It’s that time of year again, diet season. That post-holiday period where we criticize ourselves for eating too many cookies and swear we will do better…only to find our resolve dead and buried under heart-shaped chocolates come Valentine’s Day.

Let me drop a truth bomb on you right now: Diets don’t work.

A dieting mindset, by design, gives rise to perfectionism and critical thoughts such as “good or bad”, “fat or skinny”, “success or failure”. Dieting can lead to an obsession with scale-based results, which causes us to focus on quick fixes and lose sight of health and sustainability.

Your body is not some kind of problem that needs to be solved; it is your home, your temple. It is beautiful and powerful, not something you want to disparage.

Hating your body leads to punishing diets. Loving your body leads to nourishing it with healthy food, which is where long-term success happens.

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In fact, research from Syracuse University shows that the more dissatisfied women are with their bodies, the more likely they are to avoid exercise. Along the same vein, a 2015 study published in the International Journal of Obesity shows that just thinking you are overweight predicts future weight gain. Negative weight thoughts can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Diets are based on rigidity, punishment, deprivation, and guilt. Whereas, adopting a weight loss mentality focused on creating a healthy lifestyle is based on kindness, self-care, compassion, and respect.

Lucky for you, the mind is a flexible thing. You CAN change your thinking to achieve better, more sustainable results.

Follow these 7 expert-approved tips to change your weight loss mindset, and move from a diet to an effective healthy lifestyle.

 

1. Find Your Why

And this doesn’t mean a number on the scale, or wanting to look cute for photos. This is the the BIG WHY that will become the motivating force to propel you to a healthier lifestyle. Why do you want change your eating habits and lose weight?

Are you doing it for your kids? Do you want to set a good example for them? Or be able to keep up with them? Or even stick around long enough to watch them grow up?

Are you doing it for health reasons? To lower blood pressure or combat a predisposition to diabetes? Reduce stress on achy bones and joints?

Are you looking for more energy? Are you tired of feeling, well…tired all the time?

Figure out the underlying why behind your desire to change, write it down, and stick it someplace you’ll always see it. Your why brings value to the process. It’s what will keep you going for the long haul.

People give up on diets all the time, they don’t give up on their big whys.

2. Set Small, Attainable Goals

Losing weight might be your result, but it shouldn’t be your goal. Your goals should be small, sustainable things over which you have full control. Small tweaks sustained over time lead to serious results. Plus, they become habits which we keep, rather than diets that we break.

Small goals can be things like:

  • Bringing your lunch to work everyday
  • Planning out your menu and shopping list each week
  • Drinking only water, coffee, and tea
  • Getting in 10,000 steps each day

Pick a small goal and stick with it a few weeks. Once you’ve got it down, add another. Before you know it you’ll be crushing the healthy eating game.

3. Change Your Inner Language

Your inner dialogue matters! Pay attention to how you think about food and health. Identify your trouble thoughts, so you can work to change them.

You want to frame health as a positive, not a negative. Whenever you catch yourself thinking something like “I hate working out” or “I’m bad because I ate that”  try saying STOP! out loud. It will break your chain of thought and allow you to introduce a new one. 

Replace a negative line of thinking with a more positive one, “I’m lucky I get to workout today” or “I can eat whatever I want, and I want to eat healthy”. If you keep doing this your weight loss mindset will start to shift, and you’ll notice more positive thoughts become the new norm.

 

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4. Throw Out Your Calendar

Trying to hit some arbitrary weight loss goal date is a recipe for disaster. This is a lifestyle, not a diet. Patience is more than just a virtue, it’s the key to sustainable results.

Don’t get wrapped up in a timeline, just keep meeting your small goals one at a time and you’ll get there.

5. Ask Your Body What It Needs

Each of us has our own innate wisdom. Our body talks to us, telling us what it needs. Trouble is we can get so stressed out, or caught up in cycles of deprivation and bingeing that we tune out the message.

Start paying attention again. Next time you reach for a bag of chips ask yourself what do I really want? If it’s a chip, fine eat it. But often you will find the answer is something else like; I really want to take a nap, or avoid making an uncomfortable phone call, or maybe you’re just plain bored.

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As we learn to slow down, breathe and listen to what we really want, our bodies will relax and tell us. This is the weight loss mindset where healthy eating starts to happen naturally.

6. Forget The “Good” and “Bad” Food Mentality

The psychology of weight loss does not include morality. Yet somehow we’ve learned to feel proud or guilty about every bite of food we put in our mouths. It’s just food!

Food isn’t inherently good or bad, it just is. You shouldn’t feel guilty, bad, or ashamed for wanting a piece of cake once in a while. Keep listening to your body. Eat those foods when that’s what you really want, and not when you’re trying to distract yourself from some other need or emotion, and you’ll be fine.

 

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7. Give Up “All or Nothing” Thinking

The “all or nothing” weight loss mentality throws more people off course than you know. It’s so easy to say, “well I already ate the chips and guacamole, I might as well order a margarita too.” This line of thinking is a red flag!

In fact, whenever you find yourself thinking “I might as well” stop right there. The whole day doesn’t have to be a loss because of one choice. Rather than give up, just tell yourself “so what? I’ll make healthy choices the rest of the day. All is forgiven.” Then move on and continue eating in line with your goals.

At the end of the day, the dieting dilemma has everything to do with food…and nothing to do with food. It’s really about adjusting our weight loss mindset so that healthy choices feel right, and don’t feel like deprivation, hard work, or punishment.

We all have the ability to change our weight loss mindset, and it doesn’t take a crazy grand gesture to do it. Just some small tweaks in thinking, setting some attainable goals, and an understanding that lasting weight loss is about more than numbers on a scale.

The real mind trick is to be kind to yourself. That’s how long-term healthy lifestyles are made.

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