Have you ever tried to lose weight? Maybe, you are trying to lose weight now. Is it working? How are you feeling?
Maybe it’s going well, and that’s great. But, what happens if it isn’t going how you expect it to go? How does that make you feel?
If you’re hitting setbacks, it can be hard! You might feel hopeless and close to giving up. You might tell yourself that you’re always going to be like this.
Well, I’m here to tell you to stop beating yourself up. Stop telling yourself that you can’t do it and that you’ll always be like this…., it isn’t true.
In this blog I’m going to talk about how you can achieve your ideal weight by changing how you think. Seven mindset changes you can start making today that will set you on course for long lasting change, not only in your body, but also in other areas of your life.
You will learn to love and respect yourself, and appreciate the journey you’re on. Soon enough you’ll be achieving your weight loss goals as a side effect of having a more resilient and positive mind.
How you think is way more important than what you eat. Let’s start off with a few simple questions.
Which do you think is healthier: an apple, or apple crumble?
Which is a healthier breakfast, oats and blueberries or blueberry pancakes?
Here’s one more. It’s dinnertime, should you eat some air fried salmon and steamed veg or order in fish and chips?
If you picked apple, oats, and air fried salmon – well done, you made the wise food choices. But let me ask you this – were these difficult questions?
The truth of that matter is, you probably already know what’s good for you and what’s not good for you. There’s no need for me to regurgitate information on what diets are the best to help you transform your body. Instead, I’m going to help you to understand that the most important transformation that needs to happen – It’s how you think.
Thoughts about your body and your weight are tied to how you feel about yourself, how you see yourself, and sometimes ideas about your success and future. Until you take the time to understand these things, you’ll find it difficult to make sustainable progress.
Let’s start with how how to deal with setbacks. The truth is that setbacks will happen. They happen to the most motivated, disciplined, organised people, and they’ll most likely happen to you on a regular basis. A big birthday weekend with friends in town will challenge your discipline, your planning will fall apart when your boss dumps more work with tight deadlines on your desk, a reservation to a new fancy restaurant will challenge your determination to make healthy food choices.
And do you know what? These things are OK. Setbacks are part of life, they happen to everyone, and they can be overcome without ruining everything. In fact, each challenge is an opportunity to grow and to hone your skills we’re about to explore.
So, let’s explore and implement a series of steps that can take you to reach a whole new level of mindset. First: self-compassion.
How you talk to yourself can have a massive impact on how you feel and what you do. Those harsh things you say to yourself when you have a setback, such as, “I’m a loser”, “I’m useless”, “I’ll never be able to lose weight”, they need to stop. Do you really think that setbacks are going to undo all of the good work you’ve been doing? Is having an extra glass of wine really going to pile on the pounds, if you’ve been working out and eating healthy for most of the week? Realistically it’s not.
Those harsh, judgmental tones you use when speaking about weight loss need to stop and be replaced with compassion and love for yourself.
When you continually tell yourself you’re a loser, or useless, or pathetic, you overlook all the amazing qualities that make you who you are. You’re making things more difficult for yourself, starting from a place of hopelessness, and thinking you aren’t capable or deserving of change.
Now let’s try a more positive approach to how you talk to yourself.
Imagine that rather than criticism, you practice self-compassion whenever you hit a setback. This is the first mindset shift: Speak to yourself with kindness. Tell yourself that this was just one small stumble, that you recognise what caused it, and that you’ll be able to get back on track.
Think about how you would talk to a friend, colleague, or family member who is dealing with setbacks. What would you say? Imagine the chat you would have, and pay attention to the words you use, and how you say them. Now revert back to you. How are you talking to yourself? Most likely, you aren’t being so nice.
This technique might feel a bit weird the first few times you do this, but try to talk to yourself as you would to others. Over time, it’ll become a habit – one that’ll help you be kinder to yourself and help you to overcome any problems you face in life.
Tip: Try writing down a list of any positive and negative self-talk you are doing, each time you catch yourself saying something. After a few weeks, make a comparison and look at the difference. Is it more positive or more negative?
To stay in a mindset of self-compassion, you have to work on clearing your mind of negative thoughts. Because your thoughts influence your feelings, and ultimately your actions. Achieving results in this frame of mind is virtually impossible. Your journey will be unenjoyable, and it will be more difficult to succeed with your goals.
