The biggest friend and the biggest enemy when it comes to losing weight is your mind. It can give you the power to win the battle or it can completely destroy your efforts. Learning how to harness your mind power and literally program it like a computer for weight loss is possible. I myself used these and other kinds of mind strategies when I lost over 135lbs! If I can do it….then so can you! Here are my top 5 tips for mental, weight loss power!
Create Powerful Associations
Whether you realize it or not, if you run into dead ends when trying to lose weight, you most likely have very strong and powerful associations in your mind regarding food and/or working out. These can be both positive or negative, and affect your behaviors in powerful ways.
What do I mean by associations? I’m referring to a connection that you’ve made in your mind to something. For example, if you eat because you are happy, you are connecting food with pleasure or a positive experience rather than with nutrition. Maybe this was caused from your memories of fun family times growing up that revolved around eating or simply from the temporary high you get from eating. Or, if you eat when you are sad or stressed, you associate food with making you feel better….even if it is just for a little while. Or, what if you are somehow drawn to fast food restaurants? Maybe you associate them with convenience or an inexpensive meal, rather than with unhealthy foods that are high in fat, sodium, and carbs that have a negative impact on your body and health. Or maybe you have a good history of eating healthy, but you associate food with reward….such as rewarding yourself on the weekend for eating well during the week….so you blow your diet on burgers and donuts all weekend, destroying your week-long efforts. It is the same with your workouts. Maybe you associate the gym with frustration or pain. These are also associations you’ve given, whether consciously or unconsciously, to working out. What you have done is connected a strong emotion to something. Food = Relief from pain. Exercise = Pain. Food = Reward. Exercise = An extra thing to squeeze into a full schedule. These are not associations that lead to positive, healthy outcomes. But, the good news is that just as easily as these associations were created, they can be changed to associate emotions with food and exercise that can lead to healthy behaviors, as opposed to the negative behaviors that lead to being overweight and a large number of preventable diseases.The key is to create associations in your mind with eating healthy and exercise that influence positive behaviors for your health. For example, every time you think about exercise tell yourself all of the reasons for why exercise is a good thing, how it will help benefit you, the people in your life that you’ll get to spend more time with, the way that exercise will make your body look, etc. Do the same with food. For instance, when you think about sneaking those cookies, or whatever foods are tempting to you, think about all of the reasons for why this will not benefit your health, about the lack of good nutrition it will provide your body with, how it will make your body look, and most importantly think about the food substitutes that you can have in its place that will still fill you and still taste good yet won’t set you back on your path to your goals. Doing this, over time, will help you to create new associations with food and exercise, and you will begin to enjoy eating healthy and working out because you have a healthy perspective on those things.
Manage Your Internal Dialogue
We all talk to ourselves inside our own heads throughout the day. What are you telling yourself when you are eating junk food? What do you say to yourself when you start to get winded at the gym or get sore after a hard workout? Do you justify the junk food by saying things like, “It’s ok…it’s just one cookie,” “I don’t seem to be losing any weight, so what difference does it make?,” “It’s my husband’s fault, he’s always eating _______ in front of me and it was right there!”? Do you tell yourself that going to the gym just equals struggle and pain? Or do you tell yourself that it’s just poor genetics and that no amount of eating healthy or exercising is going to help?
Any negative thoughts that you entertain about eating healthy or about working out you need to get rid of. Right now!! These will NOT help you!
What should you be saying to yourself instead? Here are some examples of some great things you can tell yourself, and I’m sure you will come up with others as you start to give it some thought. One helpful thing to do is remind yourself every day why you are doing what you’re doing. In fact, make a list of these reasons and pull them out everyday. Tell yourself that you can find healthy alternatives to unhealthy foods you like. For example, you can replace pasta with Spaghetti Squash, mix with sauce and lean meat and you would never know you’re eating a healthy snack. Another great thing you can do is remind yourself of your goals while you are working out. Tell yourself that feeling sore in your muscles is a good thing because it means that you had a good workout and are so much closer to achieving your goals every time you have a workout that makes you feel that way. Whatever you tell yourself about food and exercise, make it focused on the positives of making healthy choices and don’t waste time talking to yourself about the negatives….because the only negatives that actually exist are the ones we can fabricate in our minds.
Visualize yourself making healthy choices and having the body you want
There is incredible power in visualizing what you want. When I was 285 lbs and finally decided that I wanted to lose the weight, I took 2 pictures of myself. One I set aside as a before picture. The second I cut the head off of and attached it to a picture of a person in a magazine that had the body that I wanted and hung it up in my bedroom. Although it sounds cheesy…..it works.
Your brain naturally wants to solve problems. When you present to it a picture of a different body with your head on it, your brain is in conflict with the image because your brain knows good and well you don’t look like that and wants to come up with a resolution. Your brain will start searching for ways that you can make yourself look like that, and the action steps you subsequently take will help you to become what you are visualizing.
Set SMART Goals
Why do you want to lose weight? Only you can answer this. Each of my clients seem to have a different answer….it tends to sound the same at times, but each is based on different emotions, experiences, etc. Your reason may be because you had a recent health scare. Or maybe it is because you want to make sure that you can be there for your children as they are growing up and have the energy to care for them. Maybe you envision yourself being able to go places or do things that you can’t while you are overweight, such as on hikes, mountain biking, etc. Or maybe your goal is to look amazing, toned, and have a great body that you feel proud of. And then, maybe you want a combination of these things. Whatever your reasons….write them down. When all motivation is lost…you can pull these out and remind yourself of the ‘why’ of what you are doing.
Every person that I can think of who has ever successfully achieved a goal, had a vision in their mind about what they wanted to achieve…..and made it specific. So, now that you know the ‘why’ of losing the weight, now you can make it into a goal that is specific and will help you get from where you are to where you want to be. In coaching and personal training, we create what we call “SMART goals”. S – Specific. M—Measurable. A—Achievable. R—Relevant. T—Time Bound. Visualize yourself the way you want to be, in detail….exact size, when, how you will measure it to know you have reached your goals, and make it realistic enough to achieve in your time frame that you’ve decided on…..these are the best kinds of goals you can create because they are achievable goals that you can take action steps to achieve.
Anticipate – if you know something tempts you….plan to deal with it before you get in the situation so you know what to do when it happens! You and I are both weak at times when we face temptation and don’t have a game plan for what to do with it. So, mentally prepare for the situations and then take action to make sure that the temptation is dealt with…..before you are in the situation.
For example, I know that the people I live with tend to always keep cookies on the counter in the kitchen….my worst temptation. I love cookies! But, I also love to be healthy and fit, so cookies on the counter as a temptation is a problem for me. The great thing though is that I know that this is a temptation for me, so I can plan ahead for how to deal with it.
One strategy that I use is to eliminate the temptation from my view. For example, walking into the kitchen less often or asking the people that I live with if we can place the cookies in the cabinet where I won’t see them every time I walk into the room. Another great strategy is to write an agreement to yourself that you will not eat the cookies…..now this one works for some and not for others, so you’ll have to experiment to see what works best for you. Another one could be that you have a healthy alternative on the counter sitting with the others that is your snack.
Another great example is when you are out and about and you are the kind of person who is tempted by fast food when you drive by a restaurant. Since you know this is a temptation, don’t carry cash or credit cards with you. Or, make sure you always have healthy snacks with you, so that when you pass by a fast food restaurant you can pull out something healthy and know that you are doing something great for your body!