We all agree that what we eat is essential for weight loss. As well as the role that physical activity plays in staying fit and in shape. And often, we focus our attention on these two areas when we try to lose weight. It certainly can be enough for some people. However, more often than not, more is needed. Despite your best efforts, you can’t achieve long-term success with weight loss. And that’s because there is an essential piece that you need to address. Your mindset for weight loss! What’s on your mind is just as important as what’s on your plate.
To set yourself up for success with weight loss, you should go beyond the eat-less-exercise-more approach. Here are the steps I propose:
- Have a clear vision of what you want and why you want it.
- Evaluate what’s stopping you from having your ideal body.
- Assess your current habits, environment, thoughts, and feelings about the weight loss process.
- Make an inventory of the practices contributing to weight gain and how you want to change them.
- And create a step-by-step plan for how we will get there.
A mindset for weight loss includes a clear vision.
Yes, you want to lose weight, but how you think about your desired outcomes plays a key role—a clear idea of what you want to achieve and why is always helpful. As a nutrition and integrative health coach, I can help you figure out your vision.
For instance, you want to lose weight to look stunning at your wedding. That’s clear because you can see yourself wearing your dream dress. You imagine your husband looking at you with admiration. Your friends and extended family are looking at you with awe, and you hear them whisper to each other words of approval.
Now compare it with this vision. Let’s say you feel too heavy and unattractive. On top of that, all your spring clothes are too tight and uncomfortable. You feel frustrated looking at the rolls of flesh bulging over the waistbands. You are so unhappy with yourself and want this extra flesh to disappear. That’s very different, isn’t it?
Two types of motivations
Notice how the second example focuses on all the bad things about extra weight, which we typically don’t want. This type of “away-from” motivation is a stressful way to live. And when we “get away” from some of those things, we feel somewhat better, but we rarely experience a sense of achievement or fulfillment. We are also more likely to stop halfway as soon as we get the partial result.
You can boost your motivation tremendously if you redirect your attention from what you do not want to what you do want. This is called “forward” motivation. Practice reframing your thoughts if you tend to focus on things you don’t enjoy about your body. For example, instead of “I don’t want this flabby belly,” you say, “I want a flat stomach that shows my abs.” The more specific you can get, the more detailed the picture you can paint in your head, the better.
How will your life improve?
A mindset for weight loss also includes understanding why you want this. What will having that flat stomach get you? Envision yourself already being that way. How do you look, what does it feel like, what kind of clothes are you wearing, what do you hear people say to you or about you? How will your life change for the better when you get what you want?
Many people tell me that they want to lose weight to get healthier. Health is an essential value for many, but it’s very abstract. Ask yourself again: healthier for what purpose? For example, you want to live long enough to be at your grandson’s graduation. Or you want to conceive and have a healthy baby. Understanding the specific value or purpose behind your desire to lose weight makes your goal compelling and solid. Temptations or distractions won’t easily sway you.
What’s stopping you from having your ideal body now?
Evaluate your habits, thoughts, and feelings that block you from achieving your ideal body. This exploration is certainly easier to do with someone you trust, someone on your side, and, at the same time, who can keep you honest with yourself. You might discover many things that are in the way of having the right mindset for weight loss. See if my weight loss coaching approach is right for you.
Habits get stronger each time we repeat them. And they loosen their grip on us with time when we stop doing them. They are semiautomatic behaviors, and we are sometimes unaware of them. Even the most unhealthy habits have (or at least had) a purpose. They give us a sense of safety, certainty, and comfort, even if it only lasts for a few minutes. So we need to recognize our habits that contribute to weight gain. Then we need to understand how they serve us and find better ways to satisfy that need. If you reach out for candy every time you are stressed or feeling down, think of a different way to relax, destress or give yourself a mood boost. Get creative, and try other things until you find an alternative.
Make an honest inventory of everything that doesn’t help you get your ideal body. Some habits are easy to recognize as drivers of weight gain. Eating ice cream or cookies every night while watching TV is easy to spot. Other behaviors might not be obvious. For example, eating too fast, finishing your plate or your kid’s dinner even if not hungry, or overeating fruit or dried fruit.
