Is It Impossible to Lose Weight (and Keep It Off)? (Part 3)


In this article, we will examine how you can have confidence and optimism about weight loss. Part 1 discussed the discouraging data regarding successful and sustainable weight loss. Part 2 helped to lay a foundation of self-care and compassion.

Confidence: A State of Mind

Imagine a person walking a tight rope in the circus. As he moves across the wire, he spends a lot of time looking down, afraid of falling. Imagine a second person who simply looks straight ahead and moves toward his goal. What do you think happens to the first person? How about the second? If you guessed the first person fell, you are probably right. If you guessed the second did not fall, you are probably right again.

Consider this exercise from our children’s Aikido class: We have larger and smaller children experiment with trying to push one another over. With confidence, they are able to stand their ground and succeed regardless of the size difference. The reverse is true when they doubt themselves.

The conclusion is that if you think you can do something, you are probably right. If you think you can’t do something, you are probably right as well. A large part of success is mental, and losing weight is no exception. However, changing one’s mind can be easier said than done. Let’s inspect.

Optimism: Learn from the Past, Plan for the Future, Be in the Present

We each make over 200 decisions a day regarding food. Sometimes we succeed in following a food plan, and sometimes we don’t. When we fail, do we throw our hands up, say it doesn’t matter, and just eat everything under the sun? Do we say to ourselves, “I am no good. I will never be able to do this. Why do I even try?” This is called all or nothing thinking and it is the antithesis of what we need to do.

Every moment of our lives is a fresh moment. It is an opportunity to assess where we are and take positive steps toward our goals. Is getting down on ourselves because we made a mistake a positive step in that moment? Absolutely not.

So what should we do? Learn from the past. If we made a mistake, why? How can we avoid it next time? If we fail again, ask the same questions. Use what we learned from past mistakes to plan how to do better in the future. As long as we are in the present moment, we can implement these plans and make progress toward our goal. In the beginning 90% of our food decisions may be mistakes. After a month or two, that may fall to 50%, then 10%. Soon we are losing weight without even working at it.

Confidence and Optimism: Gaining Momentum

Think about this wonderful tool. We may have struggled with our weight our entire lives. Now, all we have to do is focus our attention lightly and work gently towards meeting our goals. Slowly over time we move from a high degree of errors to very few. Our objective is suddenly in plain view. This is a feedback loop and it is very powerful.

As long as we keep the loop moving in a positive direction, we are progressing towards our goal. It seems so simple, so why do so many people fail? In our culture, we tend to be over-achievers with little tolerance for mistakes. But if you don’t make mistakes, it is very difficult to learn anything. Mistakes are actually the fuel for growth. So rather than getting down on ourselves for making a mistake, get excited. It is a great opportunity to learn and improve our future.

What happens with over-achieving? If we try to do something too intensely, we become exhausted and give up. However, a continuous drop of water can bore a hole through a boulder over time. If our effort is light and consistent, we can accomplish great things. If it is intense and unsustainable, success is hard to find.

Go back to the feedback loop. If you work forward in a sustainable way, your progress will become geometric and you can make great strides forward. If you burn out and quit, you will never move forward in a sustainable manner. Knowing this should give you optimism and confidence.

And we all know what happens when you are confident.


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