When you decide to fundamentally change your life it’s important to have a plan, as well as realistic expectations of what you can achieve within a decided period of time. By having these two essential ingredients you are able to to control both the direction of the journey, as well as the eventual result. However, the formula for change is a complex one, one that’s psychologically driven. We rely heavily on visible results, motivation and reinforcement from ourselves and others to keep going and, often more importantly, to keep believing. The process needed to shed pounds or change our lifestyles to look and feel better is no exception.
MAKE A PLAN AND RELY ON YOUR SELF-BELIEF
The first 12 weeks of any attempt at change are crucial. It’s generally believed that it takes 21 days to change a habit. However, when attempting to change decades of the same behavior, the more time you take to practice and entrench new behavior the better your chances are of final success. Accordingly, determining a period of time to achieving your weight loss goal can be tricky. We also rely strongly on instant gratification and social cues to facilitate our weight loss, usually with the expectation that we will be successful without having a defined plan or intention. We’re also, unfortunately, quick to justify a lack of success with a wide range of excuses. However, to be the champion of your life and stay in control of your lifestyle change you should rely mainly on your self-belief and your personal capabilities, and it’s often this fundamental point that’s neglected and ignored.
Set a goal, make a robust plan and rely on your self-belief.
DISCIPLINE AND WILLPOWER
To believe in ourselves and our capabilities we need proof to know that we can succeed in something that we will be investing in. Self-discipline and willpower are two aspects that can strengthen a person mentally and can help them in achieving success on their journey.
Willpower can be understood as the ability by which a person decides on and initiates action. Self-discipline involves training oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way. These terms are very different, but they’re often used interchangeably in reference to changing an aspect of one’s life. To explain this differently, there’s a popular quote that aptly states “willpower is what gets you going; habit is what keeps you going.”
This quote can be easily associated to the psychological elements of weight loss plan. Everyone of us is born with willpower – the ability to resist temptation in the short-term. Nonetheless, many people may have problems with discipline to repeat this behavior as it’s a learned and cultivated skill. Keep in mind that it’s the repetition of behavior that leads to long-term success. As such, the first two weeks of a lifestyle change aimed at achieving weight loss are usually the most daunting because a person is faced with numerous challenges; new techniques to learn; a new way to approach eating and think about food. It’s also during this period that self-discipline is being developed. In terms of the psychology of losing weight, if one slips up during this time it may not be because of a lack of willpower. It may be because of resistance to change as we transition from willpower to self-discipline. Basically, you may be struggling to develop the habitual behavior wanted to shed pounds. This may show why extreme dieting doesn’t work, as one needs to ease into a change in lifestyle, and lifestyles don’t change overnight.
Although willpower and discipline are essential aspects to changing one’s way of life successfully, it’s also important to understand other factors that contribute to a successful change.
If you want to lose weight, you should make a nutritional plan; if you don’t know how to do it, consult a nutritionist.
SETTING PERIOD OF TIME FOR CHANGE
Most of people want to see results as soon as they embark on a lifestyle change. This is understandable because we invest a lot in such a journey. However, there’s a process that we need to follow to succeed.
First we need to come to terms with the fact that we want to or need to change. This usually originates from a realization of our self-defeating behaviors. In case of weight loss plan, we may have problems, such as overeating, excessive drinking and/or unhealthy food choices.
This step is often known as the “contemplation” stage, which is often bitter-sweet because we have the knowledge but can often get stuck here because we may not have the skills needed to change. Think how often you have used the excuses, such as “I don’t have the budget to eat well”; “I don’t have a gym contract”; or “I don’t have the time to exercise.” It’s worth considering that these ‘excuses’ aren’t reasons or justification to not take on the “challenge,” but maybe we merely lack the specific goal and the basic skills needed to move forward.
Now, the above is practically irrelevant if we don’t have a genuine desire. Yes, we may do the above but what happens if that absolute longing and drive isn’t there? The internal fire needs to be blazing for someone to achieve success. Without it, you will lack determination, motivation, and ambition. What usually comes from such an approach is apathy and lack of repetitive behavior. Be aware of the fact that you can sign up for the gym contract and receive the eating plan from the nutritionist, but if the desire to see specific results don’t outweigh the costs then unfortunately you probably won’t follow through with the behavior needed to change.
