It’s More Than Willpower: The Psychology of Successful Weight Loss
So many factors can make or break a weight loss program. When programs succeed, credit is usually given to factors like diet, willpower, supplements, and proper exercise. When programs fail, that’s also where the blame usually falls. Those factors are important, but what’s perhaps more important is something that doesn’t get discussed as often; the psychology of successful weight loss. And there’s much more to that than simply willpower.
Have you ever tried to lose weight unsuccessfully?
What went wrong? Was it a matter of diet, exercise, supplements, willpower or something else?
AllStarHealth.com is certainly not a research organization, but we do have good relationships with our customers. And with weight loss and weight-loss supplements being areas of such major interest to our customers, we’ve made some observations about what factors seem to determine the success of a weight-loss programs. Our impressions square with what research is continuing to show about the secret to weight-loss success; it’s a mental game.
Maybe it has to do with the fact that we live in a society bombarded with drug commercials and instant-gratification schemes of every type, but in any case it comes as no surprise that when it comes to successfully losing weight, people often begin the process with unrealistic expectations:
They expect a diet pill to perform miracles.
They settle on an arbitrary number of pounds to lose, almost always subconsciously invoking the Rule of Fives, an inexplicable but persistent tendency to set weight loss goals in 5 lb. increments; “I need to lose (5-10-15-20) lbs!“.
They give themselves an arbitrary period of time in which to lose that arbitrary amount of weight i.e., “I want to lose 15 pounds by …..the end of January!”
They don’t take the time to proactively research diet, exercise and supplements, instead relying on whatever sound-bites, anecdotes and uninformed advice they stumble across at the water cooler, in the waiting room or on a TV talk show.
They make excuses for counterproductive behavior instead of resolving to correct it. This undermines the very state-of-mind they should be cultivating. The results they expect don’t materialize in the time frame they expected. These cycles repeat until the whole program is simply a joyless, endless and fruitless endeavor.
Then you talk to people who’ve successfully lost weight and kept it off.
Talk to enough people on both sides of the fence and you can’t help but start to notice big differences. Both groups mention their diet, supplements and exercise habits – that’s not where the differences lay. Instead, the most profound differences are revealed in the very way in which people talk about their weight loss efforts. They are mainly mental and psychological differences. It’s not so much that this group exercised more or dieted more strictly, it’s deeper than that. The very mindset of the successful dieter is markedly different from that of the try-and-try again dieter. Let’s examine this mindset and see how and why it produces better and more-lasting results that halfhearted fad or crash diet approaches.
The Right Mindset frames the weight-loss program as set of positive and permanent lifestyle changes that eventually lead to weight loss, better health, mood, love life and other positive changes. As these “new” lifestyle changes become familiar habits, they no longer feel like changes or sacrifices. Because they’ve been permanently implemented, the weight comes off and stays off.
The Wrong Mindset doesn’t see the process as one of positive lifestyle changes, but rather focuses on the results and and on the time factor; I wanted to lose X lbs by X date. What can I blame for that not happening?
The Right Mindset commits to these changes and makes them permanent, understanding that by doing so, excess weight and body fat can only decrease. That may happen slower than we’d like but it can’t fail to happen. But whether its taking 6 weeks or 6 months, the Right Mindset doesn’t care. It’s committed to making these changes permanent, committed to making them the new norm.
The Wrong Mindset doesn’t commit. It finds rationales for not exercising, for not making the extra effort to eat right, for not doing any research. The Wrong Mindset plays at losing weight, but falls short of committing to the process.
The Right Mindset doesn’t pay much attention to numbers. Their weight-loss success rarely comes as a result of “chasing numbers around” such as pounds lost, pounds gained, calories, fat grams, how many weeks, etc. Instead, the Right Mindset focuses on establishing and making permanent as many healthy new eating, supplement and exercise habits as possible, then forgets numbers. Just keep doing all the right things – the weight and fat come off eventually – does it really matter if it happens at this rate or at that rate?
The Wrong Mindset gets overly concerned with numbers or focuses on the wrong numbers. These are the folks who weight themselves, perhaps compulsively, on a bathroom scale and – quite naively – let that number validate or repudiate their success. They’ll get hung up on calories while ignoring nutritional content of food. They’ll focus on how long they exercised but not how hard.
There really isn’t any secret to losing weight and keeping it off, and indeed, hundreds of conversations with customers about weight-loss have left us unable to draw any other conclusion than this one; with very few exceptions, most people know exactly what they need to do to lose weight. They know they have to clean up their diet and exercise, and what they need to do achieve that. What makes some successful and others unsuccessful isn’t an information gap at all. It’s an attitude gap. Anyone can lose as much weight as they want to but remember that it’s a mental game more than anything else. Be sure to start at the beginning by cultivating the Right Mindset.