If you’re the type of person who can accomplish what you set your mind to, no doubt you’re confident that when you commit yourself to a course of action you will follow through and get what you want. I’m sure you can think of countless examples where committing to a path has worked for you in business, career, family, and other areas of your life. But what about weight loss?
Have you been successful in committing to a course of action for your health and fitness that is leading to the results you want?
If you haven’t had success with weight loss yet, it could be that confusion about what to do, inconsistent attempts at doing it, and self-sabotage have kept you from reaching your goals. While just about any diet will work in the short-run, to lose weight and keep it off we need a simple, sustainable approach to food, fitness, and fat loss that makes our lives better.
This article will show you how to do that in 3 steps.
To lose weight in the simplest, most straight forward way possible, it’s important to recognize the following facts:
Weight loss is a by-product of what we do today, not what we promise we’ll do tomorrow.
Only doing some of the things, some of the time, will keep you stuck at maintenance, which can feel very frustrating.
Losing weight and keeping it off is a result of repeating key behaviors and staying with the process long enough to transform you habits for the better.
An effective weight loss system outlines exactly what to do, keeps you focused on doing those behaviors repeatedly, and addresses the cognitive skills needed to overcome mental barriers and self-sabotaging thoughts that get in the way.
Lose Weight and Stop Self Sabotage in 3 Steps
1) USE A TRACKER
My clients who track their skill practice daily lose more weight more quickly because tracking helps them make progress toward their goals every day. Rather than putting it off, they hold themselves accountable to practicing each skill daily. With frequency and repetition, we get better, faster, and more efficient. This creates the level of consistency required to get results.
Tracking behavior is more effective than calorie counting for many people. When we count calories we’re focused on how much, or how little, we’re eating. This creates an unhealthy preoccupation with food and a scarcity mindset for certain people.
Tracking behaviors uncovers the underlying motivation to eat so that you can successfully stop mindless eating, emotional eating, and habitual eating that is not related to physical hunger. Eliminating excess calories from these areas can result in weight loss even when no other dietary changes are made.
If you’ve tried counting calories and found that it didn’t work well for you, consider installing a habit tracking app instead. Bullet journaling, a daily task list, and calendar reminders are other useful tools to consider.
At the end of each week, look over your tracking and assess the following:
How many times did you attempt to practice each behavior?
How many times were you successful?
What trends do you observe?
Did you notice a certain time of day, set of circumstances, or environment that made it easier or more challenging to make the choices you want to make?
How can you apply what you learned to adapt and get better?
Review your weekly trends to see how consistent you've been. As your consistency improves, so will your self-confidence and your weight loss outcome.
Some hesitate to track, thinking that they will remember what to do or figure it out as they go. Unfortunately this leads to inconsistency and poor results, leaving someone to feel that they’ve failed yet again. Capturing meaningful data via tracking illuminates what to change and where to focus your efforts so that you can adapt and keep working with less frustration and better results.
2) STAY FOCUSED
Knowing exactly what to do, focusing in on 2 or 3 key behaviors at one time, and committing to the change provides the optimal level of tension and challenge. Doing only 1 thing may feel too trivial to be worth it. Attempting to take on too much leads to doing it all badly, which erodes confidence and motivation
Decide on what behaviors you’re going to change. Write down the specific new behaviors that align with this change, and commit to practicing these behaviors each day.
Examples of specific weight loss behaviors to practice:
WAIT FOR HUNGER
Physical hunger is a clear sign from your body that it’s time to eat. Eating when you are not hungry often stalls weight loss and is a better strategy for building lean body mass. Practice learning your body’s signals and trusting them.
Slow down and notice how your hunger changes as you eat. Pause between bites to sense fullness earlier in the meal so that you can stop eating sooner, preventing excess calories from being eaten and slowing down your weight loss.
EAT 1-2 HANDFULS OF VEGETABLES AT EACH MEAL
High-volume, low-calorie foods contribute to physical fullness without adding an excessive number of calories to each meal. This is a well-known, safe, and proven strategy for fat loss.
EAT BALANCED MEALS
Meals that include generous portions of low-calorie vegetables, adequate protein, and moderate portions of complex carbohydrate, and fat tend to keep people the most full, for the longest period of time, on the least number of calories. Balanced meals are effective for appetite control, feeling energized from food, and reducing cravings between meals.
When the body is well fed and not stressed from dieting it is much easier to curb cravings, stop mindless eating, and end binges due to previously ignored hunger or excessive restriction.
3) HARNESS YOUR THINKING AND STOP SELF-SABOTAGE
NOTICE YOUR THOUGHTS
Self-sabotaging thoughts such as, "I deserve it," "It's just one bite," "It’s healthy so it’s fine," "I'll make a better choice next time," and "I can't [fill in the blank]," exert a powerful influence on our behavior and will derail your weight loss efforts.
Many people who struggle to change their eating habits notice that they have a great deal of mental “chatter.” It’s as if the brain is always on, thinking about a million things at once, while the body to runs on autopilot. A person might not even be aware of their mindless eating or the fact that they are still chowing down on dinner when the “full” alarm went off half a plate ago. In other cases, people are hyper aware of their eating but struggle to stop, even though they want to.
