Solutions for Your 10 Biggest Threats
“Weight loss” programs fail for those who don’t realize it’s just a big mental game. As we talked about last month, weight loss is of interest to hundreds of millions of people, but the term itself is a pretty lousy one. We should be more concerned with getting healthy than what the scale says. To do that, we have to learn to ignore the constant references in our society to size and weight. We have to drop body fat, exercise regularly and eat nutritious food. However, if it was as easy to do as it was for me to say, then the U.S. wouldn’t be the fattest country in the world! So what’s the missing key? It’s that weight loss programs don’t teach mental and emotional control, which are the main reasons why they fail!
Listed below are the 10 Biggest Threats to Your Success, followed by specific mental training ideas to prevent or solve each. You probably won’t have to deal with all these threats at once (I hope not), but over the next 6 months, you’ll likely experience every one of them! In general, our goal is to help you get motivated, be persistent, control your emotions (and cravings) and develop lasting positive habits. Together with what you learned in Part 1, you’ll be set up for success.
Threat #1: Lack of Motivation
Mental Solution: Big “Why” and Proper Goals – Breaking old habits and creating new ones is hard enough, but when we mix in exercise and food (pain and pleasure), things can get rough. The MOST important step is for you to get connected to your most passionate reasons WHY you must succeed. A close second is to clearly define success and then to set controllable goals that will move you forward. These “process” goals are your engine and your WHY is the fuel. Get your fuel first, then use it to help you take consistent action.
Threat #2: Lack of Planning
Mental Solution: Time Management – First step is to define the times of the week when you will eat, exercise, work and rest. Refer to Part 1 of this article for how often to eat & exercise, and what foods are best. Next, you’ll decide how to get it done. It will require you to be quite rigid, at least early on. One very successful routine involves preparing breakfast, lunch and healthy snacks the night before, exercising first thing in the morning prior to breakfast, carrying food & water with you to work, setting reminder alarms on your phone, and resting in the evenings. NOTHING except dire emergencies should be aloud to interfere M-F. Saturday is a makeup or bonus day. Take Sunday off from exercise. Modify as necessary to fit your life.
Threat #3: Lack of Discipline
Mental Solution: Integrity Commitment – Doing what you say you’ll do starts with a commitment, includes a healthy dose of pride, and ends with a strong habit. Commit privately at first but eventually you’ll want to make more public statements about how important it is to “be true to your word.” Others close to you can help you follow through because they know you’re committed to it. Create heuristics (rules of thumb) so you can stay on track. An example is, NEVER turn your alarm clock off and then decide to get just 1 more minute of sleep. Set a snooze button limit of 2 after which you must get up and exercise.
Threat #4: Lack of Support
Mental Solution: Team Development – There are many reasons why teams are more productive than a group of individuals. One of the biggest is support, so create a team of people who can support you. If you can afford it, you could hire a dietitian, fitness trainer and mental trainer. What you’re looking for is ACCOUNTABILITY. Going it alone early on is a recipe for failure. At the very least, get your closest friends and family involved in your mission. Meet them at the gym to exercise, or the park to have lunch. Let them know your goals so they can support you. Accepting assistance from those who care about you is a sign of strength not weakness.
Threat #5: Lack of Confidence
Mental Solution: Practice Confidence Building – Confidence is most easily built buy DOING. The more consistently you take action, the more likely you’ll see the success that builds higher confidence. This is obvious, but there are many more that may not be: journaling achievements and compliments, visualizing positive outcomes, using positive body language and facial expressions (smiling), choosing to use positive and optimistic self-talk, focusing on what you control, developing ideal habits, and reducing anxiety (since that’s the opposite of confidence). Many of these solutions are addressed in more detail below, and all of them have strong scientific support. Build as many of them into your day as possible. Research is clear that the more confident you are, the more successful you will be.
Threat #6: Irrational Thoughts
Mental Solution: Rational Thinking – Ughh, I could write forever about irrational thoughts! Let me start by saying, “what you think about comes about.” As such, it’s really important to learn to monitor your thoughts and challenge the irrational stuff – it tends to increase negative emotions that lead to failure. Here are some common ones related to weight loss: “I don’t have what it takes to succeed.” “I’ve tried 10 times before, this time will be no different.” “It’s impossible for me to change the way I look.” “My body just doesn’t build muscle!” “Everything I eat gets stored as fat, so why bother?!” Recognize any of those? I’m sure you have plenty of others too – we all have them, unless we take action and replace with rational statements like: “My body will learn to burn fat – just be consistent.” “I’m building muscle that will burn fat – be patient.” “It took decades for me to create my current body, it won’t take nearly as long to become fit.” “Imagine how much better I’ll look and feel in just a month.” Rational thoughts are less emotion-producing, which means you’ll make better decisions. You can do this.
Threat #7: Pessimistic Thoughts
Mental Solution: Optimism – Similar to Threat #6 above, pessimistic thoughts are dangerous (even if they are realistic and rational). Here’s another quote, “What we look for we tend to find.” If you think bad things will happen, you’ll be looking for them, and you’ll probably find them. Fortunately, the opposite is true too. Do you think some people are really luckier than others? It might seem that way, but I believe lucky people are just optimists who are looking for good things to happen. The research is clear, those who choose to be optimistic are happier, healthier and wealthier. It’s worth the effort – do the work to build optimistic habits.
Threat #8: Denial
Mental Solution: Reality Check – Here’s another big threat to success – denial that your actions are harmful. If you’re like most American’s, you love sugar and fat. The interesting thing is, the more we eat that stuff, the more we want it (bad combination). Those foods operate like an addictive drug and before we know it, we’re trying to justify why eating them is ok. We make statements like, “Everything is ok in moderation.” Wrong, alcohol even in small doses is never ok for an alcoholic. And similarly, if you’re a “carbaholic,” you need to stay away from foods that rapidly increase your blood sugar level. Simply said, you’ll over-eat. Accept it, notice when you start to justify a negative decision, and do what you know to be right.
Threat #9: Inconsistency
Mental Solution: Habits/Routines – The easiest way to be consistent is to develop a habit. We work with hundreds of elite athletes each year, and they’re all interested in building muscle memory so they can perform “on automatic.” When they can remove the need to think about everything, they are less likely to make the wrong decision! And so it can be with you too. Start with a quality routine (see Threat #2 above) and then build it into a habit. Here’s a good one – every Tues and Thursday I lift weights after dropping the kids at school. Every Monday and Wednesday I jog 2 miles. I play golf and tennis on Friday and Saturday afternoon. I go at the same times because it fits my schedule and there is little resistance (most of the time). The stronger the habits become, the easier it is for me to be consistent because it occurs without my having to decide to do it.
Threat #10: Weak Defense
Mental Solution: Respecting Threats – I saved this one for the end, because our guard often comes down after some success. The above threats sneak up and slap us hard. Before we know what happened we’re out of routine. We might even “irrationally” state that we don’t need routines anymore. “I’m fit now – I can eat what I want and exercise when I have time.” Yikes. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Respect the power of the above threats, review this list regularly, and keep building your ideal habits.
Remember, the purpose of this article was to educate and guide you in the right direction. Chances are, you’ve heard of some of the above ideas, but now you know how important they are. It’s critical you realize that many of the ideas above are mental SKILLS you need to practice (just like you might practice your golf swing). Similar to a golf coach, if you feel you need further support and direction, we have Mental Trainers® available to assist.
When you succeed, send your story to me at the email below!
Founder, Mental Training, Inc.