A combination of regular exercise and a well-balanced diet is crucial for a healthy, lasting weight loss. Is anything missing from that equation? Yes, actually! A changed mindset is missing from that equation. You see, a workout regimen and a healthy diet do help, but you also need to train your mind. Changing mindset may seem difficult, but with our simple suggestions, you can succeed. Once you do, it’s going to be easier to work hard to lose weight and keep it off. Scroll down to see how to make it happen.
1. Set goals properly
Everything starts with a goal, but deciding to slim down and maintain weight loss is not enough. Proper goal setting is crucial for a successful weight loss and even science confirms so.
For example, a study from the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics found that weight loss success depends greatly on the number of targets set and the size of the first target. Although obese people were less likely to set goals doing so increased the chances of clinically significant weight loss. For many of them, “unrealistic” goals improved the results. In fact, those who set targets were 10 times more likely to be at least 10% lighter 12 months later (1).
The July 2020 issue of BMC Nursing also confirmed the relationship between goal setting and weight management. While setbacks and challenges are likely to happen on the weight loss journey, the ability to plan and action alternative solutions and change patterns of behavior are important. The study shows that focusing on an approach to problem-solving and generating alternative solutions can support successful weight loss (2).
What’s goal-setting got to do with mindset changes, you wonder? A lot! You see, properly defined goals keep you motivated to work hard to achieve them and set new goals. Without proper targets, it’s difficult to stay focused or even to believe in yourself and the whole process.
After all, goals are mental representations of desired outcomes (3). “If you can dream it, you can achieve it” is more than a motivational poster phrase. To lose weight and keep it off you need to visualize it, determine the target, and shape your goal.
Goal setting in psychology is an essential tool for self-motivation and it also has a major impact on our confidence and self-esteem. A well-defined goal helps you prepare and modify mindset to support weight loss and keep it off.
So, how to set goals properly? Start with the big picture. For example, your general goal is to lose weight. But, keeping it that way is too vague. As a result, you’re at a high risk of failing to achieve that goal. To avoid that problem you need to be specific. Start to divide one big goal, e.g. weight loss, into smaller milestones. These milestones are usually how much weight you plan to lose within a month. But, be realistic and specific. Every time you complete one milestone, you will be more optimistic and motivated to keep going.
The amount of pounds lost in a month doesn’t have to be the only goal. You can try something else. For example, instead of pounds, your goal can be something related to your workout. How many reps and sets you want to be able to complete that month before you increase them. Make sure your goals suit you and the more realistic they are, the easier it will be to complete them before you give yourself another challenge. Remember, goal setting and completing is all about patience.
Your goals should be SMART:
- Specific (significant)
- Measurable (meaningful)
- Attainable (action-oriented)
- Relevant (rewarding)
- Time-bound (trackable)
2. Be positive
Positive thinking is the practice of focusing on the good in any given situation, including weight loss endeavor. However, we often forget about it. Many men and women start their weight loss journey thinking, or even expecting, failure. Negative thinking brings more harm than you thinking. The expectation of failure prevents you from putting enough effort and doing your best to achieve your goals.
Negative thoughts are, oftentimes, defense mechanisms we put on to protect ourselves from poor outcomes. You don’t want to get your hopes up and feel disappointed. But, that’s not the right way to go. This type of thinking doesn’t allow you to do your best, although you’re capable of making it happen. On the flip side, a positive outlook can do wonders for your weight loss endeavor.
One study found the more positive a subject’s expectation of success, the more weight was lost. Negative expectations are associated with the poorest weight loss outcomes (4). Although the importance of positive thinking is scientifically proven, this practice is often misunderstood. Positive thoughts aren’t an escape from reality. This type of thinking doesn’t mean you have to live in denial. Instead, optimistic thinking is more about choosing to believe in yourself and the effort you make. It’s about acknowledging your strength to overcome any obstacle that comes your way. Positive thinking means you approach unpleasantness and challenges in a more productive way.
In fact, positive thinking has many health benefits such as (5):
- Improved coping skills during times of stress and hardships
- Lower rates of depression
- Decreased levels of distress
- Increased lifespan
- Better cardiovascular health
- Stronger immune system
- Improved physical and psychological health and wellbeing
An optimistic outlook is often easier said than done, but not impossible. Successful, lasting weight loss requires a positive mindset. These tips can help you out:
- Focus on the goals you determine
- Find something positive in challenging situations
- Consider failures as lessons, learning opportunities
- Focus on the present and the task (goal) at hand
- Practice gratitude in life, be grateful for small improvements, friends, family, and life in general – that way, you’ll translate those feelings to weight loss too
3. Practice positive affirmations
Positive affirmations go hand in hand with optimistic thinking. Generally speaking, positive affirmations are statements or phrases we repeat to challenge negative and unhelpful thoughts (6). A positive affirmation is a mantra that you repeat to yourself, but also a statement in which you firmly believe.
