The Secret To Weight Loss Success: Master Your Mindset
The science of weight loss is actually quite simple, and for the most part, people understand it. It is not the initial weight loss, however that we have trouble with. In fact, I’m sure everyone reading this has, at one point, lost weight before. Similarly, I am also sure that many of you have also gained some, if not all, of the weight back. This is evident since statistics tell us that 95% of people will regain the weight. But, why do so many of us gain the weight back?
This is the million dollar question. This article will focus on retraining your brain for a successful long-term weight loss journey. Indeed, foods you eat, which diet you may go on (keto, intermittent fasting, atkins, paleo etc.), your lifestyle, and many other variables have a significant impact on your success; however, having the proper mindset will make all the difference regardless of all those things.
2 things to accept before starting a weight loss journey
When is the best time to start a weight loss journey? Trick question. There will never be a right time to start if you’re basing it on external circumstances. There will always be birthday parties, get together’s, vacations, etc. If you are relying on the world to tailor itself to you before you start, then you are better off wishing for a weight loss fairy to fly into your room at night and put an effortless, perfect diet under your pillow.
Furthermore, even if you do start with this mentality, you are already basing your success on what goes on outside. In other words, you are taking the responsibility off of yourself, and deflecting that responsibility on to the environment outside of yourself. The right time to start is when you make the choice to start independent of anything else other than because you simply made the choice too.
Point being that you have to take control and understand that your success on a weight loss journey is ultimately your responsibility. Taking responsibility and understanding that you have the power to determine your own success, and nothing or nobody else does, is a massive step in preparing your mindset for a successful weight loss journey.
The undisputed number one reason why people either don’t start, or fail to continue on their weight loss journey is because “there is just no time.” Sorry everyone who has said this to themselves, but it is never about time. It is always about priority. Don’t believe me? Go find a hot new boyfriend or girlfriend and see the magic of how all this times clears up for you to go on dates. You didn’t all of the sudden get less busy; you just found a new priority in your life, just sayin’.
Indeed, improving your health and losing weight will take some time and effort. However, once you make it into a priority you will start to not look at it as a painful duty anymore, but rather as a something that is just part of your life now. This switch in mindset doesn’t happen overnight, but it will happen with consistency.
What are realistic weight loss expectations?
I know we all want to hear the words “easy” and “fast” or “without diet and exercise” when we start a weight loss journey. Who wouldn’t want to hear those things? But, if those things were really true then I wouldn’t be writing this right now. Here are a few realistic weight loss expectations:
· Time- You didn’t gain weight overnight; in fact, in most cases, it is a slow and long process of several years. So, then, why do we expect to lose what took years to develop in a matter of weeks? Give yourself enough time to see your weight loss efforts come into fruition before calling it quits.
· Consistency, not perfection. Go into this knowing you do not have to be perfect 100% of the time. The all-or-nothing mentality is a slippery slope and does more harm than good. Nobody gained weight from one cookie, and no one lost weight from eating one salad. Don’t let one “bad” day or even week lead to a downward out-of-control spiral back to where you started. Instead, understand that it is OK to “slip up” because all you have to do is get back on it the next day. Think consistency over the month. One slip up won’t negatively affect a consistent month. Similar to a business that has one or even a couple bad days where they lose money, if the rest of the month is consistently good, then the end result is still a net profit. So don’t be so hard on yourself!
· Getting comfortable in your uncomfortable zone- I don’t want to sugarcoat this; you will have to get out of your comfort zone. To be perfectly blunt and real, it is most likely your comfort zone that got you to the place you are now. Right? Expect to make some changes. They don’t have to be dramatic, but some changes will have to be made.
Why does weight loss get so mentally hard after a couple weeks?
Weight loss becomes hard after a couple of weeks because most people are driven by a temporary extrinsic motivation. There are 2 types of motivation:
1. Extrinsic motivation- This is when your motivation comes from something outside of yourself, such as wanting to impress another person, pleasing your doctor, or wanting to look good for an upcoming vacation, etc. This may create short-term weight loss, but you will likely end up where you began if you solely rely on this.
2. Intrinsic motivation- This is when the source of your motivation is driven by internal rewards, such as, feeling proud of yourself, gaining confidence, feeling satisfied, and feeling healthier and happier.
