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One could say that losing weight is a pretty straightforward process...
You have to be in a calorie deficit, which means burning more calories than you consume.
And, if we think of losing weight as a checklist, it might look something like this:
Get enough sleep
Now, I know all of that might seem simple, but simple doesn't mean easy. Consistently doing what you need to do is challenging to say the least.
So if you're desperate to lose weight, but nothing seems to work, you'll want to grab a pen and highlighter...
Because we're going to tackle the four biggest problems that you'll deal with:
PROBLEM 1: "I have no self-control."
PROBLEM 2: "I've lost my willpower."
PROBLEM 3: "I'm not motivated enough."
PROBLEM 4: "I can't stop eating."
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Okay, let's get to it.
"You never realize how little self-control you have until the chips and salsa are in front of you at a Mexican restaurant."
If you ask most people why they struggle to lose weight, one of the most common responses is that they lack self-control.
In principle, self-control seems like the key to weight loss. If you're hungry and there are breadsticks on the counter, just exercise some restraint. If you're craving chocolate, drink a glass of water and eat a handful of almonds.
It should be easy, right? But it isn't.
In practice, nothing goes exactly as planned. When you're starving and cravings hit like a freight train, you struggle and debate and bargain until you give in to temptation.
But considered this:
Why do we try to control the things we have no control over? Can you control your cravings? I can't. We can't control our cravings any more than we can control the weather, the traffic, or other people's minds. So why do we even try to resist cravings?
According to psychologist Carl Jung, "what you resist not only persists but will grow in size."
The bottom line is:
If you're trying to resist breadsticks, chocolate, and a late-night glass of wine in the hopes that your cravings will go away, you're in for a rude awakening.
What we resist grows, and your effort at suppressing those thoughts will turn into a full-blown obsession. And eventually, you'll cave in when you've had enough of the internal debate.
Self-control isn't the solution. Instead, it's about focusing your attention on what you can control.
Imagine that you crave a bowl of ice cream after dinner. Since we know you can't control your cravings, you need to look for the elements you can control.
You have control over the size of the bowl.
You have complete control over how slowly you eat.
You even have control over whether or not you eat a bowl of fruit before eating ice cream.
If you truly want to make a change, focus all your attention on the things you have 100% control over. It is here where you will find freedom.
"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." - Viktor Frankl
To learn more about stopping cravings, read How to Get Over Cravings, According to a Weight-Loss Expert.
Anyone who has ever dieted knows that it's only a matter of time before you experience hunger pangs. But it's not a big deal when you first start a diet. You're inspired and motivated, so you just push through...
And you manage to hold off and resist temptations for a few days, but that's about the same time everything starts falling apart. And that's when people start saying, "If I only had enough willpower."
The truth is, I see so many people fall into the willpower trap, which is unfortunate because it turns their days into a rollercoaster ride.
Here's how it goes:
They wake up with all the willpower in the world, so they skip breakfast. They're not "too" hungry at lunch, so they only eat a salad. But by the time they get home around 6 p.m., their willpower is starting to wear thin, and by 9 p.m., all bets are off.
Simply put, people starve themselves all day then wonder why they lack willpower. But what they don't see is that skipping meals and starving themselves is a form of self-sabotage. Every day, they set a trap and walk straight into it.
Are you a victim of the willpower trap? Do you restrict yourself to the point that it's practically impossible to stick to a diet?
You see, there's a Catch 22 with weight loss, and it goes like this:
A dieter needs the willpower to eat less, but a dieter must eat to have willpower.
So, if you eat like a bird all day and then get so hungry at night that all of your willpower goes out the window, then I'll tell you the most important word in dieting: EAT. I want you to eat!
I realize that this may seem counterintuitive, but eating and weight loss are more closely linked than one might expect.
For instance, I recommend having a high-protein breakfast because it curbs hunger and that makes it easier to avoid overeating later in the day. (1) If I don't have breakfast, I know I'll be hungry later and tempted to grab a quick fix. But even if breakfast isn't your thing, the fact is that if you allow yourself to become too hungry, you have to rely on willpower.
You've heard the saying, "Never go to the grocery store hungry," right? When you do, you'll almost certainly make terrible choices. The same goes for food and willpower. The trick is eating enough so you don't have to rely on willpower.
If you're desperate to lose weight but can't seem to find the motivation to do it. Don't worry. That only means you're human. There are times when I don't feel particularly motivated. And over the last decade, I've coached thousands of clients, and there have been plenty of times when they didn't feel motivated.
Not feeling motivated is completely normal. The problem comes in when we allow our feelings to dictate our actions...
