Dr. Heather McKee's Evidence Based Insights

Are you trying too hard?

Are you trying too hard?

3 actions to make less effort and develop healthier habits.

Perhaps you are already experiencing the positive benefits of letting go of the scales and not letting your weight loss efforts be a punishing numbers game. The first mindset shift focused on How to Lose Weight without Dieting.

The next key insight to get into the mindset for long term success is to stop trying so hard! Here are my top 3 actionable tips (supported by the literature) on how to do this and develop healthier habits in the process:

Action 1: Focus on mastering one goal at a time.

Don’t try too hard!

It sounds counter-intuitive right?

People often set out to do a full lifestyle detox; to change their diet, take up exercising daily in the gym and start saving. By trying to achieve too many goals at once you can dilute the likelihood that you will achieve your main goal (Zhang, Fishbach & Kruglanski, 2009).

Self-control is like a muscle, try to exercise it too much and you will become exhausted and dissatisfied when your goals are not achieved in the manner you had hoped for.

Studies repeatedly show that setting goals enhances your likelihood of success in developing healthy habits (Stretcher, 2005). The trouble is many people don’t go about goal setting in the right way and therefore are less likely to succeed. If you spread yourself too thinly you will find it hard to focus on your goal and often get disheartened by your lack of progress.

So what to do? Instead of trying to take everything on at once, look at paring back.

Can you focus on one goal alone this week? What behaviour do you feel is having the biggest impact on your success? Can you focus on making a small change to that single behaviour?

Be experimental, try tackling that behaviour from different angles over the coming weeks until you find something that sticks (I will provide support next week and in the newsletter on to how to do this effectively). Once you are confident that you can maintain your new goal over a sustained period of time, only then should you introduce a new goal.

Action 2: Ignore non evidence based weight loss information.

We are all looking for the quick fix, the miracle pill, the silver bullet for weight loss success. We often become wrapped up in searching out the latest dietary tips, exercise regimes and health plans. This can lead to information overload and we end up running down various rabbit holes in search of the answers we crave. This type of advice often doesn’t work long term and we find we rebound and go back to searching out the next big thing promising to make a difference.

My advice, if you wish to take it, is to look at if this is doing you any good?

Is it helping you develop healthier habits that last?

If you find a good, reputable, evidence based source that is providing information that you feel enables you to make incremental positive changes to your health then fantastic. However, if you find yourself reading articles about ‘Beyonce’s latest weight loss secret’ or ‘Top tips to lose 5 pounds in 5 days’. Then I urge you to stop now and re-evaluate where you are getting your information from.

Is consuming this type of content making you feel better about yourself? Is it reaffirming your goals? Is it improving your self-esteem and helping you develop healthy habits that last?

If not then stay away from this type of content – it is not helping you!

This week, be mindful of the sources you are getting your health information from. Take a look at what type of media you consume on a daily basis and audit this based on what you find helps reinforce  your success and what doesn’t. 

Action 3: Don’t aim to lose too much weight too quickly.

One of my main issues with commercial diets is how they promise a miraculous amount of weight lost almost overnight. These diets tend to be short, as their methods are so grueling that no sane person would be able to stick to them for anything more than a couple of weeks.

Yet if we don’t achieve these unrealistic and evidently short term losses it can have a negative impact on our self-esteem and confidence to continue with our goals (Truby et al., 2006).

In other words, it makes you feel worse and puts you off following your goal!!

Furthermore, these short term results don’t guarantee you will maintain your weight loss over the long term. In fact, often the opposite is often true! If you must have a figure to aim for in your weight loss, it should be no more than 1-2 lbs per week, that is what the evidence shows is most manageable to maintain long term.

The key is be patient in your approach to developing healthier habits. Don’t expect overnight results, look to focus on the daily actions you take to improve your habits rather than a numbers based outcome – this is more effective.

Long lasting, worthwhile results don’t come quickly but are certainly worth the wait!

So how do you set goals that aren’t too difficult and yet get you the long lasting results you need? I will be sharing more on precisely how to do this next week.

P.S. If you want to gain an insight into your habits then simply enter your name and email on the right of the home page now to be linked directly to your weight loss IQ habits survey (approx 6 minutes) and get your free personalised habit report results send direct to you.

Published on 24th Jul 2017 at 10:10 by Dr. Heather McKee

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This work is in no way meant to replace any medical advice. Dr. McKee is Non-HCPC-registered. Photography by Dylan Madden.

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