These days, weight loss plans are a dime a dozen, and every nutrition “expert” has another magical elixir that will supposedly make you eternally beautiful and skinny. But many of us have tried them all—we’ve done the low-carb thing, we’ve tried low-fat, we’ve cut out gluten—and nothing seems to work. So what’s truly the secret to weight loss? It’s simple, but it’s not easy. And the real secret is this: self-love.
Here’s how to put it into practice.
Stop punishing yourself!
We’ve all been there. You meet a friend for dinner and splurge on dessert or a second glass of wine and feel guilty as a result. So the next day, you push yourself at the gym until you’re completely exhausted. It’s easy to fall into this pattern because our culture moralizes food. Sweets, for example, are “bad,” and if you give in and eat that slice of chocolate cake, you’re “weak-willed” and need to be reprimanded. But that approach to weight loss sets you up for failure, because when something is taboo, it only makes us want it more. Instead, if you’re craving a certain food, allow yourself to indulge in moderation. Slow down as you’re eating it and really enjoy it—this will make the experience more satisfying and you’ll be less likely to overeat.
You can’t hate your way to weight loss.
We all know how insidious the messages thrown at us by the media are—they make us feel like we’re only valuable people if we look perfect all the time. When we internalize those lies, we become very critical of ourselves. We look in the mirror and all we see is the 500 ways in which we supposedly don’t “measure up.” We start to believe we’re not lovable.
So we become desperate to lose weight. We seek out methods that promise the greatest weight loss in the shortest period of time, like diet pills, crash diets, and super intense workouts. But these approaches are not sustainable, nor do they teach us how to create a lifestyle that helps us maintain a healthy weight over the long-term.
Avoid any diet that makes you feel deprived.
If a diet requires you to count points or forbids certain foods, run the other direction as fast as possible. An effective weight loss system will empower you—it won’t limit you. The secret to losing weight and keeping it off is learning to give your body what it needs in a loving way. So what does that mean? In most cases, it’s about eating mostly nutrient-dense, whole foods, but also allowing yourself to splurge, within reason, and not feel guilty about it, because you know you deserve to enjoy foods you love.
Counter the negative self-talk.
There’s a quote from the film Mean Girls, that goes, “I don’t hate you because you’re fat. You’re fat because I hate you.” We may not put it quite that harshly, but the concept is certainly true when it comes to self-talk. If you’re always telling yourself that you’re fat/ugly/unlovable/fill in the adjective, you’re just standing in your own way. When you don’t believe you’re worthy of a greater state of health, you will never achieve it. Know that the negative voices in your head are only your fears and insecurities talking—and they’re not telling you the truth! Every time you begin to criticize yourself, remember that those negative thoughts aren’t based in reality, and bring to mind one of your strengths or a recent accomplishment that you’re proud of.
Weight isn’t everything!
At the end of the day, the secret to weight loss is, somewhat paradoxically, realizing that your physical appearance isn’t what’s most important (there’s a Zen riddle in here somewhere). What you really need to keep the weight off is a sustainable, healthy lifestyle—not one based on punishment or deprivation. And to achieve that, you have to approach health as something you want because you respect yourself and know you deserve the best. So start today. Do one small thing just for YOU, with the understanding that you are a wonderful, valuable human being, regardless of what the scale says.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating © Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014
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