5 Mental Health Practices for Sustainable Weight Loss

Losing weight is a complex process, making it much more nuanced than simply telling someone to eat less or move more. There are different barriers that can make weight loss a difficult process, such as genetics, socioeconomic issues, and certain medical conditions. Moreover, undertaking a weight loss journey can be mentally taxing, especially when experiencing a plateau or dissatisfaction with your progress. This can cause further stress that can lead to a negative body image and even demotivation to continue losing weight.

Given the close links between physical and mental health, it is, thus, important to accompany weight loss with healthier habits that enrich the mind, too. By doing so, you’re adopting a healthier mindset that can better support your weight loss. With this, here are a few mental health practices that can create a more fulfilling weight journey:

Focus on smaller goals

Weight loss takes commitment to see results, but these often come from gradual changes made to one’s lifestyle to see lasting results. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the recommended ways to start a sustainable weight loss journey is by setting short-term goals. Achieving smaller goals can help build your confidence while making it easier to track your progress. This way, you can gradually incorporate changes that can benefit you in the long run without overwhelming yourself or causing stress. For example, you can start with dietary changes to aid your weight loss. You can make it a goal to drink less coffee in a day to reduce risk of anxiety or prioritize nutrient-rich food to improve your mood and aid in your weight loss.

Avoid making food a crutch

In line with gradual changes, habits such as stress or comfort eating can disrupt your weight loss progress and greatly affect your mood. The habit of stress eating is driven by emotions and often used as a coping method to manage stress and other difficult feelings. According to Healthline, eating in response to emotions can provide temporary relief, since eating releases dopamine to alleviate stress. However, you might end up opting for less nutritious food and end up guilty or ashamed for indulging in excess. This can cause further stress and a tendency to spiral into emotional eating and make it difficult to manage weight. A way to avoid seeing food as an outlet is by substituting your emotional eating with healthier behaviors, such as walking or engaging in your hobbies to clear your mind.

Practice self-compassion

In addition to dietary and lifestyle changes, treating yourself with kindness is an important habit to develop during weight loss. Practicing self-compassion when faced with difficulties can be motivation for weight loss, since you’re less likely to impose harsh criticism or judgment on yourself for small mistakes. The process of losing weight is not linear and setbacks are to be expected, be it demotivation to exercise or stressing over the numbers on the scale. However, practicing self-compassion makes you acknowledge these difficulties and encourages you to face them head on, so you can keep yourself on track to make the necessary improvements. When you struggle being kind to yourself, imagine how you would comfort a close friend or family member when they’re faced with a personal struggle. Treat yourself in the same regard and give yourself comfort the same way you would for a loved one.

Set up mindfulness habits

Mindfulness is a pretty broad term, but is notably referred to as a common habit of happy people. It generally refers to the practice of gently focusing your awareness on the present moment over and over again. When you practice mindfulness, you are less likely to be overwhelmed or reactive, keeping you rational. Additionally, this practice can also make you more engaged with your surroundings and give you opportunities to be more aware of how to improve or grow. In relation to weight loss, having mindfulness habits can help you stay on track of your progress as you’re able to be present and see if your exercise form is good or needs improvement. Alternatively, mindfulness can also enhance your mood and reinforce positive thinking, so that you can focus on improvement without dwelling over past mistakes in your weight loss journey.

Celebrate your wins

Celebrating small wins is an essential part of any weight loss journey. Not only does it give you a sense of accomplishment, but it can also keep you from having an all-or-nothing mindset. This line of thinking is focused on extremes — you’re either succeeding or a total failure, leaving no room to accommodate self-compassion. Giving yourself rewards can greatly motivate you to keep going and remind you that weight loss is a journey, rather than a destination. The rewards you can give yourself can also be as small as celebrating with your favorite dessert or purchasing an item that’s been sitting on your wish list. Regardless of your preferred method, recognizing when you’ve met a goal, no matter how big or small, will greatly benefit your entire journey of losing weight.