Ask any veteran of the weight loss wars and they’ll tell you that success depends just as much on exercising your mind as on exercising your body and changing your diet.
Let’s face it. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how to eat and exercise if you want to lose weight. Sure, there are lots of things it’s very helpful to know, especially if you want to avoid wasting your time and money on some “you can lose 30 pounds in 2 weeks” scam, or on one of the dozens of ineffective fad diets that hit the book stores and magazine racks every January. But the basics are pretty simple: eat a little less, choose healthy foods, move your body more.
If you’re like me, though, the real challenge is actually getting yourself to consistently do what you know you need to do. This is the first in a series of 10 weekly blogs where I’ll share some “attitude adjustment” tips that helped me lose 150 pounds and keep it off for five years.
Read on for Tip No. 1:
In my 60 years on this planet, I’ve gained, lost, and regained way more weight than most people will ever weigh. I lost more than 90 pounds twice, over 60 pounds two other times, and 10-25 pounds more times than I can remember. I’ve known how to lose weight since I was 14. But despite all that losing, I also managed to get myself up to my highest weight of over 370 pounds by the age of 50. I should have been the poster boy for yo-yo dieters.
Right now, I’m about 150 pounds lighter than my heaviest weight, and for the first time, I’ve managed to keep my weight fluctuations within about 10 pounds of my goal weight for almost five years. On my 50th birthday, I could barely walk 2 blocks, and if the elevator went out in my 3-story apartment building, I was grounded. This week, I spent my day off enjoying a 30-mile bike ride through a redwood forest and a couple hours of hiking up and down the side of a mountain to explore a very beautiful beach. It wasn’t work or “exercise”—it was fun.
The difference this time is all in my head. This time, I learned a little about how to manage my attitude, not just how to lose weight. Here’s “attitude adjustment” exercise No. 1:
Tip No.1. Put your goals and strategies in positive terms.
One mistake I kept making over and over again was setting up my weight loss plans in negative terms. I made lists of foods I didn’t want to eat, figured out which behaviors I had to stop doing, and set up rewards and incentives for losing a certain amount of weight by a given date. This usually worked for a little while, but sooner or later, I always started feeling so guilty when I broke my diet or exercise “rules,” or so deprived and resentful about not being able to eat what, when, and how much I wanted, that I would either go on a binge, or chuck the diet out the window completely. Likewise, every time the scale didn’t cooperate with my weight loss goal for the week, even though I’d been sticking to my plan pretty well, I’d get frustrated and start wondering if all my effort was really worth it.
This time around, I’ve been able to minimize these problems by putting my goals in positive terms. My overall goal wasn’t to “lose weight”—it was to get healthy and be able to do the things I wanted, and feel good about being in my own skin. My strategies focused on finding healthy foods I like to eat, eating them in moderation, and finding physical activities I enjoy doing. I rewarded myself for sticking to these plans, even if my scale weight didn’t budge or moved a little in the wrong direction.
So, here’s my suggestion. If you haven’t done it already, write down your weight loss, fitness, and/or health goals for this year, including what you plan to do to make those goals happen. Then, go through your list carefully, looking for negative language—don’t, won’t, stop, avoid, lose, quit, never, etc. Wherever you see something expressed in negative terms, see if you can change the wording so it expresses what you do want to do, instead of what you don’t want to do. Plan rewards for sticking to your performance goals pretty well over a certain length of time, like 2 weeks or a month (but don’t expect yourself to be perfect—if you stick to your plan 80 to 90% of the time, you’ll do fine).
You can read a little more about this here.
Are your goals and strategies for 2009 in positive or negative terms? Which approach do you think works better for you?
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