Just about everyone knows that two of the most basic first steps toward losing weight are to eat healthier and exercise more. And while those two things can get you pretty far on your weight loss journey, it’s very likely that you’re going to run into some bumps and hurdles along the way. For many people, these are make-or-break moments that can either leave you stronger and more determined, or can derail your journey altogether. Knowing how and how not to cope with those tough moments can help you be sure you wind up on the positive side of that equation.
“Coping patterns have a huge effect on weight management,” said Blount Memorial registered dietitian Angie Tillman. “Working in diabetes education and weight management, I’m always ready to talk about adding more veggies to your diet, switching out your soda for water or finding ways to get to the gym more often. And while most diets and weight management programs emphasize eating and exercise behaviors, much evidence supports the fact that learning better coping strategies may be one of the most important keys to long-term weight management success,” she said. “There are four specific coping patterns that are linked to more difficulty with weight loss and long-term weight management. Fortunately, some simple strategies can help individuals to identify these coping patterns within their own behavior patterns and practice coping more effectively,” she explained.
One of these coping patterns, Tillman says, is emotional eating. “Emotional eaters often turn to food to cope with stress or their emotions,” she said. “The key here is to recognize your triggers. For instance, do you eat to feel better after a bad day at work? Once you know what triggers your emotional eating, you can find better ways to address it, such as reading, physical activity, hobbies, spending time with friends or spending time outdoors. These are healthier for you mentally and physically, and won’t knock your weight loss goals off track,” she explained.
Some people, however, are people-pleasers and often are too busy doing things for others to take time to care for themselves. “Having an overbooked life can leave little time for healthy grocery shopping, cooking or physical activity,” Tillman said. “No amount of dieting knowledge will help you if your life is too busy, so put yourself on your priority list and commit to self-care. Practice saying ‘no.’ Remember, ‘no’ can be a complete sentence. Try saying ‘I need to check my schedule’ if you need to buy yourself some time,” she added.
“Other people fall under the category of self-scrutinizers,” Tillman continued. “These people often get mired in negative thoughts that can sabotage their weight loss efforts. The trick here is to stop obsessing about how your body looks and how other peoples’ bodies look. Understand that there is a difference between physical appearance and body image. Also, be careful who you’re following on social media, and make sure that doesn’t impact how you perceive yourself and those around you,” she said. “We all could do better about thinking and speaking positively – building ourselves up, instead of beating ourselves up,” she explained.
Finally, there are the overreaching achievers, who set unrealistic goals for themselves. “Some people set their goals too high and give up when they don’t reach their high ideals of success,” Tillman said. “Remember, the key is to focus on making small, attainable goals, and build upon your successes. Also, look for new measures of success, including an increased sense of well-being, improved fitness or strength, better sleep, more energy, or improved health measures such as blood pressure or cholesterol,” she explained.