Home It's All Mental One Foot In Front Of The Other: Mentally Preparing For Weight Loss

One Foot In Front Of The Other: Mentally Preparing For Weight Loss

by Erika Nicole Kendall

kryptoniteI’m a firm believer in natural progression. I believe that there is no single catalyst to force a woman to begin to commit to her health. I believe there is no such thing as waking up and saying, “Yup, today will be the day that I do this thing.” It just doesn’t happen that way. Not resulting in lasting life changes, no. I don’t think so.

Why do I believe that? Because weight loss is complex, overwhelming, and difficult. It’s hard to dive in head first if you don’t necessarily know what’s happening or why it’s happening to you. There’s no shame in that, when there are industries who put forth lots of money to keep you confused. We all know that money outweighs and outdoes everything nowadays. This is no different.

I am an advocate of putting one foot in front of the other… in the direction in which you want to go. As long as you do that, you will always be moving toward your goals.

“Okay, it’s easy to talk the talk, but do you have any suggestions on how to actually do it?”

I hear you thinking it. Of course I do!

First, accept that failure is a part of your growth. Remember that you’re changing a lifetime of bad habits. You’re adding things to your daily routine that will change your life. It doesn’t happen overnight, and you WILL fall down. Even after well over a year at it, I STILL occasionally fall down. I don’t give up, I don’t tell myself that I can’t do it, and I certainly don’t retreat into food – the thing that got me to obesity in the first place – when I feel bad about falling short.

What I do try to do is remind myself of my goals, take a hard look at why I fell short, and try my best to address that “why.” For example. If I promised myself no cakes or candies, and I have a slice of cake at a restaurant, the question becomes, “If I promised that I wouldn’t, why did I do it anyway?” If the answer becomes, “I just couldn’t resist that picture of that cake staring at me throughout dinner!” then I have to rationalize with myself a way to avoid the temptation. For those of you wondering, yes, this was a real issue for me. How did I overcome? I stopped going out to restaurants until I could build up the ability to overlook the pictures, and learn how to say no quickly, and mean it.

DecisionsNext, accept that you have to make some hard decisions. Not hitting the restaurants? That’s a HARD decision! Please believe I love my On The Border taco salad (1,700 calories, 124g fat, 2,620mg sodium), my Cheesecake Factory Vanilla Bean Cheesecake (870cals, 558cals from fat, 62g fat), and, well… some other stuff we don’t have to talk about here. However, my decision not only saved me money, but saved myself calories, as well. Hard decision accepted, reward gained.

Thirdly, resolve within yourself that the follow-through won’t be easy. If you can’t stop going to McDonalds after work; and you realize that it’s because since you take the shortest route home, you can’t help but stop in to help you suffer through traffic… what options do you have? Better yet, what options do you allow yourself? Sure, you can buy healthy snacks and keep them in the car, but what if that doesn’t work? Are you willing to take the extra 5 minutes in your ride to avoid the McDonalds? Can you do that for yourself, even though it’s hard? It might not be easy to see in the beginning, but you’re teaching yourself a plethora of lessons with that one action:

  1. It’s ok to make difficult decisions for ME.
  2. It’s ok to suffer for my own greater good.
  3. It’s ok to push myself, because I am changing ME for the better.
  4. It’s ok to take the harder route, because I will be stronger in the end because of it.
  5. I am able to do this.

Remember that every challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow, no matter how successful the endeavor is or is not. As long as you take something away from the situation, it was not in vain. As long as you take away something from the situation and grow from it, you are putting one foot in front of the other. As long as you’ve learned one more way to get closer to your goal of a healthier lifestyle, you’re well on your way.

Be happy, be healthy!

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Gina November 11, 2009 - 4:18 PM

It’s a rebirth. A washing away of what you always thought was. So with that thought in mind. Baby steps. It’s a lifestyle change. Genius blog post Erika.

