Fiona is sick of being overweight. She knows the reason she’s overweight is that she binges on the couch after dinner most nights. It also doesn’t help that she can’t stick to her exercise program and that she’s struggling to say ‘no’ to her friends when they ask her out for a night of drinking and partying.
She thought that setting a goal to lose 10kg before her cousin’s wedding would be enough to keep her on track, but it wasn’t. The wedding came and went and her weight didn’t change. Fiona knows that the only way to lose the weight is to draw upon every inch of her willpower to stop bingeing and drinking so much. She also knows that she needs to be better at exercising.
One evening, after finishing another tub of ice-cream while watching TV, she decides enough is enough. Her diet starts tomorrow and this time, she’s going to make it stick.
If you’ve struggled with your body weight the scenario above is probably very familiar. You want to lose weight but you know you’ve been engaging in behaviours that don’t help do that. So you decide to stop doing the things that have been sabotaging your success, to lose the weight.
This is a very common approach that most people take but it’s not the most effective. Trying to solve the self-sabotaging behaviour instead of addressing what’s really causing it only perpetuates the problem. It’s like tripping and falling every day and getting treated for the injuries, instead of removing the tripping hazard so you don’t fall again.
People who struggle with their weight loss for a long time do so for two major reasons:
- They’re too busy trying to lose the wrong weight (i.e. the physical bodyweight) instead of the emotional baggage, forgetting when they lose the emotional weight the physical weight takes care of itself. You can read more in our blog Struggling to lose weight? The real weight you need to lose to change your body shape
- They’re too busy trying to solve the wrong problem. Your body weight is not because of what you do, but why you do it.
In this blog, we’re going to look at some of the most common dieting behaviours and break down the real reasons you’re engaging in self-sabotaging behaviours.
The problem isn’t binge eating … it’s why you binge eat
It’s very common for people who are dieting to engage in binge eating. Usually, this behaviour occurs after dinner, while watching TV. It can also occur in the afternoon when many people experience the mid-afternoon ‘slump’.
The issue that we need to address here is not the actual binge eating, but why you binge eat — and that’s usually because you’re not eating enough food during the day or because you’re restricting food. You see, one of the first things dieters do is cut their calorie intake. This means they restrict the type of food they eat or cut back on the amount they eat — or both!
This approach doesn’t help you lose weight. In fact, it causes you to feel hungrier and more tired as the day goes on. This explains the mid-afternoon slump and why you’ll reach for something high in calories or caffeine to give you the energy boost you need to get through the afternoon. By the time you sit down on the couch, after your small portion of dinner, you’re even more hungry, and so you end up binge eating to make up for the food you didn’t eat during the day.
Many people aren’t aware that they do this because they focus on the small portions of food they eat during the day and don’t register the bingeing at night. Instead of eating fewer calories as they intended, they end consuming more, because they have restricted their food too much. This is referred to as a weight-loss blind spot, and you can read more about them in our blog Well known, little understood weight loss blind spots.
The truth is that binge eating is always a sign that you’re restricting food or not eating enough food during the day. The solution is not to focus on stopping binge eating, but to focus on eliminating why you binge eat (e.g. you binge eat because you restrict food, so you need to focus on ditching the diets to stop bingeing). If we reflect back to our example of Fiona, she will solve her bingeing problem by addressing the reason she binges on the couch every night.
The problem isn’t emotional eating … it’s why you emotionally eat
Emotional eating is often confused with binge eating. However, the root cause is different. While there’s nothing wrong with eating any kind of food (Read our blog What are good foods for weight loss and what are bad foods? to find out more about this), there is a problem when we use food to cover up or deal with our emotions.
Many of us engage in emotional eating to deal with our emotions — whether it’s to deal with work stress, financial stress, relationship problems, family issues, sadness or anxiety.
The issue here isn’t emotional eating. It’s why you’re engaging in it in the first place. If you’re using food to deal with your emotions, then the solution to emotional eating is to learn how to manage your emotions. Because when you do that, you will no longer turn to food to help you deal with difficult situations.
The problem isn’t drinking … it’s why you drink
Many people struggle to lose weight because of their alcohol consumption, so when they try to lose weight, one of the first things they do is cut it out completely. However, the problem here isn’t the drinking itself but why you’re drinking.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with drinking alcohol to celebrate a special occasion. However, if you’re drinking to deal with your emotions, then there is a problem. One of the most common reasons people drink is to relieve stress. So the solution isn’t focusing on reducing alcohol consumption, but reducing stress where you can, and learning better stress management skills. Because when stress is no longer an issue, you won’t need alcohol to cope.
To learn more about how alcohol impacts your weight, read our blog Alcohol and weight gain: 9 ways drinking affects your body shape.
The problem isn’t that you don’t get enough sleep … it’s why your sleep is compromised
Sleep plays an important role in weight loss, so, understandably, people try to improve their sleep when wanting to lose weight. However, the problem isn’t why you don’t get enough sleep. It’s why your sleep is compromised. Perhaps you don’t get to bed early enough because you’re too busy scrolling through social media? Maybe you don’t get enough sleep because you’re too busy saying ‘yes’ to everyone else, and not leaving enough time for yourself. Or maybe it’s because you’re feeling stressed.
