Having worked in fitness most of my life, I have seen a lot of changes in the health and fitness industry. Diet, exercise, and weight loss have become big business. Because there are so many people claiming to have the solutions we seek regarding weight loss and health, it has become increasingly difficult to know what to believe and who to listen to.
In addition, we are constantly bombarded with media messages that tell us we aren’t good enough unless we look a certain way. Being thin and beautiful have become the standard by which we are judged and by which we measure ourselves. This creates a tremendous amount of pressure to conform to an ideal that has nothing to do with health.
As I’ve progressed through life, I have made a conscious decision to pay attention to what I see, hear and read, but also to listen to my own body and the information it gives me. I no longer buy into the mindset of perfection and I refuse to control my weight through denial and self-denigration.
I have made it my life’s purpose to stand as a role model for the enjoyment of food, maintaining a healthy body weight, and not constantly suffering or struggling with self-image. I also believe that when I eat the right foods for my body, my body will regulate itself, without dieting or being hungry.
The idea of quick and foreseeable weight loss is an extremely compelling motivational ‘hook’. I would venture to say that those who repeatedly diet are either content to continually diet, even though they gain the weight back, or they are convinced that each new diet will be the solution.
The key to permanent weight loss, however, is both mental and dietary change, not restriction and willpower. The question to ask is, “is this change I’m about to make something I can live with forever?” If not, we are better off making no change than we are attempting one that begins as a temporary solution. Each time we fail, we reinforce the old pattern of thinking, damage our metabolism, and make it even harder the next time we attempt to change.
If your goal is to lose weight permanently, then it starts with changing how you think. Instead of focusing on the scale and counting calories, focus on how you want to feel. Improving the quality of your food and finding ways to move more each day will immediately help you feel better. Instead of trying to accomplish a number goal, focus on how your clothes fit.
These may seem like small distinctions, but taking the pressure off of achievement and performance, letting go of the lure of an ideal, and focusing on how we want to feel, allows us to evaluate progress without the self-judgment that comes along with a number on the scale.
Ironically, as I have switched my focus from scale weight to feeling better, I’ve settled into a comfortable place in my body, perhaps for the first time in my life, and I’m not worried about maintaining it. This doesn’t mean I’m perfect, it means I’ve combined my knowledge of exercise and nutrition with listening to what my body needs, and I honor that more often than not.
So, the next time you get tempted by the promise of dieting and quick results, take a moment to think about whether this approach makes sense in the long-term. Create a mental image of how you want to look and feel that is true to your self, not a false external image you are trying to strive for. Your only reliable source of motivation is what comes from within, not what anyone else thinks or believes.