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The Truth About Weight Loss

The Mental Strategies You Need to Lose Weight


Updated July 01, 2014

What do you really need to do to lose weight? The typical answer will include things like eating less and exercising more, both of which are correct. However, neither of those makes a bit of difference if you're not actually doing them, a problem more and more of us are struggling with. What stops you from eating less and exercising more? Maybe you think it's because you're too busy, tired or stressed. Maybe you think it's because you've tried everything –- diets, gym memberships, weird workout gadgets or waiting for the planets to align correctly -- and nothing seems to work.

Those are great excuses, but perhaps what really stands in your way isn't your body, your schedule or your whip-cracking boss; it's your mind.

The mental side of weight loss is the most important aspect of losing weight. Your mind is what drives all of your decisions and your choices and, if it isn't in the right place, your choices won't be either. With that in mind, what are the mental strategies you need to finally lose weight? They may not be what you think.

1. Honesty. It's amazing how easy it is to lie to ourselves. We lie about eating too much: "Oh, it's just a few handful of M&Ms…there can't be that many extra calories, right?" We lie about exercising: "I promise, I'll workout tomorrow. I know I said that yesterday, but I really mean it this time!" Some people take it even further, avoiding looking at themselves in the mirror, stepping on a scale or acknowledging when they have to buy bigger clothes.

Even keeping a food journal doesn't always keep us honest. I had one client who, if she ate the way she reported in her diary, wouldn't have the energy to pick up a glass of water, much less a dumbbell. It turns out that a dinner of wheat crackers, fruit and some string cheese was also supplemented by three beers ("I didn't really count those as food,"), nachos ("I only had a few!") and some cookies ("They were on my kid's plate, so I didn't count them.").

She's not the only one. One study delving into the topic of underreporting calorie intake found that 18% of the men and 28% of the women in the study underreported their calories.

Being honest isn't just about knowing what you eat and how much exercise you're getting. It also means being honest about whether you're really ready to make a lifestyle change.

Getting Honest With Yourself

  • Decide if you're ready to change - Taking the lifestyle change quiz may give you insight into what you really want for yourself. If you're not ready, learn about how to enjoy exercise and healthy eating and simple ways to take better care of yourself. Even if you're not ready for big changes, small changes make a difference.

  • Start a Weekly Weight Loss Checklist - Each week, record your measurements, write down your goals and plan out how you'll reach them.

  • Create a Daily Check-In – Along with your weekly checklist, create a ritual where you check in with yourself to assess how you're doing. Update your fitness journal before bed or first thing in the morning and make notes of what you did well and what you need to work on.

  • Keep an Honest Food DiarySelf-monitoring is a must if you're trying to lose weight. You should measure portions whenever possible, check food labels, look up nutritional information for restaurants and track everything you eat and drink. After practicing, you'll be able to eyeball your meals without having to be as meticulous. You can keep an online diary using sites like Calorie Count, FitDay or FitWatch or a journal such as DietMinder or this Food Diary Print Out.

  • Hold Yourself Accountable – During your daily check in, note what you did well and what you struggled with. New behaviors take time to catch on and there may be deeper issues to work through, like emotional eating, stress and other ways you may sabotage your weight loss.

  • Next: More Mental Strategies for Weight Loss

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