Extrinsic motivation is weak, and doesn’t last. Don’t get me wrong, it may be the spark to get you started, but that is all it is. Relying on this type of motivation is making your success co-dependent on an uncontrollable circumstance outside of yourself. Remember, it is you and only you who is in control of your success. What happens after your vacation? What happens if you didn't impress that person? Are you going to go back to the habits you were doing before you lost weight? Most people do. Extrinsic motivation, in most cases, needs to transform into intrinsic motivation in order for your new daily habits to last for the long-term.
Another reason why weight loss gets hard after a couple weeks is because we rely on willpower. The reality is losing weight is not about willpower. No person has unlimited willpower, period. If our weight loss journey is not practical to our real lives or leaves us feeling deprived or unsatisfied, it will be nearly impossible to keep up those habits long-term no matter how much willpower we have. It is not because we are weak or lack self-control, it is because some of the choices we make going into the weight loss journey are unsustainable.
Sustainability differs between people. Just because something worked for someone else doesn't meant it will work for you. Make sure that you are focusing on your needs and your lifestyle when making choices about your weight loss journey.
Time to change our mindset on "good" or "bad" foods
I want to touch on the mindset we have on food. I want you to try to unlearn anything you have ever learned about good and bad foods. The question “is this good or bad for me?” is an incomplete question. There has to be context for the question to make sense. Before I even get into that, I want to say that I strongly recommended disassociating foods with the terms “good” and “bad”. I think this leads people to have a negative relationship with food and can potentially cause eating disorders.
Now then, in terms of weight loss good and bad foods simply don’t exist. There is no food or food group that is inherently “bad” or that inherently makes you gain weight in and of itself. There are, however, foods that are more nutrient dense, are more filling, and have more calories than others. But, even then, it still doesn’t make certain foods “bad”. I can hear someone now “oh, so your saying I can eat chips, cookies, and doughnuts all day and it’s not bad?” Did I say that? No I didn’t. Not at all.
What I am saying is that everything is in context. The context here is about weight loss, so, if someone asks me “is this food/meal bad?” I can’t possibly answer that without knowing at least the following:
· What else you have eaten prior to that food/meal?
· What you are planning to eat after that food/meal?
· What your total daily caloric intake for weight loss is?
· How many of those calories you have left for the day?
· What your protein intake for the day is.
· How many calories you have already eaten prior to that meal.
Not exactly the sexiest reply is it? That is because we all want simple "yes" or "no" answers. But unfortunately, as you can see, it is not black and white. In fact, the grey area is huge. All these details matter in order to be able to properly answer the question, "is this food/meal bad?” Also, by the way, in the context of weight loss, “bad” would be referring to foods that would be pushing you into a caloric surplus, because in order to lose weight you must be in a caloric deficit.
Let’s give an example of how any food could be "good" or "bad" when you add context based on three assumptions:
1. Your caloric intake goal for weight loss is 1500 calories
2. Chicken breast and broccoli are “good” for you and make you insanely toned
3. Cookies are the devil disguised as flour and butter that instantly make you fat
Given that the context is weight loss, eating anything above 1500 calories, is “bad” AKA puts you at more calories than your target goal. So, this means that if you are at 1500 calories for the day already, then even chicken breast and broccoli will be “bad” insofar that it puts you at more calories than you should be for the day, which isn’t helping your weight loss goal.
On the other hand, if you are at 0 calories for the day and you eat one cookie worth 250 calories, what does that mean? That means you have 1250 calories left for the day. It also means that the cookie did absolutely nothing, at this point and time of the day to hinder your weight loss goal, because you are nowhere near being over your 1500 calories yet.
That’s right, the chicken and broccoli (the clear healthier choice) eaten at 1500 calories actually hindered your weight loss goal more than the cookie did. Why? Because context matters. “Oh, so you’re saying cookies are better for you than chicken and broccoli?” Nope, I never said that. In fact, I will directly address this so that there is no misunderstanding.
Chicken and broccoli will without a doubt provide you with more nutrients, help you stay fuller longer, and provide you with more protein for about the same amount of calories as the cookie. But, this wasn’t the question. The question is about good and bad foods, and how it is a question that is incomplete without context.
