Motivation Articles

9 Tips to Help You Actually Enjoy Your Weight-Loss Journey

Never Dread a Diet Again

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This article is the second installment in a two-part series. Read Part One here. 

The implied start and end, the frustration that goes along with weeks or months of restriction, agitation from days spent calorie counting or skipping out on social events to stick to your specific eating plan—the word "diet" has become synonymous with a lot of negativity over time. While it's been established that dieting does in fact make it more difficult to lose weight and keep it off, all hope is not lost. With the right mindset and a little determination, you can achieve your food and fitness goals, maintain those goals and even enjoy yourself along the way.

At first glance, this might seem pretty foolhardy. With eating, at least, isn't part of the problem that we enjoy food a little too much?

Not exactly. When I look at my own experience with chronic overeating and yo-yo dieting, two things seem clear to me now. One is that much of the pleasure I got from eating wasn't really from the food itself, but rather from the way eating distracted me from a lot of feelings and thoughts that were definitely not pleasurable. I was an "emotional eater."

The second is that I was mostly eating foods designed to stimulate appetite and the desire for more. Food scientists call them "hyper-palatable" foods, or those engineered to taste much better than any food could naturally taste. These foods contain added ingredients that appeal to all our innate preferences: salt, fat, sugar and, often, a number of artificial flavorings and additives. Many of the prepared foods and convenience foods found in stores and restaurants fall into this category of hyper-palatable foods. (For complete information on the phenomenon, check out the book "The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite" by Dr. David Kessler, former head of the Food and Drug Administration.) If you've been eating many of these "too tasty" foods, don't assume that your appetite is the problem. You may be able to eat less—without feeling so deprived that you can't stick to your long-term plan—with some simple dietary changes.

Once you have a handle on these two problems, focusing on how to enjoy your food and exercise is a great way to avoid those issues commonly associated with "going on a diet."

Life's Simple Pleasures, Decoded

To get started, it's important to understand where pleasure originates. Recognizing these four basic sources of the pleasure we can get from our food choices and physical activity will make it easier to find satisfaction in the weight-loss journey.
  • Biological sources: For our purposes, these would include happy taste buds, "feel good" endorphins that come with exercise and relief from hunger.
  • Psychological sources: For example, the self-esteem and confidence that comes with attempting something challenging and accomplishing the goal. Also, the self-respect that grows out of taking good care of yourself.
  • Social sources: The satisfaction of contributing to goals and outcomes shared with others. For example, healthy family meals, team sports, exercise classes, teaming up with an exercise partner or sharing healthy recipes with others.
  • Value-based sources: The added satisfaction possible when personal choices are connected to larger issues and values. For example, buying local, minimizing excess consumption and waste, modelling desirable behaviors to others, or walking and biking instead of driving.
As a general rule, the more sources of pleasure you can tap into, the easier it will be to actually want to do what you need to do to lose weight. It's important to understand that simply wanting to lose weight isn't likely to provide all the motivation you need to do what's necessary.   Continued ›
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

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