5 Mindset Shifts For Better Weight Loss
By Nutritional Weight & Wellness Staff
January 12, 2024
If you’re someone who has an ambitious weight loss goal or who struggles to prevent weight gain after losing weight, what is your weight loss mindset? What goes through your head? How do you talk to yourself? What thoughts roll around endlessly? Is there a constant inner monologue regarding perfection and failure? Negative self-talk around being good or bad? Letting the numbers on the scale in the morning dictate how you feel about yourself the rest of the day?
We know through clinical experience with counseling and educating folks on eating healthy and mindful eating habits for losing weight that there’s a lot involved when it comes to weight loss. There’s the education piece of knowing what food groups to eat in a healthy diet to lose weight and how much to eat for weight loss goals.
Then there’s the how to put all that knowledge into practical healthy habits while letting go of unhealthy habits.
And THEN it’s the practice of those healthy habits over time with consistency to create real, sustainable weight loss for long term success.
Part of building those healthy habits includes positive mindset shifts to help you stay motivated to let go of old habits and keep on track with healthier daily habits.
Why Is It So Hard Mentally To Lose Weight?
Especially with the additional nutrition noise out there on all the social apps combined with your inner thoughts, trying to lose weight can be mentally exhausting!
The expectations we get from seeing folks on social media and advertising from fad diets that say “lose weight in 30 days!”, it can be discouraging when it takes your body longer to hit the weight loss goals you want.
Rapid weight loss is not sustainable weight loss, so if your body is going slow on your weight loss journey that’s a very good sign.
We want to give you some tools to help you improve your mindset to one that supports your mental and physical health while also achieving successful weight loss. We’ll share five concrete ways to turn that internal mental fight into a more peaceful and trusting thought process about weight management.
Tip 1: Focus on the bigger picture of overall health improvements
From counseling thousands of students in our Nutrition 4 Weight Loss extended program, we have seen the positive effects that happen when focusing on HEALTH FIRST and how weight loss naturally follows. 90% of the class participants lose weight and you can too, but … would you expect your memory to also improve? Or have higher energy levels? Or experience better mental health?
Health is so much more than weight loss.
Here’s just some of the health benefits that switching to a healthy diet of real food changes much more than just a number on a scale and how you can focus on these non-scale victories to track your bigger picture progress:
Our digestion/gut health plays a role in so many different things in our body: brain function, metabolism, heart health, joint pain, and the list goes on. Think of digestion as a trickle-down effect. If your gut health is out of whack, it can compromise all your other goals. Focus on the benefits of healing your digestion as you lose weight (say goodbye to bloat!).
Your emotions are directly tied to getting enough quality protein in your diet. Protein makes our feel-good neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, which help us feel calm, relaxed and happy. Focusing on healthy meals for your emotions and less stress eating will help your emotions... and also help you lose weight.
Healthy fats literally feed our brains since the brain is comprised of 60-70% fat! Eating enough healthy fats helps your brain calm down and clear through those scattered or foggy, unfocused feelings. Certain foods, like healthy fats and proteins, help decrease negative thoughts and increase memory.
When people think heart, they think cholesterol. For cholesterol concerns, the biggest dietary culprits are high sugar and processed foods, along with refined oils and manufactured fats. Sugar and bad fats can throw off the cholesterol balance and numbers. Eat real, whole foods for healthy hearts, and in turn, healthy waistlines.
Lung issues, often show up as breathing difficulties or asthma, both caused by inflammation. When you include more real foods (recommended for weight loss) that’s basically an anti-inflammatory diet. Real foods reduce inflammation, which will help reduce flare-ups in your lungs. Healthier lungs makes it easier to exercise, assisting to build muscle for your metabolism.
Tiredness and dips in energy are often caused by blood sugar imbalance. If you’re eating high sugar and processed foods, you’re riding the blood sugar roller-coaster all day (No fun!). Your blood sugar is spiking and dipping, therefore your energy is going to do the same thing. The surge of energy or rush after the donut or latte will lead to a crash an hour or so later, leaving you tired, unfocused and looking for your next sugar fix. A real food diet helps keep that blood sugar stay level and energy stable, giving you energy for diet and exercise, and helping you achieve long term weight loss.
Stuffy noses and sinus issues are commonly related to food sensitivity, and often dairy is causing the congestion. Think of those sinuses as just another airway, so inflammation can impact them just as easily as the lungs mentioned above. Often inflamed sinuses can lead to headaches and difficulty breathing. Counteracting that inflammation with an anti-inflammatory diet will help sinuses & weight loss.
Clear & Radiant Skin
Your skin needs hydration (you knew that!) and healthy fats (this one surprises many). Those fats are critical for keeping skin plump, pliable and glowing. Back to inflammation (noticing a theme here?), acne is another form of inflammation, so a real food, anti-inflammatory diet plan can help. Also back to gut health, if your intestinal tract isn’t functioning well or is inflamed, it can show up as skin issues, acne, psoriasis, eczema, rashes, etc. A good diet helps clear skin AND provide weight loss.