Your environment has a lot of things that you can change, and many things are out of your control. Some simple changes to the environment can make changing habits so much easier. For example, the “see-food effect.” Many people are triggered by seeing the food. As soon as they see the food, they want to eat it.
I once recommended that a client put away a beautiful fruit basket on a counter near her workstation. She told me that seeing the fruits always made her take some and eat. As a result, she grazed on fruits all day long. Once she put the basket out of sight, she put it out of her mind and quickly lost a couple of pounds. The book by Brian Wansink, Mindless Eating, has many helpful suggestions on how to set your environment for effortless weight loss.
However, not everything is in our control, and we can’t dictate to everybody to live according to our needs. So if we can’t change our circumstances, what can we do? We can change the way we think about them!
Thoughts and feelings
Our thoughts and feelings about our ability to lose weight and about the process itself are essential for achieving our goals. Are you excited to get to your ideal body, or are you dreading all restrictions and hard work ahead of you? The way we interpret our experiences, that self-talk constantly going on in our heads, puts us either in the driver’s role or the passenger’s. Your thinking pattern dictates your behavior patterns.
Suppose you live with someone who brings cookies home every time they go grocery shopping. That’s certainly not supportive of your weight loss goals. Focusing on how much you want those cookies or how unfair it is that you can’t enjoy them will make it hard to resist the temptation. If you switch to thinking, “I’m choosing to stay away from the store-bought cookies.” And “What can I do to make it easier?” You might devise a solution, a substitute for a treat, like my low-carb chocolate bombs.
Change your actions, and your thoughts will follow. We don’t have direct control over our thoughts because they come spontaneously. How can we change our inner dialogue if we don’t control our thoughts? One of the ways to change our thinking is by changing behavior.
For example, I thought of myself as a sweets lover. And at some point in my life, I decided to cut out sugar. I stopped buying desserts and bringing them home. I didn’t order them at restaurants, and I didn’t make them at home. And gradually, my thoughts about treats changed. I didn’t crave them anymore. And eventually, my perception of myself shifted as well. I didn’t have a sweet tooth any longer. Now I occasionally enjoy sweets, and it’s easy not to have any.
Create a step-by-step plan.
Weight loss is a long-term process and might feel like an overwhelming task, especially if you have a lot of excess weight. In addition, your confidence and your belief in your ability to reach the goal might be low if you have made multiple attempts and failed. In that case, you want to break your outcome into intermediate steps or smaller goals and focus on achieving these small goals one at a time.
Creating a step-by-step plan can be a crucial factor in your mindset for weight loss and your future success. Based on your habit inventory, which one you’d like to change first? Make sure the steps are small and achievable, especially the first one. Which one’s next? Remember to include your mental habits and limiting beliefs.
You need to map out a plan that you will want to follow. With each small victory, your confidence will grow. The tricky part here is to make the steps easy and yet effective. Easy so that you can be successful and effective to get encouraged by your results.
Your weight loss plan doesn’t need to be complicated, but it should include many aspects of your life. For the true transformation to happen and stay, it’s not enough to change your food. Many changes need to occur in your mind giving room to new beliefs.
What you need to remember
Many factors drive weight gain. To achieve and maintain weight loss, you need to address most of them, if not all. Your mindset for weight loss is one of those factors and plays a vital role in the process. You must be clear on your vision and why you want to achieve it. Your desired outcome should be specific, tangible, and based on your values.
Next, you should assess your current situation and what’s stopping you from being in shape. Make an inventory of your mental and behavioral patterns that are not helpful. Then, choose one habit at a time to create a step-by-step change plan. And lastly, focus all of our energy not on fighting the old habits but on building new ones.
Overcome indecision and commit to weight loss
This FREE course helps you clarify your core motivation for losing weight, what precisely you want to achieve, and what’s stopping you. Overcome indecision, choose living based on your values, and commit to weight loss.