Tips for dieting – the mental side

This was initially conceived to be a collection of useful tips for dieting – “take healthy snacks with you into work”, “tupperware is your friend”, that kind of thing. But as I thought about what to include I realised that many of the most pertinent pieces of advice are related more to ones mindset and attitude. When I want to lose weight, or just drift away from my normal healthy eating ways, I stop and have some firm words with myself, and these are the kinds of things I say.

Take responsibility
You are going on a diet. Do not expect (however much you would like, and likely be given) help, support or advice from anyone else. Not your partner, friends or colleagues. Nor should you rely on “things”, like the diet book you’re reading or the DVD that claims to help you shed 50lbs of belly fat. Taking responsibility for yourself – for the fact that it was you who got yourself to where you are now, it is you who will get yourself to a different place, and that it is you who is in charge of your life – is a vital step. Yes, it sounds harsh, and yes, it sounds lonely, but accepting this truth will not only make it all a bit easier to bare three weeks down the line when you’re frustrated at your friends insistence at inviting you round for a latte and slice of chocolate cake, but also increase the reservoir of your own internal strength, from which you can draw from when the need arises.

Be forgiving
Slipping up and eating crap happens to everyone, period. Don’t think that those of us who write fitness blogs are immune – I don’t think there’s a human alive who is! The most important factor in falling off the wagon is how you handle the situation. Wailing, crying, feeling bad about yourself and vowing not to eat for the next three days is Not Good. Nor is feeling disgusted with yourself or, in fact, any other negative feeling in relation to food. So you had three rounds of Chinese buffet. So what? It tasted good and in the grand scheme of things it’s no big deal. Just make sure it’s not too much of a regular occurrence and get back on the healthy train the next day. No dramas, no self-berating, and absolutely NO using it as an excuse to throw yourself whole-heartedly into a swimming pool filled with cake, biscuits and KFC.

See yourself as who you want to be
If you can’t imagine yourself being slim (or as anything else you want to be in life: fit, strong, a firefighter, spaceman, whatever) then you have no hope of ever achieving that goal. Whilst words like “visualising” and “self-actualisation” sound like nonsense that pours out of the mouth of a self-help guru, they are actually very important.

Take the time to imagine yourself in the place you want to be, but also think about the emotions and feelings that you may have attached to that. I read an article recently that had the line:

“Unless you really see what your core beliefs are, what’s making you overeat – beliefs like “I’m damaged” or “I don’t deserve this” – those beliefs will continue to shape your life.”

I thought that summed up part of the problem quite well. (This really is a massive topic, and one which I intend to touch on again in the future).

Be willing to change
If you’re overweight, the chances are you have been following some bad habits for a long time. If you’re not overweight but still want to lose some weight, the chances are you have some habits that could be changed. Now is not the time to hold on to long-held beliefs about weight loss, low fat diets, ancient wisdom, what your mum thinks is right and other such nonsense that you have used to justify behaviour to yourself in the past.

The only way you will lose weight and keep that weight off is if you are open to change. For the long term.

Keep it simple
Losing weight really is simple. Not easy, but simple. Your primary goal is to make your new diet as easy as possible to follow, and getting dragged into silly fads – the 5/2 being the current one, in the UK at least – complicated ways of eating requiring lots of preparation, or even calorie counting, is a waste of your time and mental energy. If you’re eating the right things, you will lose weight, feel great and find a balance that allows you to be able to relax into your new eating regime. Don’t seek complexity where it shouldn’t be found.

Be stubborn, persistent and CONsistent
The final point (I’m trying to keep these brief, although really each of these headings could be expanded into an entire post) is not only what will bring you success, but also what will turn your short-term weight-loss diet into the rest of your life. Be stubborn – stick to your guns, don’t be swayed by other peoples bad eating habits, a crazy social life, “no time to cook” and so on. Be persistent in your efforts, despite the fact you will stall (and you will stall), but most of all be consistent. Like exercise, there is no point going crazy once or twice a week, then eating like a princess (not Catherine though – she doesn’t look like she’d lick a Ryvita if you paid her a million pounds) every other day. Small steps add up to a big journey, which is how you should view weight-loss, whether you have a lot to lose or a little.

I hope this is helpful to at least someone out there :) And if you’re a successful dieter, or have any suggestions of other tips, then please do leave them in the comments.

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