Overweight people are caught in the trap of blaming themselves for their lack of success—all the while resisting responsibility for their choices and constantly searching for the next “best” program to come along. Without some key “thinking shifts,” they are destined to keep trying what doesn’t work. To free oneself from repeating the same ineffective approach, make these three key shifts:
1. Choose an 80/20 Approach. For eating behavior to change in lasting ways, the principle of flexible control should run the change process. Establish flexible dietary restraint that leads to weight loss but does not create a surge in dis-inhibition, the emotional backlash that leads to yo-yo dieting. An 80/20 approach lets you strive to make healthy choices 80% of the time while the other 20% of the time allows for intentional treats and missed exercise bouts and makes provisions for unintended splurges.
An 80/20 approach can be effective only when people successfully:
- Let go of thinking that perfection is necessary (or even possible) for weight loss and weight maintenance.
- Learn how to give “real,” or guilt-free permission to include controlled portions of treats as part of your weight loss programs.
- Develop a recovery plan to rebound quickly from slips by “letting go” of a slip when it happens and avoiding subsequent feelings of guilt and negativity.
2. Seek a Supportive Community. Going it alone is unnecessary and, for most, an unproductive approach to weight loss. External support from professionals, family and friends increases adherence and improves weight maintenance.
3. Strengthen Goal Setting by Creating a Vision for Change. Basing goals on each individual’s personality, strengths and restrictions is important for overweight and obese individuals.
A tool that can help set effective goals is the SMART technique (the acronym means making goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Rewarding and Time-based). Setting goals that are simultaneously achievable and rewarding is particularly important in balancing fear of failure with concern with loss of interest. Keeping this balance in mind will help moderate expectations. With the notion that modest goals are still valuable goals, people will have a better chance of setting realistic goals that they will nonetheless find motivating and exciting.