Our minds can be our best friend or our worst enemy when it comes to losing weight and getting in shape. Most of us start off real motivated and even excited about starting a fitness program and eating better, but after a few weeks we begin to get discouraged fairly quickly. Either we don’t see any weight loss at all, we may have even gained a pound and we feel sore all the time. We ask ourselves why we put our bodies through such pain, and we begin to criticize ourselves for ever gaining weight in the first place. Research suggests the more unhappy you are with your body, the less success you’ll have in changing it. So when a negative mind-set starts to get you down try a few of the following examples.

1. Begin by listing in your mind 5 things you like about yourself. Change all the negative thoughts about yourself to the positive. For example say to yourself, “I like my eyes, I like my skin, kids love me and think I’m funny, or I am a good listener.” And when you find yourself discouraged because you didn’t work out that day, say to yourself “that’s o.k. I’ll just go to the gym tomorrow”.

2. Try not to panic if you aren’t losing weight very quickly. Stress increases your body’s level or cortisol, a hormone that may direct fat to your middle section. Try to relax by sitting in a quiet, comfortable place and taking several slow deep breaths for 5-10 minutes once or twice a day. You won’t believe how good it will make you feel and calm you down.

3. Quit saying “I should have…..” What is past is in the past. You have tomorrow right before you to take advantage of. If you haven’t started a fitness program and you feel like you should have months ago, say to yourself “I will go by a gym tomorrow and try a group fitness class”.

4. Avoid restrictive diets and don’t focus on being on a diet all the time. Have you ever noticed that the more you think about not eating, the more you want to eat? Restrictive diets are psychologically self-defeating and lack important nutrients and calories that you need. Don’t divide food into good/bad categories but see food as fuel for your body. Eat to live, don’t live to eat.

5. Make yourself busy. Many people overeat because they are bored or lonely. If you do not work during the day, get out of the house. Go shopping, hang out with a friend, go to the library and read a book or see a movie. If you are bored when you get home from work, find hobbies that you enjoy that use both hands. Work on a puzzle, put photos in an album, or paint a picture. Reading a book is great but make sure you don’t have one hand holding the book and the other hand in a bag of chips. You can also watch TV but keep your hands occupied by working on your hobby.

You can have a new attitude, but it’s up to you to change and become a more positive person. Don’t let your self-identity be defined by how you look on the outside, but let your inside shine outward. That’s what people really look at especially when they get to know you. You’ll love yourself more and will feel like a new person all around. Remember exercise is fun, but loving yourself is even better.

Mary Wannall is the owner of Real Life Fitness. She can be reached at mwannall@gmail.com or at 404-940-8085.