Once again, the solution isn’t found in getting more sleep. It’s addressing the issues that are preventing you from sleeping well. Once these issues have been resolved, then your sleep will take care of itself.
The problem isn’t that your stressed … it’s why you’re stressed
Stress and weight gain are closely linked. Stress also influences your sleep and your drinking. What most people do is try to reduce stress. They may decide to introduce meditation, yoga or walking as a way to manage it. While these things will bring some benefits, they aren’t getting to the root cause of the stress.
Stress can be caused by several things — trying to control everything, doing too much because you’re a people pleaser, and not being able to manage your emotions. So the solution to your stress issues is learning how to manage and deal with your emotions, learning how to let go of the need to control, and learning how to say ‘no’ to other people.
The problem isn’t struggling to say ‘no’ to others … it’s why you struggle to say ‘no’
A common hurdle people have when trying to lose weight is they ‘just don’t have time’ because they’re so busy. They’re busy working, running a business, raising kids, looking after their elderly parents, volunteering at school, and doing things for friends. These people often say “I need to learn to say ‘no’”.
However, the problem here isn’t learning how to say ‘no’. It’s looking at why you say ‘yes’ to other people before you say ‘yes’ to yourself. Most of the time, people put other people’s needs before their own because they are people pleasers who are afraid to upset other people. This habit is found in those who lack self-worth. They believe saying ‘yes’ to everyone, and keeping everyone happy will help them feel accepted and liked. In the example above, Fiona’s solution to not being able to say ‘no’ to her friends is to increase her self-worth. This will get rid of the people-pleasing habit, and she will be able to make decisions that support her goals — even if it means saying ‘no’ to her friends.
Learning to say ‘no’ doesn’t mean that you will miss out on doing things with your friends, nor does it mean you will have to say ‘no’ to everyone. It just means you’ll put your needs ahead of everyone else’s, and this will keep you on track with your weight loss.
The problem isn’t that you’re not eating well … it’s why you don’t eat well
A lot of people who try to lose weight believe their problem is that they just need to ‘eat better’. What this means is open to interpretation, but let’s assume they mean they want to eat more healthy, nourishing food, and less fast-food and junk food.
The solution to this problem isn’t found in increasing the number of fruits and veggies you eat and reducing your junk food intake, but rather in looking at why you don’t eat well. Maybe you’re confused about what to eat because you have followed many diets with conflicting advice. Perhaps you spend all your time doing things for other people (people-pleasing) that there is no time left for you to spend on weekly meal prep.
Eating better isn’t a matter of developing a healthy meal plan and sticking to it. It’s about working out why you’re currently not doing that and addressing those reasons.
The problem isn’t procrastination … it’s why you procrastinate
A lot of people procrastinate. When it comes to losing weight, people put off getting started (“I’ll start on Monday”), they put off exercise, and they put off seeking help from a weight loss coach. The excuse that many people use is that it’s ‘just not the right time’.
But the truth is procrastination is born out of perfectionism. People with a perfectionist mindset are afraid of making mistakes, which is why they fail to take action. These people are always waiting for the ‘right time’, but as we know, there never is a ‘right time’.
The solution, therefore, isn’t to force yourself to get started on something or wait for all your ducks to line up in a row. The solution is in addressing why you procrastinate which is often as a result of the perfectionist mindset. When you try to be perfect, you take an ‘all or nothing’ approach and end up doing nothing. Once you can let go of the idea of being perfect, then it’s much easier to take action.
The problem isn’t inconsistency with your training … it’s why you’re inconsistent
Another common problem people have is being inconsistent with their training. Instead of looking at why they’re inconsistent, they try to solve the problem by relying on willpower and motivation to keep training. However, this approach doesn’t help build consistency.
One of the key reasons people fail to be consistent with their training is they do too much too soon and don’t allow themselves to recover properly. This only ends up with them sustaining an injury or burning out, which sees them sidelined for weeks or months.
Overtraining is also common with people wanting to lose weight because they believe in the ‘more is better’ approach — e.g. the more calories I burn, the more weight I lose. However, the best approach to consistent training is to do just enough of the right exercise (not too much), allow time to rest between sessions, and eat enough food to fuel your sessions and to help you with recovery. Doing this will allow you to train regularly, without burning out.
The solution to your training woes isn’t found in scheduling your workouts and prepping your pre- and post-workout meals. The solution is found in addressing why you’re inconsistent. Maybe it’s your lack of accountability and structure. Maybe it’s because you say ‘yes’ to everyone and don’t have time for yourself. Looking at our example above, Fiona will be able to solve the problem of inconsistent exercise by addressing the reasons she has been inconsistent, rather than drawing upon willpower and ‘making it stick’.
The following blogs will give you more information on this topic:
The problem isn’t the diet mindset … it’s why you have a diet mindset
Many people struggle with weight loss because they have a diet mindset. This is linked to expecting immediate results, low self-esteem, lack of flexibility and deprivation, and is primarily born from the diet industry. You can read more about the diet mindset and how it impacts your weight in our blog Change your mindset to lose weight fast.
