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Weight Loss Mentality

There is no shortage of research underlining exactly what you should do to lose weight— maintaining a calorie deficit, regular high cardio exercise, and avoiding certain food groups. 


If you have ever tried to lose weight, you probably know that it isn’t that straightforward. 


Effective weight loss is not merely about adjusting your daily diet and intensifying your exercise routine. Losing weight is just as much a battle of the mind, heart, and soul as it is a physical battle. 


During your weight loss journey, you may need to push yourself to jog that extra mile when it feels like you cannot go on any longer— this is a test of your physical limits. However, you may need to consciously challenge destructive internal beliefs that you learned as a child, such as believing that you are not capable of complicated things. 


Simply put, effective weight loss is about possessing the right mentality. Like all hard things in life, it requires commitment, discipline, and intention— these are distinct states of mind. 


Furthermore, research shows that many people tend to relieve their discomfort with food during heightened stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. In our society, food, emotion, self-worth, and health are inherently intertwined so that one cannot thrive while another sinks. 


This begs the question— how do you get into the right mentality to achieve your weight loss goals? 


Adjusting your mentality is not easy; it may require unlearning harmful behaviors and going against your natural instincts. 


Let’s take a close look at how you can adjust your mentality to help you succeed in your weight loss journey. 


What Is Your Weight Loss ‘Why’?


Motivation is one of the most potent internal drivers behind our behavior. In our everyday lives, it’s easy to identify a lack of purpose and motivation—it can manifest as poor grades, showing up to work late, or canceling a commitment at the last minute.



During your weight loss journey, a lack of motivation may mean deciding to hit the snooze button rather than getting up a little early to catch that morning yoga class. 


To determine whether a lack of motivation and intention is hindering your weight loss progress, the first step is to try and verbalize what your motivation is— this is your why. Your why can serve as a mantra to ground and guide you when your weight loss journey gets hard and you feel yourself slowly falling off track.


Intrinsic Motivation vs. Extrinsic Motivation For Weight Loss


Weight loss is a profoundly personal journey. While there may be times when you go to the gym with your best friend or try out a new diet with your partner, whether you put in the effort to keep up with an exercise and diet routine long-term is up to you. This means the ultimate reason you are trying to lose weight should be for yourself and yourself only. 


If for example, you are trying to lose weight to look more attractive to your partner, when your weight loss journey gets rough, you may conclude that it is too hard and that your partner should lower their expectations of you. Because your motivation— your why— is extrinsic, making it easy to externalize the responsibility to someone else. 


If you want to lose weight because you feel that you look your best when you weigh ten pounds less than your current weight, you would not be able to pawn the responsibility onto your partner. This is an example of intrinsic motivation.


Let’s look at another example of intrinsic motivation. Imagine that you have been unable to keep up with your young children the last few years because you are overweight and become easily winded. You decide that you want to lose weight to be a better mother or father. The longer you delay taking steps to lose weight, the more you miss out on opportunities to play and make memories with your children. 


In this scenario, no one else is losing out on precious time with their kids but you. There is no one to pawn off the responsibility to. You can’t tell your kids to grow up slower or to move more gradually so you can keep up with them. 


You can only address intrinsic motivations. 


Take some time to reflect on why you want to lose weight honestly, when you have a clear idea of your why— try to determine whether the motivation behind your desire to lose weight is intrinsic or extrinsic. 


If you find that your motivation is extrinsic, know that this mentality can reduce the likelihood that you will succeed in your weight loss journey. You are more likely to succeed if you replace it with intrinsic motivation. You can try to identify intrinsic motivations by reflecting on the different ways losing weight might enhance your personal well-being and personal outcomes. 


Avoid Having an Extremist Mindset

When losing weight, most of us tend to adopt an all-or-nothing mentality. We set unrealistic weight loss goals, and when we do not achieve them, we skip right to self-blame— attacking ourselves with unfair criticisms. This destructive cycle can shatter your self-worth, making getting your weight loss journey back on track even more difficult. 


For example, you may come from a family where vegetables are akin to an exotic cuisine from some foreign country— rarely appearing on your plate. In this case, it would be unrealistic to attempt to completely replace your high protein-high carb diet with a vegetarian diet. 


While you may survive a few days of salad for lunch and steamed broccoli for dinner, lasting behavior and lifestyle changes are gradually formed. Approaching weight loss with an extremist mentality will ultimately lead to disappointment and failure.


When you stop thinking about your weight loss journey in extremes, you allow yourself to set more realistic goals and celebrate little wins. 


Instead of trying to switch to a 100% vegetarian diet cold turkey, you can begin replacing your sides with salads. Order a burger but get it with a side of salad instead of fries. Fill half your plate with fresh greens to reduce the amount of high-calorie food on your plate.



