About a year before I started this weight loss challenge, I agreed to train for my first half marathon. It was probably the most challenging goal I’ve given myself that I actually completed. Anyone who runs, or has for any length of time, knows that running is 90% mental. Training is more about breaking down your mental barriers than gaining the physical ability to run.
As I’ve gotten further into this challenge, I’ve realized that weight loss is a very similar mental game. When we’re unhealthy, we tell ourselves that certain things have priority over others. “Resting” is more important than the stress of cramming in workouts. Having that drink or dessert at the end of the day will suddenly make this horrible day better. I just got a big promotion, I deserve to eat whatever I want! Any of these sound familiar?
Since recognizing these mental blocks to weight loss, I’ve spent a lot of time retraining myself how to think about nutrition and exercise. Starting out, I knew the first thing I needed to change my mindset on was desserts.
Dessert used to be a nightly requirement for me. Even outside of that, I would turn to them if I was frustrated or sad, and visit them in celebrations. Really, there was always a good reason to eat dessert. But after a while, I noticed dessert also came with other conditions that I had long ignored: stomach aches; a heavy, bloated feeling, shame when I overindulged, disappointment when I couldn’t resist even when I knew I should.
I noticed one day that I was usually the one suggesting dessert, not my husband. In fact, sometimes he turned it down and I would still have some, even though it made me feel guilty. When I started this challenge, I decided I would only have dessert if my husband suggested it first. Then, when I had a craving, instead of focusing on the sweet taste of the dessert or how “good” it would make me feel, I reminded myself how it would impact me negatively. I also gave myself a pat on the back every time I resisted a craving.
Suddenly, it wasn’t difficult to ignore these temptations. In fact, the last time I actually had a dessert I didn’t even finish it because it didn’t taste as good as I thought it would. I can only think that this is because I’ve changed the way I’m thinking of dessert.
Now this certainly doesn’t mean I will never have dessert again. In fact, I still have “dessert” quite a bit. Nowadays, though, instead of my dessert being an overflowing bowl of ice cream with all the toppings, I might just have a small handful of chocolate chips. Or, another favorite fallback has become sliced strawberries with a little whipped cream and chocolate drizzle.
Of course, desserts are just the tip of the iceberg. This mental retraining has been useful for me in a number of other areas, as well. But what about on your side? How have you retrained yourself to think about nutrition or exercise?