You know what to do to lose weight: Eat a little less, move a little more, and figure out what works for your body. “No more chocolate,” you declare. “I’ll take up Cross Fit,” you promise. “I can live without chips for a while,” you vow. But then one day you’re tired. Or grumpy. Or that lethal combo: hangry. So you figure you deserve the raspberry truffle ball, dammit. And before you’ve polished off that leftover holiday candy, you’ve begun spiraling down a slippery slope that ends with ice cream on the couch at midnight.
All the science in the world won’t help you lose weight if your heart isn’t in the game. It’s not enough to know what to do—the secret is understanding how to make yourself do it. Experts have discovered that shifting your mind-set can give you an edge. “Dieting books focus almost exclusively on what and what not to eat, with the assumption that this is just a mechanical process,” says clinical psychologist Edward Abramson, professor emeritus of psychology at California State University in Chico and the author of Emotional Eating.“It’s like, ‘If you know you shouldn’t eat bacon, then you just shouldn’t eat bacon.’” That’s why people fail at diets: They forget to account for moments of boredom, weakness, or sadness, or for any other perfectly normal situation that could get in the way.
Lifestyle shifts like joining a gym and stocking the fridge with fresh produce are good, but to really move the needle on the scale, you need to delve deeper, says Holly Lofton, assistant professor of medicine and surgery and director of the medical weight-management program at NYU Lang one Medical Center. “Take a hard look at your past weight loss attempts,” she advises. “Think about what got in your way, then find solutions to those issues now.”
To help, here are a few common pitfalls. See which ones ring familiar—and learn to sidestep them once and for all.
If losing weight is kind of an abstract goal…
Identify your specific reason for wanting to drop pounds.
It’s no news flash that maintaining a healthy weight is good for you. Even a small loss can improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. And a large, sustained weight loss can boost energy, mood, and self-confidence. The trick is closing the gap between the knowledge and the plan—especially when there are french fries between the two. To find your motivation, create a list of reasons why you want to lose the weight, says Robin Frutchey, a counselor and behavioral therapist for the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center in Baltimore. The more specific, the better: “Rather than saying, ‘I want to be healthy,’ write down, ‘I want to lose weight so I don’t have a heart attack like Dad,’” she says. “It’s a bit more salient.” This can help motivate you now and a few pounds down the line, when you lose steam. “Refresh your memory about why this is so important to you,” says Frutchey. “Seeing the reasons on paper is helpful.” Read more