I tend to compare losing weight to a building taking shape on a construction site -- brick by brick, bucket by bucket, inch by inch, day by day, you put the pieces together.
But with the work comes uncertainty, fear, mistakes, unexpected roadblocks and disappointments. Some of these kinks can take us a couple of steps back for a week or two.
Others can hold us back forever, if we let them.
I let myself cave in to a kink once.
My mistake? Being so fixated on an outcome that seemed so out of reach that I ended up overwhelmed and paralyzed, unable to move forward.
How do you spot kinks in your own plan that have the potential to lead you off course with your weight loss goals, or worse, get you to quit forever?
Here's what to look out for and how to nip them in the bud:
1. Having an all-or-nothing outlook
You've got 30 pounds to lose and if there's no straight, success-guaranteed path to reaching your goal, it's not worth even trying.
So you don't.
Or, you end up quitting at the first sign of disappointment, throwing your chances of reaching your goal out the window before you even begin to see results.
While there are plenty of things that come with a set, fail-proof outcome (like assembling a table lamp from IKEA), losing weight isn't one of them.
If this is a mindset you're struggling with, it's time to start making friends with the discomfort of uncertainty. A great way to do this is to try applying this principle to other areas of your life:
• Go for a fun drive with a friend with no destination in mind.
• A fan of romantic comedies that you know will have a happy ending? Try watching a foreign-language movie from a different genre.
• Randomly pick an item from a menu at a restaurant you've never been to.
With this activity, the more unpredictable the outcome, the better. And have fun!
Your next step: Easing yourself into the weight-loss process without having any specific expectations from the experience.
2. Taking a one-size-fits-all approach
You've got a goal, and that goal is to have a body like Angelina Jolie's.
While doing your research, you stumble across the exact diet and fitness plan she follows.
You're psyched! You follow the plan to a T for the next 3 months.
Nothing much happens -- you lose a couple of pounds, but you're starting to struggle to keep up, and are no closer to having Angelina's tiny waist, slender hips or sculpted jawline.
There's one big problem standing between you and your goal: Genetics. For example, if you're a petite endomorph, no amount of dieting or working out on earth will give you the silhouette of someone who's six-feet tall with legs for miles.
What you should be doing is to work with what you've got -- focus on building your strengths and looking your best, not someone else's.
3. Focusing on outcomes you can't control
If you've made a habit out of believing that what you want is never going to happen, you'll be familiar with the feeling of hopelessness that comes with it.
You're probably also paying too much attention to the things that you have zero control over, like the scale not shifting, your workout buddy who flaked on you, or not reaching your goal of losing 60 pounds in three months.
To turn this around, zero in on the things you can control, like the tiny habits you can practice every single day to help you get you closer to your goal: going ahead with your planned workout whether your buddy shows up or not, replacing half your rice with extra protein so you stay full longer, or waking up 30 minutes earlier each morning to get your lunch prepped so you don't have to eat the foods that trigger your lunch-time binge.
4. Rushing through the process
No matter how quickly you want to drop those 30 pounds, it's not going to happen overnight.
You can technically lose 30 pounds of water (not fat) weight in a week, but this is a trick that professional athletes use to their competitive advantage, and is a whole different ball game altogether (it's also something no one should attempt without medical supervision).
What's more realistic: Aiming to lose 1-2 pounds per week. Even then, you might go for weeks to months without noticing any progress, but later on experience a significant drop in your weight and fat percentage.
The bottom line? Your body's not going lose weight just because you want it to, so slow down!
Focus on making your habits work for you and have fun with the process.
5. Not celebrating your small wins
Having your sights on the big win will help remind you of why you're on this journey, but focusing only on that will also likely tire you out more quickly.
Research shows that teams and individuals in organizations who work on solving complex problems can keep themselves from becoming demotivated and disheartened by breaking big tasks down into smaller, more manageable ones so they can have smaller, more frequent wins along the way.
This in turn, helps make every step in their process meaningful and propels them to achieve bigger, better things in the long term.
Why not apply this same principle to your weight loss? Stuck with your workout schedule or lost two pounds this week? Great! Let your friends know and bask in your success as your friends share your win with you. Go for a pedicure. Watch that movie you've been meaning to see.
Make every win count.
Are you sick of dieting, not seeing results and giving up on yourself over and over again? Learn how to start losing weight permanently with Michele's free, Lose 4 Pounds in 4 Weeks Without Going On A Diet email course.