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Mindset for weight loss

January is peak joining-a-gym-and-going-on-a-diet. Rude Health fitness expert Alan Williams’s new book Weight Loss Simplified has some great advice for anyone looking to change their body by changing their mindset

I am the problem and I am the solution

Some truths may be hard to accept. Some may cut to the bone. Here’s the first - diets don’t work, people do. The first and most fundamental thing you must know, is that you are responsible for your own outcomes. Once you do accept it, your whole life will start to change. When you accept that you are solely responsible you’ll start to look for solutions instead of problems. The moment that you depend on somebody else to fix you, you’re holding yourself back. The reality is this; only you can fix you.

Don’t be the “not my fault” person

The only way we can progress is if we start getting brutally honest. I believe that, for the most part, we are where we are because of decisions we’ve made, actions we’ve taken and things we’ve avoided. Weight loss is a very simple concept – if you want to lose weight you need to be operating in a calorie deficit. That is to say that you are expending more energy than you are taking in. You really can’t cheat the grind. It all starts and ends with personal responsibility.

People think that losing weight is about food and exercise, but it’s not really. Of course, they’re the fundamentals, but let me ask you this; do you think you know enough to get started, but can’t quite seem to get the job done? I’d suggest that may indicate that some mindset work is needed.

Take control of the everyday

Over the last few years, we’ve seen the introduction of concepts such as the sugar tax and forcing restaurants to put calorie details on food. I’d argue the problem lies in our everyday living, not in the odd occasion we go for a fancy meal. YOU are the person that decides what you eat and YOU are the person who decides how active you are.

When things go well, don’t sit on your laurels.

Here’s what I’d like you to do:

  1. Acknowledge what went well and the role you played in that. List the things you did well.
  2. Look for improvement. What are the things you could have done better? List them.

When things didn’t go well:

  1. Acknowledge why it didn’t work out and the role you played in that.
  2. Look for improvement. What would you do differently next time to bring about a different result?

Give yourself the gift of honesty

I reckon there’s no person on this planet that doesn’t have some issue with food, myself included. None of us have a perfect diet, and most of us have an unhealthy habit in some form. However, until we look our problems and behaviours in the face, we can’t do anything about them. This might be a good time to assess your relationship with food. I cannot stress this enough; you need to start being completely honest with yourself in order to create lasting change. We can’t get good at the thing we avoid. Whether that’s public speaking, playing basketball, singing, or knitting. Your weight loss journey is the same.

Start taking control. Start being honest. It may be tough initially but it’s also incredibly empowering. If you want to bring about a different result, you’ve got to do something in a different way. It may be a great time to grab a pen and paper and consider the following:

  1. What is the thing I’m avoiding? The thing I need to change?
  2. What practical steps am I going to take this week to change that thing, therefore bringing about a different outcome?

Why do you want to lose weight?

It’s a very simple question, but if you can’t answer it I’d wager your weight loss journey won’t be too successful. Very often there’s a deeper-lying issue around self-esteem. I think it’s an amazing thing that people gain confidence from losing weight, or getting in shape, as long as it’s done in a healthy way. But your body does not define who you are. It does not make you a good, or a bad, person. An egotist with abs is still an egotist!

Take a few minutes to give this question some serious consideration and then write them down. They’ll become your motivation when things get tough.

Manage it, don’t be managed by it

Things we can’t change

When it comes to changing our body there are a few things we can’t change.

Age – Our chronological age is set, we can’t change that. If you start incorporating healthy changes, start eating nutritious food, exercise five times a week, drink more water, improve your sleeping patterns and manage stress levels, you’ll likely start to see your biological age reduce.

History – we can’t change our history but we can control our future. Step out of that limiting belief that says you can’t do more. You can. All of us can. Don’t overwhelm yourself, start small and build confidence.

Genetics – I’ve worked with people who didn’t have great genetics, yet they’ve managed to do great things. You can decide to let your genetics hold you back or you can decide to keep moving forward.

What can we control?

Food – Obviously changing your body will be greatly influenced by the quantity and quality of the foods you eat. The first thing I recommend here is being HONEST with yourself. What’s holding you back? What’s the food issue you’ve been avoiding? Until you decide to get honest, it’s going to be very difficult for you to move forward.

Exercise – We all know enough to get started. You know that just getting more active will make you healthier, be that walking, cycling, swimming or resistance training. At some point you may need to seek professional help to get you to the next level. I believe a good coach is money very well spent. As a guide for beginners, focus on intensity.

Lifestyle – Implement daily habits that create a lifestyle. Consider how you’re managing stress for example. Where is your major source of stress coming from? What could you do to improve that situation? Have you got a good sense of work/life balance? Things like stress and sleep play a much bigger role in your physical composition than you probably realise.

Mindset – You can’t always control the circumstances but you can control your response to them. You can choose to be negative and defeatist, or you can go out into the world with a positive can-do attitude. You can put your energy into wishing things were different or you can put your energy into finding solutions.

Aim for progress, not perfection

Say you’re trying to go from a diet that was around 15% healthy foods to a diet that is 100% perfect. And you’re trying to go from no exercise, or little exercise, to intense training five days a week. And you wonder why you only last for two weeks!

Break it down

Determination and willpower will take you so far, but willpower is a diminishing resource. What will you do when it runs out? I would be much happier if you took a more sustainable approach. That means stepping back from the temptation to go all in on week one and being nowhere to be seen by week three.

Make deals with yourself.

If you’re consuming high quantities of heavily processed food, junk food, or takeaways it’s going to be extremely difficult for you to go cold turkey. Typically the more you deprive yourself of something, the more you want it. Include a treat meal for yourself once a week, something you enjoy. For somebody who has a really poor diet that may need to be twice a week. And that’s ok.

Process over outcome

Break down your goals into manageable chunks. The next time you think 1lb per week is not enough, I’d like you to consider something. If you averaged a weight loss of 1lb per week you’d lose 52lbs in a year. Around three and half stone. Do you still think it’s not enough?

Motivation is a temporary emotion. it won’t always be there. In fact, it will go missing quite frequently! The challenge is not for us to be motivated all of the time, the challenge is for us to find a way to remain productive in the absence of motivation. That means making it a habit. Making it non-negotiable.

You need a hobby!

Most of us, at one time or another, have probably heard the words “You need to get a hobby”. When someone says this they usually mean you are too obsessed with a certain thing. I believe having a hobby is an important part of our weight loss journey. Having a hobby gets us out of our own heads for a while. Make time for your hobby.

Choose your words carefully

Self talk has a major impact so we need to be cognisant of the words we are using with ourselves on a daily basis. This will go a long way to determining our mindset and how we view our journey.

Maintenance is progress

Rather than chasing weight loss goals 52 weeks of the year I’d advise breaking it down. Do shorter stints in a calorie deficit. Maybe do 6-8 weeks, lose some weight, pat yourself on the back, acknowledge your progress and then slow down. Go into maintenance calories for a month. Have a little more leeway and give yourself a chance to recover from the more intense few weeks of a calorie deficit for a little while. And that’s absolutely fine. When you feel ready and refreshed you can then go back into a deficit for another period. Then go into maintenance. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Fitness is a journey, not a destination.

I was going to say weight loss is a never-ending journey, but that’s not strictly true. Fitness on the other hand, is. At some point your mindset will have to change. You’ll have to stop thinking weight loss and maybe think things like fitness, strength, endurance, body fat or maybe set a goal such as doing a triathlon or climbing a mountain.

My book includes a section on mindset for weight loss, and 113 practical weight loss tips, covering nutrition, training, sleep and stress.

Weight Loss Simplified by Alan Williams is available from major bookshops, and

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