Quality & Quantity of Good Sleep
Sleep is one of the most common issues that brings in our nutrition counseling clients. Interrupted sleep is their top complaint, waking around 2 or 3 in the morning with brain chatter and unable to get back to sleep. Blood sugar is often the culprit here too! Good nutrition helps you have a good nights sleep so you are rested when you wake up and less likely to snack on junk food the next day, helping with weight loss!
Good healthy fats are needed to lubricate your joints, and protein is needed to make cartilage in our joints. Food sensitives leading to inflammation may result in more pain and cartilage breakdown. Sometimes you won’t see weight loss changes on the scale right away, but many of our students have reported feeling improvement in their joint pain in a matter of days.
Stronger Immune System
70-80% of the immune system is in your gut, so if you have a healthy gut, your immune system will be stronger. A balanced diet is critical for a healthy gut and having a healthy immune system keeps you motivated to follow your daily habits for losing weight.
Non-Scale Victories For Weight Loss Journey
How does all this relate to mindset for weight loss? When you know WHY you are choosing to make lifestyle choices of mindful eating and exercise, beyond just seeing the needle move on the scale, it’s much easier to stick to your weight loss efforts long-term.
The weight loss journey can often have plateaus, but when you have other barometers for health to keep track of – like being able to hike with your family because your joints don’t hurt or feeling rested for the first time in years – it’s easier to see you ARE making progress and your quality of life is increasing with your efforts even if the number on the scale isn't moving.
Tip 2: Have a specific action plan
Declaring you are “going to get healthy” or “need to lose X number of pounds” is not very clear on what you need to DO to accomplish those goals. These statements are far too vague and unrealistic for setting achievable goals.
Get specific and come up with some solid guidelines for what being healthy means to you, helping you determine the behaviors that will make a big difference in your weight loss efforts.
An example would be determining how much water, specifically, you should be drinking per day.
In the past, you may just have said “I need to drink more water.” But how did that work for you? Knowing you need to drink more water is not enough because it’s hard to track improvement and whether you are hitting the best amount of water for you. Try setting a more specific action plan.
With the water example, you could ask yourself:
- How much water am I currently drinking? Be honest with yourself and pay attention to what your current baseline is like, with no judgement. It’s just data! You need to know where you are to figure out where you want to go.
- How much water would I like to drink each day? This is the improvement you would like to make. Make it specific: how many ounces or glasses (or whatever measurement works for you)?
- How specifically will I accomplish this? The key here is being clear and detailed. For you, that might mean finding the right glass or container that works for you to get the water in and checking to see how many ounces of water are in that vessel. Or, you find a fun water bottle that has numbers on it that you can click as you track each bottle that you drink in a day. How many times do you need to fill up that glass to hit your ounces goal? Maybe you use an alarm to remind yourself to drink a glass of water at certain times of day. Perhaps you habit-stack your actions and you drink a full 16 ounces of water while you make your morning coffee.
The lesson here is setting smaller, specific goals that are achievable. That’s what an action plan can do for you – it takes out the mystery of how you are going to accomplish your goal. It allows you do to some problem-solving to see which actions and habits work and which ones you are having trouble achieving that need to be tweaked.
Setting specific action goals is a skillset. We do this in our Nutrition 4 Weight Loss expanded program as well as in one-on-one counseling sessions with our nutritionists and dietitians...both good opportunities to build your confidence in this life-changing skill.
Tip 3: Ditch the perfectionist mentality
Are you a perfectionist? Do you have an all-or-nothing attitude? If yes, you are not alone and it’s possible to change that mindset. Why is perfectionism holding you back? Well, when you set up a situation in your mind where you require perfection, it is next to impossible to achieve.
And then, what happens when you aren’t perfect? Do you feel shame and blame towards yourself? Do you just throw in the whole towel and give up on your specific action plan? Those negative thoughts won't help you have healthier habits.
Understand that there WILL be mistakes along the way. And when they happen, it’s time to learn from them, not give up completely. Think about the next action you can take and get right back at it.
Here are some examples that we hear from class participants:
- I didn’t do any cooking over the weekend and ended up eating fast food.
- Monday rolled around and I didn’t eat breakfast. Then I got to work to find donuts and I ate three.
These are opportunities you can learn from. You do not need to beat yourself up for the rest of the day (or the rest of the week!) and eat poorly that entire time.
Let’s look at how these two situations can be learning experiences:
1. Because you didn’t do any cooking on the weekend, you ended up eating fast food.
Is the weekend the best day for you to do cooking? Maybe your weekend is too full and it would be better to make some double batches of dinners over the week to eat on the weekend.
