1 Mindset Tweak that Will Help You Lose Weight

by Coach Stevo
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1 Mindset Tweak that Will Help You Lose Weight

You wake up after having slept a little, grab a breakfast you’re not really excited to eat on your way to a job you’re not really excited about. You spend your afternoon dreading going to the gym to work out after work. And you’re frustrated that you’re not losing weight.

Stress is real and has a real physiological effect on the body via the endocrine system. But people don’t often think about the effects of stress because, when you’re neck-deep in life, it’s hard to gain perspective.

In 2008, I was 60 pounds overweight. I decided that I wanted to change, hired a personal trainer, and changed my diet. I was doing everything that people tell you to do when you want to lose weight, and the weight started to come off slowly. But then in July, I did something that very few people talk about, but it proved to be the biggest step in my personal weight-loss journey: I quit my terrible job.

Quitting my job immediately changed my environment, both psychical and social. And I began to notice new things that had escaped me. For one, going to work at a job I hated every day had given me a negative outlook on life. Instead of seeing opportunities to improve my life, I saw things with what Dr. Carol Dweck calls, “a fixed mindset.” Leaving that job gave me fresh perspective, and I started to think that changing my body was actually possible.

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Secondly, it forced me out of a routine that I was not even aware I was in, and made healthier food choices and physical activity easier. I no longer had to resist a soda machine. Because I was spending less mental energy on resisting and coping, I wasn’t going around in a state of what Dr. Roy Baumeister calls “ego-depletion.” I actually had extra willpower that I didn’t have when I was spending all day at a job I hated.

Finally, I started spending more time with people for whom health and fitness was normal. And it became my new normal. And the weight just started to slide off.

I am not advocating that everyone should go quit their jobs (I was privileged to have a spouse who worked and a new job lined up), but since I have seen so many clients whose lives get in the way of their weight loss—and completely unaware of it—I suggest that they initiate more awareness with one of my favorite mental exercises.

This practice comes from my mentor, Dan John. He asks his clients (elite athletes) to rate the stress in their lives with a system of lights:

  • “Red” means, “There is something in my life that demands immediate attention outside of my training.” This can include: deaths, divorce, injuries, newborns, March and April for accountants.
  • “Yellow” means, “I’m coping, but training is not going to be my top priority.” This can include: stressful jobs, relationship trouble, high school kids picking colleges.
  • “Green” means, “I’m good to go and I can make training a high priority for a while.”

Green-light situations are rare, but they are when we can expect the fastest fat loss. Most of us are in Yellow most of the time, and we should manage our expectations accordingly. Weight loss is going to be slow, but it’s still possible.

And every now and then, we slip in to Red. But as any grief counselor will tell you, denial is universal. We’re really good at telling ourselves we’re not in the Red, and I’ve had many clients who could not personally see it without outside eyes. And when you’re in the Red, often it’s your body telling you: You’re always tired. You’re getting sick all the time. Maybe you miss a period or two. These are signs to me that weight loss might be really difficult and, in fact, maintaining weight would be a real victory at this time!

So before you get too frustrated and give up, take a look at your life and see what “light” you’re in. You can still make progress, but you’ll make more if you can manage your expectations.


5 Ways We Sabotage Our Health Goals
8 Things to Do When You’ve Lost Motivation
The Surprisingly Simple, Enjoyable Way to Make Weight Loss Stick

About the Author

Coach Stevo

Coach-Stevo-Logo.pngCoach Stevo is the nutrition and behavior change consultant at San Francisco CrossFit. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Chicago and an MA in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University. He teaches habit-based coaching to wellness professionals all over the world and he contributed to Intervention by Dan John in 2012. 



24 responses to “1 Mindset Tweak that Will Help You Lose Weight”

  1. Kelly says:

    This article is absolutely amazing! I felt like I was reading a chapter of my life recently as i had the same thing happen to me with the “terrible job.” My whole outlook on life was negative. I would burn thousands of calories at work but still not lose weight. I was in a constant state of fatigue, exhaustion, negativity, amd absolute dreadful despair. One day I snapped and couldnt take it anymore. I walked out of that job and my life has transformed dramatically!!! It seriously was a poison in my life. I make less money but my mindset towards life is sooo much more positive and im sooo much happier. Im making much healthier food choices and am actually finding it easier to lose weight. Im even getting more sleep!!! Oh beautiful sleep how i missed it so. This article is absolutely spot on and couldnt be more accurate!!! Thank you for posting!!!

  2. My Name Is Oliver Queen says:

    So quit your job and you will lose weight???? Seriously, FIND SOME BETTER WRITERS!!!! I had to stop working due to ill health and I put on weight!!!

    • Kate says:

      Oliver…sorry about your woes and I truly pray that your health starts to improve soon. I read this article and he did say he wasn’t expecting people to quit their jobs to lose weight. That is what worked for him. We all have stresses in our lives that prevent us from concentrating on our health. I know I do and it sure looks like you do. Again, I hope you continue your journey and are successful.

