This is Part 7 in a 10-Part Series on Common Obstacles to Losing Weight and Getting Fit.
First, congratulations for making it this far in the series (assuming you didn’t cheat and skip ahead! ☺). We’ve already covered a lot of ground, but these next two common saboteurs are extremely common, especially with regards to losing weight. The first has to do with having a short-term mindset rather than making permanent change in your lifestyle that will support your goals. The second involves the tendency to use food as a form of recreation or entertainment (often to alleviate boredom). A mental shift in both of these areas will go a long way towards helping you succeed with your goals.
13 ~ You’re focused on a temporary “program” rather than making lasting changes to your lifestyle
If you’re like a lot of people who are eager to lose weight, you’re probably thinking short term. In other words, your plan is to follow XYZ diet until you reach your desired weight. But here’s the problem with that mindset: temporary plans usually bring only temporary results. This type of thinking is one of the main reasons that most people gain back all the weight they lose – and often more.
You’re almost guaranteed to fail in the long run if you focus on doing a time-limited fat loss program. For example, you’ve decided to do the Atkins diet or Zone diet or Dash diet – whatever suits your fancy – until you lose all the weight. But then what? If you go back to your old habit you’ll very likely end up right back where you started – or worse. Yet how many times have you heard someone (perhaps even yourself) say, “I’ve lost the same 50 pounds over and over”?
Do you really want to go to all the effort to lose weight – whether it’s 15 pounds or 150 pounds – only to gain it back? Probably not. But unless you’re ready to make long-term lifestyle changes, that’s very likely what will happen over time.
You have to think long term if you want lasting results. Forget temporary. Forget short term. In fact, forget the word “diet” (or “program”) altogether because diets really don’t work – for exactly this reason.
Don’t get me wrong; most diets will enable you to lose some weight – perhaps even all your weight. Partly because they require you to actually pay attention to (and, usually) limit what you’re eating, and partly because most diets require you to cut out most or all the junk; particularly processed sugar and sweets in general. So you’re bound to lose at least some weight with those basic changes, regardless of the type of diet.
If you’re planning to go on a “diet” and then go back to what you’ve always done afterwards, and you expect to magically maintain your weight loss, you might as well just go have a deep dish pizza with extra cheese instead. You’ll save yourself a whole lot of headaches, frustration, and guaranteed disappointment. Really. You will.
Don’t set yourself up for failure. It’s not fun at all.
- Make a list of all the reasons you want to lose weight. Pay close attention to all the reasons that suggest short-term thinking (e.g. looking good for your class reunion). Consider the long-term benefits to getting to a health weight and add as many of those to your list as you can (e.g. reduced risk of diabetes and other health serious problems).
- Make another list of the lifestyle changes you can start incorporating today that will help improve your health and ensure lasting weight loss. For example, you might include things such as avoiding late night snacking, cutting out most (limited to very occasional treats) or all processed sugar, and so on.
14 ~ You regard food as entertainment rather than fuel for your body
Perhaps you’ve heard health and fitness experts emphasize the importance of eating to live, rather than living to eat. Of course, that’s easier said than done, as eating is often a very pleasurable activity. But when food becomes much more a form of entertainment or recreation than fuel and nutrition for your body, losing weight and eating healthier can be especially challenging.
One of the primary reasons for this is because dieting often elicits a sense of deprivation on an emotional level. Losing weight requires cutting back and making changes, and it’s often the “fun” foods that have to go – you know, the sweets, the salty snacks, and the rich deserts. If those foods have been used as a primary source of pleasure in your life or to fill an emotional void (e.g. to alleviate loneliness or boredom) losing weight will be especially challenging. Giving up all the “fun” stuff – such as candy, cookies, and pizza – is like losing your best friend and all your favorite toys at the same time! Even if you’re not hungry on a physical level, you’ll often feel unsatisfied.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with thoroughly enjoying what you eat. But as long as food is one of your main sources of everyday pleasure, or, even worse, if your life essentially revolves around food, you’re going to struggle. The sense of deprivation will likely be too difficult to handle for the long haul. Resisting temptation will be a constant battle – unless and until you are able to shift your mindset to eating to live, and finding new sources of entertainment and pleasure that don’t involve food – or at least don’t revolve around it. (That’s not to say you can’t enjoy the adventure of discovering new foods and recipes, and learning to prepare delicious, healthy meals that align with your new lifestyle.)
- Make a list of the activities (besides regular meals) you do in which food (especially “trouble” foods) play a major or central role. For example, does watching TV or a movie often involve popcorn or other snacks? Does getting together with friends usually involve eating at a favorite restaurant or grabbing a whipped-cream smothered latte and sugary pastry at a coffee shop? After you make your list, consider alternatives for each activity (e.g. meeting your friends for a weekly hike or walk in the park) that are still fun but don’t involve eating or focus on food.
- Come up with at least 5 (and preferably more) enjoyable activities you can start doing – or do more frequently that don’t involve eating. Make sure at least some of them are things you can do with little to no preparation (e.g. reading a novel). Keep your list handy and do one of the activities when you’re tempted to eat something just for fun (i.e. recreational eating) or because you’re bored. The goal is to start incorporating these activities into your life regularly so food as entertainment no longer feels necessary.