If losing weight was as simple as counting calories for a few weeks, the obesity epidemic would be easily fixed. In most cases, gaining weight is a physical manifestation of emotional and psychological stress. To lose weight for good, you need to change the way you think and behave, which can be more complicated than just going on a crash diet. There is a reason why the weight loss industry brings in billions of dollars a year.
Looking for a quick solution to a complicated problem is one of the quickest ways to set yourself up for failure and disappointment. While diet products, books and DVDs can certainly be helpful, it's ultimately up to you to take your mind and body to the next level and say goodbye to those pesky extra pounds forever.
Why Diets Fail
There is nothing more frustrating than denying yourself your favorite foods for days, or even weeks, only to find out that the numbers on the scale haven't budged and neither has your waist line. Most dieters are stuck in a cycle of starving and overeating with no middle ground. The truth is that you fail before you even start dieting when you set unrealistic goals like losing 20lbs by the summer when it's already the middle of April. When the plan inevitably falls through, you feel so upset and discouraged that you give up and go right back to bad eating habits.
The core of the problem for many people is thinking of temporary dieting as a long-term solution to staying fit. Losing weight for good is not so much about dieting as it is about making permanent lifestyle changes. If you want to look great and stay healthy throughout your life, you need to stop yo-yo dieting and start taking small steps toward big changes. Weight loss starts with discovering why you are overweight in the first place and why you haven't been successful in your past attempts to get fit.
Anyone who has ever lost a substantial amount of weight and kept it off will tell you that weight loss is as much of an emotional journey as it is a tough physical challenge. To get results, you need to change your relationship with food and stop letting your weight shape your self-esteem.
Why is Changing Bad Eating Habits so Hard?
In theory, making a conscious decision not to reach for french fries and dessert is simple, but in practice it's a lot harder than it sounds. Why is it so hard to lose weight and stick to good habits when you already know how to do it? One of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming that they are completely in control of their behavior, which is exactly why dieters are so critical of themselves when they fail.
Assuming logic drives your behavior is the wrong way to approach losing weight. Emotions, stress and depression can all drive you to intense cravings for fatty snacks and comfort foods. Stress can even trick you into thinking that you are hungry when you aren't. That's why after a long day at work a bag of salty chips looks a lot more tempting than a low-fat yogurt. It's not just that it tastes better, but it also fills an emotional need that's not being taken care of in other ways.
In fact, studies show that in some people food can trigger the same pleasure areas of the brain as illegal drugs. Foods that are rich in salt, sugar or fat can even trigger dopamine in the brain, the feel-good chemical that makes you feel happy and relaxed. That satisfying feeling can drive you to come back to the same bad foods over and over again even if you are consciously trying to avoid them. It's important to stop blaming yourself for failing to change your habits and start looking for practical solutions.
If you are an emotional eater, figure out what's upsetting you and confront it head on. Whether you are stressed out at work or dealing with problems at home, it's very important to find a healthy outlet for your emotions. Even if it seems silly, science proves that your psychological well-being does have a direct impact on your ability to make the right choices in the kitchen.
Why Deprivation Doesn't Work
Most people believe that strict calorie restriction is the best way to lose weight, but that simply isn't true. That line of thinking will damage your metabolism and trap you in a never-ending cycle of eating too little and eating too much. When you eat too few calories, your body will perceive it as a famine and start clinging to every fat cell in your body as a precaution. Not to mention that constantly saying no when you want to say yes will create a strong emotional need for that type of food until you can no longer resist it.
Eating in moderation is a much better approach from both a psychological and a physical standpoint. Knowing that you can eat calorie-rich foods in small amounts whenever you want to will actually make them seem a lot less special.
How to Think Yourself Thin
The idea that your mind might be behind your failed attempts to lose weight may seem discouraging, but the good news is that changing the way you think isn't as tough as it sounds. The first thing you should do is forget the traditional definition of the word "diet". Thinking of eating healthy as a quick way to lose weight won't get you anywhere in the long run since you'll start to gain the weight you lost as soon as you go back to your old eating habits. To get permanent result, you'll need to find a healthy lifestyle that you can live with. It doesn't mean that you can't eat bad foods altogether, but it's important to cut some of them out of your normal day-to-day routine. Moderation is the key to long-term success. Go ahead and eat chocolate if you love it, but keep it to one square after dinner or an occasional candy bar on the weekends.
Set small goals instead of focusing on the final results. Dieters who measure their access by the number of pounds they lose each week are destined for failure because weight loss is not consistent no matter how well you eat and how much you exercise. Instead of basing your success and self-esteem on the numbers you see on the scale, pat yourself on the back for making small changes like cutting out high-sodium foods or reducing your alcohol intake. Taking one small step at a time will help your mind and body adjust to the changes slowly and smoothly. If you give yourself a chance to get used to your new lifestyle, making good choices will eventually become second nature.
Lastly, remember not to beat yourself up if you gain weight or get sidetracked. The less time you spend on dwelling on past mistakes, the quicker you'll be able to move forward toward a happier and healthier you.