Negative thoughts are normal. We all have our moments when we doubt ourselves. Usually, they come and go. But in some people, negative thoughts tend to linger to the point all you think is a self-deprecating pattern that tells you there’s no chance of losing weight. Although these thoughts are almost always irrational, they seem so real and you believe in them.
That’s where positive affirmations step in. They exist to help you banish those negative thoughts, believe in yourself, and change your mindset for a lasting weight loss (or any other goal).
One study showed that positive affirmations decreased sedentary behavior in participants (7). As you’re already aware, a sedentary lifestyle is a major contributor to overweight and obesity (8). Successful weight loss requires regular exercise coupled with a well-balanced diet, but the implementation of these measures depends on your mindset.
The role of positive affirmations is to increase motivation levels, improve your focus, and strengthen your willpower. The more you repeat your mantra, the easier it will be to start thinking in a positive way.
Some of the most useful weight loss-related positive affirmations include:
- Losing weight isn’t impossible, it’s natural.
- I love exercising regularly.
- Exercise is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle.
- I’m perfectly capable of achieving my goals.
- Nothing can stop me from slimming down.
- The harder I work, the happier I’ll be with results.
- I love and care for my body.
- Weight loss is all about self-care.
- Every new day is a new opportunity to be better and do more.
Start your day with positive affirmations. You can write them down in your planner, on a post-it note, or even write it on a mirror with lipstick. Options are endless, but the point is to read them, say them loud and clear, and firmly believe in them. You can also use the above-mentioned mantras to create your own.
4. Surround yourself with positive people
People with whom you surround yourself can either have a positive or negative impact on your mindset. So, to change your mindset for lasting weight loss you need to make sure to spend time with positive people. It’s easier to adopt a more positive perspective when you’re in contact with people who think that way as well. The way we think is “contagious”, although we don’t always notice that.
Evidence shows that positive social relationships, social support, and social acceptance help shape the development of self-esteem. The reciprocal relationship between social relationships and self-esteem implies that the effects of a positive feedback loop build up over time and could be substantial as people go through life (9). People who associate themselves with cheerful people have a happier demeanor and consequently a better sense of wellbeing (10).
What does this mean for your weight loss?
Negative people often discourage others even without realizing it. As a result, you may discourage yourself to do your best to slim down and maintain weight loss. On the flip side, being around positive people means you get a strong support system and their uplifting spirit catches you as well. You will be more likely to believe in yourself. When you’re confident, you are inclined to go after goals in which you firmly believe you can accomplish.
5. Don’t weigh yourself all the time
For some people self-weighing may be an effective weight maintenance solution (11), but if you are prone to negative thinking that’s probably not the right way to go. Frequent weighing may induce stress and pressure that are difficult to handle. Stress may affect your performance and prevent you from sticking to your lifestyle modifications which are necessary for successful weight maintenance. On the other hand, stress management is crucial for weight loss maintenance (12), because you’re more likely to adopt and stick to necessary lifestyle changes required for weight management.
While weighing is necessary for people who strive to slim down and maintain results, you don’t have to turn it into a daily habit. Instead, weigh yourself once or twice a month, or according to the goals you set. That way, you’ll keep track of weight loss, but won’t feel frustrated at the same time.
6. Obstacles happen, but they don’t stop your progress
Every goal comes with certain obstacles and challenges. For weight loss, those challenges come in the form of insufficient physical activity, lack of work, inadequate family support, and even lack of time (13). Weight loss strategies revolving around lifestyle modification are successful (14) but require proper support. Having a strong support system is important, but you need to keep in mind everything starts with you.
Changing the mindset for lasting weight loss goes beyond positive affirmations and extends to acknowledging that obstacles happen. The road to weight loss is full of challenges. However, the obstacle isn’t the end of the road. Once you jump over the hurdle there’s still the track leading you forward. That’s exactly how you should look at obstacles that come your way.
It’s also important to remember that sometimes unwanted scenarios happen. You may find yourself gaining a pound or two or that your weight loss is stagnating. Those aren’t reasons to give up. Instead, they are obstacles that you need to overcome. Gained pound or two can go away and stagnating weight loss can move forward, you just need to work hard and believe in your ability to make it happen.
Don’t feel guilty when you’re less motivated from time to time (15). It’s okay to feel tired. But remember, it’s all about how you deal with that. The key is to still do your best in any given situation.
Weight loss maintenance requires some mindset changes. Of course, changing mindset isn’t the easiest task in the world, but with these tips, you can simplify the process. Trust yourself and your ability to achieve great results. Every day is a new opportunity to shine and make it count. Surround yourself with people who will support you and encourage you on the way to successful weight loss management. While obstacles may arise, they are opportunities to learn so you can achieve even better results. With a strong and positive mindset, you can achieve your goals and so much more.
(14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4715703/(15) https://www.eatthis.com/mindset-changes-lose-weight/