Written by: Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Kim Feinstein, Red Mountain Weight Loss®’s Behavioral Weight Loss Specialist
“It’s just as easy to get addicted to a good habit as it is a bad one. Your future self will thank you.”- Dr. Suzanne Bentz D.O., Owner & Medical Director of Red Mountain Weight Loss®
Are you tired of yo-yo dieting? How many times have you lost weight, only to gain it back and then some! How many of you have closets full of clothes in different sizes labeled “fat clothes” and/or “skinny clothes?” Wouldn’t you love to lose the weight and keep it off once and for all? Wouldn’t it be nice to get rid of your “fat clothes” and have faith you can maintain your weight long-term?
I know what you may be thinking: “Each time I’ve lost weight, I gained it back and even more!” This time is going to be different! Do not let feelings of past diet failures discourage you from taking the first step toward creating a new and healthier you. Trade your excuses and food addictions for the good habits of a healthy lifestyle. You can do it, and we are here to help!
Creating a healthy lifestyle does not mean you have to begin with large, dramatic, unrealistic changes. In fact, making small changes and incorporating them into your life slowly and gradually will increase the likelihood you will maintain the change.
Here are 9 steps that can help you create lasting, positive lifestyle and behavior changes so that you can lose weight, keep it off, and get addicted to the good habits of a healthy lifestyle:
Step 1: Take ownership
If you want to make lasting lifestyle changes, you need to take ownership for your current behavior. No matter what excuses you made in the past or continue to make, or what has been a previous obstacle (i.e., emotional eating, late night snacking, depression, illness, fatigue, lack of time, social events, family, work, travel, or sugar addiction, etc.), you still have the power right now to make healthier lifestyle choices. If you want to lose weight and keep it off long term, you must accept and take ownership that what you have been doing in the past is not effective, so you must take responsibility and make a permanent change.
In their book, Keeping it off, Robert Colvin and Susan Olson describe their interviews with people who successfully lost weight AND kept it off. When asked about the secret of their success, virtually all of the participants narrowed it down to one word: ownership. They had to stop making excuses and start taking personal responsibility for their own behavior. Similarly, according to the National Weight Control Registry, most dieters tried to lose weight at least five times before achieving success. Why were they successful the 5th time? Finally realizing that it was up to them to change their behavior once and for all.
So, in order to begin to take personal responsibility and ownership for your behavior, pay close attention to the way you speak. Do you make excuses? Do you blame others for your inability to lose weight and/or keep it off? Making excuses lets you off the hook of personal responsibility. For instance, do you accept guidance from your Red Mountain Weight Loss providers, or do you often answer, “Yes, but…”? For example, do you say things like, “Yes, but my family eats out several times a week, and I can not find the foods I need on the menu”? Or “Yes, but I have to travel for work.” Or “Yes, but I am too busy.”
Also become aware if you engage in wishful thinking, often-saying things like, “If only…” For example, “If only my colleagues would stop celebrating everyone’s birthday with ice cream and cake, I could stick to my diet” or “If only it wasn’t so hot out, I would exercise.”
If you catch yourself using phrases such as “if only” or “yes, but,” think about how your words shape your behavior. Challenge yourself to discover solutions to your excuses and magical thinking habits. I encourage you to use the words “I choose to….” instead. It is time to take ownership!
Some examples include:
· I choose to exercise
· I choose to make healthier food choices
· I choose to drink 8-10 glasses of water per day
· I choose to follow my meal plan
· I choose healthier food options when eating out
Step 2: Change your Mind-Set
In order to succeed long term you have to believe you can do it. Again, do not let feelings of past diet failures discourage you from believing you are capable of success.
Your mindset includes all of your attitudes and values you hold about creating a healthy lifestyle. If you are struggling to manage your weight, your attitude and beliefs may be to blame. Do you want to lose weight, exercise, and get addicted to the good habits of a healthy lifestyle, but believe “it is just too hard?” Do you hold the belief you will always gain back the weight you lose? If so, your behaviors will follow the same lines as your thoughts. In fact, research demonstrates your thoughts directly affect your behavior. So, start believing you can sustain a positive focus on weight management despite your past failures. Recite the phrases, “I am capable of losing weight and keeping it off” and/or “I am becoming addicted to the good habits of a healthy lifestyle.” You will know you have a positive mind-set when you expect success, feel motivated, and adopt healthier lifestyle choices.
I promise, if you practice having a positive mind-set, it will become your secret weapon to losing weight and keeping it off permanently!