Or maybe the next time you don’t cook on the weekend, instead of fast food, you opt to pick up a rotisserie chicken and some frozen veggies and pre-cooked whole grains to microwave for a quick meal (with leftovers for later!).
There’s no right answer here and lots of other options. What are some healthier ones you might try to support your weight loss?
2. You’ve now realized how skipping breakfast makes it hard to say no to the donuts.
That’s helpful information! What might you do differently next time? If you didn’t eat breakfast, maybe skip going in the break room where there will be temptation you can’t resist?
If it’s hard to eat breakfast on a Monday while you’re running out the door, are there shelf-stable foods you could store at work (jerky, nuts, freeze-dried fruit) or grab-n-go options you can bring with in the car (hardboiled eggs, clementines, cheese stick)?
Problem-solve how to make healthy choices next time
Instead of beating yourself up, realize that NOBODY is perfect. We are always given situations that help us learn more about ourselves. Rather than focusing on your lack of perfectionism, focus on little progress steps. Focus on where you want to improve the next time and where you need better planning.
Ask yourself: “How can I manage my week better in order to have food ready when I need it?”
And tell yourself: “okay, that situation showed me I could use a better plan, but in the meantime, the very next time I eat, I will make sure it’s a balance of protein, healthy fat and vegetable carbs that will help me fuel my body and feel good.”
That’s a healthy mindset that will result in a healthy body.
Tip 4: Adopt a "choosing" mindset vs "cheating"
Another mindset to grasp is the idea that cheating really is non-existent. There is only choosing. Is this a new thought for you? This is especially true after you have learned what foods work best for your health and know why certain types of foods are terrible for you. Can you make this switch with your language to feel more empowered in your weight loss journey?
Referring to a behavior as “cheating” makes foods “good” or “bad”, which leads to feeling defeated or like a failure if you didn’t eat a certain way. And who feels motivated when feeling like a failure? Let’s look at how “choosing” versus “cheating” can change the outcome for you:
Mindset of choosing:
For example, if you CHOOSE to have a piece of pie, knowing the sugar will cause you pain, the damaged fats will increase your inflammation, the gluten will make your stomach churn and the dairy will make you break out, you have made a conscious decision to experience what your body feels after eating pie. The pie really might be worth it to you (let’s say it’s your birthday and you really want to eat a slice of pie!).
The good news is by making this a conscious decision (I am choosing to eat the pie now), you make it easier to choose to eat a healthy meal or snack AFTER having the pie. This is progress! You are not caught in all-or-nothing thinking. Hooray!
Mindset of cheating:
If you eat the pie and label it as “cheating,” it’s much easier to let yourself off the hook and let that cheating mentality snowball to the next meal, the next day, and possibly all the way to next Monday, when you will get back on track again.
The bottom line:
Instead of viewing food choices like candy, cake, pastries, etc. as "cheating" or “bad”, look at these decisions as choices. Take responsibility for the choice and move on. Make a conscious decision to make a different choice at your next meal or snack and set yourself up for success.
This gives you more food freedom and empowerment when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle and eating in balance.
Tip 5: Focus on what you CAN control
Life is never going to stop for you because you would like to lose weight. Holidays, party invitations, a family crisis, stressful deadlines at work…these things will all come your way, and always will. And they’ll likely throw a wrench in your healthy eating patterns.
How you will manage them differently, with a healthier mindset, is the key.
In those times when things really get wild—maybe you have a family member in the hospital or you are going through a job change—these are the times when you focus on what you CAN do. When you’re facing a crisis or extra stress in your life, maybe you focus on:
- Keeping a consistent sleep schedule to give you the time to get enough sleep at night
- Drinking two glasses of water before caffeine
- Eating protein three times a day (bonus points for being more specific with how many ounces of protein you want to eat!)
Focus on what you can control, not on things you can’t, during hectic times, but keep moving forward doing the best you can.
Balanced mindful eating throughout the day actually helps to manage stress better because it keeps blood sugar balanced. When life gets hectic, focus on protein, healthy fat, and vegetable carbohydrates as best you can, but don’t beat yourself up when you miss the mark.
Practice Your Mindset For Losing Weight
Practice changing your mindset to lose weight and see how much better your body feels. Focus on lifestyle change for overall health (not just for losing weight), create a specific action plan, let go of the perfectionistic mentality, reframe cheating to choices (with an emphasis on healthy choices), and focus on what you can control.
Do your best a little at a time and you’ll keep moving forward inch by inch to that healthier you.
Bonus Tip: Support System!
Surround yourself with supportive people. A support system is extremely important for making health changes. That's why we are here! Let us help you lose weight and get the right mindset as this is a lifelong journey.
For more information on how to lose weight, check out these resources:
For losing weight, you’ll find our Nutrition 4 Weight Loss Foundations to be life changing and just what you’ve been searching for. Learn More about Foundations and get the weight loss support you need.