10 Mental Hacks to Help Build a Weight Loss Mindset

Losing weight is hard. The convenience of processed foods, cultural traditions surrounding food, and unhealthy relationships with food often stand in the way of weight loss success. There’s more power to the mind than you might realize though. Maintaining a healthy weight isn’t just about new year’s resolutions. It’s beneficial to your health and quality of life throughout the year and your life. So let’s take a look at some mental hacks that will help build your weight loss mindset. 


What is a Weight Loss Mindset?

A weight loss mindset is simply the ability to believe that you can and will lose weight. Our mindset keeps us going after the initial push of motivation wears off. And anyone who has successfully shed even a few pounds knows, weight loss takes time and patience.


You don't have to look any further than the number of people in the gym between the beginning of January and the end to see how quickly our motivation can fade on its own. Every year about half of all Americans resolve to lose weight. Less than 10% will stick with their weight loss journey's long-term. Adopting a weight loss mindset can help you fight an uphill battle.


This means that you don’t just have to work hard at losing weight, but will also have to work hard at staying in the right mental space so that you maintain motivation over time. 

1. Set Realistic Goals and Expectations

The first thing you need to do to build a weight loss mindset is to redefine your expectations in achievable terms. We live in a world where instant gratification has warped our sense of expectations. You’ll need to acknowledge that real, lasting weight loss is slow, non-linear and maybe even a bit of a slog. 


The other thing to keep in mind is that goals, in addition to being realistic, need to be concrete. You’ll be much more successful trying to “lose 2 pounds per month over the course of a year” than “losing some weight this year.” Being concrete allows you to come up with an action plan and see a light at the end of the tunnel. Having no goal on the other hand, can just make you feel overwhelmed and that there’s no end in sight. 


Related: 10 Tips for Sticking to Your New Years Resolutions

2. Educate Yourself

Hand reaching for a book

Another big step in changing how you think about weight loss revolves around educating yourself on the science of nutrition and current fitness trends. It can be very demotivating to think you’re eating healthy while putting on a bit of weight. So educating yourself is a big step in maintaining the right mindset. This isn’t so that you can obsess over calories, but rather so that you’re empowered to know that the effort you put in will pay off. 


3. Don't Obsess with the Scale


While you need to know your starting point and monitor results, many of us fall into the trap of weighing ourselves daily or multiple times per day and lamenting over our lack of progress. Weight Watchers has found that weekly weigh-ins were extremely beneficial in weight loss. However, there might be diminishing returns by weighing in more than a few times a week. 

4. Lose the 'Foods are Good or Bad' Mentality

Jelly donuts

And, speaking of unhealthy relationships with food, the idea that you need to avoid some foods can be too restrictive for long-term success. In many cases, our success isn’t derailed because we had a cookie. It’s more because we ate huge portions of “good foods” without understanding much beyond the idea of “good” and “bad.” Instead, try to find a balance that works for you and that you can stick to for a diet that’s healthy over the course of a day, week or month. 


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5. Rethink Your Rewards and Punishments

On some level, we all understand that our motivation wanes with time. And it's common to adopt a system of rewards and punishments to try to keep your momentum going. But how healthy are the things that we tend to seek out? If you reward your weight loss successes by eating a piece of chocolate cake, you're actively undoing your progress. 


And if you make yourself workout for an extra hour when you have one too many cocktails, you are reinforcing unhealthy associations with food that will keep you from losing the weight you want over the long term because diet and exercise will simply feel like a never-ending punishment. That doesn't mean that you can't reward yourself for big milestones, but you should look for rewards that aren't directly related to food or fitness when possible.


Related: How to Take Probiotics Properly

6. Practice Mindful Decision Making

Mindfulness is everywhere these days. From mindfulness meditations to simply practicing a little more attentiveness when making decisions, it simply means living in the present and becoming more aware of what you eat and how it makes you feel. Mindful decision-making can be really effective in transforming your eating habits, especially for emotional bingers and endless snackers. 

7. Banish the All-or-Nothing Thinking

Another reason that we all tend to give up a little too soon on our weight loss endeavors is that our thinking is often too black and white. Weight loss is a long progression, and maintaining a healthy weight is a lifelong journey. That means that there will be ups and downs. There will be times when you lose track of your priorities. There will be times when you don't follow through. Instead of using those moments as an excuse to abandon the goal, give yourself some grace. Adopt the mindset that every stumble is followed by picking things right back up the next day.

8. Do Not Rush Your Progress

Person running through a hallway

Science has shown time and again that long-term, lasting weight loss is a slow journey. While you can understand that 1-2 pounds per week are a healthy rate to lose weight, it can take months to shed the pounds that you need to get rid of. And the heavier that you are, the longer it will take. It's important not to rush your progress. Weight loss is one area where slow and steady wins the race. Change your mindset by focusing on adopting healthy habits over making certain numbers on the scale.

9. Remember You Are in Control

Building a weight loss mindset is all about remembering who is running the show. It's your life, and while it is easy to become complacent and let the days churn away mindlessly, the only one who is going to make your weight loss happen is you. Work on changing your mindset with one activity at a time, scaling things up or down as you need to because you are in control. The last thing that your weight loss journey should do is stress you out. Stress releases hormones that can be counterproductive to weight loss, so go slow when you need to.


Related: Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain, 14 Tips for Success

10. Find a Good Support System

Supportive friends

We're all social creatures. Another way that you can keep the momentum going is by leaning on a community of like-minded people to support you in reaching your weight loss goals. These days, weight loss support is easy to come by. There are online communities, commercial programs, informal social media groups, and old-fashioned gym buddies. It doesn't matter what approach you take as long as you have some support or even someone to hold you accountable to your goals. 

The Bottom Line on Building a Weight Loss Mindset

Losing weight takes more than counting calories and working up a sweat. Successful, long-term weight loss and the ability to manage a healthy weight requires adopting a mindset that will keep you going long after your initial motivation wears off. From educating yourself to redefining how you think about your weight loss journey, it takes a series of small changes to add up to a big change.


This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as medical advice. If you have immediate concerns about your health, please seek the help of your physician. 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.

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