Are you sabotaging your weight loss efforts before you even start? For many people this is true. 95% of dieters regain their weight and each time they lose and gain they are affecting their metabolism making it that much harder to lose the next time. There are many reasons why we end up in this yo-yo cycle including mind set, emotional eating, stress, food cravings, past conditioning, unstable blood sugar, and habits. However, there is one concept that can either set you up for success or failure before you even begin taking action. In my 11 years working with weight loss it is the number one self saboteur I see.
I can sum it up with a sentence. It goes like this: "I have to_____to lose weight". Whenever we "have to" do something it draws up a lot of negative energy around the action. When we have negative energy towards an action our brain goes on overdrive to find ways out of it. Think about this in an extreme case. Imagine if I said that bungee jumping would be a great way to lose weight. All you have to do is jump off a bridge. For some of you thrill seekers it may be no big deal, but for most of us our brains are going to find every excuse to get around it. We don't want to do that particular action to get the end result.
When we "want to" do something we are excited and look forward to it. The new behavior doesn't feel like a chore. There are no negative feelings, just positive feelings. This shift can make or break your weight loss efforts. Look at the following sentences and see the energy difference:
"I have to go on a walk today since it is one of my weight loss goals"
"I can't wait to get home and go for a walk to relax, get some fresh air and me time"
You can feel the energy difference here. The end result of weight loss is desired by both people. However, if you don't want to do the action steps you aren't going to find much success. Soon excuses will arise and you will find other things more important and stop taking action all together. This is a completely natural progression. If we don't really enjoy an action we find ways around it. With food it is even worse because we may be trying to let go of food choices and habits that we actually like. This is a recipe for failure. How can we possibly stay motivated to make change when we don't like the actions and don't really want to give up our old habits? The trick here is to turn the "have tos" into a "wants".
First it is important to get clear if this is an issue for you. Here are a few ways to see if you are a victim of the "have to" saboteur.
When you think about losing weight you feel good about the end result, but when you begin thinking about dietary and exercise changes you get a negative feeling in your stomach. It is loud and clear that the action steps don't bring you any kind of pleasure.
When you think about making dietary and exercise changes your mind starts coming up with excuses as to why this won't work for you. "I don't have time", "I don't know what to do", etc. These obstacles can usually be conquered when it is something we really want.
If you have this saboteur that's ok. In my experience most people do. The weight loss industry has us believing that we have to deny ourselves of foods we love, eat hardly anything, and exercise 2 hours a day 7 days a week. If you are in a race to lose weight then you may have to go to these extremes, but a better way is to take a little time to think about small changes you can make that you "want to" make that will lead to a calorie deficit.
For example, instead of feeling like you have to go to the gym when you don't enjoy it, find movement you do enjoy such as walking, biking, or swimming. When you find that perfect exercise it will be something you love for the sake of doing it instead of something you have to do to get a desired result. For me this is swimming and yoga. I enjoy these things for other reasons other than just exercise. If you have a hard time finding that something you enjoy then think back to childhood. What movement did you love? This is usually a good place to start as we do things that are fun when we are young. No one told us we had to go ride our bike or go to the pool. We did it because it was enjoyable, and fun.
This goes for dietary changes too. Don't worry about following calorie specific meal plans or strict diet regimens. Start simple and think about small changes that you will look forward to instead of thinking about what you can't have. For example, if you typically eat a high calorie/sugar type of dessert at night think about something you would really enjoy that could replace that. Perhaps some strawberries dipped in dark chocolate. Sure it still has some sugar, but it has less total calories and sugar than the original dessert and you get the added bonus of adding a fruit.
Warning: This has to be a change that you would really enjoy and would serve your sweet tooth as much as the high calorie dessert. Otherwise it becomes a "have to". You can see how sneakily that saboteur appears!
By approaching weight loss in this manner you will find long term success because you will develop new enjoyable habits that create the desired calorie deficit. You won't want to go back to your old habits because you will be enjoying your new habits more.