According to the National Institutes of Health, one in three American adults is overweight. If you were to reduce the reasons why to the simplest terms, you might say it’s because people are eating too much and not exercising enough, but that surface-level explanation doesn’t address the more complex factors driving these harmful behaviors.
Losing weight is not just a physical struggle, but a mental and social one as well. Here are some of the external factors that can hold people back from achieving their ideal weight:
- Social Pressure
For many people, eating is a social experience, and it’s difficult to resist unhealthy foods when you’re treating yourself to dinner with friends. Add alcoholic beverages to the mix and the calories will add up fast, especially if you go out a few nights a week.
Eating right costs money. If your budget is tight, it’s hard to justify spending $20 on fresh vegetables and fruits when a packet of noodles costs just a quarter.
- Lack of Education
Too few people are knowledgeable about nutrition or have a true understanding of how much harm they’re doing themselves with a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. If your family or your school don’t prioritize healthy living, you may not have access to the information you need until adulthood.
It’s clear that getting to a healthy weight requires changing your mindset—lasting results aren’t possible without an ongoing commitment to engage in good behaviors. Of course, this is easier said than done. It’s easy to develop a bad habit, but it’s hard to break one.
Despite the difficulty, we firmly believe anyone can change their path with enough help and determination. We put together a list of four major ways to start changing your behavior, with actionable tips to set you in the right direction.
If you do some research on losing weight, you’re bound to see the term “self-monitoring.” This is just a fancy way of saying to watch and track what you do. You are the only person who knows everything your body goes through each day, and you can’t depend on anyone else to make sure you’re eating right or getting off the couch.
By tracking your everyday activity, you’ll gain a better understanding of your problem behaviors and the situations that trigger them. Popular tracking methods include:
- Food Diaries
Record everything you eat and the time of day when you eat it. More advanced food diaries also note calories and ingredients.
- Exercise Logs
Keep track of how much time you spend exercising and the type of exercises you do.
- Regular Weigh-Ins
Nobody enjoys getting on the scale, but it’s an easy way to track your progress.
There are many high-tech gadgets on the market that can help you with these goals, but you don’t really need anything fancier than a pencil and paper to be successful. After a few weeks of self-monitoring, you’ll recognize patterns in your routine and get a better idea of where to implement change.
Start Moving More
Exercise isn’t just about losing weight—people who do so regularly also have a decreased risk of diabetes, asthma, arthritis, cancer, and dementia. The Centers for Disease Control suggest that you get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week.
Think carefully about your goals before you begin a new exercise program. If your expectations are too loose, or they’re unrealistic, you’ll be doomed to fail. Make sure your goals are “SMART”:
S – Specific: Don’t set general goals like “I will join a gym.” A specific goal like “I will exercise for 45 minutes every two days” is much better.
M – Measurable: You can’t fully understand how much progress you’re making without hard data. Think in terms of numbers: how many pounds you lost since last week, how many calories you consumed today compared to yesterday, etc.
A – Action-Oriented: Talking about goals in terms of what you should do isn’t productive. Instead, think about what you can and will do.
R – Realistic: If you don’t get home from work until 8 PM every night, planning to work out for two hours before bed isn’t practical. All of your goals should be possible to achieve, even if they seem too small in the beginning. Making incremental progress is better than aiming too high and giving up.
T – Time-Based: There’s a reason why your boss assigns deadlines to every project. Hold yourself accountable to personal deadlines so you’ll be more motivated to make consistent progress. There isn’t enough urgency behind “I want to be thin someday.”
Get the Facts Straight
Knowledge is power. When you know more about your body and how it works, you’ll be in a better position to decide what changes you need to make. There are many online resources dedicated to weight loss, but it can be hard to sort through the hype and discover the truth. Put some time and effort into identifying reliable sources, and for the most accurate information, talk to a reputable physician or dietitian.
Search for Support
The American Psychological Association has found that people with a good support system are more successful at losing weight. Support groups are great for holding each other accountable, exchanging tips and advice, and perhaps most importantly of all, sharing an experience. Your friends, family, and coworkers may not fully understand what it’s like to struggle with weight, but in a weight loss support group, you’ll meet plenty of like-minded people with a similar story.
There are many different kinds of support groups, so you may be able to find one even more specific to your situation—for example, groups for men or women only, faith-based groups, or specialty groups for people with medical conditions. If you’re not ready to meet in person, there are online communities you can take part in wherever you are.
It’s All in the Mind
If you want to succeed at losing weight, you must change your mindset. This starts with understanding your problem behaviors and the situations that trigger them.
Diet Doc can help you with the mental side of weight loss too. In addition to creating a personalized exercise plan and prescribing weight loss medication, your doctor and weight loss coach will motivate you to adopt and maintain healthy habits so you’ll continue taking care of yourself long after your program ends. Scheduling a free consultation is the first step toward thinking thin.