Healthy Weight, Healthy Mind: A Recipe for Weight Loss Success

Dave Creel offers some important tips for thinking about and achieving weight loss success.

Young woman smiling on a weight scale.

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We are pleased to bring you this regular column by Dr. David Creel, a licensed psychologist, certified clinical exercise physiologist and registered dietitian. He is also credentialed as a certified diabetes educator and the author of A Size That Fits: Lose Weight and Keep it off, One Thought at a Time (NorLightsPress, 2017).

Do you have a weight loss question for Dr. Creel? Email him at [email protected]. He may answer your question in a future column.

This article presents an overview of everything we’ve discussed about weight management. I hope you’ll be reminded of ideas that resonated with you, and perhaps you’ll decide to reread a particular article.

As I wrap up what I have to say on the subject of weight, I’m reminded of a valuable lesson from my parents: Just like money and status, weight isn’t the most important thing in life. A number on the scale is just that.

Hopefully you know what’s most important in your life. Maybe your list would include family, faith, feeling at peace, close friendships, feeling your life has purpose, or leaving the world a better place. Perhaps you just want to be happy, calm, or live without physical or emotional pain. Maybe you’ve discovered that unhealthy eating is tightly connected to something on your list and you want to change that. You can.

Weight Loss is a Holistic Process

You may have told yourself, “If I can just lose X number of pounds, I’ll be happy.” I’m reminding you that weight loss alone will not lead to sustained happiness. It won’t give you a ticket to the Magic Kingdom where all your wishes are granted. Instead, our weight often changes as a result of finding inner peace. When our lives are purposeful, we can view health as a vehicle that takes us where we want to go. Without this perspective, the positive feelings we get from

weight loss quickly fade or become overshadowed by the chaos of life. When everything competes for our attention, eventually we lose focus on weight. But living purposefully lets us integrate health into the most valuable parts of our lives. The competition between health and other life demands comes to a halt and we’re no longer managing weight in a vacuum: We’ve connected it to things that are already important to us.

The path of weight management has many obstacles. We each have a body we were born with, complete with genetic factors that can impact our journey. These influences are a normal part of the trip and we can’t eliminate them, even when they slow our progress.

Plus, side trails can take us in the wrong direction. For example, forever searching for the holy grail of food combinations that will melt away pounds gets in the way of developing a sensible eating style. The most important aspects of weight management are not found in the minutia of the effect of a single food, the time of day you exercise, or whether or not you swear off pasta.

Instead, we succeed by using strategies to create a lifestyle that includes balanced eating and regular physical activity. The best plan will promote health and also embrace your schedule, your likes and dislikes, your personality, and your biological tendencies.

On the other hand, sometimes our lifestyle and personal preferences create so many barriers that it is nearly impossible to fit in healthy eating and exercise. If this is true for you, you may benefit from altering major parts of your life. Making job or relationship changes and letting go of unhealthy hobbies can create a suitable environment for change. Weight management is not a short-term effort; it’s a commitment with some sacrifice. But each sacrifice brings a reward as you lose weight, feel better, look better, and enjoy more activities.

Commitment grows stronger when we focus on benefits and rewards instead of grumbling about what we’ve given up. Motivation naturally has peaks and valleys, but your journey will be easier—and faster—if you celebrate your success and remind yourself of the reason for daily discipline.

Goals

Setting and achieving goals is a fulfilling experience, but we need to select the right goals because these targets can make or break our attitudes. Realistic, short-term goals are crucial in the early stages of changing behavior. Before focusing on a goal you need to know why it’s important. Goals should be specific and measurable, helping us focus on behavior related to weight.

Monitoring

Self-monitoring the food we eat, how much physical activity we engage in, and numbers on the scale are essential for most weight-loss maintainers. These tracking strategies can make you more aware of your relationship with food.

The Pleasure of Eating

Eating is one of the pleasures of life, and each of us has a personal relationship with food. As we explore these connections to food, we can address the pleasure aspect of eating. People who manage to lose weight and keep it off have discovered how to stop using food as a main source of pleasure. Instead, they use food to fuel other aspects of their lives that are satisfying and rewarding. Redefining pleasure by considering it in a broad, long-term way can also make your weight management journey more fulfilling.

Flavor isn’t the only thing that makes eating a pleasure. We can also enjoy the color, texture, and life giving, restorative properties of what we consume. Learn to eat slowly and mindfully (not while doing other things), so you can savor your food in guilt-free portions.

Look for more ingredients to the recipe for success next week.

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