Losing weight and keeping it off requires making sustainable healthy habits when it comes to nutrition, movement and self-care. Regardless of how much weight you may be looking to lose, a critical component for every single person is positive self-talk. Weight loss can be an emotional roller coaster, especially since the number on the scale isn’t the only marker of success. However, your mindset can be a powerful tool to get you through the ups and downs.
In fact, research supports this. Experts found those who used positive self-talk are more successful at losing weight and better able to get back on track after minor lapses such as missing a workout or overeating. Alas, just because you know happier thoughts can help you on your journey doesn’t mean you can flick a switch, and bam — things are perfect.
It’s natural to have some distorted thoughts, but the right education can help you get out of your own way and reach your goals. Here are seven common distorted thoughts that are helpful to reframe when you want to better your health and lose weight:
“I CAN’T HAVE X UNLESS I DO Y.”
It’s one thing to think of a reward for yourself for a job well done, like a pedicure or a workout shirt you’ve been eyeing. However, if you’re thinking of what you eat based on a reward system, you could be dancing in dangerous territory. “This thinking of I can’t have whatever it is until I work out, only leads to feelings of disappointment, resentment and eventually hating working out for the sake of working out,” says Kia Khadem, a certified personal trainer and Precision Nutrition-certified coach.
Have some grace with yourself, Khadem advises. “You don’t need perfection all the time to accomplish your goal.”
“IF I EAT LATE AT NIGHT, I’LL GAIN WEIGHT.”
A calorie is a calorie. However, eating most of your calories during the day rather than at night could be helpful because we tend to overeat in the evening. Still, as long as you maintain a caloric deficit, that’s what’s important for weight loss, according to Richie Howey, certified trainer and CEO of Team RH Fitness. “A healthier way to think about it is to remember that food is fuel for your body — if you’re hungry, that’s your body telling you to eat. Listen to your body.”
“THE SCALE ISN’T BUDGING, SO I SHOULD JUST GIVE UP.”
Most experts would agree that the scale alone is an incomplete metric. Different measurements aside from the number on a scale help you realize how far you’ve come and help you set new goals. “Far too many get frustrated and throw in the towel before the results start coming in,” says Josh Schlottman, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and fitness coach. “The scale can be deceptive, and checking it daily can make or break your motivation. Instead, I tell my clients to track how much better their clothes fit, how much stronger they are and improvements to their self-confidence.”
“I CAN’T SOCIALIZE WITH FRIENDS IF I WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT.”
Oftentimes, getting together with friends is an event that includes food and beverage. For many, that can lead to an uncontrollable, stressful situation. Instead of isolating yourself, find new ways to incorporate the people you care about into what’s important to your new healthy lifestyle.
“You don’t need to make them feel like they have to go to the gym with you if they ever want to see you again, but you can suggest that you all go do something active together instead of sitting around drinking and eating,” says Dr. Mir Ali, a bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in California. “Some of your friends will want to join you in your lifestyle change. They’ll get excited about bike rides, ice-skating and going running with you. They’ll tell you about their accomplishments, and you can tell them about yours. These are the people you want to keep close.”
“CARBS MAKE ME GAIN WEIGHT.”
Carbohydrates are an important part of our diet, but they get a bad rap. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for carbohydrates is 130 grams per day. This helps to fuel an adult’s brain, red blood cells and central nervous system optimally. If you deprive your body of this essential fuel source, you could be doing more harm than good.
“When you eat the right kind of carbs, you’ll find it easy to not only reach a healthy weight but to maintain it as well,” says Jorg Wijnen, RD. “A focus on whole grains, tubers, legumes and fruits is the most sustainable way of eating since people naturally gravitate toward carb-rich foods.”
“I HAD A DONUT THIS MORNING, SO THE DAY IS RUINED.”
Balance is about being able to incorporate all types of food into your regular routine in moderation. This popular thought distortion is an example of the all-or-nothing mindset (commonly referred to as black-and-white thinking). It may be easy to see certain foods as “bad,” but that’s not the case if you’re spending a majority of your day eating whole, non-processed picks.
“Many of us will stick to a diet as long as we’re able to stay with it 100%,” says Schlottman. “Don’t let one bad day turn into many bad days. Reframing this ‘ruined meal’ is key to getting over this self-sabotaging thought process.”
“I DON’T LOOK ANY DIFFERENT, SO THIS ISN’T WORKING.”
Plain and simple: Results don’t happen overnight. Just like you can’t use the scale as the primary indicator of how your journey is going, you can’t just expect to see a whole new person in the mirror after a few days.
“Not allowing yourself enough time is a common issue,” says Dr. Pamela Peeke, chairman of the Jenny Craig science advisory board. “Our bodies take time to adjust, and you will need to be patient with yourself to achieve your weight-loss goal.”
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