For many of us, we’ve tried every diet imaginable – we’ve done low-fat, low-carb, low-calorie, and more – but the weight won’t come off. Or we shed the pounds, only to gain the weight back. Why is this the case, and what strategies will really help us drop the weight and keep it off?
Have you ever found yourself lying wide awake in the middle of the night, trying desperately to stop worrying about falling asleep? Of course, the result is that falling asleep becomes the only thing you can think about. The same is true when it comes to weight loss. If we’re constantly stressing about losing weight, we may make decisions out of desperation, turning to crash diets and punishing workouts which, while they might help us lose weight in the short term, aren’t sustainable over the long term – and that means we’ll likely gain the weight back.
What’s more, when we’re always thinking about weight, we’re not enjoying our lives! So allow yourself to relax, fully take in your experiences, and shift your thinking away from your weight.
Eat nourishing foods.
It may seem counterintuitive, but eating “diet” foods can actually make it harder to shed the pounds. This is the case for a number of reasons. First, “low-calorie” and “low-fat” foods are often less filling, meaning they’re likely to leave us feeling hungry or unsatisfied. After a full day of feeling hungry, it’s easy to overeat (or even binge eat) at dinner. Diet foods are often not emotionally filling, either. They are often filled with artificial ingredients intended to mimic the texture and flavor of the fat, for example, that has been removed. This makes them less pleasurable, and we may find ourselves overeating in an attempt to make up in quantity what our diets are missing in quality.
Instead, enjoy natural, nutrient-dense foods that truly nourish you on both the physical and the emotional level.
Move your body in enjoyable ways.
Often, when we’re desperate to lose weight, we view exercise as an obligation. Sometimes, we even view it as a punishment that’s necessary to inflict on ourselves because we’ve behaved “badly” and indulged in a food we’ve labeled as taboo. But when we approach exercise with this attitude, we are not likely to stick with it over the long term.
Exercise can be highly enjoyable. The key is to see it as something positive we’re doing for ourselves because we want to, not because we have to. And it is important to find forms of physical activity that we actually like. Going to the gym isn’t for everyone. Maybe you prefer jogging or hiking. Whatever it is, do it because you know you deserve good health, not because you’ll feel guilty if you don’t.
Stop weighing yourself.
Frequently, when we’re “dieting,” we have a specific amount of weight we’re trying to lose. The problem is that, if we’ve told ourselves we want to lose 25 pounds and we lose 20, then can’t seem to shed those last five, we see ourselves as failures. We might revert back to our previous unhealthy eating habits and gain the 20 pounds back.
The “goal weight” we set for ourselves is often arbitrary. The real goal should be optimal health and happiness – not a number on the scale. Try to shift your focus away from achieving a particular weight, and towards getting to the weight where you feel happiest and healthiest, whatever that may be.
Love yourself where you are.
Too many of us feel as if we have to somehow prove our worth. We believe we’re not loveable unless we have a particular body type, or achieve a specific weight. This is problematic because, when we’re looking at weight loss in this way, we often turn to the kinds of unsustainable “desperate measures” discussed above. In addition, even if we lose the weight, we won’t be truly happy unless we understand that we are worthy human beings, regardless of weight.
While we may assume that we will love ourselves once we’ve lost the weight – and that we’ll automatically win the love and acceptance of others, as well – in fact, the real truth is often the reverse. When we learn to love ourselves unconditionally, then we approach weight loss from the perspective of granting ourselves the good health we know we deserve. And that makes us more likely to make more sustainable lifestyle choices.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
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