So you're concerned about your weight and interested in starting a weight loss plan. If you are like most people, you begin by concentrating on the food part of the weight loss equation. You might also have a general idea of how many daily calories you're targeting, and even some thoughts on an exercise routine. You might even think you're well prepared… but let's take a small step back.
While food and exercise are the basic components in all weight loss strategies, there is another, even more-important piece to the puzzle.
Let’s talk about the psychological mindset.
Mindset for Starting a Weight Loss Plan
While weight loss is not a competitive sport (except on The Biggest Loser!), we need to learn from high level athletes: winning begins with the correct mindset. It all begins with the vision of what your life and experiences will be like as you take yourself from where you are today, to where you want to be… ask yourself some important questions –
Why Am I Trying To Lose Weight?
Your motivations are are extremely important to identify and write down when you're starting a weight loss plan. When you hit the inevitable stall or just find yourself feeling unwilling to continue your efforts, it will be helpful for you to go back and reference this list.
Many of those that maintain long-term weight loss document their motivations. For example, notes like “I was tired of moving through a world where it seemed like I was invisible”, or “I knew my obesity was limiting my opportunities, both professionally and personally” are very strong motivators. These are feelings that you associate with being overweight and will likely stick with you while you're overweight. Make note of these feelings..
Keep in mind, short-term reasons such as “I want to look good at my daughter’s wedding” isn’t likely a motivator that that will get you to your goal. It puts a “must be” condition on a short-term time frame, which likely isn't realistic. Stick with the long-term motivators.
Remember, there is no end date to optimal health.
Am I “In It” For The Long Haul?
One of the biggest problems for those thinking of starting a weight loss plan is the actual plan they choose. That's because most people think of a diet as a short-term activity, so they pick a diet plan that will bring the greatest short-term results.
Of course, the problem with the diet is that it's so restrictive that they mentally cannot stay on it for very long. Unfortunately, what typically follows a highly restrictive diet is lots of “make up” eating. This is a mindset failure.
Mentally, a diet or weight loss plan must be a plan that you can live with. Any weight loss plan that allows you to return to your current way of eating will only result in you gaining the weight back.
Can I Mentally “Handle” The Food?
If you don’t like salads—the old dieter’s standby—don’t eat them. Remember, your “diet” is for life, whatever you choose has to be compatible with you, or it simply won't work.
There are lots of diet plans readily available for the reading. Some of the plan are highly restrictive while others can allow just about anything in moderation.
The surprising thing is, most popular diets work. That is, if you can mentally stick with the plan. For example, it might not be a good idea for a vegetarian to pick a low carbohydrate diet.
Pick a weight loss plan that's compatible with your lifestyle.
Creating Your Winning Team
Part of designing a winning mindset that will support your weight loss efforts is surrounding yourself with like-minded people – your winning team.
These people do not need to be people from formal weight-loss groups, although many find communities such as Weight Watchers and Over-eaters Anonymous a good match for their needs. These people are your family, friends, co-workers, significant other, etc. People you surround yourself with in you personal time.
Research shows that obesity is often linked to a feeling of isolation, so building up connections that help us mitigate feelings of loneliness is necessary. Your support team can be virtual or real-life.The support can be vital to your new mindset.
Whatever you choose, make sure your support team is in line with your goals, and they are modeling behaviors that you want to practice in your own life.
If you have people in your life that you sense are not onboard with your decision to become more fit, then it may be worth having a discussion with them. Sometimes an honest discussion of your goals and needs can really go a long way in making people understand. This can be especially true if they can see how important it is to you.
Of course, you may very well have people in your life that don't understand or agree with your goal, and continue to project negativity. You must find a way to eliminate or greatly limit their negativity from rubbing off on you.
Reinforce a Winning Mindset
Many successful weight loss maintainers talk about the importance of adding other healthy habits that reinforce the food and exercise component of their program.
One example of this is reading weight loss success stories from other people on a similar path. This really helps reinforce your positive mindset when you can see the benefits happening to others in a similar situation (check out: Ellis's Fitness Journey). You may even want to reach out to these people and introduce yourself. Make new connections with others that do understand your journey.
Another way to keep the positivity flowing is to better educate yourself with the tools and know-how to succeed in a healthier lifestyle. How can you do this? Read books on healthy cooking, exercise, read fitness blogs (EllisFit.com!) and forums, or maybe join online recipe groups for dieters and trade/discuss favorite recipes (check out healthy recipes at EllisFit.com).
Also, and very importantly, do not neglect the importance of sleep. Successful dieters tell us how important a good night's rest is to weight loss goals. There's also research on Sleep & Weight Gain that backs this up. There's nothing that will sabotage a healthy day of eating more than a grumpy dieter that didn't get enough sleep the night before!
Tackling Small Goals… Again and Again
To some people, losing weight can seem like an overwhelming and never ending task, especially if you are just starting a weight loss plan, or if you have a lot of weight to lose. That's why focusing on the end goal isn't always the best mindset. Rather, it's usually much better to divvy up your goals into digestible steps.
So what is the duration of a “digestible step?” Well, there really isn't a set time frame for a step. Some people starting out by focusing on each meal as a major milestone, others focus on tackling a day or week at a time.
It's about making small goals and celebrating the achievements along the way. This is a mindset builder that strengthens our confidence.
Sure, maybe it's a bit of a mind trick, but one that helps us view a sizable effort in doable terms.