3 Steps to Losing Weight Without Depriving Yourself or Living on a Treadmill

03/03/2015 05:47 pm ET | Updated May 03, 2015

While about 45 million Americans diet each year, only 20 percent of them are successful at maintaining the loss for at least one year. It seems that restrictive diets are not a panacea for successful weight loss.

And exercise alone isn't, either. According to Robert Kushner, M.D., clinical director of the Northwestern Comprehensive Center on Obesity, you need to take care of your diet first. It's only once you start to lose weight and feel better that you can focus on being more physically active in order to keep the weight off.

So, let's focus on your diet. Here are three steps to losing weight and most importantly, keeping it off, without depriving yourself or living on a treadmill.

1) Have faith that you can do it

Many people who want to lose weight often lack self-confidence. They think that because they have failed in the past, they can't successfully lose the weight. It often seems they want to go on a restrictive diet or suffer for hours on the treadmill as a way of punishing themselves for putting on the pounds in the first place.

The first step is really to stop this self-sabotage pattern. You need to believe that losing weight for good is possible and that you can do it, one step at a time. Start accepting yourself more by taking a compassionate look at where you are on your healthy eating journey, even if getting fit and healthy feels like a high mountain to climb.

Believe you can make it work, and you're halfway there.

2) Focus on what you can have

You probably know that if you want to lose weight and get healthy, you need to eat less processed foods and less fast food, you need to stop drinking calories, and you need to stop overeating or binging on sweets and chocolate at night. But chances are you're not doing it. And this is not a matter of willpower.

This is because being focused on what you can't have doesn't work. In fact, if you deprive yourself, it has been shown by studies that this deprivation is linked to cravings and overeating. And this is why restrictive diets don't work on the long-term. Because they are focused on restriction and deprivation, they can't be sustained over a long period of time.

It's not that we can't stop eating unhealthy foods; it's that we can't live with a constant feeling of deprivation. And this is why you need to focus on what you can have and what you can add to your diet to make it healthier, instead of focusing on what you can't have.

For example, pick five vegetables you really like and add them to your lunch or dinner, one meal at a time. Keep doing this until vegetables make about half of your plate and you're experiencing a feeling of abundance instead of deprivation.

Once you're adding more and more whole foods to your diet and your meals become more nutritious, you'll no longer be hungry for processed foods and sugar. And you will drop pounds without even noticing.

3) Have the courage to address the emotions around your eating

We could talk for hours about high fructose corn syrup, dietary fats or restaurant portions; we would still not be addressing the elephant in the room, which are the emotional issues behind being overweight.

In fact, when women come to me to lose weight, the weight is often symbolic of deeper desires they aren't fulfilling in their lives. To lose the weight, they have to tackle the emotions that caused them to gain it in the first place.

If you feel you can't keep yourself from reaching for unhealthy foods when life gets rough, or you just know you're overeating but you can't help it, your excess weight probably has its roots in your emotions. It may be time to summon up the courage to dig deeper and uncover the whys behind your eating patterns.

Restrictive dieting or self-imposed hard-core exercise can often be attributed to a lack of self-acceptance and self-love, fueled by a message from early childhood or society that we are not acceptable as we are.

Many times, faith and self-acceptance are the very first steps to successful weight loss. Focusing on abundance instead of deprivation, as well as having the courage to address the emotions behind our eating patterns, are the next steps to creating a healthy body that we love.

Anne Ricci is dedicated to helping women make healthy food choices, boost their energy and feel good in their body. You can join her tribe at AnnesHealthyKitchen's Community.