These thoughts come and go at lightning speed, and we are at their mercy. For some people it feels like there is a monster trapped in their mind, controlling their actions, and driving them to act in a way they don’t want to. If you’ve ever felt this way, it’s ok! You’re not alone, and it is possible change it.
GET BACK IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT
The first step to getting back in the driver’s seat is to harness your thinking by recognizing self-sabotaging thoughts. When your mind is swirling, close your eyes for a moment and see if you can catch just one thought. Try to hear the words as the thought zips by. What is your inner dialogue? Are you able to differentiate between different thoughts and the feelings they evoke?
Next, accept that your thoughts are just…thoughts. Nothing more.
Thoughts will come and go whether we want them to or not. You decide whether or not you act on them. Want proof? Think of a time when you had a negative thought or feeling that you did not act on, such as controlling your temper when you felt angry. Write down the experience. Show yourself that even when you have a strong thought, feeling, or urge, you still can decide how to act, or not act, in response.
When self-sabotaging thoughts come into your mind and you get a craving, eat without realizing it, or struggle to stop eating when you want to, push the pause button. Instead of acting on these thoughts and urges, or, allowing your “thought monsters to drive the bus,” as behavioral weight loss expert Josh Hillis puts it, pause long enough to notice the thought and become present in the moment and regain control. Even though the thoughts and feelings are present, you remain in control of your choices.
Try using one of the statements below to help you distance yourself from destructive thinking. This will help you be more successful feeling in control of your choices and changing your behavior with food.
HOW TO RESPOND YOUR SELF-SABOTAGING “THOUGHT MONSTERS”
THOUGHT MONSTER: “You have no willpower.”
ME: “I notice that I’m having the thought that it feels very hard to stop eating right now. I can still choose to stop eating at this bite. Even though it feels hard, it’s worth it because [ fill in the blank ].”
THOUGHT MONSTER: “You need something right now!”
ME: “I notice the thought that I’m having a strong craving right now. Am I hungry for a healthy, balanced meal? If not, I can still choose to give myself [ fill in the blank ] for comfort.”
THOUGHT MONSTER: “You don’t even care about losing weight.”
ME: “I notice this thought, but is it true? I do care, and this feels hard right now, and that’s ok. I trust myself to make a choice that I feel good about.”
THOUGHT MONSTER: “You can make a better choice next time; a little bit won’t hurt.”
ME: “Every bite counts. I want to feel good about my choices when I wake up tomorrow. I can choose to stop eating now.”
THOUGHT MONSTER: “It’s healthy food, eat as much as you want.”
ME: “All foods contain calories. I can still eat slowly, notice when I’m no longer hungry, stop eating, and move on.”
THOUGHT MONSTER: “You’re totally out of control!”
ME: “I notice the thought that things seem out of control. Feeling in control of my choices is important to me. I will wait ten minutes before eating more and see if the urge passes.”
Do you see the pattern here?
Notice the thought.
Recognize that how it might steer you in the wrong direction.
Distance yourself from the thought by pausing your actions.
Remember that it’s ok to have uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. You won’t always feel this way.
Other common self-sabotaging thoughts are, “I deserve this,” “I don’t want to hurt their feelings,” “Everyone else is doing it,” “It’s not fair,” “I don’t want to miss out,” “I’m just not good enough,” and so on.
What self-sabotaging thoughts do you notice in your own mind?
Can you give yourself permission to experience these thoughts, and the uncomfortable feelings that follow, without acting on them?
IT’S OK TO BE NOT OK
As humans we are all imperfect and will experience unwanted thoughts, negative self-talk, and uncomfortable feelings. We might feel like we’re broken, or not ok, or wish that we had a different life. It’s ok to be not ok some of the time. It’s ok to not be perfect. No one is!
We all have troubling anxieties, day-to-day problems, and personal weaknesses that no diet, or meal plan, or supplement can fix.
Clearly there are times when it’s appropriate to seek professional help from a licensed mental health professional, counselor, or psychiatrist. If you feel that you could benefit from treatment, be sure to speak to your Doctor about appropriate care for you. Many of my past clients have benefited from concurrent therapies while working with me to improve their food skills and create a healthy, active lifestyle.
CONNECT WITH YOUR VALUES
We do have the ability to improve the way we respond to our thoughts and make choices that harmonize with our values and goals. Reflecting on the good in your life, practicing present moment gratitude, and reviewing your skill tracker will remind you of all the things that are going well and how far you’ve come.
In those moments where everything feels especially hard, connect with your values and the direction you want to go with your relationship with food.
Meditate on the actions you do want to take. Even when it feels hard, challenge yourself to step up to the plate and do hard things. Say, “I can do hard things and it’s worth it because….”
You deserve to get what you want and feel rewarded for every bit of work you put in.
Harnessing your thinking in this way can help you make more of the choices you want to make and move away from self-sabotage for good.
No one can do this for you. But you CAN do it for yourself.
Hillari Herrador is a Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach specializing in women’s health and fitness after 40. She has developed a systematic approach to weight loss using proven behavior change methods that result in less reliance on dieting and emotional eating, and more enjoyment of food and fitness. Her goal as a coach is to help you create a healthy, active lifestyle you love so that you can live better, not smaller. Coaching services include private, one-to-one phone coaching and private personal training in the local Puyallup, WA area. To inquire about working with Hillari please email firstname.lastname@example.org.