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The Mental Approach to Weight Loss

The weight-loss industry is a billion-dollar industry yet the majority of individuals in the U.S. are considered overweight or obese.  Although we know there is no magic pill that will instantly make us thinner, we continue to fall for false advertising claiming otherwise.  This is because there’s an unconscious part of us that would like to believe we can get the results we want without much effort on our part.  The formula for losing weight is simple: burn more calories than you take in.  The actual implementation of this formula in our own lives is much more difficult.  Our mental processes play a tremendous role in whether we are successful in our weight loss goal.  Here are some useful strategies you can put in place today to start a healthy and long lasting weight loss plan:

  • List the reasons you want to lose weight
  • List the reasons you want to keep the weight on
  • List what you are willing to do when committing to lose weight
  • Start with a small and reasonable goal of 5 lb.  Once those 5 lb come off, ask yourself “is it reasonable for me to lose another 5 lbs?”…keep going in 5 lb. increments until the desired goal is reached.
  • Do not sabotage the goal and set yourself up for failure by setting an ideal weight or dress size at the beginning.
  • Focus on a weight you can sustain for the rest of your life.
  • Focus on eliminating calories you can maintain for the rest of your life.
  • Start with reducing your caloric intake by 100 calories.  For example if your baseline caloric intake is 2000 calories, go down to 1900 and ask yourself, “can I be o.k. at this level for the rest of my life?”  “Will I be able to maintain my intake at 1900 for the rest of my life?” You can keep going down in 100 calorie increments until you feel you can sustain a level for the rest of your life.  Don’t start at 1200 calories and think you can keep this up for the rest of your life because it’s not healthy and you will gain all the weight lost the minute you increase your calorie intake level. Also keep in mind:
  • Eating too few calories with low levels of protein will set you up for over eating later.
  • Eating foods with too much sugar will set you up for more sugar cravings later.
  • It’s better to eat nuts instead of sugary snacks because nuts have protein and fiber which keep you fuller longer and keep your blood sugar stable, minimizing cravings.
  • Introduce more whole, unprocessed foods into your diet such as whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts and legumes, and lean proteins such as turkey, tuna, and chicken.
  • Eliminate empty calories such as sodas and alcoholic beverages.
  • Reduce your salt intake and increase your use of spices to flavor dishes.
  • Increase your healthy fat intake such as omega 3 fatty acids found in fish and nuts/seeds such as flax seed and walnuts.  Use olive oil in moderation in your cooking and topping for salads.
  • Become Active:  Walk or strength train at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Start carrying around reminder cards with mantras or affirmations to remind you about staying on track.  You can use the following statements as examples:
  1. “I can eat whatever I want, at any quantity I want at this moment, or I can be healthier and thinner.  I can’t have both.”
  2. “I can eat better quality food at home than here at this restaurant.”
  3. “If I stick to my plan, I will be very proud.”
  4. “I will not have this doughnut (or piece of cake, etc.) because I’m going to have my (desert of choice) tonight.”
  5. “Which deprivation do I want?  Not eating ice cream or not being able to cross my legs [walk up stairs, run around with my kids, etc].”
  6. “Hunger and cravings always go away, whether I eat or distract myself.”

Figure out the reasons you are eating or craving.  Identify the location of the craving. If it’s not in your stomach and in your throat, it is not hunger based.

Be forgiving of mistakes.  If you give in and cheat by eating some chips, don’t give up and say, “Oh well, I might as well have the whole bag.”  Dieters often use automatic thoughts such as “I’m a terrible and weak person and I can’t be successful at this diet, so I might as well give up and keep eating,” to sabotage their plan.  Keep reminding yourself that mistakes happen but get right back on track.

Question From Megan S.
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