Tracy November 12, 2009 - 12:35 AM

Retraining the brain is one of the HARDEST things to do! Temptation is a BEAST!! It’s amazing how the mind can play tricks on you when you start on the path to a healthier lifestyle. You start craving the most unhealthy stuff in the world, even if you haven’t eaten it in a while. Pictures of damn near everything looks good. Food aromas make your mouth water. It’s easy to fall back into old habits. However, your post is so true. It is about baby steps. You can’t make huge changes overnight. That’s a breeding ground for disaster.

donna_b December 21, 2011 - 11:18 AM

Wow. And I thought it was just me. My failures lead into such a deep and long self loathing. I fall off not just for a moment after I fail to meet my self imposed expectations. My pity parties go on for months. That evil voice in my head says see, that’s why you might as well just stay as you are. You’ve been this way all your life. It isn’t going to change. Stop trying. And I quit. Then I get on a kick for a few weeks, mess up and quit.

Wondering. What does it take for that consistency to come in? Where do you hit that point? Where did you? Just curious. The ups and downs are a major disturbance for me. To the point I stopped trying. I get “motivated” have great intentions to follow through. Have that amazing workout, and then my cycle comes with all the emotional drainage. Or I fall to temptation of eating that crap food. Or my funds are low, food runs low and it goes from buying that healthy (but expensive) food to economically sound stuff that might not be so good for me but cost less. Or to cutting down to eating a meal or two a day instead of three and two snacks in between. Then my academic semester starts and my time gets tight, and stress is piled on from that, and work and money concerns. It all piles up and when I look up I’ve turned to food…in the end…

Want this sick cycle carousel to stop.

Carlene June 7, 2012 - 11:34 AM

There is a book entitled “The Four Day Win” and it is all about preparing for getting your food issues resolved by controlling your eating. I find that getting into a community of people who has same goals is also helpful. You are a beautiful amazing person and it may be helpful to remind yourself that are so much greater than your habits. I surround you with positive energy and I know that you can and will succeed. Your Beloved.

Kenya November 12, 2009 - 9:38 AM

I agree with this completely, the mind can totally derail you if you let it. You are right, you have to prepare for this thing mentally. And it takes time to erase old habits. I’ve been at this thing for a while, and have fallen many times. My falls come when I don’t plan meals and make sure to take food out to cook. Or when I don’t take my lunch to work. That’s when I’m tempted to stop at McDonalds and Taco Bell. It’s all about identifying what triggers you and trying to overcome it. And I have fallen, but the difference is I don’t let my thoughts derail me. In the past, I would eat bad and say “oh okay eff it, I’m already down this path and have failed, this is going to effect my loss so just eff it.” Now, it’s like you know, I fell, but I can get back up and just get back on track. It takes TIME, and that is something I have to remind myself every day. This is very inspiring, I am glad to share this journey, and have these posts to view as I travel this long hard road. Thanks!

Erika November 12, 2009 - 11:35 AM

Gina, I’m glad you agree! 🙂

Tracy, some of the information I’ve read – and I’ll have to put this in a post, I see – says that you CANNOT retrain the brain. Think about that for a moment! It’s not about retraining the brain, but more about finding new coping mechanisms, and developing new habits to overpower the old ones. Very important!

Kenya, mental preparation is hard and it’s really neverending. It’s not about will power at all – it’s about developing habits that allow you to never NEED your will power. I know that sounds crazy, but think about it – I don’t keep a single processed food item in my house. Cookies? I make ’em from scratch. Cupcakes? Scratch. If I can’t make it from scratch (and put in the time it takes TO make it from scratch), then I can’t have it. I don’t have to worry about will power if the opportunity isn’t there, you know?

Gosh, I guess that’ll have to be a post, too! Thanks for the comments, y’all! 🙂

Rooo January 5, 2013 - 3:09 PM

Happy New Year to the BGGWL fam.

“Tracy, some of the information I’ve read – and I’ll have to put this in a post, I see – says that you CANNOT retrain the brain. “

I’m looking forward to that post. I’ve read more about neuroplasticity, and how the brain forms new connections and networks when you learn new skills. I don’t have the time to search the citations off the top of my head, but when I go in to see the shrink for the “first of the year” appt I can ask if he has any title recommendations.