    • Jo Post says:

      If that is all you got from this article, please re-read it. Stress can prevent health. He states being able to leave his bad job because he had one lined up to replace it.

    • N says:

      I dont think you understood the point of the article 🙂 he said ” im not tellling you to quit your job and that he was lucky tht his wife was working and that he had another job waiting. He was clear about not quiting your job but finding the source of stress that is making you less positive and active 🙂

    • Miggy says:

      Oliver, I’m so sorry you find yourself in that situation. It happened to me too. The writer isn’t saying leaving your job is the answer, he’s saying it worked for him because it made him so stressed, and he was able to take another job that suited him better. I loved my job and I was angry and stressed to have to leave it – maybe it’s the same for you. It also made me less active as I was no longer on my feet most of the day, and I was unable to exercise (because of the condition I had), so I put on weight too – about 30lbs, which is a lot for my build. Seven years on my health still isn’t perfect but I’ve come to terms with the situation and am much more relaxed about it. And guess what? I’ve lost about half of that excess weight and I’m persevering with the rest. I hope you recover soon.

  3. Cecile says:

    Think this article is so true. A job or something else can really get you in the red and if you don’t remove that obstacle, it is near impossible to get healthy. It sabotages you. It is never easy to quit a job to lose weight, and the writer certainly does not advocate we all quit to lose extra pounds, but sometimes you need to if it is having a negative impact on your health which is the most important thing. Didn’t just quit the job to get healthy, but in my case, it is the first time in 10 years ( when I started working at the firm I just left and didn’t really like) that I am seeing the pounds disappear. And I am not even trying too hard. Just living a different, healthier, less stressful but not stress-free life. Great article. Thanks for posting it.

  4. Leanne says:

    Great article!!

  5. Lisa Rowlis says:

    I agree with Kelly’s comments the article was a lot like my life but not only did I have the wrong job, I also had the wrong partner and was living in the wrong city these totally blew out my scales! I’ve changed all of these and I’m now 20kgs lighter. Thanks for another good article

  6. LaurenRosePR says:

    I have to remember to de-stress often. I had a similar experience, but instead of quitting my job, I took on another career that fueled my passion and am balancing the two. Sounds stressful to have two, right? Not at all. The second career has made me enjoy so much more in life and free my mind from what I perceived as a monotonous downward spiral. I eat better, I’m motivated to workout more and I’ve regained the passion for my first profession. And lack of good, deep sleep increases your cortisol levels as well!

  7. Susan Todd says:

    Thank you for these articles. I would absolutely agree that stress is a major contributor not only to weight maintaining but other ills 🙁 I looked back at photographs of myself in a previous role and I was genuinely shocked. Good luck everyone in attempting to reach and maintain a healthier weight and lifestyle 🙂

  8. Gary Hudson says:

    Life is Short, enjoy every minute of it & live life to it’s fullest. Take a bike ride, a walk in the park, get back to nature. Have an attitude of gratitude.
    Find ways to make your job and your life more enjoyable and fun. Happy ness is a state of mind, Thoughts are real & they manifest themselves, Think positive thoughts and be happy.
    This article is like Kelly states, Spot on, and the author is suggesting we can change our Lives. Thanks for posting !!!

  9. Alice Ehrler says:

    Lol this article is woo as heck. We all know weight loss is all about calories in and calories out. Yes stress hormones may make it a little more difficult but it’s not going to halt a deficit. I guarantee if I put you on a desert island with no food you’d still lose weight — while being even MORE stressed, lol. Yes — quitting your job gives you more time to work out and pay attention to your diet; thus, more results.

  10. Antonio Cimino says:

    I quit work about 1 year ago, after 38 years, to concentrate on my health , joined the gym, I now have lost over 20 kilo’s, and have dropped 10 inches from my waste, I work size 44 to 46 pants and now am down to 36. Where once I was negative I have now become a positive person, stress has been removed and feel better now than 20 years ago. I really believe that we have become a very stressful society and that has become the problem, not the fast food they are all talking about, this is a just a symptom. Our hours of work have become crazy, and we are now imprisoned in our so called democratic society. We have become our own jailers.

