Drop the Fatitude and Get a Winning Attitude!Change Your Thoughts to Win the Weight-Loss Game
-- By Dean Anderson, Behavioral Psychology Expert
If permanent weight loss were as simple as eating less and moving more, you wouldn’t be reading this article—you’d be off somewhere enjoying your fit, trim self without a thought in your head about the difficulties of weight loss.
But here we are—because things just aren’t that simple. Despite all our scientific knowledge about how people gain and lose weight, there is no one-size-fits-all approach that guarantees your success if you just follow the rules. The fact is that no one else is exactly like you, biologically or psychologically, and there is no pre-existing map for your individual weight-loss journey. You are an “experiment of one” when it comes to figuring out what will work for you, and you’re the one running the experiment.
A big part of this experiment involves learning more about what makes you tick. For most people, just figuring out how much we need to eat and exercise to lose weight doesn’t necessarily make it easy for us to do it. Chances are, you’re going to have to work pretty hard at changing some long-standing habits, assumptions, feelings, and attitudes that influence your relationship with food and shape your lifestyle. So, where do you start? How do you figure out what will work for you? How do you know what's standing in your way and which habits you need to work on changing? One good way to find out is to look at the characteristics shared by people who succeed at long-term weight loss.
You probably already know about many of the characteristics that long-term, successful "losers" have in common. They are:
- Optimistic enough to put in an honest effort and see what happens. They don't fill their heads with self-defeating thoughts and negative prophecies that keep them from doing their best.
- Stay focused on what they can do instead of fretting about what they can’t do.
- Patient enough to take things one decision (and one day) at a time, instead of expecting instant results and losing motivation when those results don't come.
- See mistakes and problems as learning opportunities instead of being demoralized by them.
Many of us, however, have to really work at getting and keeping ourselves in that positive, forward-moving frame of mind. In fact, transforming our “fatitudes” into winning attitudes may be the single most important thing we need to do to successfully lose weight and keep it off.
How do you know if you have a fatitude problem? Here are three very common patterns that may indicate you have a fatitude problem that needs help stat!
Symptom #1 of a Fatitude Problem: The Drama Queen/King Syndrome
Do you tend to panic every time you have a "bad eating" day? Does going over your calorie goal or missing an exercise session make you feel guilty, as if you’ve done something morally wrong? Does eating something on your forbidden list trigger that negative voice in your head that says you’re too stupid, weak, or messed up to resist a temptation? When you see a number you don’t like on your scale, do you feel like nothing you do is ever going to make a difference, so you might as well give up now and start stuffing yourself with your favorite comfort food? This, my friend, is all Fatitude!
You don’t have to get upset about every little thing that goes wrong. There will always be problems to contend with, but you can choose how you react to them. When you start feeling upset, ask yourself what good it’s going to do to get upset about this particular problem. When you realize that all that drama saps your motivation and prevents you from using your mistakes as learning experiences and opportunities to make constructive changes, you can choose to stop the drama and adopt a more productive attitude.
The Winning Attitude: If you never have problems, you’ll never have any successes. You’re in the business of changing your lifestyle, and finding solutions that work for you will take a lot of trial and error. Your problem areas and setbacks can become valuable opportunities—if you let them. So ditch the drama and the negative self-talk, and replace it with a little open-minded curiosity. What was going on when this problem happened (in your environment and in your mind)? How is that different from what goes on when you don’t have the problem? What about your environment (or your thinking) can you change to make it easier to avoid this problem next time?
Helpful Tool: Journaling can be a key to your success!
Symptom #2 of a Fatitude Problem: The All-or-Nothing Game
Do you frequently find yourself thinking that, since you’ve already “blown your diet" for today, you might as well keep on eating and start over tomorrow (or next week or next month)? Is it hard to get yourself to exercise because it takes so much time and effort to burn such a relatively few calories? Do you find yourself going overboard with severe calorie reductions and excessive exercise just to speed things up? Do you feel unmotivated when you think about how far you have to go to get to your goal weight and how long it’s going to take you? Sounds like a Fatitude problem to me!
There are many ways that all-or-nothing thinking can sabotage your chances for weight-loss success. But the fact is that perfectionism and the desire for instant gratification are very likely two of the problems that helped you become overweight in the first place, and they definitely aren’t going to help you change your lifestyle now. No one gets it right all the time; you’re not going to achieve success without paying your dues. Expecting things to be different for you is a one-way ticket to frustration, loss of motivation, and failure.
The Winning Attitude: You create success by doing the best you can with the individual decision or task that’s right in front of you at this moment. Nothing else really matters. All you can ever do is the best you can with what’s in front of you right now—everything else is history or fantasy. You’ll get where you want to go as long as you take more steps in the right direction than the wrong one.
Helpful Tool: Learn to master the mysteries of your motivation.
Symptom #3 of a Fatitude Problem: The Helpless Victim Story
Do you often feel like something beyond your control dictates your eating and exercise choices? Do you think that you’re unable to resist certain foods or that other people are sabotaging your efforts by constantly putting temptations in your path? Do you find it hard to find time for healthy cooking and exercise because of all the demands on your time and energy from work, family responsibilities, and other priorities? Fatitude, again!
There’s no doubt that eating well and exercising regularly takes time and effort. But there’s also no doubt that everyone gets the same 24 hours in the day, and that everyone has many other responsibilities to contend with, too. Many of these same people manage to be successful at weight loss and healthy living anyway. The difference between success and failure is often in your expectations and the language you use to think and talk about the practical problems you face. The more you view your own behavior or decisions as being dictated by other people or circumstances, the more you give up the power to make your own decisions. The longer you wait for other people to change their ways to make things easier for you, the longer it will take you to reach your goals.
The Winning Attitude: You always have a choice. No food has the power to make you eat it, and no one else determines your values or priorities. Sure, the situation may be difficult; sometimes you may have to choose between less than ideal options, or even pick the lesser of two evils. But the choice is always yours, and the only way to fail in the long run is to fail to choose. So, ditch all those stories you tell yourself about why you have to do this or that! Make the best decision you can at the time, then move on to the next one.
Helpful Tool: Put "I" Into Your Vocabulary.
While these three signs of a fatitude problem are the most common, they aren't the only ones out there. There are also many other ways that your attitude, expectations, and thinking can help or hinder your success. The foundation of your success will be your belief that you can do what is necessary to reach your goals. Armed with this basic belief, there isn’t any problem you won’t be able to find a way around!
You’ll find lots of healthy lifestyle articles with practical tips that will help you build and maintain this belief as you move along. Our Message Boards are full of discussions and information you can use to get and give support, and there are SparkTeams for just about every interest you can imagine. So make sure you use all the resources available here at SparkPeople. It will make your journey even more fun than getting to your destination!