Nutrition Articles

6 Things Successful Dieters Have in Common

People Who Lose the Weight Have These Core Beliefs

I'm sure you have heard people say, "Losing weight is easy. Keeping it off is the hard part."
Well, I disagree with this statement. I think losing weight is hard, but keeping it off is even harder!
Permanent weight loss requires a lot of change.  And for most, change is difficult.  You have to change what and how much you eat. You have to change your activity and exercise habits. You might have to change your sleeping habits, daily schedule and shopping habits. That's a lot of change!
However, the most important changes you can make aren't about what you do, but rather how you think.  If you don't change your mindset, there's an awfully good chance you won't change your body—and certainly not for the long term.
People who have reached weight-loss goals and kept off the pounds often experience mindset shifts. They think differently than they did before. Here are some common attitudes and beliefs that show up time and time again when talking with successful "losers."  If you were to interview them, this is what you would hear.
1.   I believe that I can do it. I am responsible for—and in control of—my destiny, and I am fully committed to getting there. I have a clear vision of how I want to live my life: healthy, vibrant, thin and active. I strongly believe in the possibility and the permanence of that vision, and I am confident that I am capable of achieving it. Exercise and eating healthy aren't things I do when it's convenient; they are what I have decided to do no matter what. I recognize my results are dependent on my own actions—not other people's or outside circumstances.
2.   I am proactive rather than reactive. I think in advance about how I will eat and exercise during for upcoming day. If I know I need to go to the gym straight from work, I make sure my gym bag is packed and in my car. When I'm going to have a hectic day at work, I pack a healthy lunch from home. I look at restaurant menus online before getting there so I know the best choices beforehand, and that's what I order. I take time at the beginning of each week to plan my meals, figure out when I can get to the grocery store and schedule my exercise.  And I always have a Plan B so I can stay on track in case something unexpected happens. 
3.   I am disciplined. Despite not always wanting to do what needs to be done, I do it anyway.  There are plenty of times I don't feel like working out, or taking the time to prepare my meals.  Whether it's exercise, skipping dessert, or cooking a healthy dinner rather than calling in for take-out, I do it.  My mind is always focused on my vision. It's not about how I feel right now. It's about what I want for my future self.
4.   I share my goals and plans.  My friends and family are aware that taking good care of myself and keeping the weight off is a core value of mine. I stand up for myself without apology.  Sometimes I'll miss happy hour with the gang to go to the gym, or request that we change the restaurant choice because I won't go to a buffet—I am not embarrassed or sorry for speaking up. I also know I don't need to go it alone.  When I am feeling vulnerable, I ask for help
5.   I am resilient. When I stumble or fall down, I pick myself up and creatively figure out how to move on. Life throws curveballs all the time, but they aren't reasons to throw my healthy habits away.  I know that soothing myself with food or TV won't solve my problems.  I deal with the reality of the situation and creatively work toward overcoming adversity.
6.   I have self-compassion.  I'm only human and there are times when things don't go as well as I'd like.  I just do the best I can. When I slip up, I look at it as one individual episode, not a pattern that will lead to disaster. A "lapse" does not mean collapse. I just get right back on track. I do not beat myself up if a few pounds creep back on.  The scale does not define who I am. It doesn't make me good or bad.  It only tells me whether or not I am on track to reach my goals.  If I am not, I recalculate.    
Sustained weight loss requires a new mindset.  In order to be successful, you must resist looking in the mirror and still seeing the old you.  Permanent success requires you to think and act like a thin person even before you reach your goal. If it initially feels awkward, remember the old adage, "Fake it 'til you make it." The more you behave and think like a successful dieter, the sooner you will be one. Being healthy and thin will become part of your identity.  It's time to leave the old one behind.
Dieci, Edward. 1995. Why We Do What We Do. London: Penguin Books.
Fletcher, Anne. 2003. Thin For Life. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. 

