Today, I want to explore the Mental Health Dimension and how it affects weight loss. Although the Physical Dimension is the science behind how we lose weight, we will never succeed without the right mindset. I believe our mindset is the singularly most important piece of the weight loss puzzle. This is why I’ve started with this dimension. If there is any doubt, negative self-talk, ingrained excuses, or lack of motivation, we need to resolve these issues first and foremost.
Before we begin, I want to acknowledge that I understand that we are all reading this through very different lenses, as each of us have very unique situations and hardships in our life. However, I want to explain something I discovered along my journey. In order to succeed, I had to give myself some tough love along with some self-love in the process. Some of us respond to one better than the other, and some of us, like me, need a combination of both. And so, I try to balance the tough love and self-love in this article. Hopefully you find yourself resonating with at least part of what I’m saying! Let’s start by discussing some of our current mindsets, negative messages we may be sending ourselves, and misconceptions that we need to do away with. I want to explore each of these not to dismiss them, but to shine light on how we can move past these setbacks.
Mindsets or Misconceptions We may Currently Have and the Tough Love Reality:
- My whole family is heavyset
- Genetics do play a role in the physique of our body. The overall issue is most likely the unhealthy habits that have been passed down. I cannot help that I got my father’s linebacker shoulders and my grandmother’s hips, but what I can control is the weight that goes onto this genetically set frame. You do not need to make the same food choices as your family.
- I am too busy to lose weight
- Losing weight doesn’t have to interfere with your schedule at all… At a simplistic level, eating less food actually takes less time. But, I can almost guarantee you that there is something else that can be cut out (TV, social media, etc) that could be replaced by exercise and meal prep time. If not, think about reassessing your schedule to make more time. If you are overweight, be proactive and make losing weight a priority now before an illness or disease force you to slow down.
- I have a slow metabolism
- The range of the fastest to slowest metabolism in human beings only varies a few hundred calories. It is more likely that the main issue is the unhealthy eating habits that are ingrained into your life. Also, our metabolisms only slightly slow as we age; the gradual decline of activity is more to blame.
- I am too old
- Scientifically, eating less calories than we burn will make us lose weight at any point in life. As far as exercise is concerned, we may have to adapt exercise as we age, but there are plenty of low-impact options to stay active and healthy!
- I am too stressed
- Stress is one of those things that can definitely make it hard for a person to lose weight. However, exercise is a natural stress-reducer. Also, getting your health on track and weight into a healthy range will help reduce stress caused by low energy, a low self-esteem, and the constant, nagging feeling that you should lose weight
- I travel too much for work
- Likeliness is that wherever you’re traveling to has workout facilities (or at least sidewalks!) and healthy food. It’s more a matter of planning to stay healthy. If it’s a lot of eating out, you can choose to say “no” to unhealthy foods/drinks or eating out altogether. Advocate for yourself! Go to a grocery store or pick up a healthy option on the way. You may still end up with a somewhat unhealthy option, but you’ll stay more on track if you keep in the mindset of choosing the healthiest options available.
- I like eating out too much
- Why do you enjoy eating out?
- The ambiance? If it is the ambiance, there are healthy restaurants out there or at least restaurants that have healthy options (Seasons 52 is one of my favorites!) A lot of restaurants also post calorie information online that you can check out before you go. Be discerning in your choice!
- The convenience? If it’s the convenience, try to start planning ahead with meals and getting all of your groceries for the week at once so you’re ready. There are some really easy, less expensive, and much healthier recipe options out there!
- The social aspect? If it’s the social aspect, push for doing something else with your friends or family– maybe something that has activity as the focal point rather than food.
- Why do you enjoy eating out?
- I don’t have enough will-power
- Everyone has enough will-power. The underlying issue is the motivation behind why you’re losing weight. This motivation has to be stronger than temptation of falling into the same unhealthy habits again. I personally tried losing it for looks (other people) and it either didn’t work or didn’t last. When I finally got to a place in my life when I realized I needed to lose weight to be a good example to my daughter, be healthy for my family in the long run, and be a happier person so I could give more to those around me, the temptation seemed to have a lot less pull than ever before.
- I’ve failed so many times before, what’s going to be different this time?