  11. Bobbie Champion Horine says:

    I have been in the red for much of my life. My husband divorced me after 43 years. He left me for a new model. My daughter became a cocaine addict at age 27. My grandson was born with drugs in his system. He is 13 now and has problems with ADHD. I am raising him and have had him since he was born. I have health issues since I am getting older age 64 now. My husband and I had 4 dogs when we divorced and I took them with me in the divorce as my husband would justify going off and leaving them for a 2-3 days at a time and I thought that was wrong, so I took them with me but money is a major problem since the divorce. I could write a book. These things are not going to change and I cannot walk away from them so I must learn how to not let them choke me to death. I tend toward depression mostly from losing my husband whom I loved to another woman. My weight zoomed up 60 lbs since the divorce 3 years ago. I had always been active in my 30’s and 40’s. Played racquetball all my life and now with age, I cannot even hit the ball. I loved that game and even played tournaments. I belonged to a running team when I lived in Alaska. We would run 3 to 12 miles every weekend. It was a blast. I had a friend who did free weights and she taught me and helped me in that area which made such a huge difference in losing weight and being healthy. Then more hell broke lose in my life and it continues to be hardship and adversity. I am trying to re lose this weight and I am doing it slowly. Not coming off as easily as it did when I was younger. Arthritis is now an issue in my life. I want everyone to know, please do not put off taking care of yourself while you are younger as it will be much harder when you are older. Everyone ages differently. Some do not get arthritis or cancer or heart disease but something is lurking behind the corner for each of us and it is likely to show up the older we get, because well, that is part of life. The best thing you can do is take care of yourself now. Build good habits now. Enjoy and take care of yourself and relationships each day. I miss feeling the strength of youth and the ability to run and feel the sweat and wind in my hair. I miss climbing a tree. I miss the years of young love with my husband. Do not take anything for granted. Nurture yourselves with good health habits and nurture each other. Appreciate each morning and thank God for giving it to you. I am doing my best to fight depression from so much calamity in my life. This life ends and God is around the corner and then a new life begins. No matter what life throws you, keep fighting and never go down without doing your best. Try to always eat healthy and keep up the exercise. Pray to God and be thankful. Love your dog! Kiss your children!

  12. Erica Lynn Jones says:

    I’ve been in the red the past 5 months. Nursing school does that to you! However, now I’m on Summer break and that means green light!

  13. krishjohnly says:

    Walking is really too good for maintaining a healthier life, It is also more helpful for weight loss. In additional, We need to follow a proper diet schedule.

  14. Iowa Weight Loss says:

    Stress is huge! Glad that you had that next job lined up and saw the benefits of both a new direction personally, but the way to getting rid of unwanted stress AND pounds! Great post.

  15. Melissa says:

    I refuse to believe mindset tweaks help you lose weight.

    • iSHi Darksky says:

      Melissa, unfortunately for you it does not require YOUR belief, it is what it is and what it is, is true. How we think about things determines how we respond to them. One of the GREATEST books in the world, The Bible, even tells us, “so as a man thinkeh”. Our mind is where our strengths lie, not our bodies (though it does hurt to have a strong body) but before our body gets strong we start with a mindset that we want to strengthen our bodies. So as you see mindset tweaks do work. And Melissa I kinda got a hunch that you knew that already, lol. Be blessed.

  16. krishjohnly says:

    To overcome your weight, you need to check with above excellent information, which deals with the opportunity to improve your healthy life.

  17. Chad says:

    Hello everyone, I have a story that you can take or leave: I am a devoted husband and my 4 children seem to think I’m a good dad that is my strength that keeps me from doing something stupid. I suspected my wife was having an affair with a live in young man (exchange student), and the stress in my life went through the roof, I not only had to still provide for my family (wife is a stay at home mom, probably a harder job than mine but not much for monetary rewards) and deal with the pain of not knowing what was going on while I was gone and why the hell it was happening to us. We were no longer intimate and still are not a year later, but I remain there to be the supportive dad and hopefully repair our marriage.
    Now the rest of the story I weighed 240 LBs prior to feeling as though I was being deceived (my wife still denies it and hates me for it). I now weigh 178 LBs a year later. The stress was killing me, I couldn’t eat, sleep, or even keep the food I ate in my system long enough to get anything from it. I had several doctor visits to find there wasn’t anything physically wrong with me and the mental stress was causing the rapid weight loss which occurred mostly in 3 months 50Lbs worth. I feel the author is correct that the mental aspect has a lot to do with your weight, and unless you live the life of a person in mental distress you have no clue how it can affect you. My case may be rare with loosing the weight instead of gaining, but since I have dealt with the stress and am doing better (less anxiety and depression) I have started to exercise and use the pain to fuel my workouts and actually relieve stress. It works, when I feel like crying I add another ten pounds of weight to the bar or do an extra set of reps. Life can suck at times, but if you use what you have to fuel your desires you can get where you want to go. I still love my wife and still hope for a future with her and I work daily to make her happy, sometimes the response from her gives me more fuel to get even more toned. Good luck all!!

    • Lisa Herrin says:

      Maybe you are right and maybe not about the affair. My ex was obsessed with the idea that I might’ve had an affair. Totally unjustified. I promise. But it destroyed our marriage. Please try in your heart to believe her. Put it in the past and pour yourself into the present. See a counselor together or do a couples retreat. Stay strong! May God bless your beautiful family forever!

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