Every weight loss program out there is telling you what you can eat, what you can't eat, how much you should exercise, how long you should exercise...

And while developing healthy eating and exercise regimens are essential to losing weight and keeping it off, perhaps the most important piece of this puzzle is often forgotten about.  I once heard a saying "I didn't get this big from just not knowing how to eat right." Most individuals have tried dieting and exercising plans time and time again with no success, and often times they gain back the weight lost and then some. No matter how much weight you want to lose though,  the key to success in losing weight is not finding the magical plan, pill, exercise machine, or restrictive diet, but getting to the root of the problem of why you have been unsuccessful in the past at losing weight.

The key to success in transforming your body starts with transforming your mind.  I am sure every one of us can remember a time when we planned on starting a diet or exercise plan on Monday (of course!), and when Monday morning rolled around we found an excuse as to why Monday morning was not an ideal time to start the plan. "I'm too tired"  "I don't feel good today"  "My knees/back/head hurts" "I don't have time to run/walk/buy groceries today"  These excuses are a form of self-sabotaging behavior that stems from a deeper emotional response which could be:

  • fear of changing our routine
  • fear of failing at another plan
  • rebellion against those that keep telling us that we need to change
  • fear of letting go of our weight/comfort food that has been filling an emotional void
  • fear that our relationships with others may change when we lose weight

and sometimes, as unusual as it may sound, some individuals may be so used to being unsuccessful at losing weight that they don't try because they believe others expect them to not succeed.  This latter behavior is a way that some individuals who are "sick" and "tired" all of the time get attention from others because they may be unaware of how to get attention in a positive way or may feel they have to live up to others' expectations of them, whether they be good or bad.

The first step to ditching such self-sabotaging behaviors is to admit that they exist.  Make a list of your most recent excuses for not engaging in unhealthy behaviors.  Next to each excuse, write what a healthy response to the situation would have been. Use these healthy responses as a go-to list to refer to when you feel unhealthy behaviors creeping into your mind.  This is going to take great willpower and time, but ditch one excuse at a time and before long you will have no excuse not to be healthy.

Next, write down when you first found yourself feeling uncomfortable with your weight or when you first started gaining weight above your normal weight.  Identify what emotions you were experiencing during that time and your response to those emotions.  You may have started gaining weight and/or engaging in unhealthy behaviors when you experienced a traumatic event such as losing a job, losing a family member, getting sick, or being physically or emotionally abused by another person.  In other instances, you may have gained weight after a significant change in your lifestyle such as after getting married, having children, moving to a new city or home, or starting a new job.  Identify how your behavior changed during these times and what behaviors may have affected your physical health.

Next, identify your attempts at weight loss, and for what reasons you were either successful or unsuccessful at reaching your goals.  Review these reasons and see what types of behaviors have helped you succeed in the past, and what behaviors are not useful to you anymore.

Once you have created this timeline of events in your past, you can start creating a new plan for the future.  Set a new goal to accomplish each week.  Your goals could include snacking on fruit when you get stressed instead of a candy bar, going to bed early so you can get up early to exercise before work, or talking to someone (personal or professional) about your deep emotions that may be the root of your unhealthy behaviors. Accomplishing these short-term goals each week will ultimately help you acheive your long-term goal of being healthier and happier.

Getting on the Lighttrack to health starts with stepping on our unhealthy behaviors one at a time.  If you need further advice on how to get started on the Lighttrack to health, become a member of MyLighttrackDietitian.com to receive access to the Lighttrack health system information and to the Ask My Lighttrack Dietitian service.