In 2015, Dr. Pedro Teixeira and his colleagues published an article that assessed the scientific literature to determine the characteristics which predict long-term weight loss success. These characteristics are ones we can all cultivate for effective weight loss. There are five qualities a person either has or can develop that predict successful weight loss.
- Autonomous motivation: This is the degree to which your reason for wanting to lose weight is internally mediated. You possess a strong WHY that reflects your desire to act in the best interest of yourself. It is not about what your doctor, dietitian, family members or friends want for you. You can cultivate autonomous motivation by reflecting on how weight loss would benefit you. Would you be engaging in a particular activity with ease and pleasure? Would you be feeling healthier and maybe taking less medication? Is it because you want to lower your risk for a certain condition? Do you just want to feel more comfortable in your skin? What needs of yours would be met if you lost weight? Taking time to make sure that you’re doing this for reasons that feel good to you is a great investment that reaps interest down the road.
- Self-efficacy: This refers to your assessment of whether you feel capable and confident of achieving what you want from your weight loss journey. Do you believe you can do it? It turns out that if you don’t think something is possible, you’ll be right. Conversely, if you believe you can, you’ll also be right! Self-efficacy may be hard to cultivate if you think you’ve struggled with this in the past. It can be helpful to reflect on something that you accomplished: something you really wanted and you made it happen. For example, if you graduated from college, bought a house, had a child, wanted a relationship and met the love of your life, started a business – you get the idea – you are capable of taking actions that lead to a desired outcome. If you’ve lost weight in the past, it means you can do it! A thought that might be helpful in trying to cultivate self-efficacy may be: I am capable of doing hard things when I want something. As human beings, we have the unique ability to think about our thinking and to work on changing our thinking so that it is in line with what we want.
- Self-regulation: Here we mean the ability to engage in and embrace self-monitoring, and to set goals and plan for what we want. This is a very important predictor of successful outcomes. Those who keep track of their weight and what they eat are more successful than those who don’t. When we identify what our obstacles are and what the challenges may be, we can begin to think about how to leverage our strengths and strategize how to overcome whatever challenges there are or arise. Engaging in self-monitoring just means building new habits that become so ingrained, it’s like brushing your teeth!
- Flexible self-restraint: Along this journey, you with the support of your care team will develop a “food protocol” that will best serve your weight loss and eventually weight maintenance goals. Foods are not good or bad and no particular food is forbidden. Of course there will be certain foods that you’ll want to minimize and eat in moderation in order to prioritize a healthy nutritional approach to best care for your body. People who employ flexible self-restraint may plan for certain foods on occasion and don’t make it a catastrophe if they went off plan one day. They realize that this way of living is for a lifetime, and it is a choice they are willing to make.
- Positive body image: Turns out you can’t hate yourself into losing weight. We can only love our way through this journey. Those of us who have had weight struggles have been subject to bias, have been bombarded with media messages that tell us there’s something wrong with us because of our weight. We need to nurture self-compassion and self-acceptance wherever the numbers on the scale happen to be at any given time. Learning to treat ourselves like our own best friend is essential. We look for the beauty in those we care for and we certainly refrain from criticizing our loved ones appearance (at least out loud!) and we should do the same for ourselves. Reflect on what you like about your appearance, marvel at how your body makes it possible for you to engage in your daily activities, practice mindfulness when you’re taking a shower and think about how good the warm water feels on your skin, wear clothes that are comfortable and make you feel good. Cultivating a positive body image is important and should be on your list of strategies as you prepare to take this journey.
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All of us at FORM are here to partner with you on this unique and exciting journey, and we can work with you to help you cultivate these qualities. We chip and make inroads in all of these areas a little at a time. Be encouraged! It’s only a matter of time.