You devised a plan to lose weight. Maybe it wasn’t the first plan you ever made. Maybe there have been many plans.
You are an intelligent, successful woman, and you are well aware of the basics of weight loss. It’s a simple matter of making sure the calories expended with exercise exceed the calories consumed with food and drink. Add a dash of willpower to make the difference between what you want to eat and drink, and what you will eat and drink to ensure weight loss. And add an extra dash of willpower to get you to the gym when you really don’t care to be there.
To make the math work, you decided exactly what you were going to eat and drink, and exactly what exercise you would do and when. You felt 100 percent committed and, in that moment of strength, you promised yourself to let absolutely nothing stand in your way of losing weight this time.
How has that worked for you?
During my weight loss journey, I would spend lots and lots of time making an intricate and detailed plan for how I was going to accomplish my goal. I planned the minutia of it, right down to what music I would listen to while I was on the treadmill. I compiled motivational playlists! I made charts to hang on my wall!
However, despite all that beautiful planning, I would literally throw all of it out the window in the next moment if the right set of tempting circumstances presented themselves. What took me off track? It might be an invitation for dinner, where I would inevitably succumb to the smell of the food in the restaurant. Other times, I would have an urge for something sugary or salty, and I would quickly take whatever action necessary to satisfy the urge. What actually took me off track was my inability to predict what was going on inside my mind and body, and plan a strategy for it.
Why is our commitment to weight loss so fleeting, when it seemed so strong? And when the urge to eat something that will take you off course with your diet arises, why do we find ourselves so eager to write off the whole plan off rather than merely chalking it up to a minor bump on the road to good health?
The biology and psychology of overeating is a very interesting thing indeed, and it lends itself very nicely to guiding you off the path to good health, no matter your level of commitment. The reasons won’t be identical for all of us, but there’s a good chance that what’s going on in the inside the body and brain is the culprit when we so blatantly let ourselves down.
Below are three tips for not letting a diet mistake take you completely off course.
1. Redefine the significance of what a diet mistake means to your weight loss journey. First and foremost, as human beings, mistakes are inevitable and predictable. Recognize the inevitability and predictability of the fact that you will make mistakes on your weight loss journey, and use that knowledge to your advantage. You can start to find strength in the simple knowledge that you WILL go off track at some point, and that going off track does not have to mean the end of the weight loss journey. Redefine it in your mind as “just an expected and simple bump in the road” and carry on toward your goal.
2. Understand what is likely going on inside your body. You didn’t get overweight because one or two times in your life you disregarded a healthy lifestyle, or because you made a bad food choice here and there. Instead, overweight people have a pattern of overeating, triggered in part by an exaggerated desire for food, typically unhealthy foods. Overweight people have usually conditioned themselves to indulge every urge for food, and they likely desire highly concentrated foods containing a lot of sugar and flour. The high doses of dopamine that come with indulging in those foods just makes the urge, and the pattern of satisfying the urge, that much stronger and harder to break. An overweight person feels like they have no control over their eating, even when they have committed to a diet, and in many ways that is true. If you’re overweight, what do you usually do when you have an urge to eat? I would guess you satisfy it as soon as possible. Part of breaking the cycle is to understand that not all urges are true physical hunger based upon the body’s need for fuel to operate. And not all urges must be satisfied.
3. Learn how to allow an urge without satisfying it, and let it pass. In time, the urges will come less and less as your brain learns that you will no longer satisfy every request for food. If you satisfy the urge, you only make it stronger and habitual. If you use willpower to resist an urge, the desire is still lingering there and only gets stronger over time. Eventually your willpower fails because willpower only lasts for so long. The only real choice is to understand that you must re-train yourself to allow urges to be there, and then let them pass unmet. Eventually your body will only signal you when there is a true physical hunger.
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