In this post – mindset shifts for weight loss success, part 1.
To listen to this, check out my podcast episode:
In over 14 years of being a personal trainer, nutritionist, and online weight loss coach, these are two of the most common reasons I see that stop people achieving their weight loss goals.
Although there is a lot of confusing conflicting advice out there, most of us know enough about WHAT to do. We just struggle to do it consistently – for long enough to see results.
And this leads me straight to weight loss trip hazard #1.
One of THE biggest thing that trips people up, is being too hard on themselves.
Thinking they have to do it perfectly: master all the key habits at the same time, while juggling everything else that’s going on in life.
Then when they inevitably and understandably slip up, or fall just a little bit off track… they feel like they’ve failed. And believe they’ll never get there.
Tips for weight loss success: how (not) to create motivation
When we slip up, we tend to think we should be critical, feel bad, and beat ourselves up.
Surely this will help, right?
Motivate us to do better maybe, if we tell ourselves things such as:
‘Get a grip!’
‘You’re such an idiot – do better!’
‘You’re so greedy – try harder!’
‘Stop being so useless and lazy!’
(These are the polite versions of what I hear many people say).
The sad truth is, I have never seen this approach work for anyone.
It might prompt them to knuckle down and get back into restriction mode for a short while.
But it’s coming from a place of ‘I must do this in order to be good enough’ rather than ‘I want to do this for me’.
It doesn’t feel good to do, so motivation (and positive action) tail off pretty quick.
For long term success, we need a radically different approach.
Habits and skills
To create successful weight loss, you’re essentially learning a set of habits and skills.
Imagine you’ve got a child who’s learning a new skill.
Maybe you’ve got a young girl who’s been inspired by England’s lionesses winning Euro 2022, and now she wants to start playing football.
It’s going to take her some time to learn the key skills involved.
If you see her struggling, making mistakes when trying to accurately kick the ball… would you tell her she’s useless and will never get there?
Would you point out how fast other girls learn to play football, and remind her that she doesn’t deserve to feel good about herself until she’s reached the level they’re at?
Maybe you’d suggest that she needs to stop being so lazy and work harder…
Perhaps force her into more strict practise… sucking all the fun out of the game and her life?
Of course not! Because you know that speaking to a young girl in that way would:
- shatter her confidence and self esteem
- make her hate the thing she wanted to learn (and that would bring her so much joy if she took her time with it)
- leave her very likely to give up
The same applies to us adults.
How to help a child reach their goals
As someone who cares for that child and wants them to do well and be successful, chances are you would take a very different approach.
You would probably:
- encourage her to practise
- point out things she does well
- highlight any little signs of improvement
- be her cheerleader
- help her feel great about the process
- inspire her to feel great about herself
Because you know that’s the most likely way for her to be happy and succeed.
If she enjoys the process, and feels proud of her actions (without having to wait for significant results before she gets to feel good), she’ll have the enthusiasm to keep working at it. And if she keeps working at it, she’ll make brilliant progress over time.
We adults are exactly the same.
How to help an adult reach their goals
We need encouragement and compassion to get the best out of us.
When we have that and know we’re allowed to mess up, we can enjoy learning and improving and never having to be perfect.
When we feel pressure, and like we’re failing if we don’t do it right all the time, we don’t enjoy the process.
Our brains want to get away from that discomfort.
The constant fear of failure, and what we’ll make that mean about ourselves, is draining, unsettling, uncomfortable. No one likes to feel that way.
It feels much nicer and easier to take the pressure off.
Which means going back to your comfort zone – not trying.
Waiting a for a better time, or searching for a new diet plan that gives you quicker results (through restriction, which inevitably leads to regaining the weight).
In the short term this feels better, but in the long term it sucks – you never reach your goals.
One of the biggest keys to weight loss success
So if you notice you’re not doing as well as you want, what’s the best way to respond?
The answer (or at least a big part of it) is with self compassion.
This can sound a bit airy fairy, woo woo, and be easily dismissed by our sceptical minds. But I promise, this is actually backed by a lot of research. You’re far more likely to be successful when you cultivate self compassion.
Because the thing is – you’re trying.
And if sustainable weight loss was easy, we would all be slim, fit and healthy.
It’s not easy.
Simple in terms of the key principles, yes. But easy in terms of implementing that into a busy modern life and the obesogenic environment we live in? Nope.
So, even if you could be doing a lot better – you want to do better for yourself, and you’re trying.
Honestly, that’s really important to recognise and feel good about.
If you do that – cultivate a sense of pride, positivity, and being on your own side – you’ll be much more likely to keep going.
And if you keep going… you will create progress, and over time, brilliant results (check out some Client Results HERE.
When weight loss is taking too long
It almost always take far longer than we want it to.
The thing to remember is… building habits takes time. When you try to rush and take short cuts (aka follow a restrictive diet plan), you tend to end up back at square one.
And this isn’t a race. There’s no deadline you have to meet.
What will help is building your confidence and sense of enjoyment, by looking for signs of progress and things you’ve done well.
Don’t allow your brain to dismiss or skim over the little wins you create.
They all count, add up, and make a difference.
Remember, you don’t have to do all the things. And you don’t have to do anything perfectly.
If you feel you can do better, great – see what you can learn, and put that into action next time.
Then feel proud of that.
The thing is, we can learn far more from things that don’t go well.
So every slip up is an opportunity – to learn something that will help your future self be successful.
The key is finding that lesson, and then moving on.
Questions for weight loss success
If you feel like you’ve fallen a little (or a lot) off track, focus on one key habit next week.
Try asking a few questions, such as:
‘In hindsight, what could I have done differently, that would have made me feel better?’
‘How could I make it easier to do that next time?’
‘What could I put in place, practically, to make this habit easier?’
Depending on the habit, this could be things like:
- keeping the fruit bowl stocked up for healthy snacks
- leaving your journal on the table so you can write in it after a stressful day
- taking a protein bar in your bag when out and about
- putting your gym stuff in the car ready to go after work
- leaving your shoes by the door to go out for a walk
And finally, ‘What helpful thoughts can I focus on, that will encourage me to take the actions I want to take?’ This could be:
- encouraging thoughts that you’d say to someone else
- reminding yourself why your health goals are so important to you
- reminding yourself you’re allowed to eat and do whatever you want – you’re choosing this, for the benefit of your future self
- deciding to just do the first 2 minutes of a walk or workout, then you can stop if you want to
- focusing on how proud you’ll feel for doing the thing you want to do
For help to create lasting weight loss success…
I have a podcast all about mindset for weight loss, nutrition, building habits, emotional eating, and more
It’s on all podcast platforms, and you can find it on Spotify via this link:
If you’d love support, accountability and guidance to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable and enjoyable way, find out more about online coaching here: