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By Dr. Alexa Altman
The one question that people often ask me is, "What are the psychological factors that lead to long-term weight loss success?" Clearly, there is not one answer, nor is it the same for every person. However, my clinical experience and observations made from my work with contestants last season have led me to believe that there are many psychological similarities amongst the successful losers. As you read about these psychological factors I encourage you to examine your strengths and weaknesses. When you notice an area of particular strength, take a moment to assess how this has helped you in attaining a healthier mind and body. It is helpful to acknowledge what you are doing well and what is working. When you notice an area of particular weakness, notice how this may be limiting your success or contributing to unhealthy behaviors. How can you begin to build or strengthen one of these areas?
The top 5 psychological factors that contributed to long-term weight loss success.
1. Stay connected to personal goals
What is your intention? To stay on course you must first know what the course is and what the finish line looks like. If you were running a race, wouldn't you want to know how far you had to run, the course map, how to train and what equipment is required? It is important that your goals be realistic, clear and measurable.
Successful "Biggest Losers" write or look at goals daily.
2. Create and expand support.
If our social environment resembles a dry, hot, barren, desert, we will have a difficult time growing and developing. We need a rich and fertile environment to grow. We are social beings that require social connection and support to maintain our health and vitality.
Successful "Biggest Losers" developed and nurtured their social network.
3. Gray thinking
Most of us think in black and white. I am "good" or I am "bad". We divide our world into nice and neat categories. (This behavior reduces an overwhelming amount of information and processes it into more manageable pieces). This is a set up for disaster, in that one small mistake becomes a failure.
Successful "Biggest Losers" don't interpret a small slip up as a failure; they get back on the horse right away.
4. Utilize resources
If I told you that you were about to go on the longest journey of a lifetime, you would want to pack your bag and make sure you had enough clothes, water, food, etc. Resources are anything that contributes to your success and wellbeing. There are no extra points awarded by doing this alone. It is necessary to establish what resources will be needed for success. Do you need a nutritionist, fitness instructor, support group, food journal, online support, recipes, or psychotherapist?
Successful "Biggest Losers" utilized and developed new resources.
5. Identify problems early
What is getting in the way? Is it emotional eating, depression, anxiety, recent losses, work stress. Do you want to address the big roadblock right in the middle of your path, or continue to walk over and around it? What do you gain by continuing to avoid what might be sabotaging your success? This is an opportunity to make real life changes.
Successful "Losers" identify emotional roadblocks and ask for further support, referrals to mental health professionals, or referrals for medication.
This list is meant for you to begin acknowledging what has contributed to your success and celebrate the gains you have made. If you notice there is an area that you believe needs further attention, don't beat yourself up about it. This is an opportunity for you to expand and enrich your life.