There are no substitutes for eating healthy and regular exercise, but experts say that your frame of mind and your attitude can make a huge difference to your weight loss success. Of course, we’re not suggesting hypnosis or any of that silly voodoo. We’re talking about cutting out the “mental fat”—the negative thoughts and emotional baggage we carry around that keep us from being able to shed the physical fat.
It’s easy for us to make excuses for not getting healthier. Whether it be emotional problems, work-related stresses, or family pressures, something will always get in the way of eating better and making time to exercise.
Just as losing weight and getting healthier won’t happen overnight, improving your thought process will take time as well. Be patient with yourself and work at it a little bit at a time. Below we’ve outlined 10 methods you can use to help you think better, smarter, healthier, and thinner!
- Visualize yourself thin. Imagine how you’ll look 6 to 12 months down the line. If you have old pictures of your thinner self, dig them out and put them up in a prominent place (like the refrigerator or on a bulletin board in your office). Remember how you felt back then. What habits did you have then that allowed you to be healthier? See if you can incorporate your better habits from the past back into your lifestyle now. Remember to see yourself in a positive light. Having a positive attitude and being happy with yourself will be helpful in achieving your health goals.
- Make a list. List specific reasons why you want to lose weight. Perhaps you want to be more attractive to a certain someone, maybe you want to be able to fit into your old clothes again, or maybe you’d just like to have more energy. Whatever your personal reasons, great or small, write them all down on an index card. Look at your list every morning and carry it around in your wallet or purse. On the back of the card, write down motivating phrases to give yourself encouragement.Think about activities you wish you could do that you can’t do because of your weight. If you can, cut out a picture of that activity from a magazine and hang it near your desk (or somewhere else that’s visible), so that you’ll have something to look forward to.
- Identify self-sabotaging thoughts. Pay attention to your negative thoughts. We all have them. They may be something like “This is too difficult,” “I’ll never be able to lose this much weight,” or “I’m too tired.” You can’t stop them from entering your head but you can learn to respond to them constructively.Don’t be overly critical of yourself—focusing on your negative aspects while minimizing your positive ones. Just because you feel or believe something doesn’t actually make it true. Of course, there are no wrong or bad emotions, but identifying why something makes you feel bad can help prevent those situations in the future. If you get in the habit of identifying your self-sabotaging thoughts, you can nip them in the bud before they blow up into an ugly depression.
- Distract yourself from cravings. Create a list of things you can do to distract yourself from tempting food. Perhaps you can read a book, flip through a magazine, or play a video game. Or better yet, go for a walk or pop in an exercise DVD. The next time a craving comes up, do one or two things on your list. You may have to do more, but eventually the craving will pass. Cravings will pass 100 percent of the time.
- Create small goals for yourself. Write down a list of tiny things you can do to improve your lifestyle. We all know that it’s difficult to make huge changes to our lifestyles. So try accomplishing smaller goals. Try doing some of the activities listed below.
- Take a 30-minute walk in the afternoon.
- Eat one more serving of fruits or vegetables today.
- Forgo that soda or glass of wine and just have a tall glass of ice water.
- Order a side salad instead of those french fries.
- Replace old habits with new ones. It’s easier to replace an old habit with a new habit than it is to break an old one altogether. For instance, if you have a sandwich every day for lunch, choose low-fat turkey on wheat and skip the mayonnaise. Have plain or sparkling water instead of a regular sugared or diet soda. If you like to have an afternoon snack, grab an apple or a handful of your favorite nuts instead of a candy bar. There are so many ways you can replace even entrenched bad habits with healthier good ones. Be creative and have fun with it.
- Keep a journal. Get a little notebook and keep a log of your weight. This way you can determine what is and isn’t working and track the progress you make. Also, write down what you eat. Keeping track of the foods you eat will help show patterns. You may not have realized that you eat ice cream right out of the freezer every night after dinner, but your journal will keep you honest. Just knowing that you’re going to write down what you’ve been eating may keep you from reaching for that extra serving of mashed potatoes.
- Plan for the future. Every night before you go to bed, plan for the next day. Whether it be scheduling exercise in your calendar or prepacking healthy snacks (like fresh fruit, cut veggies, or low-fat popcorn), get ready for tomorrow.This also applies to grocery shopping. Make a list before you go grocery shopping that includes fresh fruits and vegetables you like. Replace calorie-heavy, fatty foods like chips and cookies with baked crackers or dried fruit.Armed with a plan and tools to help you maintain that plan, you’ll have an easier time meeting your goals.
- Be nice to yourself. When you’ve been good, do something nice for yourself. Reward yourself with something you enjoy (but not with food rewards, of course!). Perhaps you can enjoy a trip to a movie theatre, buy yourself a new book, or go for a foot massage.For instance, if you walked up the stairs to work this morning, treat yourself to a bit of Internet surfing or an online game before tackling your job. If you’ve lost 5 pounds, reward yourself with a new haircut. Whatever you do, give yourself rewards proportional to the goals you accomplish.
- Surround yourself with support. We all need emotional support, especially when times get tough. Find friends and family to help you. You may even be able to find a diet buddy or join a support group. Many studies show that having a healthy social network is better for your overall health. Dieters who have friends and family pulling for them achieve better success than those who try to go it alone.So pick up the phone, call a friend, and flex those mental muscles. Many happy thoughts to you!