There’s a ton of weight loss advice out there but, truth is, a lot of it is B.S. From fad diets that promise immediate results to false claims on every aspect of food and exercise, it can be hard to see a clear path to shedding unwanted pounds.
It's simple: eating healthily and moving our bodies are the two components of weight-loss success. That’s it. The problem for most, though, is maintaining the motivation to do both.
So what’s the answer? The mental game. In a nutshell, it’s to remember that much of your weight loss effort happens in your head.
Getting up for that morning run or skipping the sauces and salad dressings really comes down to the choice you make—which means the "mind over matter" adage often ends up mattering most.
So, if 2021 is the year you want to lose weight then it’s time to cut the crap. Forget false promises and get-slim-quick tricks. Get your head in the game and do these five things instead.
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Tip #1: Feel All the Feels
"When we think of weight loss, or attempting to make significant changes to one’s well-being, physical strength through exercise is often placed at the beginning of that journey, appropriately," says Nicole Turgeon, registered dietitian and owner of Common Beet Nutrition Counselling in Saco, Maine.
"But what’s often overlooked is the mental and emotional strength needed to overcome old behavioral tendencies and, at the same time, create new neural pathways to bolster and support healthy habits." This, she says, is the key to true, sustainable weight loss.
"The human body is complex," says Turgeon, who currently offers nutrition counseling through tele-services for folks living through lockdown or sheltering-in-place. "We must begin to look past basic concepts like 'calories in, calories out' and start to practice more intuitive ways of making food and exercise choices.”
Getting in tune with any shame or guilt, and then letting that go, will help you practice being "curious" and start using your intuition she says. "For example, if you find yourself overeating to the point of discomfort, ask yourself 'why would I bypass how my body is feeling (full) to eat more than I need?'" Thinking about food intake this way typically helps create awareness so you can make different choices moving forward.
Tip #2: Flip the Script
Linda Nikolakopoulos, a registered dietitian based in Danvers, Boston, says ditching the diet mentality is one of the best moves you can make towards sustainable weight loss.
"Flip the script," she suggests. "Instead of thoughts of deprivation about foods you 'shouldn’t be eating', think in terms of foods to add into your daily diet. It always feels better to add than to take away, right?”
Of course, she’s not talking daily donuts or sugary cereals. With more than 20 years’ experience in the field of nutrition and a speciality in diabetes care and education, Nikolakopoulos’ advice is to focus on foods that make your body healthier and provide the best fuel for energy to power through your workouts.
Once you find the foods that help you feel your best, not only will you lose more weight, you’ll lose the wish to chow down on foods that makes you feel heavy and slow.
Tip #3: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Sara Sinclair, NASM-certified nutrition coach and owner of Get Gritty Nutrition says maintaining any weight-loss plan often comes down to self-efficacy—the belief in your capacity to accomplish a goal.
If you start a weight-loss journey with thoughts like, 'I’m a failure, I’ve tried this a million times and I just can’t do it' or 'I have zero self-control with it comes to pizza or donuts', then, as Sinclair notes, “When these types of situations come up, you’re going to have a hard time overcoming them mentally.”
However, by constantly reminding yourself why you’re trying to lose weight and eat healthily, you can keep yourself on track. “Focus on your end goal,” she suggests. “And remember, every little choice that you make during the day, week, or month is either going to take you one step further from your goal or one step closer to it."
Tip #4: Eat Mindfully
"Learning to eat mindfully can also have a major impact on weight loss efforts,” says Nikolakopoulos. Science agrees. Several studies show that being fully attentive to what you cook and consume can help you shed unwanted pounds.
"When practicing mindful eating, we become much more aware of what we’re eating, how much we're eating, and why we're eating,” Nikolakopoulos says. “We become more in tune with our bodies and better able to recognize feelings of true hunger and satiety.”
Tip #5: Turn Down the Commentary
We’re not talking about negative self-talk (though, that matters, too). We’re talking about the unrequested feedback on your weight-loss efforts that comes from family, friends, colleagues, and others. According to Sinclair, whose own weight-loss journey saw her shift 30 lbs, it’s time to tune that out.
It can be hard, but, “when people make comments about your health and your body it’s completely a reflection on them, and you can’t control other people’s feelings and insecurities.” If you’ve committed to a healthy, safe, and sustainable weight-loss program then that’s where you need to focus, she advises. "Your journey is unique to you. You need to own it and not let anyone step in your way."