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Member Comments

  • 4. I share my goal and plans -- because I have a big mouth! :D

    I find a meal plan works for me. It takes out not just the planning, but the emotions -- and hunger -- that most dieting entails. The meal plan tells me what I can eat, and, if I miss a snack in the afternoon, that just means I can have it later after midnight. BTW, When you choose a meal plan, make sure it minimizes simple carbohydrates. They've been linked with leptin and ghrelin, which trigger hunger.
  • A Healthy attitude towards a healthy lifestyle is the trick for sure ????
  • What they have in common is losing weight! ;-)
  • Being proactive made the biggest difference for me. Planning and preparing for the week takes time on the front end, but is a breeze the rest of the time.
  • Very empowering article. Thank you.
  • Self discipline is the key... I stopped going to Starbucks every Friday when i noticed the 'pounds' I gained. I just told myself. no more, and ceased my frequent trips. However, there are times when I do miss a pound cake now and then, and go there only as a reward after several months (literally) gone by that I did good.

    Did the same method for other foods I enjoy eating, although they are healthy ... But I sometimes have the intendency to eat too much. My Metabolism is still relatively fast burning since I eat an early breakfast every day and stop at Noon... early, I mean by 0430 is breakfast time, lunch is at 0900 and dinner 1200 .. I work from home and my clients are abroad. Nevertheless, I do exercise and stretching every morning and in between my other activities.
  • Wow. What an awful lot of work and focus and determination is required to be a "successful dieter". Articles like this make it seem like it must be like taking on another full-time job in order to be "thin".

    I'm so glad that I didn't read anything like this when I decided to just start eating healthier foods, and learning to cook so that my food is more delicious, and found myself gradually adding in more and more fun activities that are part of living a fun, productive, and healthy life. That approach caused a 90 lb weight loss, that I so far have maintained for over 2 years, but I most definitely was never a "dieter"... and sure didn't work hard enough at it to be considered "successful" by the standards of this article!
  • Great article, saving it to refer to when times get tough! Thanks.
  • Basically I do like these suggestions. However, I agree that using the word "thin" rather than "healthy" tends to perpetuate a misconception that "thin" is always "good". SparkPeople has made it a point to stress that while the foods we eat are technically our "diet", we should look at what we eat as a long-term plan and not a short-term list of foods that we can't wait to stop eating when we reach a goal weight.
  • On point to the max! Thanks for sharing your thoughts so frankly.
  • These are all true for me and I'd add a #7: Don't think of this as a diet, I'm eating healthy and exercising because it makes me feel good and is good for me.
  • The mind cannot focus on the reverse of a situation while focusing on the situation!
  • I don't really like the tone of this article. Point #1 uses the word "thin" when describing the adjectives that the person should strive for. Being thin is not my goal and there are people that share my goal of wanting to get healthy without becoming thin. This assumption and use of the word "thin" is inflammatory and some would say it borders on body shaming, as if you are not ok or doing well with your goals if you aren't thin.
  • I love points 1 and 2. I have posted them on my refrigerator to read before I open that door.
  • I thought the article informative except for one surprising flaw that I thought a person who helps people lose weight would know better than to use. The wording in the article SHOULD say "normal weight" or "healthy weight" not "thin". Focusing on a normal weight is what SP is trying to help us who are trying to lose the weight do. To focus on the word "thin " and USE the word "thin" throughout the article is what the WORLD does .I thought the whole point of reading articles is to inspire us to focus on achieving a "healthy weight".

About The Author

Ellen Goldman Ellen Goldman
Ellen founded EllenG Coaching, LLC to help individuals struggling with health issues that can be impacted by positive lifestyle change, such as weight loss, stress management, exercise, and life/work balance. As a certified professional wellness coach and certified personal trainer, Ellen holds a BS and Masters in Physical Education and is certified by ACSM, AFAA, and Wellcoaches Corporation. Visit her at Get her complimentary report, 52 Tips, Tools & Tricks to Permanent Weight Loss Without Going on a Diet, at

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