It's when we say, "I'm not motivated enough to fix a meal," and instead opt for something quick and easy. Let me be clear: there's nothing wrong with eating something convenient. But "quick and easy" foods are usually the ones we're trying to avoid.
The truth is that a lack of motivation isn't the problem.
We're all motivated. It's just a matter of whether we're motivated to do what we know we should or motivated to avoid the discomfort of doing it.
So, you see, the real problem is not acting on the things you really want.
So if you're having trouble taking action, start by asking yourself what you actually want. Let's say that what you want is to stop giving in to cravings. And if that goal seems too big and intimidating, the chances of you taking action are slim. It's best to break the goal down into micro-actions. These are small, bite-sized actions you're most likely to take.
For actionable steps on how to stop cravings, read What To Do When You're Not Hungry, But Want To Eat.
If you're not motivated to cook dinner. Just do the smallest action that you're willing to do. It could be that you open the refrigerator to see what you could make, or it may be that you search online for a new recipe.
The goal is to negotiate with yourself and find the micro-action you're willing to take.
I know that nothing feels like it's going to work when you're in a state of inertia. Bodies at rest, stay at rest.
So if you're in an unmotivated funk, the solution is to adopt an "action first" mindset to get back into the swing of things.
Too often, we let our feelings dictate our actions, but the reality is that our actions dictate our feelings. Once you act, you start building momentum, and that's when you'll start feeling motivated.
If you'd like more ways to get motivated, I recommend reading I Have ZERO Motivation To Lose Weight.
The battle with hunger is, without a doubt, the hardest part of losing weight.
You wish you could just stop yourself from eating, but it always seems like you're hungry. You just want the "taste of something," and you can't stop thinking about food.
When your cravings refuse to go away, you can fight and resist, but that won't cut it.
The first thing you need to understand is that there are two types of hunger: physical and emotional.
Let's start with a common example of physical hunger and the situation that leads many people to believe they can't stop eating.
You don't eat breakfast. You skip lunch (since, you know, you're trying to lose weight). And by the time you get home, it's been a good six or seven hours since you ate anything...
So when you finally do get a chance to settle down and eat, you're so hungry that you tear through dinner. I mean, the plate is clear in less time than it takes for a commercial break to air.
But because our bodies take around 20 minutes to register that we're full, we'll still feel hungry. And that's why you keep going back for seconds and thirds.
If that sounds like your situation, the most practical advice I can give is to slow down. Remember that it takes at least 20 minutes to feel full. So do everything you can to make your meal last longer: put your fork down between bites, chew slower, and take a minute or two between bites to talk with your family. If you do these things consistently, you'll be surprised at just how much less you eat and how easy it is to stick to the first plate.
But, here's the thing:
When most people say they're desperate to lose weight but can't stop eating, they're not usually physically hungry. They're emotionally hungry and using food to respond to negative emotions. (2)
Boredom, anxiety, exhaustion, and anger are all negative emotions that trigger a sense of hunger. And the reason you feel like you can eat and eat and never feel full is that...
No amount of food will fill the void of emotional hunger.
Sure, you'll get a false sense of fullness at some point, but it won't be long before you're hungry again. So the most important thing to understand is that food is a temporary solution, but it will not fill the void.
It's also why self-control, willpower, self-discipline, motivation, and toughing it out won't help. None of these approaches will solve the problem of emotional eating. They just don't.
The million-dollar question, the one that needs an answer, is:
"What's actually causing the hunger?"
Perhaps you've had enough of dealing with people (don't feel terrible, it happens). Maybe you're worried about how you'll make your house payment because your partner lost their job.
Or, here's a kicker: maybe you're frustrated because you haven't lost any weight.
Will food solve any of the problems I just mentioned? Will food make dealing with people any easier? Will eating help your partner find a new job? Will eating out of frustration help you lose weight? No.
Food isn't the answer. I know it's deceiving since eating will numb negative feelings, but those emotions will return. Why? Because the situation hasn't changed.
It doesn't matter how often you fill a bucket with water; if you don't fix the holes, the bucket will never be full.
The way to beat emotional eating is to address the reasons causing your hunger.
The truth is you actually only have three options.
(1) If you can fix or improve the situation, then get to it.
(2) If the situation is unfixable or outside your control, find a new way to deal with negative emotions.
(3) You can keep using food to deal with boredom, anxiety, and stress.
So if you genuinely want to stop feeling hungry all the time, either identify the root cause and address it or find a different strategy to cope with those emotions.
To beat emotional eating, it's not a matter of willpower; it's a matter of understanding what to do. Read What To Do When You're Not Hungry, But Want To Eat.
If you're desperate to lose weight, but it doesn't feel like you have the self-control, willpower, and motivation, these are the strategies to put in place.
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