Motivation Articles

A Solution-Focused Approach to Weight Loss

Ask the Right Questions, Find the Right Answers

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What do you do when you don’t achieve the weight loss results you’re looking for?

Do you resolve to cut calories even more, try harder to resist temptations, or log extra treadmill time? These ideas could work—if you’ve been doing less than what you know you need to do to lose weight in the first place.

But chances are that these ideas don't fix the real problem. If you already have a hard time sticking to your eating and exercise goals, then making these goals even more strict (and difficult to manage) will only make things worse. Like Einstein said, "doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results," is insanity—and doing even more of the same old thing is even crazier. If you want different results, you need to think outside of the box and do things differently.

But what should you do differently, exactly? Is it just a guessing game, or is there some way to quickly find and focus in on solutions that will actually work for you?

There is a way to find the right solutions, and it starts with asking yourself the right questions. Here are four simple techniques you can use to stop guessing and start asking questions that focus on solutions instead of problems.

1. Look for the exception that proves the rule.
No problem happens all the time. No matter how often you don’t do as well as you’d like, there are always times when you do better than others, and it’s usually not an accident—there’s something about these positive times that makes your work much easier. The trick is to figure out what that something is, and how you can make it happen more often.

A good way to do this is to remember a recent time when things went well, and simply ask yourself what you did differently that time, or what was different about that situation. For example, was it easier to make the right choice because you were in a better mood? If so, what got you in that mood, and how can you get that to happen more often? What were you thinking about or doing the last time you made the choice you’d like to make most of the time? Can you find a way to spend more time thinking or doing that (or something similar) now?

2. Activate your imagination with the Miracle Question.
The Miracle Question is a great way to help yourself focus on solutions. Imagine that tonight while you’re sleeping, a miracle is going to happen that will completely solve the problem you are struggling with, once and for all. How will you know, when you wake up, that the miracle has happened and the problem is solved? What will be different for you—how will you think, act, or feel differently once the problem has been solved? What will be different about the day ahead of you? Are these questions already helping you think or feel differently now, at least a little bit? How can you make this happen more often?
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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.

Member Comments

  • I love this. I read another's comment about how the points in this article are EXACTLY why this is working this time. I agree. I have been working on this, applying myself fully to this growth experience, shedding blame and doubt along the way, and really embracing my ability to succeed. By no means is it always easy...but I am staying grounded in what is real and what I have the ability to affect. I have learned so much about who I really am and what I am really capable of through this process. As my goal board says...I am living my BEST life, now (not waiting to reach my goal before I believe that). - 7/29/2014 4:11:09 PM
  • COOKEDBOOK
    This is the vaguest article I have ever read on here. :-/ - 6/14/2014 9:58:37 AM
  • One of the best articles I have ever read on SP! Thank you so much--I'm bookmarking this and will definitely come back to it. What a way to take a look at perspective. - 11/30/2013 5:22:04 PM
  • AMAYABLUE
    Great article, thank you! - 10/17/2013 11:43:36 AM
  • ELLY2017
    Excellent article. So useful to get one's thinking out of the same old groove. Thank you Spark People! - 8/13/2013 10:03:01 PM
  • I have made my mind up that I am going all the way this time. I really want to be healthy. - 4/29/2013 8:46:58 AM
  • MICHELEB04
    This article is EXACTLY why I've been successful this time. I didn't know why it was working but now I do. At the start of this year, I set 3 very small, very specific actions I was going to take to meet my weight loss. I haven't really set a number-related goal, I've tried but backed away each time. Instead, I kept focusing on my actions (i.e. solutions) and today the scale proved that this is the way to get it done! - 3/24/2013 9:14:59 PM
  • I have read and re-read this article many times. I have also shared it with many who are struggling on their journey, on whatever "program" they are using. As long as you have goals set to use as a guideline, you will be successful; however, there are going to be times when you "fall off" or make a mistake. But you can't beat yourself up over it. Just realize what you did, use it as a lesson learned and move on! This article helps one to understand that! AWESOME article that I will surely go back to again and again! - 3/24/2013 4:17:38 PM
  • So I can just positive thinking to think myself thinner? For me I have to tell myself I've come this far I'm not messing it up now. I said I'm going to lose weight and thats what I'm going to do because I will not be a failure at this. I did the same thing when I quit smoking. I had a failure cig that I refused to smoke. - 3/24/2013 1:48:44 PM
  • I loved this article! It seems to be just what I need now! I've been gaining weight because of a sweet tooth that just won't quit. To be able to find alternate ways of distraction really, to help me to not go to them, is such a tremendous reminder. Thank you so much!! - 3/24/2013 1:23:43 PM
  • I couldn't make sense of any of this. Ask the right questions, find the right answers? We are experts at deceiving ourselves, so we'll stick with any answer that fits, not necessarily an answer that will lead us to the solution. My cousin's weight problems were all related to his thyroid, so he was helpless. . .yeah, right. We do what we do for myriad reasons, we don't do what we don't want to do for even more. We need to stop looking for excuses, and start taking action. - 3/24/2013 1:21:07 PM
  • A very helpful article that I'm going to refer back to again and again. The point about finding a different payoff, other than eating sweets etc., to give you the same comfort or feeling, really resonated with me. I think I'll figure out 2 or 3 things now, when I'm not under stress, that I can refer back to. - 3/24/2013 12:45:32 PM
  • A very helpful article that is a good reminder for all of us. Being mindful of our behavior and setting up structures that will help us to stay on track and not fall into the same patterns is crucial. I still struggle with binges from time to time...I need to set things up to change that and not just hope it won't happen again. Thanks for your info! - 3/24/2013 11:16:21 AM
  • This is a fabulous article! Thanks for adding it to so many other good ideas, - 3/24/2013 10:47:20 AM
  • Great article. - 3/24/2013 10:10:18 AM

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