This episode will be a little different. I don’t have any new food tips to make your meals exciting. I am not going to talk about a new trick to help you lose weight. I don’t have a secret hack to make exercise more fun.
In fact, I am not going to talk about weight loss. Or rather, I’m not going to talk about it directly. Today, I want to talk about getting the right mindset for a successful long-term weight-loss journey. That journey is not just about losing weight, but also about how to keep it off once you’ve reached your weight loss promised land.
Our weight is tied to more than just our eating habits and our activity level. It is strongly affected by our mental state and daily attitude. Have you noticed that you make more poor choices on days when you are feeling sad, depressed, or anxious? Or probably even worse, when you are bored? Have you seen the correlation that when your life is busy and productive, and you are feeling confident about life in general that your food choices are better?
Weight loss MUST start in the mind first. Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can, or think you can’t, you are right.” That certainly applies to weight loss. If you go to a work party and say to yourself, “I just know I’m going to blow my budget” I’d bet the mortgage payment that you at the end of the night, you did blow your budget. That is because our minds are powerful. When you thought that, your brain took that as a command, a request for action, and not a warning of a dangerous situation.
So what can you do?
You need to start changing your internal monologue. Change the script that your brain reads. Stop focusing on negative worries and change the focus of success statements. These are called affirmations.
These are not goal statements. Goals are specific to an event, and affirmations are far more general. If you consider a marathon, a goal statement could be “I will finish this run in under 3 hours” or even just “I will finish this run.” A statement of affirmation about the marathon could be “I am successful because my training was efficient”.
When I sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door, my manager had us read affirmation statements in the car before every demonstration. But looking back, they were goal statements. One that I remember very well is “I will walk make a sale at this home.” That is a nice goal statement, very specific to that appointment. A better affirmation statement would have been “I am successful because I can solve my customer’s problems.” That is a better statement because it starts with a statement of fact (“I am” indicates something that already exists, whereas “I will walk” is a prediction of an action.)
You may have a weight loss goal statement of “I will get skinny before my wedding”. (As a side note, that really isn’t a good goal statement. It isn’t SMART. I discuss SMART goals in episode 67). That goal also will back-stab your progress, because as you focus on it, and as you fail to reach it, it will generate more anxiety. And anxiety itself can reverse your weight loss progress. I talk about anxiety in episode 102 .
So what are affirmations and how do they work?
They are statements of positive thoughts and self-empowerment. Affirmation statements work best when you read them aloud several times a day, ideally in the morning and right before going to bed. Focus on one or two affirmation statements for a full month, then choose another one or two. Keep changing your statements monthly. This will help implant these positive thoughts deep within your mind, so that act as the foundation of your day. And when you read them aloud, you active multiple sensory data streams into your brain–not just sight and sound, but the act of speaking them is another. Speaking them and hearing someone else say them have different effects—listening is less effective because it is someone else telling you what you are. Speaking it is telling yourself what YOU think you are.
Is this magical thinking? No, because no matter what affirmation statement you make, and no matter how many times you say it, you still need to do the work. If your statement is “I am thin” and you continue to eat 1000 calories a day over budget, you are not going to see any changes. But if you choose good statements, they will help you make the decisions that will lead to success.
Another way of using these statements is to write them on 3×5 cards and post them around your home and maybe the office. Please hand write them. Don’t use a computer to print them. The act of hand writing is another data stream into the brain. When you hand write “I am…” your brain recognizes the hand movements that create the I, the A, the M, and so on. When you type on a key board, the same neural linkage to memory is not created.
Put those cards in places that you will see them on a regular basis. Your bathroom mirror is good, as is the door of the refrigerator. The dashboard of your car is good (but please remove it while driving.) Looking at these, even passively, will remind you of your statements. But this is not a replacement for reading one or two every morning and evening. The cards add to the effect but are not a good substitute.
12 Affirmation Statements (not goal statements!)
- I am successful when I make a good decision to eat the right foods, in the right amounts.
- I am successful when I decide to walk that one flight of stairs instead of taking the elevator.
- I am successful when I log everything I ate, even if I ate too much.
- I am successful when I forgive myself after an unplanned cheat.
- I am successful when I no longer feel the need to forgive myself for a planned cheat.
- I am successful when I post on a LoseIt group and help someone else who is struggling.
- I am successful because I made the tough decision to take control of my life.
- I am successful because I am learning how to control food, and not let food control me.
- I am successful because I am no longer comparing my progress to anyone else’s.
- I am successful because I am a little better today than I was yesterday.
- I am successful because I am worth the effort.
- I am successful because I will not quit.
I recommend that you focus on the last two statements for the first month. They are the foundation of success.
(I used a phrase that I think should be removed from our vocabulary (cheat). I talk “cheat meals” in episode 140. I’m not using it because I like it, but because it is a “shorthand” method of describing an event.)
Did you notice that there is no mention of a weight loss, or a specific weight, or a goal date? That is because when you approach this life-changing and lifelong journey with the right attitude, the losses will happen. It’s almost never as fast as people want, but it happens. However, worrying about a scale or a calendar will change your focus and add anxiety and doubt. Those attitudes can poison your progress.
You have my permission to copy this list in its entirety, and use it how you need. (If you make it a Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter post, I would appreciate if you linked it back to this show, but that is not mandatory.)
Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of Audionautix.com
Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voice-over work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. Follow his Facebook page to learn how to better use social media. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!
All images are Creative Commons Zero.