The Psychology of Weight Loss Part 2 of 3 – How

Amelia Phillips

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Welcome to Part 2 of this 3 part segment on the psychology of weight loss. I strongly suggest you read Part 1 – Why before reading this section. I also recommend you complete the four questions outlined in Part 1.

Part 2 focuses on the psychology of how to achieve weight loss, and gives you helpful tools to keep your head in the right place throughout your transformation. Self discipline, doubt, motivation, and choosing the right plan are just some of the topics we will discuss.

Re-affirming your choice

In Part 1 I outlined the importance of choice. You either choose to be the slim, healthy person, or you choose to stay as you are, and you do it from a place of love, not defeat, anger or apathy. There is no right or wrong. If you choose to be the healthy slim person, weight loss is just a side effect, it’s not what makes you truly happy. Who you are being is where the happiness comes from. So choose who you are going to be and do it from a place of love.

Your Checklist

Here are all the things you need to have carefully thought out to assist in your transformation.

  • The four questions written, answered and posted somewhere you can regularly review
  • Have chosen the eating plan you will be adopting
  • Have chosen the exercise regime you will be practicing
  • Have a support person(s) who will make you feel good and be a confidant
  • Have some motivational tools such as skinny jeans, fat photo, movies, etc
  • Educational tools to keep your interest in health active. This could be books, my blog, magazines, etc…
  • Calendar of workouts and meal plans marked carefully in your diary. Note the meal plans are really important in the early habit forming stages or you will revert back to what is most familiar to you.
  • Choose your 3-4 word mantra

The psychology of self discipline

Weight loss is hard. You will need to be very strong at times. You know how you see those ads on TV where the person says they lost 50lbs and it was soooo easy, they were never hungry and could eat more than before? Poppycock!!! Don’t believe them, trust me it is hard, not all the time, but be prepared to go through some psychological growth which can be challenging. This is where people with self discipline fare well.

The more connected you are with your choice of ‘being’ the healthy person, the less self disciplined you need to be. When you are in alignment, you don’t have to make yourself do things, you want to do them. But when you are, for example, at the airport, starving, and a cheesy pizza smell wafts out of the restaurant, having a bit of self discipline comes in very handy.

Self discipline is a skill, not something you are born with but something you have to develop. To improve yours, find areas in your life where you need to go out of your comfort zone. Exercise is a great medium to practice this. Try reading the article How to train your mind like a champion to learn how to do this. Studying, writing, basically anything you can do where you need to dig deep and be strong trains your discipline. It makes you feel so much more powerful and in control of your life.

Self discipline should be your safety net, not your driving force. Make sure only 20% of your decisions require you to be self disciplined. If you feel you are trying to be good all the time, it’s a sign that you are not connected with the choice you made. More than 20% self discipline runs the risk of a fall out, it’s too much pressure. You would be better refocusing on the four questions rather than getting more determined with willpower.

Choosing your eating plan

All diets do one thing, they reduce your daily caloric intake. Whether it’s Weight Watchers, atkins, Zone, CSIRO, South beach or cabbage soup, you will be eating less calories than you were before. I personally hate putting clients on diets. The only one I have seen work for longer than a year is Weight Watchers and that is the only diet I recommend.

Calorie counting I have found works best. Weight Watchers is a more basic version of calorie counting but the same principle. It works because you learn the true energy value of food. Isn’t it amazing to think that one extra table spoon of oil in your salad adds 14grams of fat and approximately 120 calories. That’s an extra 20mins on the treadmill – ouch!

The biggest loser, though very extreme, is a successful program. They use strict calorie counting as their diet and look at the results they get. Most females are put on around 1200-1500 calories per day, and the men on 1500-2000 calories per day of the most nutrient dense, low calorie foods. Remember they are exercising up to four hours a day, so I think it’s safe to say we could survive on that too!

The problem with calorie counting is it is very time consuming at first. You must write down everything you eat, and use a calorie counting book to add up your totals. Never leave more than a day’s worth or it becomes like maths homework! What you will notice is a lot of your meals become repeat meals so as time goes on, it gets easier. What you will also notice is how difficult it is to estimate when you go out to eat, that’s why you should make a concerted effort to eat out only two nights per week.

Ultimately whatever eating plan you decide to do, you must stick to it. Even if you think it isn’t working, stick with it. Swapping and changing encourages fall outs, just keep the calories low and have faith that it will work. Remember it’s who you’re being, not what you are achieving.

Choosing your exercising plan

The best exercise is the one you will get out of bed for. Here are my top tips;

  • It must be convenient
  • You may not love it, but you should like it
  • It should be challenging, but not murderous (well not all the time!)
  • It should make you huff, puff and sweat
  • It should involve the three main types of exercise; strength, cardiovascular, and flexibility
  • Minimum 30mins, but if you double that, you’ll speed up your results.
  • One hour 5 days per week is ideal. Some easy, some hard days
  • Get a trainer
  • Join a class or group, or train with a friend
  • Pick an event, such as a fun run/walk to aim for

Speed Bumps

These are the pitfalls to prepare yourself for. It’s not a matter of  ’if’ but a matter of ‘when’ you will stumble across these:

Decreased Motivation: Redo your four questions. Find that fat photo, really meditate on how unhappy you were before. Congratulate yourself for how far you’ve come. Practice self discipline. And if all that fails, then you may choose to stay where you are with your weight and health. But really choose it. Make sure where you are now is exactly where you want to be. You can’t choose it from a place of defeat, you must love where you have arrived.