The point is that no food or food group will hurt your weight loss by itself, and that any food, healthy or not, will make you gain weight if they put you in a caloric surplus. Take salmon, nuts, or avocados for example, they are all nutrient dense and healthy foods. But, this does not make them immune to causing you weight gain. They can and will cause you to gain weight, regardless of how healthy they are, if they are putting you in a caloric surplus, period.
In addition, to tell someone a food is "bad" without knowing what they are going to replace that "bad" food with may be doing them a disservice. If someone tells you red meat is "bad", and, so, you decide to have a breaded, deep fried chicken tender instead, is that really better? My advice to anyone reading this- if anyone tells you a food is "bad", ask them "why", and then ask them "why" one more time. More than likely it will end with "Uh, I dunno I heard that somewhere." Is this really someone you want to take advice from?
Bottom line- Let's stop labeling foods "good" or "bad" because it may cause bad relationships with food. Be at rest in your mind, and stop feeling guilty because you ate a "bad" food. "Bad" foods don't exist without context, and any food can fit into your weight loss diet. There is no reason to be upset anymore, because with proper planning you can enjoy foods you love, and still lose weight.
How can I make my weight loss journey easier?
Instead of trying to fight the weight loss battle with willpower. Learn to acknowledge and embrace your strengths and weaknesses. We can learn a lot from them, and use them to help you set yourself up for a higher chance of success. Here are a few things for you to consider before starting a weight loss journey:
· Indulgences- There are some people who crave sweets, and having that sweet will satisfy their craving and they can go on with their day. On the other hand, there are others who eat that same sweet, and it may trigger them to start binge eating. Which are you? If you are the former then it may be helpful to have a sweet in the house, because you may eat a lot more calories searching for that satisfaction that a quick, small sweet treat would have given you. If you are the ladder, then most likely it isn't a good idea to have a trigger food like that staring at you in your face in your house. Only have things in your fridge and cupboard that help you, not things that can be potentially harmful to your success.
· Social bubble- Are the people around you helping you or hurting you? Hold on now, I am not saying you have to avoid people or places, but you may have to have a conversation. Let the people around you know the weight loss journey that you are on, and that you are trying to better your health. They, most likely, will be more supportive than you think. Having the people around you be on your side makes a big difference.
· Don't compare yourself to anyone- Nothing can be more mentally defeating than comparing yourself to another person. You will lose weight at your own pace, your body will be shaped in its own way, and you will look exactly how you are supposed to. It is already hard enough overcoming your own mental challenges on this weight loss journey. No need to add more stress by comparing yourself to others.
· Think long-term- I know it's a cliché example but weight loss really is a marathon. Not only in the sense that it takes time, but also in that the only way you truly fail is if you quit. A marathon is 26.2 miles long. It does not matter how slow you go, or maybe even if you completely stop to catch your breath every once in a while. The only way you fail to complete the marathon is if you stop moving forward indefinitely, and quit. Same thing goes for weight loss. There will be bursts of a solid rhythm and pace, and there will be times where progress may temporarily stop, but as long as you keep moving forward, don't quit, and stay consistent; it is impossible to fail.
· Plan around your lifestyle- Be realistic with your planning. If you have never been a morning person in your entire life and have a lot more energy in the evening, then plan to meal prep for the next day at night, or plan to do your exercise in the evening. Just because you see others working out in the morning does not mean you have too. Do what works best for you. There is no optimal time to work out, the best time is the time that you will actually go.
· Catch your excuses- excuses are like buttholes, we all have them and they all stink! There are those who stub their toe and miss the gym because of it, and there are those who go to the gym in crutches. If you're looking for an excuse, guess what? You will find one. Start listening to your thoughts and learn to distinguish an excuse from an actual authentic reason.
At the end of the day, nothing matters more than your mindset on a weight loss journey. You can have the best meal plan ever made, a trainer, a nutritionist, a chef, and everything else, but if you go in with an unrealistic mindset of what it takes for long-term success you most likely will have a rude awakening. "Check yourself at the door" and make sure you fully understand that your success is in your hands. You have the power to make it work, nobody else. Remember, don't be so hard on yourself. You do not have to be perfect. Patience and consistency will get you to your goal. Work hard and don't give up!