Whether you struggle more with the dietary aspects of weight loss, you can’t seem to get a grip on the whole exercise thing or it’s both that you have a hard time honing in on, first know that you’re not alone.
Despite what magazine headlines and ads for diet and exercise products might lead you to believe, losing weight isn’t easy for everyone and more importantly, it doesn’t usually happen fast.
And while everyone is focused on the latest diet trends and the most popular workouts, hardly anyone ever talks about the psychological aspects of weight loss.
What many people with weight loss goals don’t realize is that the ability to develop healthier eating habits or fit more exercise into their day actually has more to do with their mindset and perspective than anything else.
“When participants arrive in my weight loss programs at the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, including the brand new Extreme Weight Loss: Destination Boot Camp, what I most often see is a lack of empowerment,” says Holly Wyatt, M.D., medical director of the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colo. “Their biggest mental obstacle to making a change, to even taking the first steps on their transformation journey, is not feeling empowered to make it happen.”
She explained that many participants come in feeling like “things happen to them” rather than feeling like they are in control.
“One of our first, and most important, mindset shifts is showing the victim that they can be the victor,” Wyatt said.
This is accomplished, she said, by showing them that they’re already in possession of the key to success. Sure, it sounds simple and almost cliché, but Wyatt says that the capacity to believe in yourself and your abilities must be present if you want to create lasting change.
“They have to let go of all the excuses and believe that they have the power to control and change their behavior,” she said.
Through the Destination Boot Camp program, what Wyatt and her colleagues have found is that it’s essential to address the weight loss process with a new mindset—one that allows you to recognize and focus on the positive aspects of the transformation and the things you’ll be able to do, as opposed to concentrating on things that might be removed from the equation.
Wyatt says that in the boot camp program, this process starts with the program’s leaders helping participants to “peel back the onion of their lives.”
“To dig through the layers, to reach deep, to discover and understand their personal reasons for committing themselves to making a successful weight loss transformation,” she said.
As part of learning how to approach weight loss from a positive perspective, Wyatt suggests implementing the following strategies, which she shared when asked about some of the things that people who participate in the boot camp learn.
- Always make the effort to look at things from a positive perspective; even just a small tweak can turn a negative set of circumstances into something positive
- Take time to savor the good things
- Make gratitude a part of your daily routine; be thankful for yourself and those around you
- Live for now
The success of the program (more than 92 percent of the participants signed up to continue their weight loss transformation journey at home with Level 2 of the program), Wyatt says, is a result of the way that it combines both mindfulness and social connection.
“By the end of that boot camp week, our participants have changed their mindset, believing that they will experience a successful weight loss transformation,” she said. “And, they have built social connections with like-minded, positive and committed weight loss seekers. Not only do they believe they can do it, they believe that doing it with fellow boot campers will greatly increase their odds of success.”
Of course, as mentioned earlier, the psychological side of weight loss is only one part of the process. There’s also eating well and exercise, or what Wyatt described as the “scientific” side—the nitty gritty details about what your diet and exercise routine should consist of. The boot camp program helps participants figure that part out, too.
“That combination is what makes our participants successful initially and for the long-term,” Wyatt said.
The bottom line: successful weight loss involves more than just eating well and exercising regularly (both equally important aspects), and to see sustainable long-term results, it’s important to first take on a positive and empowering attitude.