Weight management isn’t just about tackling body fat. It also includes tackling “mental fat.”
What is mental fat?
Mental fat is comprised of the unhealthy attitudes and habits that get in the way of weight management. Examples include the following:
• Giving in to deeply ingrained unhealthy eating rituals.
• Fearing what others might say about your attempts at making a serious change.
• Postponing lifestyle change and blaming it on something you feel is beyond your control.
In order to successfully reach your weight management and emotional health goals, it is important to identify the mental fat that may be sabotaging your efforts. If you don’t feel ready to examine your mental fat, you may find it difficult to motivate yourself. This means any changes you make will only yield short-term results.
Set yourself up for success
Make time to look after yourself. The first mental fat hurdle to overcome is the belief that you are too busy to exercise, prepare healthy meals, and eat mindfully. Reducing such mental fat is a lifestyle decision. If you eat too much on any one day, forgive yourself — don’t indulge in self-hate and eat more as a punishment or to increase your feelings of guilt. Instead, write down what mental fat led to your behavior, where it came from, and what you could do to prevent it from happening again.
Retrain your brain
Calm your mind so you can focus on changing ingrained unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. Lie comfortably on your back, arms at your sides, palms upward. Softly close your eyes and listen to your breathing — breathe in for a count of four, hold for two, and breathe out for a count of six. Concentrate on filling your body with revitalizing oxygen — from your stomach, into your chest, and even through your neck and shoulders. When you breathe out, constrict the back of the throat so you are creating a sound like a wave receding from a sandy shore. During this time, be aware of your breath, your life force. Set your intentions for the day, resolving to be present in each moment and to care for your body.
Replace mental fat
Create a list of goals to help you avoid destructive behaviors that result from mental fat by giving the brain positive actions to concentrate on.
• Eat five servings of vegetables and fruit today
• Write three positive affirmations about myself
• Walk X amount of steps
Find the fun in exercise
When issues like work demands, family pressure, and personal feelings get in the way, stress can add to mental fat, making lifestyle changes seem even more difficult. Rather than concentrating on exercise per se, focus on doing something you enjoy. If you have a dog, get into the habit of taking him or her for a walk each day. Plan an outing, like a visit to a national park, a zoo, or even a route past some historical buildings you’ve always wanted to view. Physical activity keeps your mind focused on your external surroundings during times when you are most at risk of negative thoughts or mental fat.
Increase serotonin level
Committing to weight management is harder when you feel unhappy with your body. However, the more active you are, the more of the neurotransmitter serotonin is produced, leading to an increased sense of well-being. Exercise, massage, and exposure to sunlight all increase serotonin levels. Increased serotonin will lift your mood, reducing the risk of caving in to the pressure of your mental fat.
Avoid overly restrictive diets
Your mind will rebel against denial. No pizza ever again? No slice of chocolate cake? That’s precisely what your mind will focus on, so adopt a lifestyle in which no food is completely out of bounds. Moderation, not denial, is the key to weight management.