Erika Nicole Kendall January 5, 2013 - 5:54 PM

See, I don’t know.

Maybe it’s merely semantics, but you cannot unlearn what you’ve learned… You can only find new ways to solve whatever puzzle is in front of you.

Like, I will never unlearn what it feels like to binge on a full giant bag of Funyuns. I CAN learn new ways to deal with the craving, new ways to understand what the craving means, and learn to appreciate NOT binging on the chips.

There’s something about the word retrain that, to me, implies leaving behind the old u defeat ding, and that’s mad unrealistic, IMO.

I’d love to know what your shrink thinks of this. Any resources they email you, fwd over?

Mia June 6, 2013 - 11:42 AM

“I don’t keep a single processed food item in my house. Cookies? I make ‘em from scratch. Cupcakes? Scratch. If I can’t make it from scratch (and put in the time it takes TO make it from scratch), then I can’t have it. I don’t have to worry about will power if the opportunity isn’t there, you know?” – Erika

BEST thing I’ve learned today. I often buy the bad stuff and promise myself to portion it out – only to see that the bag of chips or cookies is gone in two days! No more. If I want it, I’ll make it from scratch with clean ingredients. Thanks!!!

Excerpted from One Foot In Front Of The Other: Mentally Preparing For Weight Loss | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

Tracy November 12, 2009 - 9:55 PM

Erika, I agree with the idea of making everything from scratch. I CAN NOT WAIT until I get my own place so that I can undertake the task of becoming the Martha Stewart/B. Smith of southeast Louisiana. I have a ton of recipes just waiting to be carried out in my own little kitchen… A girl can dream, can’t she?

James Anderson November 13, 2009 - 7:30 AM

Thanks for sharing your thought..There is no short cut in achieving BMI at the healthy range. Weight loss is gradual process involving lifestyle changes. To lose weight, make sustainable changes to eating and exercise habits.
The amount and type of food taken determines the energy (calorie) intake. Energy in food comes from carbohydrates, protein and fat. There is weight gain when consistently intake of calories is more than the physical activity.

Nicci@NiftyEats November 14, 2009 - 10:30 AM

I just found you through twitter, can’t wait to learn more. Great tips on weight loss too.

Tanesha November 17, 2009 - 9:09 PM

someone retweeted your latest post and im sold. ironic that this topic is my next blog post. i’ll be reading!

China Blue December 5, 2009 - 3:37 PM

This is really interesting. I’ve found that it’s all in the mental mind – that’s half the battle. Getting out there and doing the exercise, making the choices, that’s the other half. The feelgood hormones reinforce the decisions you’ve made, make you feel that the hard work is worth it. The results speak for themselves.It’s a neverending feedback loop.

I have been using NLP – Paul McKenna, actually – to reprogramme my brain. The hardest part is looking at yourself and telling your reflection what you love, rather than what you want to change.

It’s as simple as this: ‘what you visualise, you become’. Getting that part right sets up your journey for success, no question.

Kym December 23, 2009 - 11:07 AM

You’ve said everything I already know, but just don’t need to put into practice. Yes, it’s difficult! I know my triggers and even as I sink my hand into the bread, I can hear my inner voice telling me to put it down and go write or something. Sometimes that voice wins out and sometimes it doesn’t.

I’m working towards more wins.

Brandi August 9, 2010 - 1:28 PM

I found your blog about a two weeks ago from twitter and I am hooked. You are truly an inspiration. I try to read at least two articles a day. I need to lose 90 pounds again. Yes I said again… 🙁

Karen September 5, 2010 - 12:29 PM

It’s all about learning new habits. The things we do, both good and bad, have become ingrained habits. You have to learn new habits and constantly practice them in order to change. No change happens overnight but it can happen!

aisha September 5, 2010 - 1:28 PM

The mental preparation has been the most taxing part of my journey. It bothers me when people say “it’s easy. burn more calories than you consume.” Each person has to figure out how to make that a healthy, life long,reality. For example, I also had to take a different route to work as to not pass by starbucks. Really if I want Chai a couple of calorie free cardamom pods in my tea works just fine. That is also 50 dollars in my pocket. Sharing each of your personal tools would be a great blog series.

