Last week during a session, one of my clients said something that really resonated with me.
Whenever I set a weight loss goal, I always seem to do worse.
I completely understand.
Back in my days of being stuck in that never-ending diet circle, I was always setting weight loss goals.
- I will lose 10 pound before my vacation.
- I will lose two pounds a week for the next six weeks.
- I will weigh 135 by my high school reunion.
Whenever I set a goal like this, I always ended up going crazy within days (sometimes hours) of setting the goal.
The more I set goals like this, the harder it was to actually lose weight. In fact, it seemed like whenever I’d set a concrete weight loss goal, I’d end up gaining weight instead.
All of these goals had me thinking about the future.
Setting goals with the far future in mind put extra pressure on my decisions in the present.
Eating that cookie is a bigger struggle when you’re supposed to lose 10 pounds before your vacation.
Having a bout of unusual eating is a big deal when you’re supposed to be losing two pounds a week.
Setting concrete weight loss goals puts a lot of pressure on you.
And that pressure can lead to self-sabotage.
The pressure of this type of goal intensifies the restriction you feel and that restriction intensifies the guilt. (There’s a lot more guilt surrounding your “bad” eating choices when you’re supposed to weigh 135 by your high school reunion.) The guilt in turn intensifies the rebellion against the restriction and the desire to relieve the pressure.
So, what’s the solution?
To stop setting weight loss goals.
To take things one day at a time.
To stay present.
Here are three tips to let go of those long-term goals and the self sabotage that comes with them:
Shift your focus away from weight loss goals.
Weight means nothing. Let me say that again: Weight means nothing. You could cut off your arm and weigh less, but you still wouldn’t be healthier. Stop setting weight loss goals. Instead, think in terms of health or fitness goals. What do you want to accomplish? Want to get a bodyweight snatch? Okay, now eat to support that goal. Want to clear your skin? Eat to heal your digestion—the weight loss may come as a side effect of working toward your health or fitness goals.
Take things one day at a time.
Instead of thinking of your vacation in July, or what you want to weigh by your high school reunion, think of what you will do tomorrow to make it the best day ever. Stepping back and taking things one day at a time makes everything seem more manageable. It takes the pressure off of your food choices. Eating that cookie isn’t such a big deal when you’re thinking day-to-day instead of focusing on the future.
This goes along with taking it one day at a time. The hardest thing about taking it one day at a time is remembering to take it one day at a time. Whenever you find yourself thinking about your far away goals, try to pull yourself back to the present—whether by taking a few deep breaths, or having a physical item to bring you back. I sometimes carry a small pebble in my pocket. I call it my “Goal Pebble.” Whenever I feel it in my pocket, I’m reminded to take things one day at a time and to stay in the present.