Why is it so darn hard to lose weight — and keep it off for that matter? There are a bunch of physiological and psychological reasons I could list. To keep things simple, I believe it comes down to this: Eating healthy isn’t convenient and doesn’t taste as good as chocolate, and body-changing exercise is hard and takes up precious free time.
This is precisely why fad diets and training systems promise quick and easy programs where you will never feel hungry, unsatisfied or inconvenienced. Who wouldn’t want that? However, as you know, these quick fix methodologies may work for a bit, but individuals can rarely commit for the long term. Why? In part, some of these programs are just whacky. But, in addition to that, we are destined to fail, because we don’t have realistic expectations of the process.
It’s Not Always Easy
Specifically, we are set up to believe that losing the weight and maintaining the loss will be easy, breezy. But, when the going gets tough on the way to our goal (which it always will), we aren’t equipped for dealing with difficulties and challenges, like the candy bowl that won’t stop calling your name. Learning to get comfortable with the discomfort associated with pursuing a goal like weight loss is critical to success.1 The key is to master acceptance-based strategies that enable you to recognize urges without acting upon them.
That was something I learned competing as an IFBB pro. To get ready for a show, you are on a mission to look your absolute best by a certain date. There is no time for rationalizing a craving and “not feeling like” working out. You want to achieve the goal no matter what. And, as crazy as it sounds, it was fun, invigorating and empowering to prove to myself that I could demonstrate such discipline and be so in charge of my choices. However, I very clearly understood at the onset that the goal would be a challenge, and I accepted it wholeheartedly.
Tips For Getting Comfortable With Discomfort
Now, I don’t mean to over exaggerate the discomfort of pursuing your fitness goal. Living fit totally rocks. Eating healthy can be delicious. Training hard can give you an amazing high. However, it’s not always easy to stay on track when life gets stressful. The key to keeping yourself on the path to your best is to be ready for it. Here are some tips/reminders to help you:
Be Excited About Your Goal and Its Challenges. Pursue goals that are meaningful to you, align with your core values and fire you up. Without such positive energy, the difficult times will be hard to push through. In addition, consider the challenges you will face along the way, and be ready to take each on with a sense of curiosity, excitement and confidence. Maybe even plan fun rewards for yourself each time you overcome one of those challenges.
Urge Surfing. This is an approach to mindfulness where you sit quietly, taking deep breaths, acknowledge the craving and really experience the physical sensations. Watch your thoughts, but don’t judge them. Keep bringing your attention back to your breath and bodily sensations. You will find that the urge will begin to dissipate. Fighting or ignoring your craving can give it more power.2,3 Telling yourself not to think about chocolate only seems to make you think about it more!
Hunger Isn’t An Emergency. Just because you are feeling a little hunger doesn’t mean you have to immediately put the fire out. Most of the time, we aren’t even in need of food biologically— it’s just a craving or something emotional driving it. And, feeling a little actual hunger is good, especially if your goal is weight loss. So, sit with the discomfort, drink a little water and go about your other business until mealtime, which is probably no longer than an hour or so away.
Have a Specific Plan. Having a detailed nutrition and training plan allows you to put your program on autopilot. Doing so helps guard against momentary lapses of commitment to your goal.
Know Your Weaknesses. Consider scenarios in advance that challenge your resolve and set your intentions with If, Then statements. For example: If someone offers me seconds at the dinner party, then I will say, “Thank you so much, but I am full.” Or, if I am feeling unmotivated to work out, then I will go to the gym and get started anyway.
- Forman, E.M. & Butryn, M.L. (2015) A new look at the science of weight control. Appetite, 84, 171 -180.
- Cioffi D. & Holloway J. (1993) Delayed costs of suppressed pain. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 64, 274-282.
- Clark D.M., Ball S, & Pape D. (1991) An Experimental Investigation of Thought Suppression Behaviour Research and Therapy, 29, 253-257.