Mindset shift number two: Is to embrace a more positive way of thinking.
Let’s break it down. You’ve been dieting for four weeks and in your mind you are ready to see results. You saw on a weight loss ad that you can get a six pack in just 12 weeks! You step on to the scale and, to your disappointment, you’ve actually gained weight. You immediately think, “Nothing’s working! I’m always going to be fat!” You lose motivation and decide that you can’t succeed at making this change – so why bother? You might as well order in a cheese burger, fries, coke, and some ice cream. You’ve allowed your thoughts to sabotage your goals!
So, in order to help you to overcome these negative thoughts, let’s understand four negative thinking traps that you can fall into.
The first negative thought trap is all-or-nothing-thinking. You’ve eaten well all day, you had a workout in the morning, you’ve stayed well hydrated. But…,you ate a slice of cake that your colleague brought into the office. That voice in your head speaks up, “Well I’ve ruined it now!, why do I even bother?!”. Do you think that’s reasonable? Does that one piece of cake suddenly undo all the other good actions taken? No, it doesn’t. You’ve been to the gym, you’ve ate healthy all day, and you’ve made sure you’re well hydrated. One slice of cake doesn’t suddenly spoil everything.
The second trap is the negative filter. Imagine you’re watching a tv show that you enjoyed, but there was a scene you found boring, is that enough to stop you watching the entire series? Most likely no. In the same way, deducing that your entire effort is ruined by one or two setbacks, isn’t an accurate reflection of what’s really going on.
The third type of negative thinking you may encounter is once-makes-always thinking. This is where “I didn’t go to the gym today” immediately translates to “I’m too unmotivated and too busy to achieve any goals.”. Let’s be real here. That’s not true. You slipping up once won’t determine that you’re going to fail at anything you try.
You may have noticed that these negative patterns all have one commonality; they revolve around an unhealthy habit of catastrophising.
The fourth type of negative thinking is different, in that, it a positive-negative. The don’t-worry-be-happy mindset. This thinking leads you to feel confident you can overcome setbacks easily – which sounds great. The problem is that you’re most likely to be too vague in how you’ll do it. “No worries, I’ll get back to exercising next week,” you say. But you’d be more successful if were more specific, “Next week, I’ll do a daily 20-minute walk before work and schedule my PT sessions for Tuesday and Thursday night.”
Now, let’s talk about how to turn thoughts into action.
How can you increase your chances of following through on your goals? By, using the power of how.
By this, I mean simply asking yourself how something went well, or not so well, and how you can do things differently next time around. Doing this is more powerful than you may think, because it gives you more power over the outcome.
This is where mindset shift number three comes in – goal setting with clear intentions. Answering how helps you come up with a clear, precise, hassle-free plan that leaves very little space for procrastination or confusion.
Let’s take a vague statement like “I’ll eat healthier” and break that down by asking how. You might start with “I’ll eat more protein and fresh vegetables,”, but how? – “I’ll eat more chicken and fish.” You could get more specific by thinking about the where and when. So, now it becomes “I’ll have a protein smoothie every weekday morning, in my kitchen at 7am. A tuna salad at the staff canteen in work at 12pm, and a grilled steak or chicken breast with rice or potatoes, and vegetables every weekday in my dining room at 6pm.” Can you see how that works?
Now you have specific details that can help you plan other things; like a grocery list and set times for fulfilling your goals. Think of these as the step-by-step directions to achieving your weight loss goals.
You may have noticed that I didn’t mention anything about counting calories, or how much weight you should be aiming to lose each week. Now, whilst I think that it’s important to understand calories and realistic weight loss over a period of time, I am a big believer that by focusing on showing yourself compassion, thinking positive thoughts, and making clear plans, the weight loss will happen. As a result of shifting your mindset you’ll find that you’ve grown into a happier, healthier person. And, as a result of that you’ll build long lasting healthy habits that will set you on a trajectory to long lasting weight loss. You’ll naturally make healthy choices and won’t feel so bad for the odd setback or two along the way
And here’s a tip for creating habits that stick. First, identify the change you want to make – let’s say you want to get fit, so you decide to take up running. Next, assign it a cue. Perhaps you set a reminder on your phone and lay out your running gear next to your bed. You’ll wake up in the morning, put on your running gear and go for a run. Now here’s the best part – create a reward for yourself! How about after that run you’ll sit outside on your balcony with a nice coffee and take in the view? Now you’ve created a habit you want to keep.