The next step is consistency. You need to repeat the desired behavior again and again for it to become habitual and seem more natural. By doing so, your new healthful behaviors will sooner or later become entrenched, and you will be a step closer to reaching your goal.
In case of a weight loss plan, professionals often say “you aren’t on a diet, you’re changing your lifestyle.” And this is very true. A diet is basically a quick-fix; a temporary solution. A diet is something one doesn’t need to be significantly invested in to see results. That is why it happens so often that individuals rebound after a diet. Research shows that 40% of people that have lost weight on a diet gain back all the pounds lost and even more.
A lifestyle change is directed at every aspect of your life. It’s a holistic and universal change. Behavioral change occurs over time. Due to this fact, by following a method aimed at achieving a speedy result you aren’t able to establish the necessary behavioral changes and fully embed them in your life. As we know, one’s external self will always reflect their internal self. Subsequently by not truly embedding the lifestyle change on a mental level you’ll never succeed on a physical level.
Focus on positive changes!
FOCUS ON POSITIVE CHANGES
The big question on the tongue of anyone who embarks on a journey of changing their lifestyle is: “When will changes become noticeable?” As mentioned before, the first three months of any type of lifestyle change are crucial.
In case of dropping pounds, the biggest demotivator may be that other people don’t notice your weight loss. This is common among those trying to achieve a healthier life. Humans thrive on positive reinforcement, be it looser fitting ‘fat jeans’ or your friend noticing you’ve dropped some pounds. The more positive feedback we receive the more likely we’re to repeat the behaviors that gave us those results.
So what happens? We continue eating well, training hard and desire for success becomes stronger than ever. Nevertheless, if the opposite happens it can rob us from motivation and hinder our success. If we thrive on compliments we will crumble without them. For this reason it’s crucial to have that internal want and desire to achieve personal success.
The barometer of success in terms of your journey to change your lifestyle can’t depend on the responses and reactions of others. Of course, this doesn’t mean that recognition can’t play a part in your lifestyle-changing plan though since we all want to be acknowledged and rewarded for our efforts. Just don’t make it your only source of inspiration and motivation.
There is also a dark side to reinforcing good behaviors through the attention and recognition of others. Some individuals have told that receiving compliments hinder their weight loss. Therefore it’s crucial for those providing the reinforcement to know how the person has lost weight. Research shows that people who haven’t embarked on intentional weight loss may respond negatively to weight loss-related comments. Conversely, people who’ve consciously dropped pounds and receive compliments can, in fact, get addicted to that recognition. These kinds of people will probably go to great lengths to continue to receive these compliments which may also lead to negative behavior that affects their physical and mental health as well as their relationships.
if your desire is to fit into your size 28 jeans and that motivates you most then go for it!
SET A GOAL & MAKE A PLAN
What makes a lifestyle-changing plan successful is having a clear and desirable goal. This goal is your final destination.
However, there are some guidelines to consider when setting your final goal. It’s best to make it something that will improve your quality of life rather than something superficial or tangible. Studies have shown that setting short-term goals such as fitting into a bikini, for example, are less effective than setting goals aimed at long-term self improvement. These may include increasing self-esteem, building more confidence, or having the vitality and energy to play with your children. However, if your desire is to fit into your size 28 jeans and that motivates you most then go for it!
As mentioned before, your lifestyle change must be for you and it must be on your terms. A caveat to that is, if you are aiming for something unrealistic you’ll set yourself up for failure. In addition, a robust plan is required to achieve any goal; a goal on its own isn’t enough. You need to make a roadmap that lays out how you’ll get to the desired result. Many people neglect to concentrate on this aspect of their life-changing journey, preferring to rather concentrate only on the final outcome. This, more often than not, also leads to failure.
Changing lifestyle isn’t a linear process. As such, without a structured plan in place your ability to achieve success is diminished. A well-thought-out plan, be it in the form of an exercise program or prescribed eating plan, makes the process more effective and equips you with the skills required to be victorious.
At the end of the day any lifestyle change, such as weight loss, is a complex journey. Many people want to change one aspect or more of their lives, but many also feel overwhelmed at the thought of doing so. Being prepared and knowing what lies ahead can make the process seem less intimidating. The crucial thing to remember is that this process is achievable and as long as you are willing to put in the work you’ll most likely to be able to live the life you so richly want and deserve.