You know that success in shedding weight is all about personal motivation and commitment. So it’s probably no surprise that declaring “I’m trying to lose weight” sounds like a floppy half-cooked strand of fettuccine rather than a backbone of intention. “The attitude we have when we approach this process really matters,” explains Robyn Spurr, a certified health coach with the American Council on Exercise who’s based near Littleton, Colorado.
“I want my clients to have a feeling of curiosity and excitement. And the way we feel comes from our thinking. So if we can reframe our thoughts, it make everything easier,” Spurr says.
Master your own messaging, and the rest will follow. Here’s how to harness the power of psychology to help you make progress towards your health goals.
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5 Ways You’re Talking Yourself Out of Success
1. Not describing your bigger mission.
The simplest way to shift your thoughts is by celebrating your long-term goals, rather than obsessing about dropping pounds. “Instead of focusing on weight, which can feel discouraging if the pounds aren’t coming off the way you want, you should focus on health,” explains New York City Psychologist Alexis Conanson, Psy.D, who teaches mindful eating workshops. “Making changes to how we’re eating and increasing physical activity are beneficial, no matter which direction the scale is moving.”
So rather than saying, “I should lose weight,” try using these phrases instead: “I’m working on nurturing my mind and body.” Or, “I’m working to take better care of myself.”
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2. Dissing yourself.
When you’re trying to psych yourself up to prep a week’s worth of chopped veggies, it’s easy to slip into negative self-talk, such as “I have to do something about my weight” or “I can’t stand the way I look.” The problem is that all those punishing vibes don’t help your cause. “Whatever emotion we’re experiencing is going to impact our actions,” says Spurr. “If I’m experiencing shame or self-doubt, then it will be difficult to make healthy decisions.” Her favorite comeback: “I’m creating a more delicious life.”
3. Telling others too much.
This is a tricky one. On the one hand, you’re dying to tell your friends about your new health goals because you could use some social support. On the other hand, you might not always welcome what they have to say, even if it’s a well-meaning “You don’t need to lose weight. You look great!” Declaring that you’re going to pass on another round of drinks might be met with unnecessary drama, adds Spurr. “Other people will project their issues onto you,” she says. “They’ll want you to join them.” In that sense, less can be more when justifying your healthy habits. You can simply say, ‘No thanks.’
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4. Talking about “losing.”
The term “weight loss” is such a part of our lexicon that we even joke about successful pound-droppers as “Biggest Losers.” But if you think about it, “loss” is a word best used in relation to poker, baseball and, well, death. “When talking about losing weight, it implies that you’re taking something away, rather than adding something to or enhancing your life,” says Conason. So what’s a better term? “Bringing your body weight into balance” is more empowering, even if it’s not exactly a catchy name for a TV show.
5. Using the word “diet.”
No matter how you spin it, the word “diet” is associated with restriction and deprivation, and that’s not a formula for long-term success. “People can stick with a diet for a short period of time, but then they usually go off it and end up regaining their weight and then some,” says Conason. “It’s better to mindfully eat what you crave. Taste it. Smell it. Savor it. Eat enough slowly to feel satisfied. Get as much pleasure and satisfaction as you can. That’s called working with your body’s own wisdom.”