Are You Sabotaging Your Weight-Loss Plan?

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If losing weight is one of your goals, you’re not alone. A recent Gallup poll found that 51% of adults in America want to lose weight, but barely half as many (25%) say they’re seriously working toward that goal. If you’ve tried different weight-loss plans but have struggled to maintain any of them, there’s a very good chance that you’re sabotaging your own efforts.

Did you go shopping to stock your kitchen with the approved foods on your list? Have you added weekly yoga and Spinning classes to your calendar? And have you even considered how you’re going to deal with the emotional triggers that come up during the plan? I bet your emotions didn’t cross your mind when you decided to lose weight. However, if you’ve ever reached for a chocolate bar or a bag of blue chips after a fight with your husband or a bad day at the office, then you need to learn how to manage your emotions, or the weight will never stay off.

I’ve found that in order to stick to any weight-loss plan, you need to problem solve ahead of time. So if you’re ready to make a new start, try these three tips to achieve your weight-loss goals and make positive changes in your life.

Be clear about what’s on the plan.
If you don’t know what’s on the plan, how will you know when you’re going off the plan? If your food list calls for eating a variety of vegetables and lean proteins while eliminating refined carbohydrates and sugar, you need to make sure that your kitchen is stocked with the approved foods. And don’t forget to toss out anything on your elimination list so you won’t be tempted by treats like cookies or chips. It’s also important that you know what’s on and off your food list so you can make smart choices when you’re eating out.

Automate the plan.
The fewer decisions you have to make throughout the day the better–so keep it simple! If almonds and edamame are on your approved snack list, then make individual servings to bring to work with you each day. If you’re going out to dinner with your girlfriends, review the restaurant menu ahead of time so you know to order the grilled salmon with steamed asparagus without looking at the menu. And if you need to exercise at least three times a week, be sure to schedule it on your calendar and be realistic about when you can work out. Don’t set yourself up to fail by scheduling a Spin class at 5:30 p.m. if you tend to work until 6 p.m.

Manage your emotions as they come up.
When I talk to my patients about what happened right before they went off their weight-loss plan, I hear things like, “I was good all day, and then I was just so tired and stressed out that I gave in,” or “I was just having a really bad day.” You’ve probably had similar experiences, or sometimes it’s the actual plan that can stress you out because you’re feeling deprived.

What all of these examples have in common are distressing emotions that are being overlooked, ignored or misunderstood. Everyone has had an emotional eating experience where you’ve tried to use food to make yourself feel better. But that only lasts for a moment, and the problem is still there. A healthier way to manage your emotions without sabotaging your weight-loss goals is to simply identify what you’re feeling and label it. Research has shown that when you label an emotion, the feeling has less power over you.

So the next time you’re about to go off track, try acknowledging what you’re feeling to help you stick to the plan. Instead of giving in to the urge to have a cupcake for a coworker’s birthday, take a moment to acknowledge that you’re feeling a bit deprived and then remind yourself why you embarked on this weight-loss plan: Making healthy food choices to lose weight has positive long-term benefits. And be sure to remind yourself of those benefits, because I bet dropping five pounds to fit into your favorite jeans will outweigh the short-term urge to eat a cupcake.