- “This time, you’re going to succeed.” And that, my friend, is exactly what you need to believe. There is no reason that you physically cannot lose weight (with the exception of a select few who have actual health issues preventing it). Your body is able to lose the weight! So what’s going to be different this time? Your mind!
Which brings us too… What should our mindset be?! (The Self-Love)
Pay attention because I am about to reveal the #1 biggest and best kept secret to weight loss:
1. *** If you want weight loss to last, it needs to be an entire LIFESTYLE CHANGE that you are committing yourself to. It won’t be easy, it won’t be quick, but it will last the rest of your life!***
There are a lot of diets and exercises out there that offer a quick fix and an unsustainable plan. A lot of times, there is a mentality that diet, exercise, and weight loss are just temporary changes that can be quit as soon as we get to our ideal weight. This mentality may help with a short term solution, but will end with gaining back the weight and being right back where we started. If, instead, we gradually lose weight and permanently change our diet and exercise, the results will last. This lifestyle change will only endure if healthy choices become habits. And the only way to form habits is to make the choices repeatedly day in and day out. Enjoyment is the key to making these healthy choices consistently. Enjoy the foods you’re eating. Enjoy the exercise you’re doing. Enjoy making those healthy choices. You don’t have to eat salad; there are other healthy foods. You don’t have to run; there are other ways to exercise. Choose healthy things that you do enjoy… wrap your mind around the fact that these are choices you will make for the rest of your life.
2. Find Your Motivation
This goes back to what I discussed about will-power. Why are you trying to lose weight? If it’s for your looks or general health, these are commonly acceptable reasons and can be good enough motivators for some. But, these motivators can also be too superficial. I challenge you to find a reason that personally resonates with you. Do it:
- to make yourself proud
- to make you a better person with less on their shoulders and more to give to others
- to be a good role-model to your kids
- to have more energy
- to have a longer life to spend with loved ones
- to travel and do things with your life that may not seem possible at your current weight
- to run a race you never thought you could
- to make retirement life the best years of your life
- to graduate college and join the workforce with the most confidence you’ve ever had in your life
- to lead a life without the health risks you’ve seen overweight family members struggle with
- to respect and take care of the body that God gave you to live in on this earth
Whatever your reasoning, make it something deep, something that will be stronger than your excuses!
3. Believe in Yourself
I remember being absolutely shocked when I actually started losing weight for the first time. Why? Because I didn’t think I could. Even though I knew it was physically possible, I didn’t believe in my ability to follow through and stick to it. But, once I got my “why” or motivation right, it became possible. From there, I started believing in myself, pushing myself, and having a positive outlook on my weightloss journey. I started filling my mind with motivational and positive self-talk, and it made me enjoy the journey. I had many setbacks and had to remind myself of why I started on a daily basis, but got my footing back once I had a basis of confidence. I stopped putting myself down in my head and outloud to others. I started allowing myself cheat days and bouncing back quickly to give myself a break. I finally saw that I COULD DO IT. And what is the difference between you and me? Nothing. Get the mental game down, and you’re there.
4. Forgive Yourself
It can be frustrating and even embarrassing to be at the point where you need to lose weight. But, be honest with yourself and realize that you are in a position where losing weight is what you need to do. I love the new trends out there about loving every body and loving the skin you’re in. You should! It is the only body you will ever have, so love it up! But, what I don’t like about these trends is that they are telling people to accept their bodies as they are and be okay with not being healthy. That may seem controversial, but we can do better than just accepting our unhealthy habits and unhealthy bodies! We have the power to change them! We have the power to make them healthy! And we have the power to feel even better and even prouder of the skin we’re in!
It is okay that you got to the point of needing to lose weight. You are with 70% of Americans! It’s what you do about it that counts. Don’t focus on the past or things you cannot control. What can you control? The future, your choices, and your weight. So, start now and you won’t have to feel guilty anymore. Will you slip up on your path to getting healthier? Yes. You are a human being. And, when that happens, forgive yourself again, get back on track, and move on.
Did you have a cheat day or cheat meal? Good. Diets that include cheat days or cheat meals give your mind a break. They also can jumpstart your metabolism that may start to adapt to less calories. What if you didn’t plan to cheat? Forgive yourself. One bad day does about as much as one good day… not a whole lot. It’s the consistent choices and consistent habits that matter. One bad day is not worth sabotaging your entire weight loss journey for.
