When it comes to weight loss, most people go about it all wrong from the start. They pick a diet plan and jump right in expecting to have a flat stomach and unstoppable confidence in two weeks flat. And then they wonder if they’re broken when it doesn’t work. When actually, they just jumped too far ahead before working on the most important thing: a healthy mindset.
Yep, you read that correctly. A healthy mindset is the most important part of a weight loss plan. If I were to create a college class called Weight Loss 101, Healthy Mindset 101 would be a prerequisite (in fact, I’m launching a group program that more or less follows this format in the coming months!).
In this post, I’m going to explain to you why a healthy mindset is absolutely mandatory for weight loss. I’ll also share some healthy mindset habits to help set you up for success. But first, let’s talk about what I mean by a healthy mindset.
What Does a Healthy Mindset Look Like?
Have you ever said to yourself, “I’ll feel so much better about myself if I just lose some weight?”
I hate to break this to you. But if you said yes, you would benefit from doing some mindset work.
Think about a time when you weren’t feeling too warm and fuzzy about, say, a romantic partner. Did you feel super motivated to nurture them and take care of their needs? If you are, then you are a frickin’ saint.
Usually, we aren’t too keen on taking great care of someone when we’re not feeling very loving toward them.
Similarly, it’s much more difficult to do the things you need to do to lose those last few pounds when you don’t love yourself.
And if the pissed at your partner example didn’t quite land for you, consider this. Studies have consistently shown that people who struggle with mental health also struggle with adopting health-promoting behaviors, like exercising and eating healthy.
In my experience as a dietitian, poor self-esteem has the same effect. It’s so much easier to adopt healthy habits when you love yourself and know that you’re highly capable.
So yes, self-love is important, and it’s one big part of having a healthy mindset. But what are some other examples of a healthy mindset around weight loss?
Here are just a few:
- Prioritizing your mental health over a number on the scale.
- Remembering that, when it comes to health, scale weight is just one data point.
- Understanding that scale weight goes up and down and this usually has nothing to do with true weight change. More often, it’s due to water weight, digestion, and other factors.
- Ditching an all-or-nothing mentality. Remember, perfect is the enemy of progress!
- Swearing off of overly restrictive and/or short-term diets.
- Knowing that slip-ups are part of the process, and embracing them as opportunties for growth.
If you’re like lots of people, this is probably a far cry from where you are now. That’s okay–with time and a little work, it’s absolutely possible to build a healthier mindset toward weight loss.
Healthy Mindset Habits
Have I convinced you yet that a healthy mindset is important for weight loss?
Super! Let’s talk about a few strategies for getting your brain on board with your weight loss plan.
Practice Subtraction by Addition
I’d like for you to just think about something for a second. How many diets focus on giving something up? Whether it’s carbs, grains, sugar, fat, or some other forbidden food, these diets set you up for a faulty mindset (and, in most cases, long-term diet failure).
Instead of giving up sugar, think about replacing one soda per day with water, or one dessert with fresh fruit. And, rather than focusing on calorie burn at the gym, think about increasing the size of those dumbbells.
Use Positive Self-Talk
Let’s just pretend for one second that your best friend tells you she’s in a shame spiral because she ate a RIDICULOUS amount of Fritos at Trivia Night . What do you say to her?
Do you call her a failure? Or tell her she has no self-control? Or do you tell her it’s no wonder she has so much cellulite on her thighs?
Shit, no! At least, I hope your answer is no!
Similarly, you REALLY need to stop saying things like this to yourself. It’s unkind, it’s unloving, and it’s unproductive.
Give yourself 3 minutes (tops) to reflect objectively on that overeating episode. I will say to myself, “hmmm, what was that all about?” and journal on it. You can also use this behavior awareness worksheet to help you with your detective work.
Then, try to replace that smack talk in your head with positive self-talk. It sounds a little woo woo, but studies have linked this practice with more successful weight maintenance over time.
Here are a few positive affirmations to help you get started:
- I’m very capable of making changes that support my goals.
- I am mentally and physically strong.
- I deserve to be healthy and confident.
There are no wrong words–as long as they’re positive!
NSVs are non-scale victories, and celebrating them is SO important for keeping a healthy mindset around weight loss.
Look, you can do everything right for days and even weeks and still not see the scale move. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, calls the lag time between action and results the plateau of latent potential. And it can seriously mess with your mental game.
The best way to keep a healthy mindset whilst perched on the plateau is to look at all the ways you are changing that have nothing to do with that number on the scale.
That might include giving yourself a pat on the back for hitting your daily veggie goal, doing a little victory dance when your pants get a little too loose, or taaking a second to recognized that you survived that terrible workout.
In my experience as a dietitian, this is one behavior that really sets my most successful clients apart from the ones who take a little longer to see the results they want. And no, celebrating NSVs doesn’t burn calories. It just helps you keep your head in the game.
The Final Word
Cultivating a healthy mindset is so important for successful weight loss, but it takes consistent practice.
If you’d like some support in fostering a healthier sense of self around weight loss, I’d love to help! Click here to see if 1:1 coaching with me might be a good fit for you!