A shocking weight-loss/starvation experiment recently went viral on Instagram, revealing the not-so-flattering results of extreme calorie counting and eating restriction, which actually increases cortisol and leads to weight gain.
While health-minded individuals already know that the old “eat less, exercise more” adage is incorrect and dead, many psychologists are just now starting to examine the mental shift in mindset that needs to take place in order to lose weight, and keep it off.
Many people find it hard to keep up with their new eating habits after seeing the desired number on the scale. Forming a new habit is a three-step process that takes about three months.
There are certain tips you can incorporate on reprogramming your brain to achieve your goals and not “relapse.”
“If you feel good now, why blow it?”
You should remember that when comfort food is still alluring, Dr. Smerling says. You will inevitably feet and look much better as you start to pay attention to what goes in your body.
You will have more energy and you skin and even hair will glow. Getting to this point was not easy and you worked so hard. Do you really want to go through that again?
Moment of Clarity
“We can’t shift our weight from the outside without realizing that we need to have an inner resolve and intention,” Dr. Smerling says. This is hard to happen without an “eureka” moment where they can’t deny that they’re eating too much, not exercising, not caring for ourselves in appropriate ways.
This moment is usually when you for a regular checkup and the blood tests show scary results – your bad cholesterol is through the roof, your blood pressure is too high, you are borderline diabetic, and the doctor says “you’ll be lucky to live to 80,” Dr. Smerling says.
A more common “eureka” moment is when you clothes suddenly don’t fit anymore.
You can’t think of dieting as punishment, Dr. Smerling says. When the brain perceives something as restriction it wants to break it. “Think of it in terms of reeducating the brain,” she adds.
Dr. Smerling is not a big fan, she says, of the 3-big-meals-a-day routine. “People are hungry at different time and they should be rewarded.” Having a little snack every few hours can really keep hunger away, she adds.
Accountability and network
Support is often the best way to lose weight, i.e. Weight Watchers, Dr. Smerling says. Surround yourself with positive people.
This can be a double-edged sword because they can be too nice and don’t set you straight when you allow yourself too many cheat days.
You can also use negative models, Dr. Smerling says. “When I wanted to lose weight I started walking behind someone who was incredibly overweight and kept saying to myself “I’m not going to be like that.” It worked.
Expect to Make Mistakes
No one is perfect. People don’t usually go cold turkey when they make drastic and long-lasting changes.
Don’t give up if you “mess up” or slip in your resolve to exercise and lose weight. Don’t give up on the whole idea because you made an error. “Let it go and get back on the bandwagon,” Dr. Smerling says.
Throw Away Your Scale
Focus on feeling good in body and spirit rather than feeling good about the numbers on the scale. “It doesn’t pay to be obsessive with the scale,” she adds. Go by how your clothes fit and how you feel instead.
Avoid triggers & find positive replacements
“We have to take our minds off of satisfying ourselves with immediate satisfaction, i.e. unwholesome foods, and dig deeper to satisfy ourselves in a more meaningful way than with food, i.e. find a new hobby,” Dr. Smerling says. Giving back to others is often the best way to stop focusing on yourself.