Step 3: Develop Realistic Goals
When it comes to setting weight loss and weight management goals, most people are overly ambitious and create unrealistic and unattainable goals, which sets them up for failure. For instance, some people want to obtain their wedding day, college, or even high school weights. Others develop lofty goals to include looking like a model or their favorite celebrity. Creating unrealistic and unachievable goals is a setup for disappointment and failure. Talk with your Red Mountain Weight Loss provider to create a healthy, realistic and achievable goal, one that you can realistically maintain. Remember you are on a journey to improve your health and life, as well as gain control over your weight. My motto is progress, not perfection.
Step 4: Make it a Habit
Once you have lost the weight, then it is time to maintain it. You are no longer on a diet; you are now becoming addicted to the good habits of a healthy lifestyle.
The word “diet” implies a temporary change. Here at Red Mountain Weight Loss, we want to help you make a lifestyle change. In other words, we want to help you make a permanent change in your relationship with food, eating, and physical activity.
In terms of creating new healthier habits, ask yourself, “What new healthy lifestyle changes would I like to create and/or continue? What was effective in helping me to lose the weight? Did I increase exercise? Drink more water? Make healthier food choices? Have healthier sleep hygiene? Also reflect on what worked. Just like your weight loss goals, make sure your new healthy habits are realistic and sustainable.
Begin to incorporate and adopt more healthy behaviors such as:
· Practicing portion control for all meals and snacks
· Eat small meals frequently (as outlined by your Red Mountain Weight Loss provider)
· Learning to like healthier foods
· Slowing down when eating and savoring every bite
· Leaving a few bites of food on your plate at each meal (you no longer have to clean your plate!)
· Reducing interruptions during meal-time
· Eat only at a table (No eating in your car or bed, or even at your desk!)
· Filling your time with activities other than eating
· Increase exercise in 5 minute increments
· Increase water consumption up to 8-10 glasses per day
· Decreasing and/or eliminating alcoholic beverages
· Avoiding sugar
· Limiting caffeine
· Getting adequate rest and sleep
· Using the Red Mountain Weight Loss App to keep track of your weight, track meals, water intake, exercise & more
· Learning self-soothing, coping, and problem solving techniques (other than using food) to manage emotions
The key to long-term success is to create habits that you can incorporate into your life slowly and gradually. The more you practice them, the more automatic they become. In order to be successful with maintaining your weight long term, you must get addicted to the good habits of a healthy lifestyle!
Step 5: Go Slow
I often recommend changing one behavior at a time. Unhealthy behaviors develop over time, so replacing unhealthy behaviors with new healthier ones requires time, patience, and commitment. Many people struggle with behavior change when they attempt to change too much too fast. Your journey to a new healthier lifestyle is not a sprint; it is a life long marathon. Therefore, you will need to pace yourself. To improve your success, focus on one goal or change at a time. As new healthy behaviors become habitual, add additional realistic goals, one at a time that are consistent with the overall change for which you are striving. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!
Step 6: Get Support
Getting the right information and support from people who care about you and want to see you succeed improves your resilience and strengthens your commitment.
If you feel overwhelmed or unable to succeed on your own, consider obtaining help from a qualified professional. All of us at Red Mountain Weight Loss want to help you succeed and create a healthy permanent lifestyle change. Please let us know how we can help you!
Step 7: Get Back on the Wagon
Making the changes that you want is possible, but it takes time, patience, and commitment. Just remember that change is not perfect and you will have occasional lapses and “fall off the wagon.” However, this time, instead of beating yourself up for having a lapse, practice being kind. When you eat ice cream or miss a workout, don’t go down a shame spiral and give up. Tell yourself “it’s ok. I can choose to get right back on track.” Minor slip-ups on the journey to lasting change are typical and acceptable. In fact, missteps are the perfect opportunity to learn about and refine yourself. Ask yourself the questions, “What could I have done differently?’ and/or “What could I choose to do differently next time?” Then, immediately choose to get right back on the wagon!
Step 8: Reward Yourself
With each small successful step you take toward adopting a new healthy lifestyle, reward yourself with NON-food related things. When you celebrate your behavior change with non-food related rewards, you are acknowledging your achievement, encouraging yourself to continue, and developing self-confidence. Self-confidence is vital to making permanent change, as it will give you the courage and determination to keep progressing.
Step 9: Never Give Up!
You can achieve lasting weight loss! Now is the time to follow these steps to creating lasting, positive lifestyle and behavior changes so that you can lose weight, keep it off, and get addicted to the good habits of a healthy lifestyle. Lasting change is not easy, but it is possible. I believe you can do it!