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How to Lose Weight by Shifting Your Mindset

 9 Tips For Losing Weight

How to Lose Weight by Shifting Your Mindset

Start your weight loss journey by understanding your motivation and setting realistic goals.

Get your mind right for weight loss.

Every diet and weight loss strategy has its pros and cons, but for any to really work, you’ve got to get your mind right.

“Without the right mindset, your weight loss journey will be more difficult to start, and your goals will be more difficult to achieve,” says Sara Riehm, a registered dietitian and certified specialist in obesity and weight management with Orlando Health in Florida.

Unfortunately, some people try to lose weight while in the worst state of mind possible: wanting to "fix" themselves. They jump into diets and exercise plans, become obsessed with quick results and lose sight of sustainability and even health.

"This type of thinking can be destructive," says Dr. Kevin Campbell, a cardiologist with Health First in Melbourne, Florida. “Rather than focusing on the good that can come from weight loss – such as better health, a longer life, more enjoyment in everyday activities and the prevention of diabetes and heart disease – these folks focus on negative thoughts. Ultimately, a negative mindset leads to failure."

But you don’t have to stay mired in negative thinking.

Here, we offer nine tips for shifting your mindset to support your journey of losing weight.

1. Make your mindset about being healthy, not a number on the scale.

Labels matter – and they can undermine your weight loss efforts.

“The first area where I think people sabotage themselves is by thinking that they’re ‘dieting’ or a ‘dieter.’ I would really love to hear people start saying, ‘I want to change my lifestyle to be healthier, and I want to eat more healthfully for me,’” says Dana Ellis Hunnes, a senior clinical dietitian at UCLA Medical Center and assistant professor at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health in Los Angeles.

That simple shift could have big benefits. Rather than focusing on how much you weigh, you'll be thinking longer term about overall health and well-being.

You can also pair this shift in mindset with a healthier eating plan.

“Focus on eating a healthy diet that is high in quality – as high as (you) can personally afford – and not just on the numbers on the scale because it is very possible to have a shift in body composition (more muscle, less fat) but not see changes in the scale number,” Hunnes advises. “Let’s be our healthiest self or our fittest self – not our ‘skinniest’ self.”

2. Make small, sustainable changes.

Adopting a non-diet thought process can support longer-term success.

“Diets are not sustainable and are usually temporary," says Cesar Sauza, a registered dietitian and nutrition manager with AltaMed Health Services in Los Angeles. "Any success with ‘diets’ (is) usually short-term, and weight is typically gained back once the ‘diet’ ends.”

Instead, focus on figuring out your motivation to lose weight and then making small, sustainable changes, which can add up quickly.

These changes can include:

  • Cutting out sugary beverages.
  • Reducing the amount of processed foods (junk food) and simple carbohydrates you consume.
  • Cooking at home more often.
  • Boosting your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Using smaller plates and bowls so that your serving sizes appear bigger than they are in relation to the plate.
  • Eat the healthiest foods first so you’re too full to eat the less healthy foods.
  • Keep a food and exercise journal, or otherwise track your progress.
  • Know your trigger foods – including the ones that make you want to keep eating to excess – and remove them from your pantry.
  • Get to bed earlier, and sleep longer.

3. Talk with your health care provider or a dietitian.

Seeking health education from your doctor or a registered dietitian can help ground your weight loss journey in solid, evidence-based information that's tailored to your specific needs.

"Dietitians are usually capable of investigating the underlying cause of excess weight, and they can advise their clients to connect with therapists," notes Sara Bagheri, a health coach and registered dietitian at CalOptima Health in Orange County, California.

Resources for dieters can include:

  • Online guides.
  • Advice from your physician.
  • Support options through wellness benefits at work.
  • Educational books focused on weight loss and dieting initiatives.

4. Set goals that support good health.

Changing your body means changing many aspects of your life, including sleeping better, moving more, drinking more water and controlling stress better.

For example, a reasonable and realistic goal might be to eat five servings of fruits and veggies today or to get eight hours of sleep. Did you get them in? If so, you can check another goal off of your list.

To make goal-setting easier, focus on making SMART goals:

  • Specific.
  • Measurable.
  • Attainable.
  • Realistic.
  • Time-bound.

Think of weight loss as just one aspect of taking care of your whole self.

5. Seek accountability.

Finding a workout buddy who will hold you to your set workout times can be a life-changing aspect of any health journey. It can also help you lose weight.

Hunnes also recommends “letting someone you trust wholeheartedly know about your journey."

"They may want to join you and/or support you in it," she adds. "It helps to have support!”

Even something as seemingly unrelated to weight loss can make a world of difference. For example, adopting a dog and taking it out for daily walks can help you move more. Along the way, you may just end up losing some weight while gaining the companionship of a loyal creature.

6. Rethink rewards and punishments.

Food is not a reward, and exercise is not a punishment. They are both ways of caring for your body and helping you feel your best, and you deserve both. Riehm suggests celebrating – without a focus on food – when you hit a milestone.

“It’s difficult to stay focused and maintain motivation for a large goal that won’t be achieved for many months or even years,” she says. “For example, if your goal is to consume at least three servings of fruits and vegetables per day, when you accomplish that goal for the week, treat yourself to a new book or a hot bath. Our rewards should not counteract the changes we’re making.”

7. Don't step on the scale.

While the scale isn't intrinsically bad, a lot of us have learned to associate it with self-destructive thoughts and actions. If that's you, don't even bother stepping on the scale until you get to a place where the number on it doesn't define your worth.

A healthy weight is more than a number on a scale, so find other ways to note your progress, such as changes in how your clothes fit, whether your blood pressure has improved and your overall mood and feeling.

Incremental improvements in these areas can be a great way of tracking your progress without ever stepping on the scale.

8. Lose the "foods are good or bad" mentality.

Somewhere along the line, we've learned to feel either proud or guilty about every food choice we make. But it's just food, and you shouldn't have to feel guilty about wanting the occasional cookie.

Food is food; it doesn’t make you a bad person or a failure if you eat dessert sometimes. Instead of thinking about what you can’t eat, focus on adding more, healthier foods to your plate at each meal.

9. Don’t let setbacks derail you.

Setbacks are common, and you should expect some bumps in the road.

“Many people get discouraged when their weight loss journey isn’t linear. There may be weeks when your weight is a bit higher than it usually is, but it’s normal for weight to fluctuate from day to day and week to week," Riehm explains.

Rather than focusing on a single number, look at the bigger picture.

"If your weight is trending down overall, functional capabilities are improving and mental outlook is enhanced, you can consider yourself successful in your efforts,” she adds.

What’s more, how much you weigh is just one piece of the overall puzzle of whether you’re healthy. Riehm notes that even a loss of 5% to 10% of your body weight can improve your health.

Lastly, Bagheri urges you to not be afraid of failure.

"Be consistent, and do not give up," she advises. "Enjoy the ride, because along the way you are learning new things and experiencing new habits."

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