Why is losing weight so difficult? The answer is relatively simple for those of us who have added some extra weight—we need to eat less and exercise more. So, why do we continually find ourselves in the same place year after year with carrying around more weight than we want to?
The problem is that there are many nonconscious issues that often sabotage our best-laid plans. This article will help you understand some of what may be preventing you from making the forward progress that you want.
One of the first things to look at is your need strength profile. This is a self-assessment that determines which of a person’s five basic needs drives the majority of that person’s behavior. All of us have the same five basic needs but freedom may be my highest need, while love & belonging may be yours and survival may be someone else’s. The other two needs are power and fun. These all play a huge role in why we do the things we do in the way we do them.
Next it is important to seriously consider all the things you want in your life, not just your weight loss goals but the whole of everything you want to do, have and experience in your life. Ask yourself the question, "What do I want? If I could have anything, what would it be? What do I really, truly want?"
After that, you want to narrow down what you want to a complete vision of how things will change for you after losing the weight you want to lose. What will you have that you don’t have now? What will you do differently? How will you be different? You must be able to clearly see the finished version of what you are attempting to accomplish with all its accompanying perks. This will become your own personal mental movie or daydream of how you want your life to be after accomplishing your weight loss goals. You will begin to visualize your success at least once a day.
The next step is to record all the things you do that both help or hinder your progress toward your weight loss plan. So, for example, if you were able to resist donuts for breakfast, write that down. If you ordered dessert after a meal at a restaurant, record that as well. In addition to the actual behaviors, you also must write down the thoughts and feelings you experience that either help or hinder your progress, too.
So, if you think to yourself, “It’s OK if I have this piece of chocolate. I was really good yesterday”—write that down. Then, if you have the thought, “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels”—write that down too. If you’re feeling bored and you grab a bag of potato chips, record the boredom feeling. If you feel elated when you skip a favorite dessert, write that down also. Keep track of everything you do, think and feel that either helps or impedes your progress toward your weight loss goals.
The next step is to critically evaluate the things you are doing, thinking and feeling and ask yourself the difficult question—“If I keep doing everything the way I’ve been doing it, will I end up with what I REALLY want? Will I accomplish the vision I have of my new life that I created in my mental movie?”
If your answer is yes, then great! You probably don’t even need to continue reading this article. Just keep doing what you are doing and you will get there. However, if your answer is no, then read on.
If your answer is no, then hopefully you have been successful in creating some cognitive dissonance for yourself. This is an uncomfortable feeling that provides you with information that you need to make some changes. Without experiencing this cognitive dissonance, it’s easy to continue with the bad habits we have developed over time. People generally don’t implement changes in their lives unless they are in some serious pain.
If you’re not moving forward toward your goal, the first thing you need to examine is: Do you have a burning desire to accomplish your goal? Whatever your weight and fitness goal is, you must have a burning desire to accomplish it.
Another possibility is that up until now you haven’t had a very good plan about how to go about losing weight. Without a solid plan, there will easily be loopholes allowing you to sabotage your success. Willpower alone only takes us so far when we are fighting our brain’s conditioning.
A third possibility is that you want something else that is competing with your weight loss plan. There are many possibilities to consider but you will find some clues, either hidden or obvious, in the list of your behaviors, thought and emotions that you previously developed. What do you do, think and feel instead of the things that will ensure your success with your weight loss plan? An excellent question to ask yourself is: “What would you have to give up to become successful with your weight loss goals?”
Once you become conscious of the other things you want in addition to losing weight, you have some decisions to make. Is the thing you want something you want more than losing weight? If it is, then you can decide to give up on the idea of losing weight and simply be content doing, having or obtaining the other thing you want. You will then have a new goal toward which to work.
Another option is to consciously decide that you want to lose weight more than anything else. If that occurs, then you must specifically target your personal areas of temptation in your neural reconditioning program, which I will explain later.
Finally, the last option involves figuring out some kind of compromise so that you can have some of each of the things you want. For example, I just read in a magazine of a movie star who restricts her carbohydrate intake six days a week but then she allows herself as much pizza as she wants on Sundays. That’s a workable compromise.
