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The #1 Reason Weight Loss Efforts Fail

Aug 29, 2007
The biggest roadblock to successful weight loss isn't the food you eat and it's not the exercise you do.

It's negative thinking.

Witness this scenario from one of my clients' weight loss journals (used with permission):

I should lose weight.
I ought to lose weight.
I need to go on a diet.

I will start Monday. Mondays are easier. Actually, why should I wait until Monday? I'll start today! It will be awful. It will be terrible but, once I start losing a few pounds, I'll get excited and then I'll be motivated to continue. Isn't that how it works?

7:30 a.m. Black coffee, one hard-boiled egg.

10 a.m. Starving. Oh! Someone brought it donuts!
But I shouldn't have one. Even though I'm starving. I actually feel a little faint. Hey, why does Julie get to eat donuts and I don't? How does she stay thin if she eats donuts? I can't have a donut. I am so fat. Look at her! She's having so much fun. I wonder why I eat a donut and look like a tub of lard and Julie eats whatever she wants and never gains a pound. Life just isn't fair!

11 a.m. It's not lunch time but I am so hungry I could eat a horse. I'm going to the deli and get lunch early. Checked the salads but they look kind of wilted and not too fresh. Looked at the soup list. Nothing I like. There really wasn't anything else to eat so I ordered a cheeseburger and fries, then grabbed a brownie at the checkout.

11:40 a.m. Oh boy do I feel guilty. I am so weak. I have no willpower whatsoever. I was doing so well all morning! I didn't even have a donut! I have really blown it now.

I wonder how many calories were in that cheeseburger I just inhaled? It couldn't have been much, it was small. In fact I'm still hungry. I'll never lose weight. I don't know what's wrong with me. I just can't do anything right.

I don't know how I even survive at this job. I'm completely inept. It's a good thing my boss is oblivious. He doesn't see what an imbecile I am.
I didn't set out in life to be an awful person. I'm not even sure it's my fault. Who can I blame? Oh, that's silly. It's my fault. I'm weak, I'm stupid, I'm inept, I can't do anything right. I'm a blithering idiot...

(end diary entry)

It's easy to see how this kind of downward spiral can take a person from eating a cheeseburger to being "an awful person" in record time. When we "awfulize" situations, people or ourselves, it has a profound effect on our attitude towards life!

Here are some components of negative thinking:

1. Problems are seen as permanent,

2. We identify ourselves as the problem or the cause of the problem, then

3. We begin to feel like the problem is a symbol of personal defectiveness.

I like to contrast the journal entry above with a story of my own. Once, on a trip, I stopped at a cut-rate gas station and filled up my gas tank. A while later, my car started sputtering and acting as if the engine was going to die. It wasn't accelerating smoothly and I felt as though I was put-puttering along while cars all around me sped by. I immediately connected the lack of performance with the new gas. It would run fine for a while, then start the hesitation routine again. I continued drive the car until it was about a quarter of a tank below full and refilled at another gas station. The problems lessened and again, I drove it until it was a quarter of a tank less than full and refilled again. The problems ceased.

The point here is that I certainly didn't get emotional about the bad gas (probably mixed with water) that I bought. I certainly didn't blame myself for it. I made a mental note to be more careful in choosing a gas station and I did what I could to solve the problem. Then, I moved on.

What would life be like if we were this rational and calm about decisions with food? If we didn't "awfulize" ourselves for a poor decision, but simply made corrections and moved forward?

After all, the car analogy is very meaningful when it comes to eating. Food is our fuel.

When we overeat at lunch, we're going to skip and sputter through the afternoon or yearn for a nap. When we ignore real hunger, we're going to eat too much the next time we come within 10 feet of food. And, when we are tired, overwhelmed or stressed, those high-carb snacks or that candy bar is going to give us a quick lift, then drop us into an energy-depleted place where further cravings are guaranteed.

The science of eating can be complicated. Over-emotionalizing choices and decisions can be stressful, if not downright traumatic.

Recognize and eliminate destructive and negative thinking when it comes to the all-important process of fueling the body. That is one of the most important steps in developing a healthy life and lifestyle.
About the Author
Pat Barone, CPCC, PCC, earned her title "America's Weight Loss Catalyst" by coaching thousands of clients toward permanent weight loss. Her status as an expert is heightened by her own personal weight loss success. Receive her free newsletter "The Catalyst" by visiting
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