So, we’ve dealt with being kinder to yourself, managing the negative inner voice, and taking actions that build good habits, the next step is to play to your strengths. All you have to do is to focus on being the best version of you.
Mindset shift number four is all about learning to use your strengths to your advantage and developing them further.
It can be difficult for people to take this step, because we’ve usually been taught to do the complete opposite, and to work on our weaknesses. But identifying your strengths is crucial to the process.
The idea of playing to your strengths has come from the study of positive psychology. Two of the founders of positive psychology, Dr. Christopher Peterson and Dr. Martin Seligman, studied religions, philosophies, and texts from religions and cultures around the world to come up with an extensive list of 24 character strengths across six virtues – courage, humanity, justice, temperance, transcendence, and wisdom. To learn about these 24 traits in detail and to take the free character strengths survery, head over to viacharacter.org.
To truly shift your mindset to lose weight and become the best version of yourself, you have to play to your strengths. Consider this analogy. Imagine a football manager picking his team that he believes will give him the best chance of winning the game. There’s a high chance he’ll play them in their best positions based off of their strengths as long as everyone is up for selection. It wouldn’t make sense to put out his weakest team, or play players out of position when the goal is to win the game.
This applies to you as well. If you want to increase your chances of succeeding, you’ll have a much better chance by playing to your strengths. Think of your strengths as your superpowers. Let’s say a love for learning was one of your top five. Use this strength to learn new recipes or workouts. You can also combine strengths, for example – maybe “creativity” and “kindness” can combine to create menus that you can share with friends who are on the same weight-loss journey as you.
So, take some time to consider and list your strengths. If you aren’t certain then I highly recommend that you take the character strength survey. Once you do this, think about how you can apply these strengths towards achieving your goals.
The reward of this step. Much like the other mindset shifts I spoke about earlier, is that, by focusing on your strengths, it will not only help you to lose weight, it actually helps you to live a happier, more fulfilled life. When you set goals with your strengths in mind, you’re starting from a position of self-confidence and enjoyment, which only helps you to succeed in your weight loss goals, and helps you to grow even stronger in these traits. You will have created a positive loop that will continue to motivate and drive you.
Mindset shift number five: appreciating your body.
Many people have a complicated relationship with their bodies. It’s a relationship that’s defined by three parts: your personal history of everything you’ve ever been told about your body, your cultural standards, and how you perceive your body to be.
It’s way too easy for these parts to become negative and for your thoughts to get away from specific body issues to life issues overall. If people have described you as “overweight” compared to your peers, and you noticed that your friends who are in shape were asked out for dates but you weren’t, you may think this is because of how you look, and over time you might dislike yourself. This self-contempt can soon breed more negative thoughts. Thoughts about how you’re lazy, have no motivation or lack discipline, and ultimately will never have any worth in your own or anyone else’s eyes.
Your weight shouldn’t consume your entire sense of self. Once you connect your weight to your self-esteem, it becomes self-defeating and you can start to restrict your life – “I won’t go to the beach until I can fit into that swimsuit,” or “I’m declining all invites to special occasions until I can fit into a size 8 again.”
This way of thinking couldn’t be further away from the self-compassion you should begin this journey with. Remember, that while it’s true that eating well and exercising regularly can reap rewards for a long and happy life, a big part of the variation in your body weight is determined by what’s in your genes; 40 to 70 percent to be more accurate. Disliking yourself for what is out of your control is unavailing.
Put your effort into what you can control. Treat your body with the respect it deserves, which includes healthy nutrition, good sleep, and regular exercise – and most of all, appreciation. Try this quick exercise to be grateful for your body: Think of one body part that you don’t like, maybe you “saggy” arms. Now I want you to think about all of the things your arms allow you do on a day to day basis – you arms give you so many freedoms that you could take for granted, such as driving, eating, etc. Not so bad now, are they?
