This is an article that I wrote for the website MindBodyGreen. It can also be found here.
Have you ever noticed that when trying to lose weight, things seem a lot easier when you’re “in the zone,” but much harder when you’re not?
This is a very common situation. A question I often get asked is: “How do I stay ‘in the zone’ when I’m trying to lose weight?”
It’s an important question because it relates to what I call the “diet mentality,”which prevents people from losing weight successfully.
When most people go on diets, the changes they make are quite big. A diet requires you to overhaul your entire eating life, and do something completely different to what you normally do. Often these changes aren’t just drastic, they can also be unpleasant.
Think of a recent diet you tried, and think about the planning and attention required. You may have had to prepare different meals for yourself and different meals for the rest of the family. You might have had to shop at different places for new foods. There might also have been a new exercise regimen that you have to fit into an already busy life.
It’s a lot of work! And it’s not easy to sustain.
As an example, imagine if you decided you were going to walk three miles in the morning before work every day.
That might be easy to do on a bright morning in the middle of summer, but it’s not so easy on a freezing day in winter. Other factors inhibit you, too: a bad night’s sleep, an early meeting at work, one of your children becomes ill. All of these things can so easily push you off course.
What this shows is that when most people try to lose weight or start a new exercise regimen, they make changes that are very fragile. When the changes are fragile, you’ve got to rely on everything going your way to succeed.
But that’s not a good long-term strategy.You’re setting yourself up for failure if everything needs to be perfect when you’re trying to lose weight.
The sad thing is that so many people try to lose weight this way that when things go wrong, they blame themselves. “Why can’t I just stick to things?” they ask. But that’s not the problem. The problem is setting yourself up for failure by establishing too-rigid rules.
So a good question to ask before you embark on any weight loss program is:
“Do I honestly believe I’ll be doing this in five years?”
In other words, do you think you can stick to the changes, or are you being unrealistically optimistic?
So, going back to our walking three miles in the morning example, ask yourself:
“Do I honestly believe I’ll still be walking three miles in the morning before work in five years?”
Sometimes, if you’re honest, you’ll realize you’re unlikely to stick to it for even five days!
You’ve got to make sure that whatever you’re doing, you’re going to stick with it in the long run. If you don’t think you can complete a task, then you’ve got to modify it to something you’ll stick to.
If you keep asking that question for every weight loss change you make, you’ll be much more likely to succeed.
We can deceive ourselves into thinking, “I’m sure I’ll be fine eating boiled vegetables for dinner for the rest of my life,” but you know that’s not going to happen. You have to be honest with yourself and make sure that whatever you do, you’re happy doing it for the long term.