Making the choice to commit to a weight-loss journey can be exciting, but it also comes with a fair amount of anxiety. Like with anything, change takes time. Having enough patience and self-confidence to stay the course — even with setbacks and roadblocks along the way — is tough.
But keeping a positive attitude is vital to your success, says certified nutrition specialist and trainer Tara Allen, RN. "When we are feeling good — confident, hopeful, happy and energized — we are able to make the decisions that will serve us and our goals," she says. "These decisions fuel momentum and further success. On the other hand, when we're feeling down, our brain will seek out comfort and pleasure by way of cravings for junk food and excuses to skip your workout and hang on the couch instead."
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No matter the milestone you're at on your own path to improved health, there are always ways to boost your mental energy. Here, health experts share their best advice for shifting your perspective to the brighter side — and keeping it there.
The Very First Day
Maybe it was a recent photo where you didn't even recognize yourself anymore. Or perhaps, you realized you can't keep up with your children and you want to be present for their lives. Whatever the incentive to finally tackle weight loss, be proud of yourself for making the decision to improve your health.
Being overweight could trigger medical problems down the road, such as hypertension, diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart disease and stroke, according to John Chuback, MD, board-certified cardiovascular surgeon and author. Committing to losing weight is you taking a step in the right direction, he says.
If you have those first-day jitters, don't give yourself too hard of a time. It's normal to feel nervous. You can begin the process by setting your purpose and goal, right from the start, says Dr. Chuback. This could be a tangible goal about the number of pounds you want to lose, for example.
"Decide right from the beginning that you are not going to play a game of Russian roulette with your life," he says. "Remember, this process all begins in your mind. Make a decision, set smart goals and aim to achieve a normal weight. Don't falter until your goal is accomplished."
The End of the First Week
On Sunday, you meal prepped like a boss. On Monday, you didn't give a second thought to eating an apple instead of a candy bar. By Friday, you can taste the weekend … and it tastes a lot like pizza.
Most people will start to see a bit of change within a week, but come the weekend, you'll likely feel temptation, says Herman Williams, MD, executive coach and author of Clear: Living the Life You Didn't Dream Of. Once you make it through seven consecutive days, Dr. Williams says you're 50 percent more likely to make this new routine a habit.
Don't diminish your progress by setting yourself back with a binge session or skipping workouts. Individuals who have adopted a healthy lifestyle don't change their eating habits come Saturday, but rather they know the importance of consistency, says personal trainer and nutrition coach Tara Garrison.
"Build self-trust by keeping your weekend on point. Nourish your body with self-love foods, no matter what day it is," she advises. "Take pride in knowing you don't change your internal decisions because of your outside environment, and watch your self-esteem flourish."
At the End of 30 Days
By now, a whole month has come and gone, and you may have even entered a new season. Hitting 30 days of committed efforts to lose weight can evoke different emotions, depending on what the scale says back to you. You may feel motivated to continue or bummed that you're not seeing different results.
At this point, certified personal trainer Jill McKay suggests taking a breath, remembering your larger goal and thinking about other improvements that are worth noting. Ask yourself simple questions: How do your jeans fit? How fast are you climbing stairs? Does carrying groceries feel easier?
"It can be a frustrating time of feeling like you are working hard, but not seeing the results you wish to see. Patience is key here," McKay says. "Change takes time, often far longer than we care to admit, which is why so many people give up. Stay the course, keep going and celebrate the good habits."
When You Hit Your First Goal
When you conquer that first goal — whether it's losing 5 percent of your body weight or fitting in an old pair of jeans — you'll feel empowered, strong and resilient. Make sure you take the time to celebrate, says McKay. Maybe that involves buying a pack of workout classes you've been thinking about or splurging on a new sweatshirt. "The money is worth it," she says. "You're worth it."
A word of caution: Make healthy decisions when you're celebrating, as to not derail all of your hard work. "If you allow yourself to 'slip' more and more frequently, you are more likely to revert to old habits," she says. "Enjoy the success and continue to make good choices."
The Moment You're Tempted to Stray
No one is perfect. If you struggle with moments of indecision, Garrison recommends visualizing yourself 10 minutes into the future. In this moment, you've consumed whatever it was that you were craving. Ask yourself: How do you feel? If you feel fine and like it was worth it, then go ahead and indulge she says. But if you feel disappointed or annoyed — take a deep breath, drink some water and let it pass.
Remember that you're allowed to eat anything you want to, says Allen. "Remind yourself that you get to choose what you want right now or what you want most. Be gentle with yourself," she continues. "If you're mostly choosing foods that will fuel your body well, with a little wiggle room for foods that will fuel your soul — or taste buds — you will be more likely to keep up this journey for the long haul."
Instead of beating yourself up after polishing off a bag of chips or sleeping in instead of heading to the gym, McKay recommends that you focus on times that you've made positive choices. With her clients, she suggests using an urge jar. Each time you have the desire to give in to a temptation but instead stick to your plan, place something inside the jar like a marble or — better yet — a few quarters. This will serve as a visual reminder of the actual strides you are making toward your goal.
When You Feel Like You’ve Hit a Plateau
Plateaus can be super demotivating, especially when you feel like you're doing everything right. Instead of seeing this as a deal breaker or roadblock, certified fitness coach Sunny Biggy suggests taking the opportunity dig deeper into your routine and habits.
Read more: 10 Tips to Push Past a Weight-Loss Plateau
"Sit down with an expert to evaluate your diet," he suggests, adding that now is a great time to take a look at your exercise, sleep and water consumption habits, too. "They may encourage you to be creative with your carbs and proteins, which can kick or reboot your metabolism into high gear."
McKay also urges anyone in a plateau stage to remember that there is no "normal" when it comes to meeting health goals. "Your genetics, diet history, workout history, body composition and attitude all contribute to weight loss," she says. "This is often when we compare ourselves to others, wondering why they may see success over us. Your body will adjust. Continue with all the good small changes you've made to this point and be patient."