Here’s the thing - restrictive diets and demanding exercise programs don’t work. Yes, you will probably stick with them for a while, maybe even months. And yes, you will lose weight while you follow those plans. But the moment you stop following the plan, you are likely to gain the weight back.
Those diets don’t work because they aren’t sustainable. And they aren’t sustainable because they don’t do anything about the underlying habits and behaviors we have around eating and exercise. Stress eating, lack of motivation, over eating, and confidence are just some of those subconscious behaviors that might have stood between you and being in control of your own shape and size.
Another problem with those restrictive diets is that they force you to focus on the things you can’t have. We tend to be drawn to whatever we’re focused on, meaning that you’ll have more intense cravings for those things you can’t have, and may be a little miserable until you get them. This has nothing to do with Willpower, or stamina, or desire, or drive. It’s simply how your mind works.
Your subconscious mind is the part of you that drives your feelings, thinking, and behaviors. It will make whatever you are most focused on a priority. So if I tell you this,
“No matter what happens while you finish reading this article, DO NOT think of the COLOR BLUE!”
Odds are that you are already thinking about the color blue, and the more you try NOT to think of the color blue, the more blue things you think of.
In dieting, it might be sugar, chocolate, carbs, or anything else that you were told not to eat. The more you focus on those things, the more you naturally desire them, the more you crave them, and the harder it becomes to resist them. Then we start to beat ourselves up for not being able to overcome those natural desires.
Professionally speaking, Stop It!
People who succeed with losing weight and keeping it off for the long term have changed the way they think about food, eating, exercise, and their bodies.
1. Think More.
Have you ever eaten something and it was gone before you knew it? Did you ever eat something so quickly you weren’t even sure you tasted it? When eating becomes a mindless behavior, it is time to be more mindful.
We eat for the experience just as much as we do for any other reason. So allow yourself to enjoy the experience. Eat without distractions. Put away your phone, turn off the TV. If you really enjoy food, make it an event. Pay attention to every bite. You will eat less and enjoy it more.
2. Listen to Your Body.
You know how much gas is in your car by looking at the gauge, and you know when you need to fill up your tank and when it can wait. You wouldn’t try to fill up the gas tank when it is already full. And most people won’t stop for gas if they know they already have enough to get to where they are going.
Listen to your body. Before you put anything in your mouth, check your internal fuel gauge for real physical hunger. If you are hungry, then choose something healthy and eat it slowly. If you aren’t really hungry, pass on eating.
3. Don’t Eat Your Emotions.
Most of us have had the experience of getting something to eat when we are bored, or sad, or lonely, or stressed. There are a couple problems with this cycle of eating in response to an unpleasant feeling. The first problem is that it makes you fat. Eating in response to emotions means you eat more than you need, and that causes you to gain weight.
The second problem is that there is no food or drink that will satisfy any feeling you have except real physical hunger. Sure, those snacks will distract you for a bit, but the unpleasant feeling will come back again, and again, and again until you deal with the feeling.
When you find yourself wanting to eat when you know you aren’t even hungry, take a moment to look for the feelings behind the desire to snack. If you are stressed, you need help or to take a break. If you are tired, you need sleep or rest. If you are anxious, there is something that needs your attention.
All of our feelings are good, even the unpleasant ones. Practice taking some time to learn what your feelings are trying to tell you. You will find that you are better able to satisfy yourself, without gaining weight.
4. Move More
As you start to lose weight, your body will look for easy fuel to burn, and it will start by burning muscle. You can prevent this by gradually increasing your physical activity every day. It can be as easy as taking one more step today than you did yesterday.
Keep track of how many steps you take each day and make it a competition with yourself. Just take one more step than you did yesterday, and enjoy that feeling of accomplishment when you write down your total number of steps for the day.
5. Celebrate Every Victory
When you only eat one cookie, celebrate your control! When you decide you don’t really want the birthday cake at the office, celebrate your ability to choose! When you take the stairs when you really want to ride the elevator, celebrate your strength!
Success breeds success, so by celebrating the little wins, you are motivating yourself to do the things that make you win more. Set yourself up for success, and don’t be afraid to praise every little thing you do that gets you closer to your goal.
And remember, don’t beat yourself up if you slip a bit. You are learning new skills, defining new behaviors, and establishing new limits. Give yourself room to learn.∎