The New Year – there’s no time like it for fad diets, cleanses and weight loss in general. It’s understandable, the holidays and the giant meals that more often than not accompany them don’t exactly promote health and wellness. But at the same time, how healthy is drinking nothing but green juice for 7 days straight?

Our society as a whole tends to endorse a fairly all-or-nothing mentally. As in, “I will eat turkey and stuffing until I go into a food coma and pass out right now, but come January, I am going to live off of kale and carrot sticks.” Moderation is a word that gets thrown around a lot but if it is so seemingly obvious to eat in moderation, how come people have such a hard time with it?

Struggles with moderation point to the fact that there is a lot more to weight loss than just diet and exercise. Physically, you need to burn off more calories than you are eating in order to shed the pounds, but going to the gym and cutting carbs usually isn’t enough to achieve your weight loss goals. Rather, there is a lot going on in your head that can either help or hinder your progress. As with many human problems, you first have to address what’s going on between the ears before you can really tackle them.

Let’s start with motivation. This is going to sound like a fairly obvious question, but do you actually want to lose weight? More specifically, do you have the drive to persevere? That’s where motivation comes in.

Why do you want to lose weight? Is it for external reasons, like reward and praise from others, or is it for internal reasons, like wanting to feel better about yourself and your body? Don’t get me wrong, external motivators have their place, but when it comes to sustaining long-term weight loss, you need to do it for you if you have any hope of being successful.

There are a lot of factors that can increase or decrease motivation. Self-confidence is a huge one. Do you believe that you CAN eat healthier or are you convinced that three months from now you will go back to your old habits? Self-confidence can come from various sources, the strongest being past success. It makes sense, if you have done something before and succeeded, chances are you are pretty confident that you can do it again.

I hate to be a pessimist, but that’s probably why so many diets fail year after year. People jump on the bandwagon at the start of the year, only to fall off a couple of months, or even mere weeks later. Then when they go to do it again the following year, all they can think of is their failure the previous time. Fad diets – 1, self-confidence – 0.

So how can you increase self-confidence? First, you can draw on similar situations where you have succeeded in the past. Rather than focusing on negative outcomes of past dieting experiences as a whole, hone in on those times when you did well. You can also increase self-confidence by drawing from the success of other people. Turn it into a friendly competition of sorts; if they did it, you can too. Self-confidence is important in initiating change and sustaining it in the face of obstacles for long-term success.

How are we doing, how are you feeling about all of this? Overwhelmed? Optimistic? Well there are a few final points to stress. Most importantly, there are a lot of individual differences when it comes to these kinds of things. Some people seem naturally super-motivated and believe they can do just about anything that they put their mind to, while others don’t even know where to start.

It all comes back to the all-or-nothing mentality I mentioned earlier. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Changing your lifestyle habits takes work, and chances are you’re going to back track. But just because you ate that slice of cake or devoured an entire bag of potato chips doesn’t mean that you are doomed. At the end of the day, you still need to enjoy life; otherwise what’s the point?

Not everything you eat is “healthy” or “good for you”, but that doesn’t make it off-limits either. When you think about it, you can lose weight eating virtually anything, as long as you keep your total calories in check. So stay motivated, boost that self-confidence, and treat yourself every once in awhile. After all, it’s a lot easier to focus on health and wellness 365 days a year then cramming all of your efforts into a 2-week window at the very beginning.

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