Weight loss is a mind game. This is how you win.
You’ve deleted the food delivery apps, packed carrot sticks for snacks and started a new high-intensity workout routine. The weight will just drop off now, right?
Not so fast – your plan is missing a key ingredient, and it’s all in your mind.
My years of working with clients has shown me that when it comes to losing weight, mindset is everything.
I’m drawing on that experience to share 5 small shifts in mindset that could make all the difference in your quest for successful and sustainable weight loss.
1. Strap in: weight loss is not a straight line
When you go a week without seeing movement on the scale, it’s easy to feel like giving up. But as I tell my clients, weight loss is not linear. Your weight will fluctuate on a daily basis and if you fixate on these fluctuations, you’ll drive yourself to mental exhaustion.
Hormonal changes, hydration status, fluid retention, digestion and bowel movements all have an impact. Stay the course and stick to the plan you have in place, making small, sustainable changes to your diet without sacrificing your performance on the workout mat.
2. Stop calling food (and yourself) ‘bad’
An overly rigid mindset – where you try to completely cut food groups or start refusing invitations to eat out with friends – will most likely backfire. I see this often in clients who also struggle with perfectionism.
They tend to develop a belief that there are ‘good’ foods and ‘bad’ foods, with nothing in between. That if they eat a certain food, it makes them ‘bad’. The likelihood of overeating and yo-yo dieting is higher with this mindset – hopping from one restrictive diet to the next without ever truly adopting a healthy lifestyle.
So how do you turn your mindset around? Rather than telling yourself you can’t eat something, try to build up small, sustainable habits. This might look like adding more of a certain food onto your plate, like vegetables or quinoa, instead of completely eliminating a food.
To easily reduce the total calories you consume in a day, think small. You could halve the butter you spread on your toast. If you’re eating dessert every night, you could save it for 2 or 3 nights per week.
3. ‘Satisfied’ or ‘stuffed’? Spot the difference
How often do you practically inhale a meal or grab the first thing you see when you open the fridge?
If this sounds like you, mindful eating is a great way to get insight into your eating patterns. Eating mindfully means being more aware of what you are eating, how you are eating and why you are eating. The end goal is to cultivate a more positive relationship with food and a deeper appreciation of what you eat.
Here are some quick tips for eating mindfully:
Try not to eat while distracted, eg. scrolling your phone
Pay attention to how the food tastes and feels
Eat slowly, and try to identify the difference between feeling satisfied or feeling stuffed.
4. Cut the cord between stress and food
Emotional eating occurs when you use food as a way of coping with emotions, such as stress, anxiety, boredom or sadness. Food becomes a source of comfort, which can lead to overeating, weight gain and a negative relationship with food.
Of course, enjoying the occasional sweet treat or salty snack shouldn’t be stressing you out – it’s part of a healthy lifestyle without restriction! But if, for example, you’re regularly coming home after a hard day and ‘eating your feelings’, it’s not a healthy coping mechanism.
Shake off stress with a guided meditation walk.
It’s important that you address the underlying emotions directly, seeking help from a mental health professional and support from friends and family.
Finding ways to de-stress that don’t involve food will vary from person to person, but it could involve meditation, exercise or other self-care activities.
5. Keep tabs on yourself
One thing that many of my clients find helpful when they start a weight loss journey is a food journal. Keeping a log of what food you eat, how much and when can be a really useful tool in determining why you are, or aren’t, losing weight. It’s also great information to share with a dietitian if you’re working with one.
A journal can help you spot habits or where you’re struggling – for instance if you’re regularly grabbing takeout after busy days at work. Sometimes, choosing the healthier option requires forward planning. You don’t necessarily need to prep every single meal or snack, but batch cooking some meals for the week ahead will guarantee you have a healthy option ready to go in the fridge if you come home hungry or tired.
Need more help?
An all-or-nothing mindset, extreme restrictions around foods and emotional eating can all be associated with more serious health concerns such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders. If this is the case for you, it’s important that you seek help from a professional.
Sports dietitian Angie Asche will power your plate with no-nonsense food advice. Founder of Eleat Sports Nutrition, Angie works with MLB, NFL and NHL athletes to get the best from their bodies. With a Masters of Science in Nutrition & Physical Performance, and as a certified exercise physiologist and personal trainer, she’s got the expertise you need to achieve your goals.
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