The final question to ask yourself is: “Am I willing to do the necessary work to make my plan come to fruition?”
Developing your Plan
There are several things to take into account when making a plan. You must consider your most important needs and be sure to build in way to meet those needs while still losing weight. If your biggest need is love & belonging, then you may want a partner to work with you. If survival is your biggest need, then you will need to build in a way for you to feel safe.
If power is your highest need, then what you want to think about is perhaps making your weight loss a competition somehow. If your highest need is freedom, then you must begin to think about things, people, activities or places that allow you to feel free that won’t impede your weight loss progress and add them to your weight loss plan. If your highest need is fun, then you must find a way to make your weight loss fun for you.
The next step is to develop positive affirmations that support your weight loss goals. You must begin to reprogram the negative thoughts that are standing in the way of you accomplishing your goals. Oftentimes, these thoughts are even out of your conscious awareness but they prevent your success nonetheless.
Affirmations are positive, present, time sensitive statements affirming what you want to be true. Research shows that our brains do not know the difference between the truth and a lie. When you affirm a particular thought, value or belief in your mind frequently enough over a long enough period of time, your brain will begin to believe it. Consequently, the brain will mobilize its strong forces to do whatever it takes to manifest the thing you are claiming to be true in your life.
Write out as many affirmations as you want to support your goals. You may have affirmations about food, exercise, thoughts and anything else that will help you move in the direction of accomplishing your goals. There is no limit to how long your list of affirmations can be. You decide how much time you want to spend with them each day, with five minutes twice daily being the minimum. You should recite your affirmations once upon first waking up and then at the end of the day just before going to sleep.
It is helpful to look yourself in the eyes while saying your affirmation. You can do this, of course, with the use of a mirror. Look yourself in the eyes, as though daring the person in the mirror to dispute the truth of what you are saying. Repeat your affirmations with passion and conviction twice daily. If you can fit them in a third time around lunch, even better.
Next, you want to spend some time analyzing your food triggers—those things that prompt you to eat the wrong foods and to eat when you are not hungry.
Many people have substituted food to meet their needs in an unhealthy way. We eat when we are depressed, excited, stressed, bored, angry, or scared. Different people for a variety of reasons use emotions as triggers to eat. And it’s not as if we are diving into the refrigerator to pull out an apple or some carrots! No! We are reaching for the chocolate or the potato chips. And no, these are not in the 5th food group!
Emotions are only one thing that we use for a food trigger. Sometimes we eat to be social. Sometimes we eat because the food is free. Sometimes we eat because we are experiencing a particular craving. Sometimes we eat for comfort. Sometimes we eat because the clock tells us it’s time to do so.
Other times, we will eat when we are not hungry because we paid for the meal. We were told we must clean our plate and not waste food. We tell ourselves we don’t like leftovers so we better eat it up or maybe there isn’t enough to save and we don’t want to throw good food away.
In order to be successful with your new weight loss agenda, you must begin to think of food differently. No longer is food your best friend or the thing you reach for to comfort you. Food is simply fuel for your body. The only time to eat is when your body signals you that it is hungry and then you must be conscious of the food for which you reach.
Get conscious about the things you are doing as they pertain to weight loss. Paying attention and noting the events and circumstances that trigger your eating will provide you with a lot of information about what to do to fix things.
After analyzing your food triggers, it is appropriate to again ask the question, “What would you have to give up to accomplish the weight loss goals you’ve set?” You may have uncovered new information to consider.
If you’ve come this far, it’s time to construct your plan. First of all, this plan must be written. You are going to write yourself a contract! The first two items are your plan will include daily visualization of your new life and the recitation of your affirmations.
Include ways to get your primary needs met that won’t sabotage your weight loss efforts. Include elements of past successes that will add to your likelihood of success. Include efforts to do something different when you experience your strong food triggers. Be proactive about what you will do instead. Don’t simply write, “I will not eat when I am depressed.” Write what you will do instead.
When you are satisfied with the potential success of your plan, sign and date it. Then follow the plan you've made with dogged determination.