How to get into the weight loss mindset

Got diet and exercise covered? Great, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle. The right mindset could be your weight loss secret weapon.

From the earliest age we're used to hearing so many negatives around our eating: “Don't eat too much, you'll get fat,” or “You can't eat dessert till you've finished your vegies.” Conversely, any positive self-talk is considered boastful or conceited and is often discouraged, so is it any wonder so many of us develop a negative mindset around eating that prevents us from moving forward?

Motivation made easy
The key to long term weight loss, along with diet and regular exercise, is a positive mindset that moves you out of an unhealthy past and into a healthier future. According to Garvan Institute weight loss researcher, Dr Amanda Sainsbury-Salis, harnessing the right outlook that keeps you continually motivated is vital. “Whatever we use to lose weight has to be applied long term. Losing weight and maintaining that loss is a lifelong commitment.” Psychologist Dr Elizabeth Celi says, “A lot of the mental and emotional pressure we place on ourselves when we try to lose weight just doesn't work long term. It's important to gain clarity about your relationship with food and exercise and how you're best motivated in the long and short term.”

Flex your grey matter
Researchers agree that it's not enough to start with a positive attitude, we've got to maintain and continually revisit it along our weight loss journey. “We need to work on our underlying reasons for wanting to lose weight and ask ourselves why it’s important and what it would mean to lose – or not lose – the weight,” says Dr Celi. She suggests working on eliminating the mindset of restriction. “Focus on how you can eat nutritious food that fuels your body,” Celi adds. Research confirms the need to challenge a rigid approach, according to Dr Sainsbury-Salis. “Dichotomous thinking is the all or nothing, black and white thinking that makes you believe if you deviate from your diet or exercise regime by even just a fraction, you’ve negated all the good work done to date – and then proceed to give up.” Weight Watchers member Tina Koutoukidis used a positive outlook to lose over 33kg and keep it off. “I used to lie in bed and imagine myself skinny,” she says. “I never used to get upset if I didn't lose weight because I knew that I’d lose it the next week.”

The secret of success
While some people are capable of self-motivating, others may need to seek professional guidance for a variety of reasons. “A psychologist can help you find what your strong and vulnerable points are and help you work with yourself to achieve long term weight loss,” Dr Celi explains. Recent research conducted by the University of Geneva shows 50% of study participants kept weight off five years after completing a weight loss program. What they all had in common was continual support from healthcare professionals in regards to behavioural strategies. When things get tough, remember that the right support and mindset can be your weight loss secret weapons. “It gets easier with time and, once you've kept the weight off for two years, the likelihood of maintaining that weight is stronger,” she says.

Instant motivation boosters

  • Reflect: Think about how far you have come. Weight Watchers Leader Sam Beck says, “Acknowledge that you are successful – and that success will breed success.”
  • Write everything down: Weight Watchers Leader of the Year Heather Christie believes it’s an easy way to stay motivated. “When you have a bad day, you can go back and look at a good week and see what you did well – no thinking involved.”
  • Retrain your brain: Having lost over 50kg, Australasian Leader of the Year, Brian Grainger, suggests stopping any negative thoughts straight away, then making them positive – or even neutral. “We hear a lot of negative language so it's important to stop it immediately,” he explains. “Rather than saying, ‘I can't do this’, switch it to ‘I just haven't achieved it yet’.”