Most people know what they need to do to lose weight …. eat less, eat healthily and exercise more. All weight loss programmes and articles tend to be variations on this theme. It isn’t rocket science – so why do so many people fail to reach their goal or, having reached it, simply regain the weight they lost?
For most people who want to lose weight and keep it off, there isn’t anything like enough focus on the psychology involved. Most weight loss programmes and articles completely ignore the psychology. So even those who manage to lose some weight usually put it straight back on again. Other programmes based on meal substitutes or supplements have a built-in psychological challenge that almost guarantees any weight lost will be regained, when the substitutes cease, as eventually they must.
Why do film stars and other celebrities achieve and sustain their goals? Because they’re highly motivated, can afford personal trainers, don’t use meal substitutes and get professional advice including, most importantly, advice on the psychology of achieving and sustaining weight loss goals.
There are many reasons why we don’t maintain healthy eating and fitness programmes. The most common is a lack of motivation, self-control and resilience. All these attributes can be acquired. Motivation comes from being clear about one’s values and the benefits of achieving and sustaining a goal.
Weight loss has clear benefits around health and looking attractive. Proven health risks of being overweight include heart disease, diabetes, and others too numerous to mention. And at the risk of offending libertarians, if anyone doubts that most people are more attracted to a slim figure, they should ask why the powerful or wealthy, or those otherwise in a position to choose, nearly always choose slim partners. But health and attractiveness are not the only benefits.
Another is the sense of control it can generate over your whole life, with the consequent impact on confidence and self-esteem. If we can gain control over our weight, we can gain control over other aspects of our lives. And knowing that we’re healthier, fitter and more attractive can itself boost confidence and self-esteem.
Peter Hall, a Get Slim, Stay Slim Guaranteed client, was three stone above his target weight. He wanted to lose weight to feel and look better, and because he wanted a better image to support his catering business … ‘Food Matters’. He says: “After hearing Graham speak, I was confident the Get Slim, Stay Slim Guaranteed approach was what I was looking for. The one year money-back guarantee also convinced me of the programme managers’ confidence and I found the prospect of gaining more control of my life and business appealing. Once I’d signed up for the programme, the tools and techniques made me increasingly motivated to achieve my weight goal.”
The next attribute needed is self-control. Motivation isn’t enough to get us through the challenging times, such as when we’re tempted to break our new eating patterns or skip training. The Get Slim, Stay Slim Guaranteed programme gives our clients a range of tools, including how to deal with ‘trigger points’ (predictable challenging situations). We then take clients through a process to enhance self-control. Trying to achieve and sustain a weight-loss goal without mind-based controls is like expecting a relationship to survive challenging times without the means or commitment to break through those challenges. ‘Trying’ to succeed just isn’t good enough. We need the control over our mind to be able to do whatever it takes.
Peter Hall began using those controls as soon as he entered the Get Slim, Stay Slim Guaranteed programme. He says: “It immediately started to make a difference. I could no longer stop off at the pub on the way home. I cut down on my drinking, stopped eating crisps and changed a string of other behaviours.“
The third attribute needed is resilience. This is the ability to deal with uncomfortable experiences. And the most powerful tool to boost resilience is ‘accepting what is’. This means an ability to accept what’s happening right now, different from the usual meaning of ‘acceptance’ which is future-oriented, illustrated by the popular wisdom about ‘accepting things we cannot change’.
One example of ‘accepting what is’ is accepting who we are right now, at the same time as choosing to change ourselves in the future. Being unhappy about who we are, an example of ‘resisting what is’, might be thought to be motivating. In fact it’s generally demotivating and debilitating and is nearly always unhelpful. Knowing how we want to be, being clear on the benefits and being confident we can achieve it, are generally much more effective motivators.
Another example of ‘accepting what is’ involves dealing with uncomfortable feelings such as anxiety or feeling low. Many people overeat because they use food to control uncomfortable feelings, often called ‘comfort eating’. To successfully lose weight they need to learn more productive ways of dealing with feelings. And that’s about learning how to accept them. This means accepting it’s OK to have them right now, rather than accepting that it’s OK for them to remain.
We use the same tools to deal with cravings or excessive desires for food. Accepting uncomfortable feelings or desires is one of the most powerful psychological tools anyone can learn. Acceptance nearly always diminishes the feeling or desire but, more importantly, it allows us to act in ways not determined by the feeling or desire, such as ceasing comfort eating or simply not acceding to a desire or craving for food. Furthermore, these tools quickly unwind the unconscious programming that’s driving the feelings, cravings and excessive desires.
Peter Hall applied these acceptance-based techniques to all his limiting feelings, desires, cravings, thoughts and behaviours. “Not only did I quickly get my eating under control and start taking more exercise,” he says, “these techniques eliminated stress, anxiety, feeling low and worry from my life. At the same time I found myself gaining in confidence and self-esteem. I lost two stone in twelve weeks. The best I’d ever achieved on other programmes was one stone. I’m confident I’m on my way to achieving my goal and that this time, I’ll sustain it.”
The Get Slim, Stay Slim Guaranteed programme also includes nutritional and fitness advice and training, provided by expert nutritionists and trainers. Fitness training not only contributes to weight loss, it also helps to establish the mind-set needed to maintain nutritional and fitness commitments, and so achieve and sustain weight loss goals.
We’re so confident in the success of the programme, we offer a unique guarantee for achieving and sustaining the goal. Says Peter Hall, “the guarantee may have been influential in my decision to sign up for the programme, as it demonstrated the programme managers’ confidence, but it soon became clear I wouldn’t need it.”
The training isn’t just about achieving and sustaining weight loss goals. It aims to change people’s lives by providing powerful tools that can be used in every aspect of life.
Graham W Price
Chartered Psychologist, Coach and Development Trainer