Motivation Articles

A Solution-Focused Approach to Weight Loss

Ask the Right Questions, Find the Right Answers

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3. Find the good intention behind the “bad” behavior.
Almost every persistent behavior happens for a good reason—no matter how many problems it may cause. You rarely do the “wrong” thing because that’s what you want to do, or because you literally can’t stop yourself—you do it because there is some payoff. And if you don’t like the negative side-effects (like weight gain) that come with a particular behavior (like overeating), your best bet will probably involve finding a way to get the payoff without those undesirable side-effects.

So if you’re having trouble resisting that sweet tooth of yours, for example, don’t waste time blaming yourself or trying to figure out what’s wrong with your willpower. Ask yourself what the payoff really is. Is it simple pleasure, emotional comfort, or relief from boredom or other unwanted feelings? Then ask yourself what you can do that would give you that same payoff, without the extra calories.

4. Predict your way to success.
Bad habits are often the product of self-fulfilling prophecies. You expect yourself to experience a problem, and then you do—again and again. You can interrupt this cycle by trying to predict your own behavior in advance. Before you get out of bed in the morning, take a minute to predict how you’re going to handle the potential problems you may encounter that day. What are the chances that you’ll have the problem again today? Pick an actual number—is it 100, 60, or 34 percent likely? What specific events, thoughts or feelings might make it more likely that you’ll face (or avoid) the problem? When and where are these events likely to happen? Who else is going to be involved? What can you do to influence this course of events and increase the odds in favor of not having the problem today?

Keep in mind that you’re not trying to convince yourself you can handle or avoid the problem you want to work on. This is not an exercise in positive thinking, but rather an effort to look at things differently and approach your problems in new ways. Instead of asking yourself why you have a particular problem, or what you do to “cause” this behavior, do the exact opposite. Focus on why you do things "right" and try to increase the odds of that happening more often.

Because the tendency to slip back into problem-focused mode is so strong, it will be important for you to check out your own assumptions and the focus of your questions on a regular basis.
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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

  • Excellent! Focus on the positive, change what you can right now, find the GOOD behind the bad behavior and ask "The Miracle Question." Perfect time to read this. After a year of steadily losing weight and working up to half marathon level again, I let the stress of nursing school derail me. I stopped eating veggies, drinking water, exercising and have gained 6 pounds. Worst of all, I was feeling this was inevitable. This article gave me hope and tools to turn this ride around. Yay! - 12/2/2015 2:15:24 PM
  • True true. I sometimes tell myself that I'll just change dietary habits without touching my physical activity because of whatever excuse I have, but once I admit to myself that I really have no reason not to add in different exercise I end up doing it and getting myself out of mental ruts that keep my weight from moving. - 12/2/2015 1:30:41 PM
  • Oh, for the love...
    spare me the great cult of positivity.
    Your attitude is meaningless if you lack the tenacity to do the work required to achieve the result.
    If you're not calling yourself out on your shortcomings, who else is going to do it? - 12/2/2015 11:44:39 AM
  • Such a helpful article! I'm writing these questions down in my journal to ponder frequently. Thank you. - 12/2/2015 10:04:20 AM
  • Oh AMEN, Dean. You nailed it...reading through the comments just stresses what you set out to teach. What you can't/didn't do is tell people specific things for them to do, for we each have our own bucket of oh boy to deal with. Yes, this is an individual journey in a very public place...which makes life interesting. Instead, you tried to get us to flip the switch in our brain so our focus is on SOLUTIONS instead of our problems. Laser focus on the problem usually succeeds in getting us nowhere, in a hurry. Loved this, thank you! - 12/2/2015 6:59:13 AM
  • 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

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