Shae B. September 24, 2010 - 12:15 PM

I love this post. It teaches me that I must take the necessary steps to be successful at this healthier lifestyle. Sometimes our thinking can bit a little warp…thinking that I should just learn how to deal with passing my favorite food place and not respond to its call (I should be able to resist FOOD, shudn’t I):/ . I was making it so much harder on myself “punishing myself”. I am learning now to treat myself with kindness and love. Do the necessary things to make the necessary changes in my life, even if that means drivig a more difficult route or not going out to eat with friends because of the temptations. Thanks for this post, it really helps in my journey..

Carmel April 23, 2011 - 2:35 PM

Ericka, I love everything I read on your blog but this one is so intended for me. I have all the tools I need to lose the weight but I have stalled again. Some stressful crap happened to me recently: fight with a frenemy, interviews but no work, bills… And I become catatonic. I lay there thinking about how I should go jog, how I should cook these veggies instead of having take out, I should zumba and yoga… I just lay there. And then I would read something inspirational and off I go again, working out, eating clean and feeling good… until the next stressful event. I am not weak, I am broken and I don’t know how to repair myself.
I will follow the advice of baby steps. Thank you for the post.

Latoya April 23, 2011 - 3:18 PM

I really needed this article. Thanks 🙂

Perkisha June 29, 2011 - 8:31 PM

No truer word Erika! No truer words…

LaShanda Glover September 10, 2011 - 9:58 PM

This is a great post! I started my weight loss journey in 2003. To do this day I still off times and good times. I still have to make so many decisions and realize the consequences for them. In the long run, I’m still successful at keeping the bulk of my 80 pounds off but there are times when I struggle with a few pounds and it feels like I’m starting all over!

Linda November 10, 2011 - 9:47 PM

Thank you so much for the article I has help to start baby steps and make hard decisions for my health.

Nichelle February 21, 2012 - 11:37 AM

I am trying to create the new habit of waking up one hour early and exercising before I go to work. I know that this is the only way to get it in because by the end of the day, I am spent. I am looking forward to the challenge!

Frances February 21, 2012 - 11:48 AM

I definitely needed to hear this this week. I’ve been so focused on getting through each evening when I would usually have a ton of snack or a couple glasses of wine, and I’ve come to realize after reading this that it’s okay to do whatever it takes to end the endless strain on my will power.

Instead of sitting with my man and forcing myself through lame prime time television shows that I hate because this is what he considers “quality time” I am going to take that time to do what I need to do to keep my mind occupied – reading, catching up on work, or going to sleep early.

Just the idea of giving up the struggle with my will power, and allowing myself to avoid temptation altogether is insanely freeing. Thanks!

Christina June 7, 2012 - 11:22 AM

I just wanted to thank each and every one of you ladies, not only for the article which is amazing but also for sharing and being so honest about where you are, where you want to be. Thank you for letting me know that I am not alone in this struggle. That it does and will take time. All the best, ladies!!

Kami January 5, 2013 - 5:24 PM

Its a process for me by starting from scratch and looking at it as lifestyle change. My concern was finding a work out and a clean eating lifestyle that I could mantain. I learned to be patient. I have overcame binge eating. Now I am picking up normal eating patterns and finally accepting that weight loss takes time. Thanks Erika for this article you help me stay motivated.

kimyatta June 6, 2013 - 12:15 PM

So…I’m not new to the journey…but I keep finding myself “starting over”. I am encouraged every time I read something on this blog. Thanks for having it. It helps. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m certainly not where I used to be. I just have to rearrange my thinking. And Good Lord that’s HARD! So…please…please…PLEASE don’t stop posting.

Nikki June 17, 2013 - 6:53 AM

I’m printing this for my exercise group that us ladies formed at work! one of my coworkers has become a nutritionist and a trainer, and since the bulk of our work is seasonal, we got together and asked for her help. this is the 3rd week in and she’s great at pushing us to try a little harder and educating us on how to eat real food on a decent budget. she’s always been a skinny-mini, while the rest of us have allowed time to be unkind lol. i think this article will help the rest of us to understand that we’re changing not just our bodies, but our whole outlook on life. the cognitive dissonance is definitely there haha.

