Hunger cravings while dieting are painful, and the memory of those painful cravings you experienced during past diets (and the agonizing defeat when you finally gave into them) need to be acknowledged so the next diet has a chance to be successful. Also, many exercise programs are not designed for overweight people, and can actually cause damage to the knees and other joints. If you’ve experienced painful exercise in the past, it’s perfectly natural to want to avoid that pain in the future.
For that reason, it isn’t enough to just imagine how wonderful life would be if you weren’t overweight – you also need to acknowledge why you don’t want to go on a diet or start an exercise program – and use that knowledge to create a plan of action that avoids the hunger cravings and painful exercise you experienced before. And yes, it is actually possible – I’ve included links at the bottom of this article to send you in the right direction.
Visualization can help build motivation.
As I said before, it’s important to discover the reasons why you want to lose weight and acknowledge the reasons why you don’t want to go on a diet or start an exercise program. Let’s start with the first part – finding the positive reasons for making a change. Here’s one way to visualize the good things that may happen if you follow through on a reasonable plan:
First, find a nice quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed. Take a notebook with you, and a pen. Then take some good, quality time to write down the answers to the following questions. Don’t hurry this step – take your time to build strong positive images before you write them down:
I want to start a diet and exercise program because: ________________________________________________________
And this will allow me to: ________________________________________________________
Which is good because: ________________________________________________________
And then I’ll be able to: ________________________________________________________
Which will mean that I can also: ________________________________________________________
Which will lead to: ________________________________________________________
As you can see, the form is written to help you create a detailed, highly visual image of life after you’ve accomplished your goals. You can continue to add more detailed reasons, or write several pages with different positive reasons and all the detailed images you create for each one.
How to complete the form:
If you’ve been wanting to lose weight for years, you’re probably saying that you already know the reasons why, so filling out the form seems pointless. However, most people want to lose weight or start an exercise program for the wrong reasons – because the reasons are negative. “I want to lose weight because I’m too fat” is a negative reason. “I want to lose weight because it will make me feel younger and more energetic” is a positive reason.
Think about this for a second – you’re looking at a helping of food that isn’t on your diet. You want to stay on your diet, so you bring up a negative thought in your mind, pummeling yourself with mental self-abuse that says, essentially, “you can’t eat that because you’re fat”. You naturally connect the negative feelings to the diet. Then you give in to your hunger cravings and eat the candy bar or extra helping, and you suddenly feel better. You’ve just rewarded yourself for giving in, when you previously punished yourself for staying in control. Finding all the positive reasons why you want to eat a healthier diet or start a low-impact exercise program can help prevent those moments of self-abuse.
Keeping that in mind, go back to the list up above and find positive ways to complete each statement. Make the statements future-oriented. For instance, if your doctor told you that your knees won’t hurt as much if you lose the extra pounds, fill in the first statement like this: “I hope to lose weight because I’ll be able to walk more easily.”
Then continue along these positive lines, building a strong positive image in your mind as you write:
- And this will allow me to: Go on walks with my grandson.
- Which is good because: I’ll get to know him better, because I can do more things with him.
If you don’t like to write, get a small tape recorder and speak your statements into it – and then remember to read your list or listen to the tape as often as you need to – it will provide a gentle reminder when things get tough.
Writing down your statements or speaking into a tape recorder makes the process feel more important than just daydreaming about the life you wish you had.
Now that you have motivation, is it enough to stop your hunger cravings?
No. You also have strong reasons for not making any changes, and those reasons are just as valid. To honor yourself fully, you need to acknowledge those reasons, too. Write them down, so you can compare the two lists side by side.
For instance, if you’ve been on restrictive diets in the past that caused you to be miserable, it’s natural for you to want to avoid experiencing that pain again. Hunger cravings are often triggered by poorly-designed low-calorie diets, which can actually cause health problems and they are known to lead to eventual weight gain instead of loss. Your body knows that and fights a badly-designed diet. Respect your body’s intelligence and acknowledge it.
Now that you have two lists – the reasons why you do want to make a change in your diet, and the list of reasons why you don’t – you’ll have the information you need to plan a course of action that respects your needs and experience.
Making a plan that works:
Let’s look at two imaginary lists: The first one gives a detailed image of how wonderful it will be to take your grandchild to the county fair next year, an activity that you can’t currently do because your knees won’t let you. The second list points out that you’ll be spending hours painfully obsessing over the items you can’t eat and trying to do exercises that make your knees hurt even more than they already do.
You now have the information you need to plan a course of action that allows you to achieve the first, positive goal, without experiencing the pain on your second list. That plan should include a diet that keeps you satisfied with real, honest, feel-good food, and an exercise program that doesn’t hurt your knees. By using the information that you discovered while writing your two lists, you can now create a plan that you can honestly look forward to.