If you're struggling to find success in any area of your life, it's key to ask yourself, “What can I do differently?”
Because what you're doing clearly isn't working out for you. This could mean going back and re-evaluating your definition of success, and it can also mean taking an honest look at your approach.
More than likely, it's one of those column A and column B kind of deals.
When it comes to losing weight, start with your definition of success.
To the folks in health care, successful weight loss is defined as losing weight and keeping it off. Bounce on over to the holistic side of the fence, and successful weight loss is defined as reaching a body size that makes you feel confident and healthy.
Combing those, the definition of successful weight loss is defined as making healthy changes to reach a weight at which you feel confident, you're sleeping well, your blood values are in the healthy ranges and you feel good.
To be successful in your weight-loss efforts, avoid the biggest blunders that millions make every day:
1. Calorie counting obsession
The greatest diet damnation there is? Obsessive calorie counting, which is obsessing about the caloric content of food and choosing foods based on their calories, not on their nutritional value.
This creates several issues. The biggest being it destroys your relationship between mind, body and food, which is the exact opposite of what you need in order to have a healthy weight and the body you've always wanted.
Successful weight loss is a result of establishing a healthy relationship between mind, body and food.
You want to come out on the other side of your journey with both healthy body and mindset, not an unhealthy relationship with food. The latter is a real potential outcome of calorie obsession.
When you obsess over calories, flavorless, chemically altered food product puffs become a better option than nutrient rich, healing, ab-revealing avocados.
And that's all because those puffs are “fat-free” or “only 100 calories.” Yuck.
These “diet foods” may be low in calories, but they are loaded with chemicals that might cause inflammation, pain, headaches, migraines, acne, cancer, increased appetite and weight gain.
It is true that if you consume more calories than you expend, over time, you will gain weight. That is a known factor behind weight gain.
But, calories aren't the be-all and end-all of the equation.
Check it out: 300 calories of nutrient-rich food is going to support the metabolic processes needed to lose weight (a healing process requiring lots of nutrient support), as well as support the caloric needs of the body.
But 300 calories of nutrient-void food is going to provide only calories and possibly chemicals. It's not a long-term plan.
A scary byproduct of calorie obsession is that it steers people away from the produce section without them even realizing it.
Fruits and vegetables don't come with preprinted nutrition fact panels on their rinds. Once a person gets into a “calorie-phobic” and/or “fat-phobic” mindset, they opt for foods that do have nutrition fact panels over foods that don't.
That means more processed foods or paying more for pre-chopped, bagged produce.
Food is meant to taste good and nourish the body. As you avoid foods loaded with toxic food additives, added sugars and excessive salt, your taste will begin to change.
When you replace those foods with nutrient-rich foods, your cravings will change. When you focus on the nutrition within food instead of the calories, reduced caloric intake and weight loss will follow naturally.
It will take time, but it will happen.
2. Starting on Monday, tomorrow or after the holidays
“I'll start on Monday.”
“I'll start after the holidays.”
“I'm waiting until the holidays are over.”
That's fear talking. Whatever date you pick is going to be arbitrary.
Why not start working on your health here and now? Because you're probably going into weight loss with the ideas of deprivation, misery and the thought it's going to be expensive.
Flip the script. You don't have to lose weight. You can keep doing what you're doing and continue feeling the way you feel.
You're thinking about making changes and losing weight because you don't like where you are and how you look.
You get to lose weight. You get to try new foods. You get to try new activities.
You get to meet new people and have new experiences. You get to learn new things.
You get to have that life you've wanted, and there's no need to wait. There's no one you have to hand a ticket to in order to gain admission. You're already there: the here and now.
If you continue to wait for your metaphorical Monday, you'll always find another excuse, and that Monday will not come.
The realistic alternative? Start here and now with healthy choices.
You can turn off the TV and go for a walk or stretch. You can get a little more sleep tonight.
You can stretch before you go to bed. You can start making healthy changes in the here and now.
