Sick of trying to lose weight? Then it's time to change your focus
Updated: Jan 7
There is no dispute that the weight loss journey can be an exhausting one. When we start out, we are so enthusiastic and committed, and usually in the first few weeks of a new program we are well rewarded – the number on the scales goes down fast.
But after a few weeks the enthusiasm starts to wane, and we start to feel tired in the mind and body. Not only that, we are not getting the same level of results and reward that we did at the start, and this also dampens our enthusiasm.
It’s perfectly normal in a weight loss journey for the numbers on the scales to slow, stay the same, or even go up a little. Constantly watching those numbers becomes tiresome and frustrating, especially when you are putting in the effort, and the scales are not rewarding you.
It’s pretty common for people to lose interest and even quit a program because of what the scales say (or don’t say). They decide it just isn’t working. Sound familiar?
We know, however, that the only way to achieve our goals is to keep working at them. So, how do you move on when you’ve hit a lull?
My advice: stop trying to lose weight.
When the scales aren’t rewarding you, change your focus to a goal that will, and make weight loss the side effect of achieving your new goals.
I have lost about 30 kilos over the last 20 years. For the first 15 kilos, I watched the scales, but with plenty more still to lose, I was bored. So I started to change my focus onto different lifestyle aspects, and the remaining kilos consequently came off.
So, what can you focus on to keep you on track?
Focus on a fitness goal
Chances are if you have started on a weight loss journey, you have added a new exercise regime, or increased an existing one. Now, instead of just going through the motions, set a specific goal to improve in one area of your fitness.
My first fitness goal was to improve my running stamina. I was never a good runner, even growing up. I hated playing tag or chasey at school; athletics days made me feel awkward; and the school cross country day was my own personal hell. I decided I finally wanted to overcome this. I set myself small running targets each day, and I built them up slowly.
Sure enough, each day as I hit my running target, I had that rewarding feeling that I needed to sustain me mentally, and as my running times and distances improved, the weight continued to drop.
Focus on cooking
I know, I know, you’ve been watching what you eat for ages now, and you’re over that too. I get it. But I’m also guessing that you have been focussing on what you have to eliminate and all the things you can’t eat.
Instead, focus on getting better in the kitchen. We all know healthy food can be delicious. No one is just eating chicken and steamed veggies to lose weight these days. So, get online, talk to friends, or get yourself to a bookstore and start researching recipes that are healthy, tasty and make mealtimes an absolute joy. Try new ingredients, new combinations, and new cooking techniques.
My meals started simply with meat and salad or meat and veggies, but when you are after long term, sustainable change, you need to avoid boredom.
These days I focus on finding recipes that are healthy, interesting and in no way make me feel like I’m on (dare I say it) a diet. That way I don’t feel like I’m missing out, nor am I sacrificing my health goals. Finding a recipe that ticks all the boxes becomes the reward and once again, weight loss becomes the happy side effect.
Focus on how you feel
At the start of a weight loss journey, you can feel so many different things. This is normal as you are making many changes and your body is adapting. You may feel tired from the extra exercise; or you may be getting cravings and feel like you’re missing those sugary, fatty treats.
However, after your body has been eating well and exercising for a while, it starts to really like the change. You start to feel the endorphin high after a workout. You feel energised once you’ve refuelled with good foods, and more significantly, you start to feel pretty crappy when you skip a workout or decide to indulge in some of those treats.
I can honestly tell you that I no longer crave junk. Believe me I still think some of it looks delicious, but I know that if I eat it, I am just going to feel yuk – bloated, heavy, sluggish, sleepy and probably a little guilty and frustrated at myself.
So, when you’re doing all this hard work to achieve your goals, focus on how good you feel about yourself when you have eaten that nutritious meal or completed that workout. Also, remember back to how you felt before you started your journey, and how it motivated you to make the change in the first place.
By focussing on how you feel, you will start to understand your body in a whole new way, and this becomes the reward. Being in tune with yourself means your decisions become easier – you’ll know what to eat, when to eat, when to work out and when to rest. And all these factors are major contributors to long term weight loss.
Focus on what you have already achieved
It’s easy to get caught up in looking forward, especially if your goal seems quite a long way in front of you. But what is more inspiring than what you have already achieved?
If you are struggling to move past a plateau in your journey, look back and reward yourself by acknowledging how far you have come. Try on some old clothes and revel in the fact they are too big now; look at some old photos; or think about your workouts and how much you can do now.
Taking a step back to review your hard work is as important as all those steps forward, and it can really help you to get moving again towards the next milestone.
I’ve continued to mix up my goals over the years, choosing whichever one piques my interest. I’ve gone back and forth and kept changing to make sure I was reaping rewards for my efforts and staying on track to achieve the overall goal of a healthier me.
Losing weight is an admirable goal, but really what you’re doing is committing to a change in your lifestyle, and there are so many more rewards on this journey than seeing the scales go down. By changing your focus now and then, you make your journey a lot more enjoyable and rewarding. Before you know it, you’ll have reached your goal and achieved a lot more than you planned.
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