Soon, incorporating healthy food into your diet will become second nature, and trying out a new diet will not require such a drastic change. 


The same mentality goes for physical activity. If you currently do a very little exercise, it would be unrealistic and potentially dangerous to suddenly start doing high-intensity cardio training six times a week. This will only lead you to associate exercise with pain, and as something, you must endure rather than enjoy.



Thus you risk ruining your relationship with exercise. It is difficult to form a positive association with something once you have already formed a negative association. 


Instead, you could try to move each day for 30 minutes. This doesn’t have to be a formal exercise program. You can take out your dog for a walk, do some sunrise yoga, or go on a bike ride around your neighborhood. 


Simply moving your body more than you usually do is a small win. As your body becomes accustomed to the increased activity, you can gradually ramp it up. Ultimately, it is more sustainable to strive for progress and celebrate small wins than to break your back attempting to achieve attainable goals.


Prioritize Well-Being Over Physical Appearance 

Improving physical appearance is among the top reasons people try to lose weight. Today we are constantly bombarded with images of Greek-statue like chiseled abs and perfectly sculpted hips.



Even though these beauty standards are unrealistic and ignore the fact that naturally, our bodies come in a variety of shapes and sizes, they have become the standard of beauty that most of us strive for. 


The problem with focusing your weight loss journey on improving your physical appearance is that your weight loss journey is a journey that does not occur overnight.



Effective weight loss requires trial and error, especially if you want to form healthy habits that will stand the test of time and keep the weight off. 


If you start your weight loss journey determined to have a catwalk-worthy beach body within a few months, you will be devastated when summer comes around, and you still don’t have your dream body.



The entire ordeal can leave you feeling hopeless, increasing the likelihood of giving up altogether.


Shifting your weight loss mentality from focusing on improving your physical appearance to improving your overall wellbeing is a much more empowering and self-nurturing approach.



With the latter mentality, you will be able to appreciate the small wins as eating healthy and regular physical activity have several benefits that are not related to physical appearance. 


Some examples include increased sleep quality, decreased depression, increased energy, better mobility, and decreased stress, which can improve your overall well-being. You will most likely notice these changes before you notice any physical changes, as physical changes tend to be more gradual.



When you shift your weight loss mentality to prioritize improving your well-being as much as you prioritize improving your appearance, you enable yourself to be more patient and appreciate the overall weight loss journey.  


Ditch the One-Size-Fits-All Mentality

When trying to achieve a goal, you may look to others for mentorship and guidance. Mentorship may come in the form of a family member that went through a successful weight loss journey, a YouTube fitness vlogger that resonates with you, or the cardio instructor at your local gym. 


While weight loss mentorship is incredibly valuable, it is essential to remember that what worked for one person may not necessarily work for you. You and your friend may try out the same diet and attend the same workout classes but don’t seem to be losing weight while your friend shreds off buckets of weight. 


When you approach weight loss with a one size fits all mentality, you might respond to your friend losing more weight than you with frustration and defeat. 


When you abandon the one size fits all mentality you commit to being patient, inquisitive, and more willing to embrace trial and error. You would respond to the same situation with curiosity. You may adjust your diet, try out a different exercise regime, or stick to the same routine to see if you will see results more gradually. 


Reframe Your Mind to Focus on Your Strengths 

During your weight loss journey, you are bound to experience several failures—this is natural. Rather than focusing on your weaknesses and failures— this can take a dark toll on your overall mental health and weight loss progress— you should try to focus on your strengths and likes. 


For example, you may loathe push-ups and struggle to do them in the correct form. On the other hand, you might have mastered sit-ups. Rather than allowing your mind to focus on the time you struggled with push-ups, you could consciously try to shift your thoughts to the time when you excelled with sit-ups.



Framing a positive view of yourself that emphasizes your strengths over your weaknesses can help boost your confidence and encourage you to view future weaknesses and failures with more grace. 


Challenge Negative Thoughts

We all have unique upbringings and histories that shape our current beliefs and self-worth. Some of our beliefs about ourselves are true, while others are not—either way, it isn't easy to unlearn these beliefs. If you encounter negative self-limiting beliefs during your weight loss journey, try to challenge them. 


For example, you may get tired halfway through your workout and immediately conclude that you are lazy and cannot do hard things. Rather than accept these thoughts, challenge them. What counterproof do you have that you are not lazy and can do hard things?



Perhaps you put yourself through law school while raising kids or running a successful business. Finding ways to challenge these negative intrusive thoughts will help to keep you going when you feel like giving up. 


At the end of the day, weight loss is hard— there is no getting around that fact. Adopting the right mentality for weight loss will make your weight loss journey more enjoyable and ultimately more successful. 

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