Sandy December 29, 2013 - 8:54 AM

This article hut the nail on the head! I am getting ready to begin my journey (again) but this time I am getting my head together first. I’m thinking of how to avoid the McDonald’s pit stop after work (I thought I was the only one) and what I am going to buy at the grocery store instead of the junk I’ve been buying. Date nights will consist of movies at home because I know I can’t resist the smell of movie theater popcorn. My kids have been warned that I will not buy sweets and other junk food for a awhile. My husband asked why don’t I just begin now but I told him I’ve got to get my head in the game first. Hopefully, this will help be more successful this time around.

C67241 January 2, 2014 - 8:24 PM

You hit the nail on the head with this article. Love your site here and on Sparks People too.

Alicia March 21, 2014 - 2:01 PM

Right. On. Time. I am working out right now and I lierally FELL DOWN yesterday in the middle of a step/20lb medicine ball throw and catch. I was tired and got clumsy and fell down hard. Then I cried. I cired hard tears of frustration and fear that I had injured myself when I was going so hard frustration that I let it get so bad. My trainer then helped me up (after taking my shoes off to assess the situation) and reassured me that this is THE WORK. This is the step in the right direction. Anyways, I got back to something that required less coordination and finished the session. Later last night I laughed out loud and thought, “I’m glad I fell that hard now, rather than nine months from now when I won’t be draggin’ so much wagon!”-

Again, many thanks for the encouraging words so eloquently laid out for those of us making these changes!



Trina March 21, 2014 - 5:08 PM

I wanted to thank you for this article. I am writing this through as tears roll down my cheeks, damn near blinding me from accomplishing this message. I can imagine how you must hear thank you so much. I weight two hundred and sixty eight pounds and I’m five foot six inches . I have always used food as a soothing method. It has been my friend, confidant, lover, boyfriend, and passion for the past thirty four years I’ve been on this earth. Exactly two years ago today I lost forty pounds. After listening to my now ex boyfriend, I stopped going to the gym. I completely stopped doing what made me happy, and keep me energized. I got down from two hundred and eighty pounds to two hundred and forty pounds in six months. After reading this article I feel like I might actually have more of a support group. At least I can read others posts that are experiencing similar issues and I perhaps for the first time can vibe with other people and get tips and encouragement to change again. I look forward to sharing my story and efforts weekly and monthly with the world! I am NOT going to be ashamed anymore. I am NOT going to look in the mirror anymore and wonder why men even look at me and desire me if I’m this fat. I’m going to stop saying well, it’s my booty that’s big that keeps them. I completely overlook the fact that I’m intelligent, witty, outspoken, humble, kind-hearted and goal driven. I reflected on me after reading this and you are a true inspiration to many. I Googled diet tips for African American women and came upon this site. I am no longer crying while typing this and I now have more clarity then ever after reading and seing such strives women have taken to be healthy again. I look forward to kicking my heels up and becoming cozy with this site. God bless you and thank you so much for helping with my own change!

Trina 🙂

Trina March 21, 2014 - 5:19 PM

I wanted to thank you for this article. I was crying initially, then I regained myself and kept reading. It struck me quickly that I’m not the only person that felt like a failure. I weigh two hundred and sixty eight pounds currently and I’m only five foot six inches. I was going to the gym two years ago to the date. Back then I went from weighing two hundred and sixty eight pounds to weighing two hundred and forty pounds in seven months. I was doing great until I met my now ex boyfriend (we are still great friends ironically). He would complain about the time I spent away from him and eventually after not being able to get him to come to the gym with me; I conformed to hanging out instead of continuing my journey. You have encouraged me to continue to fight for my health. Food has always been a weakness for me. Food has been my lover, boyfriend, confidant, and issue for so many years. I want to thank you for your encouragement. I actually Googled diet tips for African American women and came across this site. Thank you so much I can’t wait to share my journey and get back at it! Be blessed and I appreciate you truly Erika!

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