Most of us know what we need to do when we need to lose weight. Move more, eat less. It's not so simple for everyone, the truth is, not knowing how to exercise or how to eat right is not the main reason people have a hard time with weight loss.
If you feel like you have a proper exercise routine, and know what types of food to eat to help you reach your goal, but you're still having a hard time losing weight, then your mental game is likely the missing piece of the puzzle.
The way we think about our goals, food, and our body makes a huge difference in how determined we will be in our weight-loss plan. Regardless of what your individual plan involves, it needs to have the right mental foundation to succeed. I talked to a few nutrition and fitness pros and got their advice on staying motivated and on track without the need to experiment with a new diet or follow an intense new workout routine.
1. Starve the distractions.
"Way too often when we eat, we're also multitasking: watching TV, scrolling through social media, answering emails," says Dr. Fazylova, a weight loss doctor and founder at Radiance Aesthetics & Wellness. "These habits are harmful to having a clear, strong, healthy relationship with food, and they can prevent us from making the necessary dietary changes."
"The best way to fully focus on how much you're eating, what you're eating, why you're eating those specific foods and, more importantly, how that food makes you feel, you need to starve the distractions," Dr. Fazylova says. "So when it comes time to eat, just focus on the food, the process it went through to end up on your plate, where it came from and how it nourishes you." You're more likely to feel satisfied from a meal when practicing this technique.
2. Consider what you’re not willing to do.
Some might consider this counterintuitive, but when your motivation is disappearing, this can help provide the 'why.' Put down in writing things you're unwilling to do. For example, "I am unwilling to be the old mom who can't participate in physical activities with my children."
"Every time I wake up, I think about this," Fazylova says. "It gets me on my Versaclimber and foam roller in the morning. It motivates me to opt for a healthy salad over junk food because I picture myself running on the track with my kids. Throughout the day, we are constantly faced with decisions, and it's important to choose the ones that follow your 'why' path. Sure, I might want to grab a cheeseburger when I'm hungry and don't have time. But, if I am unwilling to be a mother who is out-of-shape, my short game will match the vision of my long game and I will go for a leaner meal."
3. Stop labeling food “good” and “bad”.
I'm sure you've heard someone say that they ate something 'bad.' Perhaps you even said something like that yourself. The problem with 'bad' foods is not that they will send you to the grave after a few bites. The problem is when we consume excessive portions of calorie-dense foods meal after meal, day after day.
Rather than labeling foods as bad or good, contemplate about which foods you consume often, and which ones you should eat less. Then, come up with ways to consume the foods you really love in portions that fit with your overall goals. One example is to have a slice of pizza alongside a club salad with avocado, chicken breast and a little bit of dressing. This is considerably different than 4 slices of pizza, a few breadsticks with cheese sauce and half a liter of soda.
4. Brush your teeth after you eat.
Getting your mental foundation in order is very important, but don't forget that even small habits can make a huge difference. "When you finish eating a meal, you will still have the taste of food in your mouth, which often can make you want to eat more or nibble on dessert, even if you're full," says Diana Rafailova, registered dietitian and nutrition expert at Century Medical & Dental Center. "By brushing your teeth, you will eliminate the taste of food from your mouth, plus you will have a fresh breath and take better care of your teeth that way too."
5. Focus on crowding not cutting.
Usually, the first thing people do when starting a diet is to cut. They cut down their portion size, cut out the 'bad' foods, and even cut out entire food groups. All this cutting puts our minds into scarcity mode. When you set an item off-limits for yourself, you might succeed in avoiding it for a while but then there's a high chance you can end up bingeing on it later because you went without it for so long.
It's much better to focus on crowding rather than cutting. Instead of cutting, crowd your plate and fill it up with more foods like protein and veggies, which simply gives less room for the other stuff. So basically, you want to focus less on what you can't eat, and concentrate more on foods that will help you reach your goals.
6. Take tracking a step further.
Start tracking what you eat, when you ate it, how much you consumed, and how it made you feel. Being honest and writing every single food item that you eat will help you notice if you actually do snack, eat from boredom rather when just hungry, possibly consume more sugar than you thought, or maybe have a habit of eating before bed while watching TV.
"So, instead of simply tracking what food you consume, take into account how that food made you feel, and what you were doing while you ate. This is also a good way to see how much emotional food-related moments you experience throughout your day," says Rafailova.
7. Prioritize good sleep.
"Poor sleep is one of the biggest risk factors for being overweight," Rafailova says. "When you are tired, there is a higher chance you will skip your workout and choose unhealthy comfort foods. On top of that, sleep deprivation can slow down your metabolism. Hence sleeping 7 to 8 hours per night may help with weight loss without increasing your physical activity or changing your diet."
8. Set aside time to disconnect.
"Since we are human and of nature, turn off your phone for a day and escape to nature," Fazylova suggests. "Go out there, connect to the elements while disconnecting from the electronics." This will give your mind a break and help reduce stress, which is a big factor in weight gain. On top of that, it can also help reprogram your brain to connect with yourself and your feelings.