Can weight loss ever be easy? Many people I work with have said just that. But there are reasons that they are able to describe their success as easy. What sets them apart from those that have been unable to succeed?
1) Focus on behavior and personal change, not weight.
Our body and weight is a result of our everyday habits, the way we think and act, today and for the rest of our lives. Changing habits and attitudes is the way to lose weight permanently, not getting hung up on pounds and the scale.
Many people are very attached to their little pleasures, favorite snacks, favorite restaurants and party friends. They want to change their body while keeping all those things. It can't be done. Some things will have to go. You won't succeed until you accept that.
Using diets and products to lose weight while continuing the same way of living and thinking will only make matters worse. Trying to lose weight permanently without committing to personal change is futile.
When we decide we want to change and are willing to give up the things that stand in the way, we've taken the first step. When we've decided to measure our progress by looking at our behavior and beliefs instead of the scale, we're on the second step. But just wanting to change is not enough. We need to learn how.
2) Mastering behaviors, not willpower.
Many people think that the way we act and feel is a matter of choice and that personal change is a matter of will power. The reality is that most of us are not aware of why we feel and act the way we do and we don't know how to change.
The way we are is a product of conditioning and programming, most of it unconscious. We are like a pet that perks up and comes running when it hears the can opener. We do the things we do because we have been conditioned or programmed to. It's reflex. It's automatic. That's the way a part of your brain works that's been in control of your feelings and habits. Changing that is not just a matter of willing yourself to feel and act differently. You need to be reprogrammed, and that will take practice and effort using known techniques and principles. Weight loss and good health needs to become automatic. That's the province of behaviorism.
3) Be willing to work hard to make things easy.
When I and my clients say that permanent weight loss has become easy, we are not saying that we did not have to work at it. We are saying that it has become automatic. It's like learning to ride a bike or drive a car or play a musical instrument. At first, it may feel awkward, uncomfortable and unnatural. But after a while, some difficulty and practice, it becomes the most automatic and natural thing in the world. You just jump on the bike or in the car, and your hands and feet know exactly what to do, without effort or thinking. It's like something else is taking you where you want to go. In the past what we felt like doing made us overweight. Now, it feels natural and satisfying to do the things that keep us at our ideal weight.
Because we've tried and failed and lost faith in ourselves so many times in the past, it often occurs to us that if we could get someone else to make it happen, then we might be successful. So we hire a personal trainer or a coach. Or we ask a friend or family member to take on the responsibility. It may even seem to work for a while. But it doesn't last. We cancel or change our mind and stop doing what's necessary to succeed.
The reality is that you must accept the job of being responsible for your success. No one else has as much to gain or lose. You are the only one, and if you don't take the job, no one else will. There is only one person in the world who has so much at stake, so much to gain, so many reasons to create your success.
You are in the driver's seat of your life, and you need to own that job. No one else can take the wheel for you. But to succeed, we need to learn how.
5) Gaining the knowledge and skill sets to get where you want to be.
Are we born knowing how to drive, how to master will, how to be healthy and successful? No. Not on your life.
But we are born with potential, the ability to learn and the ability to acquire knowledge, skills, beliefs and behaviors. As babies, we are like little programmable robots, ready to be outfitted with the data and programs to take us to the stars.
Unfortunately, most of us are born to parents just as clueless as we were at that age, into environments more apt to program us to be good consumers of addictive products than examples of good health. Are we doomed to follow our early programming, stuck with the bad information and behaviors we've been trained with? No.
Regardless of our age, we still have the potential we were born with. We still have the equipment needed to learn, that can rid us of bad information and behaviors and replace them with healthier ones.
We may have believed that our parents, the TV and "Googling" were the sources and authorities regarding the Truth. In that case, we need to learn critical thinking skills and some rules of scientific verification of facts. We'll need to learn technique for behavioral change, how to create healthy habits and belief systems, because, as I said earlier, just deciding to be different doesn't work without the technique to do the reprogramming. Just "making up your mind" without the tools is not enough. "Will power" is an acquired skill. If your old teachers and schools taught the wrong lessons, go find new ones that know how to do what you want to do and go where you want to go.
6) Faith in the potential and power within you.
All living breathing things, including you, have a power in them that generates their life. You did not make this. It made you. It predates you and has a wisdom beyond our comprehension. It beats your heart, channels impulses through your brain and nervous system, had instinct from the day you were born, and has the miraculous ability to heal broken bones and open wounds. While philosophers and psychologists try to understand and discover how it works, we do not fully understand it. But we know it is in us.
We have lost faith in our puny selves many times, but no amount of our own shortcomings diminishes the power, potential and genius that lives in us. As surely as we can count on it to shiver us when we're cold, have us scream when we're hurt badly enough, we can count on it to make us respond in the way we know all living creatures respond to behavioral technique. You will too. It's as predictable and reliable as gravity.
Sometimes, we lose sight of this and doubt our potential. This is crucial, because the part of us that runs our programs and runs our life will act out what we believe is possible rather than what it is really capable of. So, if we believe we do not have this power and potential within us, it's like we are turning it off. If we do that, the wisdom, genius and miraculous is being told to stop working.
We may have done a poor job of calling on it and putting it to work in the past, but don't doubt for a second that it is not in you. If you are alive and breathing it is there. Have the faith that it is always there. We may have let ourselves down in the past, lost faith in our own little self, but it is essential to believe that the power that generates the miracles of life is still there, at work, coursing through your every cell. It is ready to respond when you are ready to call on it and put it to work. That Faith is not only rational, but absolutely needed for that power to be active in your life.
The word desire is derived from a root word that means star, a source of energy. Our sun, a star aflame, is an example of energy that fuels our lives, that makes all earthly things possible.
Some people have said that desire is something to shun. I certainly think a desire for unhealthy things causes suffering, but I know that a desire for healthy things causes good things to happen. A strong desire is absolutely necessary when the object of your desire is difficult to attain, requires work, or has obstacles to overcome.
Don't be afraid to kindle a burning desire for your success. It will give you energy. You need that energy to accomplish what we want here. If the dream of being at a weight you'd love stirs you, dream it. If the thought of doing what you'd like to do at your desired weight, wearing what you'd like to wear, feeling how you want to feel excites you, stoke it.
Successful weight loss was an elusive goal for many of us for many years, but it certainly is possible, and for many of us, it's become easy. It most certainly is worth everything you can muster to put these elements in place. Think of what your life would be like if you could solve this problem.
William Anderson is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in weight loss, eating disorders and addictions. He is the author of The Anderson Method.