Weight loss hang-ups: It might be what’s in your head, not in your belly

There are certain circumstances in which buying things in twos is a good idea. Socks, shoes, His and Her towels, and implants.

A woman I had the displeasure of meeting (not because she was my ex’s new girlfriend), has a tendency to order two of everything…when she orders take-out. Doesn’t matter if it’s an order of chicken fried rice or a bacon cheeseburger – she wants two of them. Wait – I haven’t told you the best part: She has a beautiful, enviable body. The kind of body that makes women turn their heads and think, “God, I wish I looked like her. I really, really hope she trips over something, falls flat on her face, and breaks her nose along with a couple of teeth.”

It’s not a matter of having a fast metabolism or working out 14 hours a day. As she put it, “I have a good relationship with food. I stopped fearing it and worrying about what it would do to my body.” Geez – how can I NOT hate this woman?

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Barring certain medical conditions, there are likely to be obvious reasons why a person will struggle to lose weight. For example, statistics collected from our Diet & Weight Loss Test reveal that:

  • 37% of the people in the Overweight & Obese group eat large amounts of food, even when they’re not hungry (compared to 27% for Healthy Weight group).
  • 36% eat until they’re uncomfortably full (compared to 23% for Healthy Weight group).
  • If food is laid out before them, 48% will pick at it throughout the day (compared to 31% for Healthy Weight group).
  • 35% will not push themselves to exercise if they’re not in the mood (compared to 27% for Healthy Weight group).

I am a firm believer that the way we think (and feel) has a significant impact on our physical health. Years of research has taught me to respect the placebo effect, and years of observing human behavior has allowed me to see the relationship between a person’s attitude and health. So if you’re doing everything right on your weight loss journey (like eating healthy and exercising), and don’t have a medical issue that can hinder your progress, it may be time to explore the thoughts you’re feeding yourself with. For example:

  • 60% of my Overweight & Obese sample has a low tolerance for frustration. They want immediate gratification, which means that if they don’t see quick results of their efforts, they are more likely to give up.
  • 59% have an overall tendency to procrastinate. Essentially, the “I’ll work out tomorrow” or “I’ll start making smarter food choices, starting tomorrow!” often turns into next week, two months from now, next year, or the next time we overeat and vow not to do it again…again.
  • 55% use food to deal with negative emotions, like sadness, anger, rejection, or anxiety. Or in my case, boredom and writer’s block. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck on a sentence and found myself…(*chewing*)…subconsciously reaching from something to eat.
  • 45% said that they consider a healthy lifestyle a “hassle.” Let’s face it: Weight loss isn’t an easy endeavor. It requires the discipline to make smart choices, the willingness to buy healthy food, and the dedication to exercise regularly. Here’s the problem: Most people try to do too much too quickly. Rather than cutting down on a few unhealthy foods at a time, they go cold turkey (pun intended). So it’s no surprise that after two weeks of a strict “only-veggies-and-lean-protein” diet, they have a sudden, inexplicable craving for something laden with gravy, bacon, cheese, or all three.
  • 37% lack self-motivation, and often depend on extrinsic sources of motivation to get going (e.g. encouragement from others). If you want to stick to a goal long-term, it has to mean something to you. Find your inspiration from within. What do you stand to gain on a personal level by getting your body back in shape?
  • 36% don’t reward themselves when they reach weight loss milestones, because they feel they don’t deserve it. They believe it’s their fault for gaining weight (accountability is a good thing!), so they punish themselves for their negligence by not celebrating accomplishments (not a good thing).

Make it a point to use rewards as positive reinforcement. While it’s a good idea to avoid using food as a recompense, offering yourself a gift after losing the first 5 pounds keeps your motivated and gives you something to look forward to. And buying a new pair of pants because the old one’s don’t fit anymore? Absolutely delicious.

  • 18% believe that healthy lifestyle won’t make a difference because it’s their genes that ultimately control their health. Another 18% believe that people who do manage to lose weight will inevitably gain it back. Aside from the fact that environment and genetic make-up influence your health, starting any goal with a defeatist attitude sets you up for disappointment and failure. The fact that a person was able to successfully lose only to gain it back is very likely to be a result of falling into old habits (physical and cognitive).

I never offer advice flippantly. I am the most complex person I know, so if these tips work for me, there’s a good chance they’ll work for you:

Ask yourself if you’re really ready to change. Committing to weight loss requires a wholehearted effort. Granted, you may fall off the wagon sometimes and indulge in that dessert, but that doesn’t mean you need to let it spiral down further. If you find yourself struggling or basically unwilling to stick to healthy food and exercise, you may not be mentally ready to change just yet (or haven’t found the best motivator).

Exercise does not need to be extreme. The sweat-inducing, high intensity types of exercise is what often discourages people from keeping it up. The bottom line is, the best exercise routine is one that you’ll stick to. So if you find that you need to drag yourself to the gym or your treadmill at home, it’s time for a change in your routine. There are many exercise options that are fun and can help you stay fit, like swimming, belly dancing, spinning, kickboxing, nature walks, and step classes. You can also look into the latest advances in interactive video games. And remember, start small. Begin with 20 minutes a day, 3 times a week, and then add a day and 10 additional minutes every 3 weeks.

Don’t give up your favorite foods. Just eat them less often. This doesn’t mean spending an entire day eating nothing but your beloved chocolate cake, or having nothing but fast food. It means eating healthy most of the time, and allowing a moderate indulgence for one meal. Weight loss author Tom Venuto recommends a “90/10 compliance rule,” where 90% of your meals are healthy, and the remaining 10% are your “free meals” (rather than “cheat meals”). I myself warned my trainer that forcing me to give up fries may result in violence. So he agreed to allow me to eat them once a week, for one meal. Win-win.

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Insightfully yours,

Queen D

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