Two key issues that people with a diet mindset struggle with is setting a timeline for their weight loss, and expecting weight loss to happen quickly and easily.
A lot of people set a weight loss timeline because they want to look good for a particular event (e.g. Summer, Christmas, wedding) so they decide to go on a diet and lose weight as quickly as they can. This can cause people to feel pressured to reach their goal, so they look for quick fixes, jump from one diet to the next because they think they’ll get better results with another program, feel stressed and anxious (which contributes to emotional eating), or ramp up the exercise and then become injured or burned out. These are all typical behaviours of someone with a diet mindset.
Another key problem we see is people give up on themselves much too quickly. They often say things like “it’s not working for me”, or “it’s taking too long”, or “it’s too hard”. These are the people who move from one diet to the next, hoping that they’ll find the silver bullet solution in the next diet they go on.
One of the reasons we believe weight loss should be quick and easy and without any hurdles is because the weight loss industry has taught us this. But this is not true. True body transformation is a process with ups and downs. You can read more about what’s involved in a body transformation in our two blogs The Seasons of Body Transformation and The Stages of a Body Transformation.
There’s also another reason why people feel this way, and why they’re so quick to give up. It’s called self-entitlement syndrome and it’s when people believe that weight loss should be easy for them because they’re ‘special’. When it’s not, they have a mini-tantrum and give up altogether.
In the case of our friend Fiona, the solution to her inability to lose weight for her cousin’s wedding will be found in examining why she has a diet mindset. Maybe she’s embarrassed and ashamed of how she looks and is afraid of other people judging her, so she feels pressure to lose weight quickly. Or maybe she has self-entitlement syndrome and expects it to be easy, so when it’s not, she gives up on her goal.
The problem isn’t always sustaining injuries … it’s why you always sustain injuries
It’s quite common for people who try to lose weight to sustain regular injuries and become frustrated. They may amend their exercise program to only exercise areas of the body that are not ‘problematic’ or may end up giving up on exercise all together because it’s just too hard.
The problem here isn’t the injuries but why you keep getting injured. Maybe you have been overtraining and haven’t given your body time to rest and recover. Maybe you’re trying to out-exercise your bad diet. Or perhaps you have been exercising without the guidance of a coach and have been performing your movements with the wrong technique. Solving these issues will help you solve the problem of becoming regularly injured.
The problem is not negative body image … it’s why you have a negative body image
Most people who struggle with their weight suffer from negative body image. Research shows that negative body image is strongly linked to disordered eating that includes dieting and restrictive eating, binge eating and over-exercising. In short, it impacts people’s weight a lot. You can read more about it in our blog How to overcome negative body image.
Overcoming negative body image doesn’t happen overnight. But the solution is found in identifying why you suffer from it. Do you compare yourself with others all the time? Do you follow dieters on social media? Do you have low self-worth and only believe you’re worthy at a certain weight?
Working out what is causing your negative body image, will help you overcome it.
The problem is not a bad relationship with food … it’s why you have a bad relationship with food
Having a bad relationship with food is very common in people who have tried to lose weight for a while. They are often confused as to what they should eat, feel guilty about eating certain foods, restrict food, binge on food, and follow food rules. All these behaviours negatively impact your body weight.
However, the problem isn’t about your bad relationship with food — it’s why you have a bad relationship with food. So the solution is to address the reasons that are causing this. Maybe you were brought up in a family where dieting was the norm. Perhaps you feel that the only way to control your weight is to control the food you eat. Or maybe you have a diet mindset.
The problem isn’t carbs … it’s why you think carbs are the problem
Ask anyone what they shouldn’t eat when trying to lose weight, and a lot of people will tell you carbs should be off the menu. Somewhere along the line, the diet industry has fed us the lie that carbs will cause you to gain weight. But this is not true. Take a look at our blog Why low-carb or no-carb diets are the enemy – NOT the carbs! to find out why.
Your bodyweight problem isn’t solved by eliminating carbs. It will be found in addressing the reasons you think carbs are the problem. Often it comes from a strong diet mindset. Sometimes it’s because you believe the lies the diet industry have told you about good foods and bad foods for weight loss and that it’s best to restrict carbs. Or perhaps it’s tied up with the belief that you need to control your food in order to lose weight. Once you address the real reason you think carbs are the problem, then carbs won’t be a problem.
It all comes down to the why not the what
The why is everything to do with your habits.
Here at Imani Tribe Transformations, we know that weight loss is never about food and exercise. It’s about your habits and why you do what you do.
Too often, people focus on the problem but don’t focus on why the problem exists. Focusing on solving the problem without understanding why it exists is almost impossible because these behaviours are driven by our mindset and our habits, which operate on a subconscious level.
The only way to achieve long-term, permanent weight loss is to work on changing your habits and your mindset. When you do this, your behaviours will automatically change, without the need for motivation or willpower. When you develop habits and a mindset that support weight loss, then your ‘problems’ will disappear and your body weight will take care of itself.