Are you up 3 pounds on the scale? This happens. I know my body well, and the morning after I lift, my body is hanging onto water weight as it repairs my muscle fibers. I’m usually two pounds heavier on these mornings than others. Your body can fluctuate for a number of reasons from: eating salty food to getting your period to not getting enough sleep to a large number of variables. I was on vacation for 10 days, and I gained 9 pounds! I ran a half marathon one of the days, and I know for a fact that 3 of the days I did not overeat. Did I overeat 3,500 calories or more each of the other days? I don’t know if that is even possible! My digestion was sluggish from my alcohol intake, my body was hanging onto the high carb content of most of my meals, and I had more salt than normal as well. I was back to my normal weight within a week of my normal workouts, clean eating, and cutting 500 calories a day! I personally like to weigh myself every day to keep myself on track, but you can’t let the number on the scale get into your head. I’ve let it before, and it can really get to you. But, the consistent, healthy choices are what matter!
5. Plan, Plan, Plan
Food: Weight loss is not easy, so the more prepared you are with food, the more prepared you are to succeed. I mentioned before how important meal planning is. Plan your meals for the week and get all of your groceries before the week even starts. Everything is in your fridge and it takes away the last minute temptations of take out and/or the stress of trying to figure it out each day. If you don’t feel like a meal that night, swap it out for one you have planned later in the week to change it up!
Exercise: Get moving! Plan what your workout is going to be and when you’re going to do it. It is much more likely to happen if you already allotted time for it in your schedule.
Triggers: You may or may not have tried to lose weight before, and you may or may not have been successful before. But, you know yourself well! When do you tend to get off track? What tends to be your trigger that makes you indulge and forget the healthy lifestyle? For me, it was stress and lack of sleep. For others, it might be celebrations, travel, or boredom. Once I figured out what my triggers were, I started to take a nap, exercise, or grab a cup of coffee to get me firing on all cylinders again. Outsmart yourself and plan for how to overcome your weaknesses!
6. Find Something to Fill the Void
Changing habits that have been ingrained into your life possibly even since childhood can’t be taken lightly. It is going to be hard. The majority of Americans’ diets are filled with sugar, which has been proven in some studies to be eight times more addicting than cocaine. That is the main motivation for food companies to add it to foods. It’s in lunch meat, dressings, cereal, milk, bread, protein bars, and almost every pre-packaged food out there! Kicking the unhealthy foods and trying to wean yourself off of a high sugar diet can be comparable to kicking a drug addiction!
Except, we can’t just stop cold turkey. We still need food. So, what do we do? What a lot of recovering drug addicts do. They find a new hobby. If we don’t change anything or find a new interest, we may find ourselves thinking negatively or thinking about unhealthy cravings. It’s a proven psychological fact that if you focus on not doing something, you are more likely to do it. There was an article in Psychology Today on this subject:
“In a sense, vigilantly struggling not to think about something or someone forces part of your brain to be on guard for that thought. Holding it there, even subconsciously, keeps the thought alive, and sometimes it escapes out of the prison it’s being kept in and erupts into your active thoughts. This is mostly likely to happen when you’re under stress, mentally overwhelmed or just plain exhausted.”
So, how do we solve this problem? Find something new to occupy your brain with. I started reading different James Patterson series, researching and training for a half marathon, and diving into a new devotional book I enjoyed. It helped me to not only have something to focus on while I was doing these activities, but it gave my mind something to occupy itself with as a distraction while I was kicking unhealthy habits in my life. Learn French, get a dog, pick up playing the guitar. or listen to a new Podcast, but I highly recommend getting an interest that keeps your mind active!
Overall, I hope that you found the tough and self-love balance fair and found some of this information resonated with you! Your mind is a powerful, influential place. Fill it with kind, forgiving, motivational, and positive messages! Believe you are capable of losing weight because it is true! Find your motivation, and push yourself to reach your goals! Once you get your mind on the right track, everything else will fall into place.
In Summary, set yourself up for success by changing your mind!
I love to hear your feedback!! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any input, questions, subjects you’d like to hear more about, or comments.
**Don’t miss my next post in this weight loss series- A Holistic Approach to Weight Loss: How Relationships Affect our Success**
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“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
― Mahatma Gandhi