The good news: you can harness your meddlesome thoughts so they work with you instead of against you. And you don’t need a Herculean amount of willpower. Here are 3 strategies to try.
Women in a study who thought they were "exercising" ate more chocolate afterwards than women told they were on a "scenic" stroll. But they walked the same path. So what gives? "When you do something you don’t enjoy, you feel like you have to compensate by rewarding yourself with other things, sweets in this case," says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., EatingWell advisor and author of Slim by Design. Avoid that need to reward yourself by rebranding your workout as "me time," for example
Instead of attacking your imperfections, start embracing them (remember, nobody is perfect). According to a 2014 study in Body Image that asked women to rank how tolerant they were of their flaws, those with more self-compassion had a more positive body image, regardless of their weight. "With a more positive body image, you tend not to focus excessively on exercise and dieting; you’re better able to trust your hunger and satiety cues," says Allison Kelly, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo and lead study author. To build self-compassion, imagine what a friend would say to you when you’re feeling down on yourself. "It can feel a little phony at first," Kelly says, "but over time, it gets easier."
As backwards as it sounds, women who learned skills to maintain their weight for eight weeks before starting a weight-loss program had more success keeping pounds off than women who started the program immediately. "Many women don’t know how to maintain weight loss, which can be tougher than many people realize," says Michaela Kiernan, Ph.D., lead study author. Before plunging into slimming down, teach yourself skills to maintain: find healthy replacements for high-calorie foods and make peace with the scale by learning to accept that small fluctuations are normal.