About a month ago, I wrote an article about my (at that time) 23-pound weight loss. In the post, titled, "How I've Reframed My Thinking on Weight Loss and Started (Finally!) Losing Weight," I shared how, after many failed attempts, I'd finally figured out this little weight loss gig.
You hear people (usually thin people) say, "Just eat less and move more," and you can see in their faces that they just do not freakin' get it.
Oh, thank you! I didn't realize that. Jerk.
Yes, it's somewhat about eating less (less bad stuff, not necessarily less volume). And it's definitely about moving more. But those aren't the only things, and they certainly aren't the main things you have to change.
Here's the Secret
You have to change the way you think about weight loss. The tendency is to view the weight loss process as a combination of ultra-strict rules about eating, unrealistic rules about exercise, and that you're "bad" or "cheating" if you don't stick exactly to those rules.
Want to really set yourself up for long-term (albeit probably slow-as-Christmas) success?
Make It About How You Feel (or how you want to feel)
It's about feeling good. It's about feeling healthy, alert, energetic, and then once the weight starts coming off: proud, accomplished, confident, capable, strong. Getting your mind right is the key. But it's also the hardest part.
I recently read 100 Small Steps: The First 100 Pounds, by Keith "Temple" Trotter (2014, Morgan James).
I knew the book would resonate with me when I saw its subtitle, Book 1 - You Gotta Think Right, because this was my exact revelation just five months ago, when I had my "aha" moment.
Trotter shares how he's winning the psychological battle he's had with his own obesity. He lays it all out, step by step, showing how to banish those trigger words - words like, "diet" and "lowfat" - that almost automatically set our mental resistance into motion, and make us feel like we're in weight loss prison.
The focus of the book, which shares one-third of his 100 recommended steps, is all about mindset and how to get it exactly where it needs to be so you can make healthy decisions on behalf of your body.
Some of his tips are ones you've likely heard many times, like, "Never go grocery shopping hungry," or "Keep a journal."
One in particular that is common, but doesn't really jive with my own philosophy, is "Have a cheat day each week." A lot of people who've been successful at losing weight are religious about having their cheat day.
That one's not for me because I don't want to ever feel like I'm being so strict on myself that I have something to "cheat" on.
I don't want to be on a diet because just saying the word "diet" makes my body go into resistance mode. I want to see food as fuel (another one of his tips, and one that I love). So what works for me, is making healthy food choices most of the time.
I make trade-offs with myself so that I feel like I can indulge a little here and there, and occasionally treat myself to even larger indulgences. For example, I trained myself to take my coffee with less creamer and sugar so that I could have a square or two of dark chocolate in the evening.
I have chocolate every single night.
I'm never "cheating," and I'm consistently losing weight. Now, that might not always be the case. I realize that as I get closer to my goal and have less to lose, I may have to cut back on my chocolate, too. But for now, this works for me.
My favorite chapter in 100 Small Steps: The First 100 Pounds is, "Know that Willpower Is Finite." Trotter says there's a new term floating around in psychology circles, called Decision Fatigue. He goes into the science behind it, but in a nutshell, it means that we only have a set amount of mental energy for willpower, self-control, and decision-making.
As I read through that chapter, I found myself saying, "Yes, yes, yes!"
In earlier attempts to lose weight, my willpower to follow the super-strict eating rules I put on myself would only last so long before I'd throw in the towel.
Because I had - and still have - a significant amount of weight to lose, and because doing it the right way means that it's not a quick process, expecting myself to have the willpower to stick to those ridiculous food rules for an extended amount of time was completely unrealistic.
I would be so hard on myself, beating myself up for having no resolve and having a small supply of willpower that would run on empty after just a few days. Reading that we only have a limited supply of willpower, and that there's actually science that backs that up, forced me to cut myself some slack.
Trotter's book reinforced my belief that healthy, long-lasting weight loss has to start with your mindset.
I'm happy to report that I've continued to lose pounds and inches, getting me (slowly but surely) closer to my goal of losing 80 pounds. It sounds like a lot, I realize. And it IS a lot. But let me assure you that my goal weight is still a good five pounds heavier than the "normal" range, as determined by the a-holes that developed the Body Mass Index (BMI) Table.
I'm down 28 pounds (what what!?).
I'm proud of myself when I see the numbers on the scale going down, down, down.
But the best part is feeling in control and all those other adjectives I mentioned above: proud (that I've managed to maintain this mindset for this long), accomplished (when I try on clothes and have to move down a size), confident (in my shorts and skirts because I can see some shape coming back into my legs), capable (as I'm doing some light remodeling in our house, and I'm up and down the ladder without feeling like I'll die), and strong (when I compare my Elliptical workout summaries to pictures I took of workouts a few months ago, and see how much my strength and endurance has improved).
If you know you need to lose weight, but you feel the same mish-mash of feelings that I've always had -- the want, the need, the overwhelm, the resistance, the frustration at not being able to do what so many others are quite capable of, and for crying out loud, you're perfectly capable in a variety of other areas of your life, but just can't crack the code on weight loss - then you're probably like me, and you need to get your mind right.
If you have a hard time wrapping your mind around where to start, I suggest doing research to find books and other writings about changing your mindset regarding weight loss, but there's unfortunately not a lot out there.
That's why I was thrilled about Temple Trotter's book. There's really not much on the market that focuses just on mindset.
And you can follow me, too. I'll continue to share my process and my progress, and I'd love your support. Check my bio below for all the ways you can cyber-stalk me.
Kristan Braziel is a writer, speaker, and entrepreneur based in Austin, Texas, with her husband and their four children (two are human, the other two are Lab-mix rescues. Whether the humans or the furry ones are favorites widely varies, depending on the day you ask).