Your body gives you so many freedoms and allows you to live your life, and it deserves your best thoughts.
Now let’s expand things further as we discuss mindset shift number six: asking for help
Peer pressure can be a strong force for change. It’s powerful and it’s persuasive. Imagine what can happen if you get all those people close to you working with you and supporting your goals! Studies show that people who have social support have a higher likelihood to eat healthy and exercise and are less likely to fall back into old unhealthy habits. After six months, those with the support of friends and family lost more weight than those who done it alone.
And yet, a lot of us can be resistant to ask for help, especially with a journey that has potential for failure and embarrassment. You may feel like no one really cares or that weight loss is something you should be able do alone without anyone else’s support. But, would you advise a friend or family member to embark on such a journey all by themselves?
Probably not. So, let’s start to think about who you can ask for help and how you can get them to help.
Certain people will be included in your journey whether you like it or not, like those you see on a daily basis at home. You might also consider others who are wanting to lose weight, like friends, colleagues, or people you meet online. You may have other criteria that feels right for you, so, consider carefully. When you’ve identified people, be specific with what the help you need from them. Instead of saying, “Hey, make sure I don’t drink during the week!” Instead, try “Can you please offer me a healthy drink at night instead of a glass of wine?” or “Can you make sure we make a healthy grocery list each week before we go to the supermarket?”. You could also get them actively involved by doing workouts together and cooking healthy meals.
Some conversations can be more awkward, but are just as necessary, arguably more important, especially when dealing with those who can possibly derail you. Let’s take, for example, your kids who can’t help making comments about your weight. Or the overinvolved friend who counts your calories. If anyone is making you feel uncomfortable, talk to them about it and tell them how it’s unhelpful, and how they can suggest a more helpful approach.
And here is one more really important tip to apply in all areas of your life: Be ok with setting boundaries and saying no – whether it’s to going out with colleagues after work work for a few drinks, or ordering in junk food when you want to eat healthily.
Are you waiting for certain things to happen in your life before allowing yourself to be happy?
What if I was to tell you that you don’t need to wait to be happy, and that by being happy now, you can excel in all areas of your life, not just weight loss.
The promotion. The perfect partner. Talented children. Luxury vacations. Beautiful homes. Seven-figures in the bank. Parents who are proud of you. Being slim and toned.
Waiting for any of these things to happen before allowing yourself to be happy is waiting too long. Happiness is its own reward, and you can reach it now, before your weight-loss goals has been achieved. Happiness is a choice, and you’ll find that once you make that choice over and over again, good things will happen to you.
But, how can you choose it? Through gratitude. Make a habit of finding things you are grateful for every day.
A 2003 study found a correlation between happiness and practicing gratitude. Those who practiced gratitude reported ‘considerably more satisfaction with their lives as a whole.’ They felt happier and more optimistic about the future. The study concluded that participating in gratitude resulted in substantial and consistent improvements in an individual’s perception of their wellbeing.
Now, you might be thinking: How does this tie into my goal to lose weight?
Well, why do you want to lose weight? I can guarantee it’s not just because you want to weight less. It’s because you want to live a happier, healthier, more balanced life.
So far, I’ve talked about six of the seven mindset shifts: self-compassion; giving up negative thoughts; how to set clear goals and action them; how to play to your strengths; how to appreciate your body; and how to ask for help from those around you.
The final piece of the mindset shift is to be happy now. You don’t need to lose weight or fit into those smaller clothes to be happy. By practicing gratitude, having a positive mindset, eating healthy food, and living an active lifestyle, you’ll find yourself on course to achieving your goals, and will actually enjoy doing it!
When you change your mindset, you’ll feel happier, more empowered, and it will feed into a positive loop. Once in this place, you will no longer link your happiness to your weight and you’ll be more likely to treat your body with compassion and respect, in the form of healthy nourishment and regular exercise.
The weight loss will be your bonus.
Remember, sustainable and meaningful weight loss can’t happen without changing your mindset. The best weight loss plan in the world will only make a difference if it’s purposeful and comes from a place of kindness and self-love. Once you’ve changed how you think about your body and your weight, you’ll learn to enjoy the journey, be more positive, and live a happier life. Which in turn will support your goals and will result in life long results.
Yours in Health & Wellness,