(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that I’ll earn a small commission if you decide to buy using these links. Buying won’t cost you anything extra, but it’ll allow this blog to earn an income―thank you if use them! You can read my full affiliate disclosure here.)
Losing weight isn’t easy, but it’s not rocket science either.
Most people think it calls for some magical diet plan (it doesn’t exist), the perfect workout (doesn’t exist either), and a go-big-or-go-home mentality (it’ll work…until you plateau and burn out).
Here’s the truth: The more complicated your weight-loss plan, the more you’ll end up going round in circles, and the less likely you’ll be to stick to it and make any progress.
If you want to lose weight without losing your mind, the best thing you can do is to keep things as simple as possible.
STEP 1: KNOW WHY YOU WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT
Trying to lose weight without a meaningful ‘why’ is like getting into a boat and sailing off into the open seas without a destination or a map in mind — your chances of getting lost are high, and when the waters get rough, you’ll likely to want (and need) to turn back.
Without a deeply personal and meaningful ‘why’, you’re likely trying to lose weight because of external reasons like wanting to fit in, checking off certain ‘shoulds’ (like pressure from a partner or your doctor), or just because everyone around you is doing it.
Whenever I think about creating change that calls for long-term commitment, I do the five ‘why’s’ exercise, which basically involves asking myself why I want to do something five times until I get to my core motivation.
Q: What do you want to accomplish?
A: I want to lose 60 pounds.
Q: Why do you want to lose 60 pounds?
A: Because I want to feel healthier.
Q: Why do you want to feel healthier?
A: So I can have more energy.
Q: Why do you want to have more energy?
A: So I can spend more time playing with my kids.
Q: Why do you want to spend more time playing with your kids?
A: Because I don’t want to miss out on the chance to have more time with them
Q: Why don’t you want to miss out on the chance to be with your kids more?
A: Because I’m getting older, life is short and I don’t know how long I’ll be around for, especially if I’m not healthy.
Having this compelling reason in place will help keep you anchored and less likely to question your decision, yourself, and how you’re going about reaching for your goal when things get tough.
What’s your big why?
STEP 2: REMEMBER THAT YOU’RE HUMAN
As a human, you’re inherently flawed, and will slip up.
Or feel like giving up at some point, all throughout your weight-loss journey.
It’s expected and it’s OK — I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to be perfect or get things right 100% of the time to make progress.
STEP 3: PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION
You’re more likely to be cruel to yourself than you are to others, and this tendency can be obvious in the way you talk to yourself.
Self-talk like the quick and casual “what a loser” you mutter under your breath when you have an awkward moment with a colleague or even the constant “you’re so fat and lazy” you say to the person in the mirror when you miss a workout.
These may seem inconsequential and harmless, especially since you’re not hurting anyone else, but they gradually chip away at your self-worth every time you do it.
Being kind to yourself, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect.
By giving ourselves unconditional kindness, we avoid destructive patterns of fear, negativity, and isolation, says Dr. Kristin Neff, the author of Self-Compassion: The Power Of Being Kind To Yourself
At the same time, she adds, self-compassion fosters positive mind states such as happiness and optimism — the mental state you’d want to be in when you’re tackling something that takes time, patience, and resilience like losing weight and keeping it off.
STEP 4: CHECK IN WITH YOUR DOCTOR
Can’t seem to lose weight no matter how hard you try?
While what and how much you eat matters, there may be other factors contributing to your weight gain (or lack of weight loss).
Certain medications that you’re taking, like that for depression, epilepsy, birth control, and high blood pressure can encourage weight gain, making weight loss an uphill struggle.
Speaking to your doctor can help you pinpoint the source of your struggle to lose weight and your next steps to figuring out possible solutions.
STEP 5: GET CLEAR ABOUT THE CHANGES YOU WANT TO MAKE
Once you’re certain about why you want to lose weight, you’ll need to get crystal clear about how you’re going to do it.
Whether it’s going on a specific diet temporarily or changing your approach to food for the long haul, forging ahead on a planned path that you’re willing, able, and committed to following will help prevent doubt, uncertainty, or confusion from creeping in down the line.
STEP 6: FORGET ABOUT COUNTING CALORIES AND EATING CLEAN
Counting calories and eating clean may sound logical at first, but relying on these external tactics to lose weight doesn’t work for everyone for a simple reason: It bypasses the crucial step of learning to listen to your body and giving it what it needs.
The other reason these strategies can backfire is that they require tremendous amounts of willpower, which is an easily-depleted internal resource.
And when you’re running on an empty willpower tank, you’re more likely to make decisions that conflict with your goal — outcomes that make you feel like a failure because you’re not able to ‘stick with it’.
When it comes to losing weight and keeping it off, you’re better off looking within for answers that feel right for you, not what everyone else is doing.
