Overcome the Destructive Mindsets that Prevent Successful Weight Loss

Overcome the Destructive Mindsets that Prevent Successful Weight Loss
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Your Mind: The Key To Successful Weight Loss

If you are trying to lose weight, what goes on between your ears is just as important as what you put in your mouth. Successful weight loss requires a change of lifestyle, and like any significant transition, requires some mental adjustments.

Image Credit/Slim Belly and Tape Measure/Public Domain Pictures/Petr Kratochvil

Unfortunately, too many dieters sabotage themselves by hanging on to destructive mindsets. Here are three destructive mindsets to watch out for, as well as some ways you can defeat them.

Destructive Mindset # 1: Perfectionism

Perfectionism can be defined as “all-or-nothing” thinking. The basic concept is that “if it’s not perfect, it doesn’t count.” Ironically, perfectionism is what turns minor slip-ups into major setbacks. A handful of candy from the office candy bowl probably won’t show up on the scale, but it can be easy for a perfectionist to use that minor failure an excuse to stop at Emperor Burger on the way home, and then spend the evening eating ice cream out of the carton.

Prevention Magazine recommends flexibible goals as a hedge against perfectionism. They state “walking 30 minutes, 4-6 times this week is a healthier goal than a goal of walking every day. The problem with an everyday goal is that when you miss it just once, you have failed to reach your weekly goal and feel frustrated.”

Also, realize small slip-ups are just that: small. If you do not feel it nessasary to smash every piece of china in your house because you dropped one plate, it is also not necessary to ruin the entire day over one handful of candy.

Destructive Mindset #2: Food as Reward

The concept of food as reward is deeply embedded in our culture. If someone gets a new job, we take her out to dinner to celebrate. Birthdays, weddings, and pregnancies are celebrated with cake and ice cream. It can be easy to look at a high-calorie food and think “I deserve this.”

If you have achieved something (and yes, sticking to a diet qualifies), you do deserve a reward. However, you deserve to be a healthy, happy person more than you deserve food that will make you feel guilty or give you a heart attack. So reward yourself, but do it with something other than food, (Chang, 2001) such as renting a movie you have been wanting to see.

Destructive Mindset # 3: Weight Loss Requires Hunger

Of all destructive mindsets, this may be the most malicious. Based on the truth that successful weight loss requires burning more calories than are consumed, individuals desperate to lose weight begin drastically cutting their calorie consumption, and end up paying the price with their health. Even those who are not desperate may still sabotage their efforts by not eating enough.

It sounds like heresy to say eating too little can stall weight loss, but it is true.The human body is designed to prevent death by starvation. When the body gets too little input, it thinks there is a famine, and responds by slowing metabolism in order to store fat (McCoy, 2009). Dieters need to eat often, choosing healthy meals and snacks, never allowing themselves to get too hungry. In addition to keeping metabolism high, this also prevents ravenous rampages.

Remember, keeping your head is as important as keeping your food journal, so resist perfectionism, food-as-reward, and hunger-as-a-requirement-of-weight-loss. Think your way to thinness!


Chang, L. (MD). (2001, 29 March). Long-Term Weight Loss. WebMD Medical Reference. Retrieved 24 May, 2010 from https://www.webmd.com/diet/losing-weight-long-term

Prevention Staff. (2007). The Perfectionism Trap: 10 Keys to Breaking Free. Prevention Magazine Online. Retrieved 24 May, 2010 from https://www.prevention.com/health/weight-loss/weight-loss-tips/the-perfectionism-trap/article/dc02d47b1b64d110VgnVCM20000012281eac____/2.

McCoy, K. (2009). Can Eating Too Few Calories Stall Your Metabolism? Everyday Health. Retrieved 24 May, 2010 from https://www.everydayhealth.com/weight/fewer-calories-stalls-metabolism.aspx.