What is the most important aspect of weight loss? Is it diet? Nutrient Balance? Exercise? Calories in/calories out? Keto? Intermittent Fasting?
Today I want to talk a little about the mental and emotional work that is needed to lose weight, gain health, and keep it off. It’s a subject that I don’t think is covered well enough in many books and resources – people focus more on the details of macros, calorie counting, exercise programs, etc. Without handling the mental aspect, all success will be short lived.
So, here is what I have found so far in my journey from 245+ to 150 pounds.
Never Give Up
I think the most important thing I had to do in my journey was to give up on the idea of giving up. Quitting stopped being an option. Part of that was a decision that I made, but what kept that decision from being forgotten was MFP, because every morning I will log in and read all the updates, and I don’t want to let everyone down. I also had to realize that I am doing this for myself, and nothing, not depression, not scheduling, not stress, not boredom, would make me quit.
I have had to learn to forgive myself too. If I have a day where I go over, or if I don’t exercise as much as I planned to, I say to myself “I will do better, I won’t repeat that two days in a row.” Then I try and take a little time to notice how my body feels when I get off track. Whether if it’s a heavy feeling of having too much in my stomach, a lack of evergy, or a feeling of stiffness from not exercising enough, I notice that feeling and I let it show me why I keep my good habits. In the past I used to say “well, I messed up this day, so I might as well enjoy myself and come back to it later” then later never came.
Another thing that has helped a lot is thinking in terms of challenges to overcome and solutions to be found, rather than obstacles. Once I did really weal on a healthy journey, lost thirty pounds or so, but it was all derailed when I had a broken tooth and could no longer eat the healthy things that had gotten me there. At that time it was insurmountable, partly because other stress in my life was also high, and I just quit. These days if that happened again I’d break out the protein shakes and make a bunch of green soup, sugar free protein pudding, and other things . If my stress levels are really high I have an assortment of herbal teas that are very soothing. I also can feel how exercise helps me relax so I will usually get some minimum amount even if I don’t get in a huge workout.
Connect with how your body feels
Being in touch with my body has helped. Really feeling if I am actually hungry or just “have a case of the nibbles,” for example. Feeling if my body is asking for exercise. This isn’t so hard to do, it just takes a decision to notice more. Perfection isn’t immediate, you have to work at it, but the awareness will come. Another example of this is when I am stressed and inclined to nibble, and I realize that what I really need is a hug, or some kitty cuddle time, or a nap. Food becomes the cure-all, that proverbial hammer that makes every problem look like a nail, but we all have so many more tools than just that one.
How much is enough?
I learned portion control, too, and this is a tremendous tool. It was hard to give up the idea that I could have as much food as I wanted. Having grown up in deep poverty, that was a way I had of making myself feel safe because food equaled safety and comfort. So why shoouldn’t I have a whole bag of chips? I could afford it now. Yet, that wasn’t doing me any favors, it was still too much. My own solution for this is to buy smaller amounts of really high quality food, portion it out ahead of time, and take my time to enjoy it.
“This is the good stuff,” I tell my brain, “I don’t need a lot of it because it’s high quality nutrition and it tastes great.”
And it works.
I learned to celebrate small victories, not using food but just noticing them and thinking ‘Hey! That’s great!” Going over onto the NSV thread has been a great way to do that, it makes me happy every time I have something to report. Celebrating other people’s small victories in the same way has been great too, it makes me realize that I’m not alone in the journey and it makes me feel good to support other people. So many times we feel like we were the only one to be this fat, or the only one to have this problem, and seeing that we aren’t alone helps us stay motivated and keep going because we see other poeple having success.
Gain Inspiration from Success
Speaking of success, the forums on My Fitness Pal have been a fantastic place for inspiration. I love reading about people’s success stories, and their in-process wins. I can see that there are folks with the same challenges as me, or worse ones in some cases, and they are winning too. I know that I don’t have any excuses, that this thing is possible, not the insurmountable task that I once thought it was. My success or my failure comes down to my choice so why would I choose to fail?
With success comes patience. We return to persistence as the key to success. There will be plateaus, there will be ups and downs. Sticking with it, and tweaking things a bit when results aren’t being found is essential. It took a long time for this weight to get on to our bodies, it’ll take a while for the weight to come off. Quick fixes aren’t permanent. Sometimes we even need to take little breaks to renew our focus. If we learn to be kind to ourselves, to forgive our own failings, then temporary setbacks won’t halt our progress.
How does this all work?
Now the question comes to HOW to do all this? The answers are going to be different for everyone. Part of it comes with time and thought. Brainstorm with yourself. A lot of these realizations came for me when I was writing about my journey but not everyone will have the same exerience. Maybe ideas will come during a drive, or a long walk. Maybe after reading a book. Just beginning to ask yourself these questions will help you think of your own answers. “What are some of my victories during this journey?” “How can I inspire myself to continue after I’ve had the worst day ever?” “What is my most compelling reason for weight loss?” Etc.
The Number One Tip
If I could tell everyone one thing to do, to help them be successful I would leave them with this. “SEEK THE MIDDLE PATH.” Avoid extremist thinking – the idea that if something isn’t an absolute success it’s the worst failure ever. This is still a challenge for me. I still tend towared being a bit polarized but I’m working on it and every time I do it helps me in all aspects of life.
I hope this was useful and helpful to someone. If there is a particular topic anyone would like me to explore further, I’ll be happy to do that. In future I might start thinking about specific examples of different challenges I had and ways I overcame them, because honestly, if there’s a diet mistake to make, I’ve probably made it!