STEP 7: STOP WEIGHING YOURSELF DAILY
Stepping on a weighing scale can be maddening, especially if you’re doing it every day — one day you’re up, the next day you’re down, and on other days, nothing’s changed.
Before you know it, you’re obsessing over what you could’ve done differently that day, taking extreme measures like eating less and exercising more or feeling tempted to take that shiny new diet for a spin.
Rather than using only a scale to measure your progress, try focusing on other things like your energy level, how your clothes fit and how much more confident you’re beginning to feel by being consistent with your habits.
STEP 8: DON’T BE AFRAID OF CARBS AND FAT
One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to nutrition is that carbs and fat make you well, fat.
The truth is, they don’t — eating too many calories consistently makes you fat.
In fact, your body needs carbohydrates and fat to function properly.
Very simplistically, carbs fuel your muscles, brain, and just about every bodily function in your body that requires energy, while fat is an essential building block of your cells and hormones; they also help cushion and protect your internal organs.
Yet, carbs and fat are the first to go on the chopping block when someone goes on a diet because it’s so easy to eat them in excess.
Your best bet when it comes to keeping your sanity intact while trying to lose weight is this: Eat both in moderate portions that allow your body to thrive, instead of having them sent to ‘storage’ (and you, gaining weight) or encouraging your body to hold on to fat, which is what happens when you go on a restrictive diet.
STEP 9: EAT MOSTLY FRESH, WHOLE FOODS
When losing weight is your goal, moderation and consistency are your best friends.
The best foods to eat for weight loss are those that are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Foods that are rich in these nutrients — fruits, vegetables, potatoes, beans, and whole grains — are also the ones that we don’t tend to binge on or overeat (ever heard of someone bingeing on apples?), making it easier to eat healthily, and in moderation more consistently.
STEP 10: LEARN HOW TO LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Just like having a big ‘why’ in place to guide you, combining a sustainable nutrition strategy with the ability to eat mindfully or intuitively (or both) can help tremendously in keeping you in a healthy mental state throughout your weight-loss journey.
Even though mindful and intuitive eating are not geared towards weight loss, their focus on food and physical awareness, as well as your mental health can set you up for a much healthier approach to it.
I’ve worn multiple hats over the years: Emotional eating survivor, microbiologist, writer, Deputy Editor at SHAPE Malaysia, American Council On Exercise-certified personal trainer, Levels 1 and 2 Precision Nutrition-certified sports nutrition coach, and now, self-care advocate. As you might guess, I’m fascinated with food, movement and learning how to take better care of myself as I make my way through this crazy, chaotic world, and my mission is to help you do the same.
$5 Meal Plan Cut back on the stress of cooking your own meals, and save time and money with a meal-planning service like $5 Meal Plan. As a member, you’ll get a pre-made meal plan, recipes and shopping list for five dinners and sides, plus one breakfast and lunch emailed to you every week. Prefer to have a custom plan for each week? You can pick specific recipes by cooking method, ingredients, dietary preference and meal of the day. Sign up for a free, 14-day trial here.
Amazon Fresh Barely have time to cook, let alone do your grocery shopping? Shop online and have all your ingredients delivered to your doorstep with Amazon Fresh. Get all the fruit, vegetables, meat, seafood, dairy, whole grains and even kitchen supplies you need to cook healthy, flavorful meals at home.
Amazon Meal Kits Want healthy meals that taste good and all the ingredients you need picked out, prepped and sent to your doorstep? Amazon Prime members (not one yet? You can sign up for a 30-day free trial here), have the option to order Amazon Meal Kits, which contain fresh, prepped, one-pan meal ingredients that you can whip into a meal in 10 minutes or less.
iHerb This I order all my daily vitamins plus my favorite healthy snacks and natural personal care essentials from iHerb because all the products they sell are independently tested by third-party laboratories to verify their quality and authenticity. Shipping is usually quick and free (with a minimum purchase), making it a convenient alternative. If this is your first time buying, you get 10% off their first order.
Online-Therapy.com Therapy has taught me to look at my life and the metaphorical mountains (mental, emotional, and physical) I’m climbing from a different perspective, and how to navigate them in better, healthier ways — skills that I feel everyone should have but aren’t taught in school, and rarely, at home. Online-Therapy offers you an affordable way to get the help (or mental health flossing as I like to call it) you need starting from $40 per week. Membership comes with a live, 45-minute session with your therapist plus unlimited messaging each week, and access to their online cognitive behavioral therapy program. Together, these tools equip you with the skills you need to navigate difficult emotions, as well as yoga and meditation videos for additional support. If this is your first time using Online-Therapy, you’ll receive 20% off your first month here.
START HEALING YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD
Struggling with constant overeating and uncontrolled weight gain? My free, 4-week Lose 4 Pounds In 4 Weeks Without Going On A Diet email course is designed help you zero in on your overeating triggers so you can start nipping them in the bud once and for all. To sign up, head over here.