question, please, please ask away. All right, everyone have an amazing week. And remember that the key and probably the only key to unlock the door of the weight struggle is inside you. So keep listening and find it.

Rita Black: Do you want to dive deeper into the mindset of long-term weight release? Head on over to where you'll find numerous tools and resources to help you unlock your mind for permanent weight release, tips, strategies, and more, and be sure to check the show notes to learn more about my book From Fat to Thin Thinking: Unlock Your Mind For Permanent Weight Loss and to learn how to subscribe to the podcast so that you never miss an episode.