Doubt: Most probably coming from friends telling you all the mistakes you are making. “Oh you must eat more than that!” “When I lost weight it was so easy and I never felt deprived.” Everyone’s journey is different, and have the inner strength to stick with your plan.

Apathy: This is a dangerous one. You need a good scare. You need to revisit why your health is so important to you. Yes revisit the four questions, but I’d suggest looking on you tube at a gastric band operation, or looking at some older friends with health issues relating to their weight. Re motivate yourself .

Forbidden Foods: Are a bad idea. If someone told me I was never to eat chocolate again, I’d slap them! As soon as you are not allowed something, your brain will start playing games with you. You are better off calling them ‘once per week foods.’ If there is something you absolutely love, then you must work it into your meal plan somehow.

The Psychology of a Mantra

It is very powerful to have a one sentence mantra that you repeat 50 times per day. Choose three to four words to describe who you are being. The words should be private. Don’t tell anyone, just create a powerful sentence and write it at the bottom of your four questions.

Some examples: I am love, joy abundance and power. I am energised, healthy, joyful and alive. I am fit, strong, powerful and determined.

Repeat this sentence 50 times per day, even if you are just muttering it, just keep it going and it slowly sinks in. When you smell that pizza, repeat it. When you are lying in bed about to go to sleep, really think about what each word means to you. Slowly your mantra will seep into every cell in your body and you will be living proof that your mantra works!

Part 3 of this series will look at four case studies, two women and two men, some who have achieved their goals and stayed that way for over a year, and some have been struggling for a while. We will explore the answers to their four questions and learn from their experiences.

I’d love to hear about your weight loss stories and what gems you have learnt along the way. We can all learn a lot from one another…

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  • Managed first aid services

    WOW! Its really nice weight loss psychology…….

  • Amelia Burton

    Hi Managed First aid services,

    Thanks! You should read part three which will be posted soon…

  • Freaky

    Hi Meels,

    Great part 2… I have, over the past year, lost between 8 and 12kg. I am now sitting at 8kg less than what I was a year ago and feel great for it.

    At first, it was a struggle and I had to really remind myself to stay motivated – but I found I really enjoyed the feeling of eating better and exercising regularly. I had done Weight Watchers previously with some good success – and recommend it, as it teaches you some good habits especially about portion size – but I didn’t like having to write down everything I ate.

    I think each person has their own way, and I found eating in line with my own preferences and with an emphasis on cutting down on my portions and lessening my carbs in the evening really saw results for me.

    I can be a little obsessive sometimes where I think I should lose more, but then I look at myself and think about what I have achieved. I also see a person who is a healthy weight and fitter than before. I may not have my six-pack yet, but that’s okay for now…

    Big ups, girl!

  • Amelia Burton

    Hey Freaky,

    You’ve got some great results girl! Word up!!
    I love how you say you really enjoyed the feeling of eating better and exercising regularly.I think that is a real turning point for many, when the feeling of being healthy starts to overtake from the feeling of being full. It shifts your desire for different foods.

    You are right in saying that everyone has their own way of losing weight, and people need to focus on the psychology behind their weight loss or it just wont last.
    Keep up the good work!

  • daniel

    Hi Amelia, great article and website. I’ve been looking into the psychology of weight loss for quite a while now and there’s something new to learn all the time! Particularly liked the bit on self discipline. I read The Gabrielle Method a few weeks ago and reccomend it, the focus of the book is connecting who you are now with who you want to be. He’s got some great techniques for doing so. I’ve also worked with a psychiatrist regarding the psychology of weight loss (not for myself…although my friends tell me I should probably see one) His approach looks at developing strategies to prevent the feeling of deprivation which, he argues pretty convincingly, is the biggest contributer to people crashing weight loss attempts …anyway I’m rambling! thanks for the great insights

  • Amelia Burton

    Wow thats really interesting that the psychiatrist sees the feeling of deprivation as one of the main causes of failing in weight loss attempts. This is where I would argue that choosing to lead that healthy life and be a healthy person stops the feeling of deprivation.
    You have chosen to do this, you are not made to. By giving your body an abundance of healthy food, you are in fact doing the opposite of depriving, and it should be what you want to be eating.
    Having said that, there is always a place for strategies to help people during their weakest moments (aka in front of the cookie jar at 4pm!).
    Thanks for your insightful comments.

  • Freaky

    In regards to Daniel’s comment – yes, I think that is very true. One of my parents is wanting to lose weight but the biggest struggle to get started is to alleviate the thought that she will deprive herself of something that gives her pleasure.

    That hurdle is very, very difficult.

  • Daniel

    Hey Freaky. One technique is to allow a pleasure food three times per week early in the day. It’s kind’ve hard to manage (due mainly to portion sizes and awareness of how to stop yourslef going back into the fridge!) unless you’ve got someone who can help you manage it. This is kind of like your training wheels untill one day you just don’t want that food, partially due to habituation and partially due to your minds recognition that these foods aren’t congruent with the healthy person you’ve become. It’s pretty cool (I’m a nerd!) but once again can be difficult to manange. Hope that helps a little bit. I’m not sure which proffessionals could help your parent maybe a PT with a psych backround or a PT with a nutrition background. Hope it works out okay

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