As a coach, I talk to many people, and I tend to hear many of the same sentiments and struggles from them.
To me, it’s encouraging just to know that my brain and their brains are all just having a human experience. We’re not alone in our struggle, and we’re so much more alike than we realize.
I compiled this list from all of those many conversations. These are five of the things I hear people believing about weight loss that just aren’t true, in my humble opinion, and my experience coaching hundreds of people.
Myth 1: You have to eat at home to be healthy.
This usually sounds like, “I’m worried I don’t have time to do what it takes to lose weight, like cook and grocery shop,” or “I don’t think I have time to eat healthy.” Sometimes it sounds like, “My partner and I love trying new restaurants. We love food, and I don’t know if I want to give that up.”
Of course, we’ve probably all seen the documentary, Supersize Me, where he ate nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days straight, and all of his health markers took a nosedive.
That’s the issue with this myth. It takes a very all-or-nothing approach.
I either cook all of my meals at home and am healthy, or I will be eating nothing but McDonald’s and am not.
It is possible to eat at McDonald’s and be healthy, and it’s possible to eat only at home and be unhealthy. It doesn’t matter where you do it. It only matters what it is and how much of it you consume.
Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself:
- What feels good in your body?
- What supports your weight loss?
- What do you like?
- What is your lifestyle?
If you’re a person who never cooks, doesn’t like to, and loves to be out, eating every meal at home isn’t going to be realistic for you. And if that’s the case, it’s entirely possible to nourish you and take care of you no matter where you are,
Feeding ourselves food that supports our health and nourishes our bodies doesn’t have to take up a lot of time.
Even if you choose to eat more meals at home, there are many convenient premade or partially made options at the store. You don’t have to shop for meals for two weeks at a time, so it takes you an hour and a half at the store to gather it all.
Suppose you eat out for most or all of your meals and you want to lose weight. In that case, you may need to branch out a little to new menu items, implementing little shifts like bunless burgers or salads instead of sandwiches or kids meals instead of supersized ones, or new places that offer more variety of fresh, nourishing food.
I think anything can fit into a weight loss plan, some of the time.
This leads me to our next myth.
Myth 2: You have to eliminate your favorite foods to lose weight.
I actually think this is the nail in the coffin of most people’s weight loss attempts.
Now, I say most people here because there are some people who decide they’re ready to live a life without that thing in it, and they feel good about that decision. There are plenty of foods I used to feel were super important and delicious that incorporated it into my life regularly, which I rarely, if ever, eat anymore.
What guides my eating now, the large majority of the time is how I feel and what feels good in my body. But that was a decision that came from lots of love for me, not as a punishment for my bad behavior.
The important part to notice here was that it was a decision, my decision.
It wasn’t forced upon me by a plan that said, never eat that food again because it’s bad.
I think there can be room for any food you want in your life to be in your life, even when you are trying to lose weight or working towards some other health goal. The key is how much and how often. Volume and frequency.
Warm chocolate chip cookies by the dozen may not support your health goals. However, a couple of chocolate chip cookies here and there may be just fine. A piece of cake at a birthday party likely won’t matter to your weight loss efforts, but a half of cake in one sitting once a week might.
I think it’s important to really think about what you love, why you love it, or why it feels important to keep in your life. Then decide how much of it you want to allow in and be willing to experiment with finding an amount and frequency that supports your health goals and that desire to still have some.
Myth 3: Using food to cope with discomfort means you’re broken
Most of those favorite foods that we don’t want to let go of or live without feel important because we have used them to mask our discomfort. They have served as a form of comfort, of distraction from feeling. So, living without them feels scary.
I also hear so many women judge themselves so hard for doing this. They think this is a flaw in their system, a weakness, a sign that their brain isn’t working right.
I want you to think about your brain’s primary purpose: to avoid pain, seek pleasure, and conserve energy.
Your brain doesn’t judge the solution. It doesn’t really think much about it beyond the moment.
It sends its pain; typically, we’re talking about emotional pain here. It wants to find a way to get out of it feel pleasure and do it in the most efficient way possible.
Food, especially the sugary, floury, crunchy, salty, cheesy foods that we turn to in these situations, is an efficient way out of pain and pleasure.
So, our brain feels it has done its job. It found a solution that works, and it catalogs that solution to be used again and again. So, if you really think about it, your brain directing you to use food to cope with discomfort is your brain working exactly as it should.
It has found a solution that works to get you out of pain and into pleasure. Your brain isn’t broken; it’s brilliant.
We may want to revisit this solution and find a new one that serves our ultimate goals more than our in-the-moment ones. Without the judgment that our brain is broken and working against us, change is so much more pleasant and doable.
This brings us to the next myth.
Myth 4: You will wake up tomorrow and be good at weight loss
Finding a new solution and changing our brain’s default setting to one that serves our goals is not easy. It’s not a switch that we flip. But most of us, for whatever reason, think that it should be an overnight change.
We are seeing weight loss as a thing we should be able to just do, rather than a set of skills that we need to learn and to practice in order to build proficiency.
Imagine how differently the process would feel if you looked at it like learning an instrument. What if you realized you needed to start with the basics, start small, one thing at a time and that an understanding of the fundamentals is critical to success?
It takes time and patience, but if you just keep going day in and day out someday, not only will it feel easier, but you’ll be able to see and feel the evidence of your success.
Now, your brain will tell you that once you get there, you will feel super proud of yourself and confident in your abilities, but as we will learn from the next myth, this isn’t quite true.
Myth 5: A smaller body or different number on the scale will allow you to feel confident
This is the dream, right? We will lose the weight, see the number we want to see on the scale, and we will finally feel ______. Fill in the blank with whatever feeling you are craving that you don’t feel right now.
But, this is the biggest myth of all.
There are millions of examples of people right now walking around in the body that is the size or weight that you want that are not feeling that feeling.
That number is not a magic number.
If when you get there, you feel confident, it is because you are allowing yourself to feel that. It isn’t the number on the scale allowing you to.
We have to take on the responsibility of choosing how we regard ourselves, no matter the number we see on the scale. We have been sold the idea that there are magic numbers, usually small ones, and only if you see the right number are you allowed to value yourself, feel confident, and be seen and heard.
But this doesn’t have to be true. And in my experience and the experience of so many of my clients, it just isn’t possible to have something outside of us create feelings inside of us.
We get to do that for ourselves. And even more interesting and exciting, learning to generate confidence or pride or whatever it is you want to feel now at the beginning of our journey and along the way can be just the fuel we need to get to our goals.
We don’t even have to wait until we get there.
This kind of thought work is invaluable on your journey to losing weight for life. If you’re ready to get started, watch my free video on how to lose the first five pounds — and keep going.