This is Part 8 in a 10-Part Series on Common Obstacles to Losing Weight and Getting Fit.
Part 8 of our series discusses the role of bad habits and that dreaded feeling of deprivation – both of which can quickly derail your weight loss and fitness efforts. Conquer these and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goals!
15 ~ You haven’t replaced old habits with new ones
More than likely, you need to lose weight or get into better shape due to the long term, unwanted effects of multiple bad habits. Unfortunately, those habits can significantly hinder all your efforts, no matter how well-intentioned and motivated you are – unless you replace them with healthier new habits. Easier said than done, of course, but not impossible!
As humans, so much of what we do throughout our day is on auto-pilot. We’ve done it so many times that we don’t even think about what we’re doing – it’s just habitual behavior that’s become deeply ingrained over time. The more bad habits you’ve acquired, the more damage you’ll probably need to undo.
One of the most challenging things about overcoming bad habits is that most people are resistant to change – often much more than they realize. This is one of the reasons losing weight often feels like such an uphill battle or ends up being a short-term endeavor. Something in your life has to change in order to lose those unwanted pounds. They won’t budge otherwise. But if you’re like most people, you really like your comfort zone. It’s safe, familiar, and perhaps most of all, staying within it is effortless. You really do want to lose the weight, but you don’t want to make the necessary changes in your life to make it happen. Sound familiar?
This is why weight loss pills, powders, and other gimmicks are so popular – they don’t require making any changes. Just keep doing what you’re doing, but take this pill or drink that powder 2 or 3 times a day, and the pounds will just disappear…oh, the power of advertising!
Sorry for yet another harsh reality check, but those old habits have got to go! Otherwise, you’re going to crash and burn – and it isn’t going to be pretty…
- In order to break a habit you need to become mindful of patterns in your behavior. Use a food log to track and identify patterns of eating (or drinking) and identify your food “triggers”. For example, when you walk by your coworker’s well-stocked candy dish, do you always grab a piece (or five)? Do you head to the fridge on auto-pilot whenever you’re upset or bored? Do you automatically pour yourself a glass of wine when you get home from work? If these are regular occurrences, you can probably assume they’re habits.
- Once you’ve identified habits that need to change in order to lose weight, start replacing those behaviors with something else. For example, rather than having wine to relax after work, do 15 minutes of yoga stretches (or something else that’s relaxing but enjoyable for you) instead. Make a commitment to doing the new behavior for the next 30 days (if it helps, put a sticky note on the wine that says “Yoga” so you’ll be reminded).
- Don’t try to overcome multiple habits at once. Focus on one or two for 30 days minimum, and then consider tackling the next one (for 30 days as well). Over time, you’ll have replaced multiple bad habits with new, beneficial ones.
16 ~ You’re struggling with feelings of deprivation
Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of losing weight is the sense of deprivation that inevitably occurs during the process. Even if you’re not physically hungry, you may still be craving some of the cherished foods or beverages that are now “off the menu”. Giving up your favorites isn’t fun. Period. And for many dieters, it’s a constant battle.
One of the reasons deprivation is so challenging is that it feels an awful lot like punishment. And that can trigger all sorts of negative feelings, particularly anger and resentment – both of which can quickly sabotage your diet if you don’t learn to manage them.
Also, deprivation often causes an internal battle. On the one hand, you know you’re a sugar addict (for example), so even an occasional treat is off limits for you. In fact, you wouldn’t be trying to lose weight in the first place if you could actually eat” just one” cookie or have “just a few” bites of chocolate (which sort of supports the whole punishment perception). On the other hand, rationalizations such as “life is too short” or “I deserve a treat” keep creeping into your thoughts, and those fuel the resentment you’re feeling. Over time, that inner conflict wears you down until you finally give in and have the darn cookie (along with all the rest in the package!).
Deprivation is even more of a battle if you’re following a highly restricted eating plan or any type of extreme diet, such as very low calories or liquid only diet. The more deprived you feel, the more likely (and more quickly) you are to fail. As humans, we can tolerate only so much deprivation before we fight back or give up – no matter how motivated we were initially.
- Come up with a game plan for managing feelings of deprivation when they occur. For example, do something nice for yourself each day (or a few times a week) to offset the sense of deprivation.
- Reframe the negative thoughts into positive ones. For example, remind yourself that even though giving up some things you love feels like punishment, it’s not – you’re choosing to make these positive changes because you deserve to be healthy and feel great. You’re doing something kind and loving for yourself, even though it may not feel that way at times.
- Consider adjusting your current eating plan if it’s too extreme or restrictive. Occasional feelings of deprivation are normal, but if they’re constant, then you’re not going to be able to stick with it. Also, consider allowing yourself an occasional treat of a favorite food (that’s not part of your regular fare) from time to time – if you can handle it without setting yourself up for a binge. You may have to experiment to discover what works best for you.