What’s on your mind is just as important as what’s on your plate
We all agree that what we eat is important 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 all that’s needed for some people. However, more often than not that’s not enough. Despite our best efforts we are unable to achieve long-term success with weight loss. And that’s because there is a very important piece that we fail to address. Our mindset for weight loss!
To set ourselves up for success with weight loss we should have a clear vision of what it is that we want and why we want it. Then we need to evaluate the things that are stopping us from having our ideal body now. What are your circumstances, thoughts and feelings that are in the way of you having your ideal body now? Do you need to establish new habits instead of the ones that don’t serve you anymore? Next we need to create a step-by-step plan for how we are going to get there.
Mindset for weight loss includes a clear vision of what you want and why you want it
Yes, you want to lose weight but how you think about your desired outcomes can be very different. It’s always helpful to have a clear vision of what it is you want to achieve and why. As nutrition and integrative health coach I can help you figure your vision out. For instance, you want to lose weight to look amazing at your wedding and for your dress to fit perfectly. That’s clear because you can see yourself wearing your dream dress. It’s also exciting as you imagine your husband to looking at you with admiration. Your friends and extended family are looking at you with awe, 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 forming ugly rolls around the waist. So you just want that to go away. 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, all the things we typically don’t want. This is called “away-from” motivation. And when you “get away” from some of those things you don’t want you feel somewhat better but rarely you feel achievement or fulfillment. You are also more likely to stop as soon as you get the partial result. If you redirect your attention from what is not wanted to what it is you want you can get a tremendous boost in your motivation. This is called a “forward” motivation.
If you notice that you tend to mostly focus on things you don’t want you can reframe that into things that you actually want. For example, instead of “I don’t want this flabby belly” you say “I want a flat stomach the shows my abs”. And the more specific you can get, the more detailed the picture you can paint in your head the better.
What is this going to get you?
Mindset for weight loss also includes an understanding of why you actually 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 is your life going to change for the better when you get what you want? Many people tell me that they want to lose weight to get healthier. And that’s great but very abstract. Ask yourself again: healthier for what purpose? You might figure out that the real reason to get healthy is so you can live long enough to be at your son’s graduation or so you can conceive and have a healthy baby – that’s concrete. And that makes your reason to want to lose weight in the first place that more important for you.
What’s stopping you from having your ideal body now?
Evaluate your habits, environment, thoughts, and feelings that seem to be in the way of you achieving your ideal body. This kind of exploration is certainly easier to do together with someone you trust, someone who’s on your side and, at the same time, who can keep you honest to yourself. You might discover may 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 with 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 sometimes are not even aware 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 couple of 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 find yourself reaching 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, try different things until you find an alternative that works.
Some habits are easy to recognize as drivers of weight gain. Eating ice cream or cookies every night while watching TV are certainly easy to spot. Other behaviors like eating too fast might be less obvious. Make an honest inventory of all things that don’t help you get your ideal body. Be curious and friendly to yourself.
Your environment has a lot of things that can be addressed and a lot of 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 foods, they see the food and they want to eat it. I once recommended a client to put away the beautiful fruit basket she had on a counter near her work station. 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 easily lost a couple of pounds. The book by Brian Wamsink, Mindless Eating has a ton of helpful suggestions on how to set your environment for effortless weight loss.
However, certainly not everything is in our control and we can’t dictate everybody to live their lives 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, about the process itself are very important 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 that is constantly going on in our heads puts us either in the drive’s role or the passenger’s.
If you live with a someone who brings cookies home every time they go grocery shopping that’s certainly not supportive of your goals. You can choose to think about how much you want those cookies or how unfair life is to you that you can’t enjoy them. Another option could be that you can find a substitute to enjoy as a treat like Keto chocolate bombs.
Change your actions and your thoughts will follow. We don’t really have direct control over our thoughts because they come spontaneously. And once we had a thought we are most likely to have an emotional response to it. So if we don’t control our thoughts how can we change our inner dialogue? There are many mindfulness techniques that can help do that. We can also gradually change our thoughts by changing our behavior. For example, I used to have a very sweet tooth. At some point in my life I decided to cut sugar. I stopped eating desserts, I stopped buying them for my family, I stopped ordering dessert at restaurants, I stopped making them at home. And gradually, my thoughts about them and about myself changed. I don’t crave them anymore and I don’t consider myself as someone with a sweet tooth.
Create a step-by-step plan of how to get what you want
Your step-by-step plan is a key part of your mindset for weight loss. If achieving your desired outcome seems like an insurmountable task you can break it up into smaller goals. Based on the things that you learned about yourself so far you need to map out a plan that you will actually want to follow. Making sure that the steps are achievable will keep you moving forward. With each small victory your confidence level will grow. The tricky part here is to make the steps easy enough so you can be successful and at, the same time, significant enough so you see the result.
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 just change your eating style and your food. Many changes would need to take place in your mindset giving room to new beliefs and crowding out the old, limiting ones.
Weight gain is driven by many factors. In order to achieve and maintain weight loss we need to address most of them if not all. Our mindset for weight loss is one of those factors and plays an important role in the process. We need to be clear on our vision of what it is we want to achieve. Our desired outcome should be important, tangible and exciting to us. Then we should evaluate our current situation and behaviors that are stopping us from being in shape already. Next step is to come up with a step-by-step plan that we would want to follow. And lastly, focus all of our energy not on fighting the old habits, but on building the new ones.