3. This, that or nothing
"What should I focus on?"
Exercise or diet? You should focus on both every day. Plus, you should start working on a healthy perspective, creating a healthy environment physically and mentally and plenty of rest and relaxation
Low-fat or high-protein diet? Neither, but rather a healthy intake of all three macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat and protein), plus all the macronutrients and phytochemicals.
Cardio or weight-lifting? Both, plus lots of stretching and continually changing your workouts.
Also, workouts can — and should — be enjoyable. Plus, science says being physically active is basically magic for your health.
Why do we think there has to be only one way? Why does one thing have to be better than the other?
Variety is the spice of life, not to mention the key to successful, lasting, healthy weight loss. Many people waste their days stumbling around on these questions of what is better instead of actually going out and doing something.
Weight loss gets put off for years because of this hang up of “not wanting to do it the wrong way.” Get out there, and go!
Walking briskly around the block or track burns more calories and does more for the body than pondering your options.
Try this and try that, and keep trying both to see what you like better. See if this or that does more for you.
Check if the results of this or that support each other. Be active in your curiosity instead of paralyzed by the fear of doing it wrong or holding yourself back with the excuses of needing to do it the one right way.
There is no one right way except to get out there and do it.
(For more insight on this perspective check out The Secret to Losing Weight Is Gaining A New Perspective.)
4. Sleep deprivation
Chronic sleep deprivation is not uncommon among American adults, and it's pretty much a societal norm. At some point along the way, “tired” became an emotional state.
“How are you?”
With all the additional pressures and obligations of today's world, there doesn't seem to be time for sleep.
Then, there's the ever-pressing need to grab your smartphone and scroll through social media or read one more article on how to change your life hours past when you actually went to bed.
Not only does this decrease time sleeping, but it also decreases quality of sleep because of the blue light emitted from the screen.
Staying up to work on a project and then getting up early to go back at it doesn't typically improve the quality of the project. Well-rested people get more done throughout the day, handle stress better and weigh less.
When you're well-rested, you think and perform better in all aspects of life.
The sleep-deprived body does some crazy things. First, it tries to seek out an energy source.
The most readily accessible source of energy for the human body is glucose (sugar). Tired people are far more likely to eat sweet treats than well-rested people.
Plus, without enough sleep, your metabolism slows, and you lose your desire to move in order to conserve energy.
The end result is that you become less active and eat more on top of a slowed metabolism.
It doesn't end there. Sleep deprivation messes with hormones and causes weight gain in the abdominal area.
Insulin production and utilization gets all catawampus as well.
Finally, weight loss is a healing process. There is no other time in life when our tissues go from an unhealthy state to a healthy state that we don't call healing.
The body repairs tissues and heals during our sleep. The less sleep, the less time to heal, which in this case is weight loss.
When you're committed to losing weight, you must get those seven to nine hours adults need.
5. Thinking there's an end
In a way, there is an end to weight loss: when you reach your weight-loss goal. But once you get to your goal weight, there's a lifetime of maintaining the healthy habits that got you to that weight and improved your overall quality of life.
That's the opposite ideology of fad diets.
Fad diets are sold on the premise of getting you to your goal weight. It's “how to lose that unwanted weight,” and not “how to keep it off and enjoy life.” They maximize sales, not your health.
This explains why people gain back what they lose on most fad diets within a year. It also explains why it's key not to start into your weight-loss efforts with ideas of how miserable and deprived you're going to be.
This healthy lifestyle is something you'll be doing for a lifetime, so you best learn to enjoy it.
Know yourself, and know the facts. Set a realistic definition of weight-loss success for yourself, and let that guide you to make healthy choices day after day.
That's how you lose weight and keep it off.
Sheila Amir is the owner and writer of NutritionSheila.com, where she inspires people to live happier, healthier, well-nourished lives. Sign up here to get great health, nutrition, wellness and food information delivered to you.