It’s no secret that the best way to lose weight is to eat healthily and exercise. Most of us intuitively know this, yet the UK diet industry makes an estimated £2bn a year selling diet products many of us do not need.
However, as good as a healthy diet and regular exercise are for losing weight, there are also other things you can do to support yourself along your weight loss journey. One of the most useful tweaks you can make to your lifestyle is to adopt habits that improve your mental health.
This is because weight loss isn’t just a physical endeavour. It’s a mental one, too.
The more relaxed, stress-free, and undistracted you are, the easier it is to lose weight. But in our modern world, staying free of stress is easier said than done. So, to give you a helping hand, here are six mental hacks you can add to your routine to help you feel cool and collected.
1. Help yourself relax
When you’re under stress, your body produces a hormone called cortisol (also known as the “stress hormone”). This can increase your appetite and cause you to eat foods that are higher in fat and sugar.
What’s more, people who are stressed tend to have poorer sleep, exercise less, and consume more alcohol. These factors can all contribute to weight gain, so it’s important to make sure you stay as stress-free as possible to give yourself the best chance of losing weight.
You can effectively reduce and prevent stress by doing activities that help you feel more relaxed, such as:
- Writing down all the things you’re grateful for every day in a gratitude diary.
- Allocating time to be with your friends or people close to you.
- Going to therapy (especially if you have anxiety, depression, or an eating disorder).
- Breathing techniques and exercises.
This week, try to do three of the activities mentioned on this list. If they help you, you can do them again next week or try another three activities to see if they work better for you.
2. Reduce anxiety levels
Juggling work, relationships, and societal pressures can leave even the best of us feeling anxious at times. However, for some people, anxiety can trigger binge eating - which makes it harder to lose weight.
If you find that you eat more when you feel anxious, try doing at least two of these anxiety-reducing activities this week:
- Exercise (studies show exercise can reduce anxiety).
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (talking therapy).
If anxiety is interfering with your daily life, cognitive behavioural therapy (talking therapy) is highly recommended, as it can address the root causes of your anxiety and allow you to resolve them effectively.
3. Manage emotional eating triggers
When life gets hectic, it might be tempting to turn to food to cope. This is known as emotional eating (or comfort eating), and is usually triggered by negative emotions such as stress, sadness, or loneliness.
To manage emotional eating as best you can, it’s important to try to reduce your exposure to things that trigger negative emotions. Staying as stress-free as possible is also key. Tips that are likely to help you avoid emotional eating include:
- Be mindful of your eating habits (are you eating because you’re truly hungry? Or because you’re sad/anxious/stressed?).
- When you go to the supermarket, don’t stock up on tempting snacks. You’ll be less likely to eat them if they’re not around your home.
- Exercise, meditate, or practise yoga to relieve stress.
- Swap unhealthy snacks for healthier snacks such as fruit, vegetables, or nuts.
Give two of these a go this week. If they work, brilliant - keep using them. If they don’t, you can try another two to see if they work better for you.
4. Focus on positive body image
How you view yourself and your body can help tremendously with your weight loss progress.
For example, instead of criticising yourself for not yet being the weight you want to be, congratulate yourself for taking the first steps needed to make a positive change.
Encourage yourself by realising that the changes you’re making to your diet, activity levels, and sleep are hugely beneficial. Celebrate all your wins, no matter how small they are.
Turning negatives into positives and reframing how you perceive yourself will help you to see your body in a more positive light. This will make it easier to stick to the things that have the most beneficial impact on your weight, such as your diet and exercise.
5. Cultivate uplifting relationships
As humans, we’re naturally sociable and most of us need to interact with others to feel our best.
But did you know social interaction can help you along your weight loss journey, too? This is because socialising:
- Helps you manage stress better (stress is associated with being overweight, binge eating, and emotional eating).
- Makes it easier to stay on track with your weight loss goals, especially if you have people to support you along your journey.
To connect with others, you can try joining a group that has similar interests or hobbies. For example, you could join a book club, an exercise group, or even a gardening group (if that’s your thing). Alternatively, you could do fun activities with your friends and family. As long as you’re interacting with others, this should give you an extra helping hand to smash your weight loss goals.
6. Find purpose in what you enjoy
Finding “your purpose” sounds like a tall order, but it becomes a much more inviting prospect once you know how to go about doing it.
The secret to finding purpose is to try new things. The more new things you try, the more experiences you have, the more likely it is that you’ll find something that really resonates with you.
A great starting point is to make a list of five hobbies you might be interested in and give them a go. If you end up liking one, that hobby alone could give you a whole new purpose in life (i.e. the desire to learn more about it and master it).
Your purpose doesn’t need to be grand. It could be something as simple as helping others, getting better at a hobby, or simply doing what you’re doing right now - trying to get in shape. But having a purpose helps, because purpose gives life meaning. And when life has meaning, it becomes a much more enjoyable and rewarding experience.
So, go out there and try some new things.
BONUS weight loss tip: improve sleep
Catching Z’s is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Sleep allows your body to recharge, regenerate, and helps your brain function properly. Not getting enough quality sleep interferes with your body’s ability to repair and, surprisingly, is also associated with increased obesity risk.
To help yourself manage your weight and overall health, try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. This week, try at least two of the following suggestions to improve your sleep:
- Turn off your phone and laptop screens in the hours leading up to bed.
- Avoid drinking caffeine in the evening or using nicotine before bed.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
- Exercise (studies show exercise improves sleep).
The bottom line
Although the best way to lose weight is to eat healthily and exercise regularly, there are other things you can do to make losing weight even easier. These include doing activities that help you relax, focusing on a positive body image, and avoiding emotional eating triggers.
Weight loss is just as much of a mental process as it is a physical one. Therefore, if you’re trying to lose weight, remember to look after your mind as much as you’re looking after your body. The more collected you are, the easier it’ll be to focus on your goals and get the best results.