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.