Health

15 Ways Your Brain Tricks You Into Staying Fat

Published On 07/12/2016 Published On 07/12/2016
illustration brain weight loss pizza
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

If there's one thing you can learn from reality television, it's that maintaining weight loss isn't easy. Even if you're not going full Biggest Loser, the crazy-making battle with those last 10, 20, or even 50lbs you're trying to lose largely isn't your fault.

That's the good news! Your body and brain really, really don't want you to lose weight (WHAT IF THERE'S A FAMINE?). As a psychotherapist with experience dealing with eating disorders -- and who used to be a personal trainer -- I'm familiar with the many mental roadblocks people set up for themselves when attempting to make any lasting change, and losing weight in particular requires the right mindset as much as physical dedication.

So if you find yourself falling into any of the following traps, stop for a second, realize you're shooting yourself in the foot, and remember that the best way to drop weight is by eating a balanced diet of real food, and making sure you don't lie around on the couch all day.

I'm only going to eat pea shoots and canned salmon between now and forever

This is called setting yourself up for failure -- it's impossible to sustain for more than a couple days. Like juicing, the Master Cleanse, the cabbage soup diet, the grapefruit diet, the Dukan Diet, etc., etc., you WILL lose weight after following it for a few days. But you'll also set yourself up for gaining it all back (and then some).

I'm going to work out for two hours every damn day

Again, all-or-nothing expectations will leave you feeling defeated, which may prevent you from working out at all. Instead of aiming for the Biggest Loser plan every day, combine a few REALISTIC strength-focused workouts with active rest. You'll actually see better results that way.  

I'll go to the gym sometime tomorrow

The other side of the "I'll crush it every day" coin. Sure you will. Just like you'll clean your tub "sometime tomorrow," but that thing's been a petri dish capable of producing drug-resistant bacteria for three months now.

Find a time, pay for a class, make a plan with a friend, put it on your calendar, set your alarm, pack your gym getup. If you're not a morning person, don't fight it. Be honest about when you're going to fit in a workout. Your choices are basically before work, during your lunch hour, or after work. You could also be one of those late-night gym-goers, which could actually help with the whole not-going-out-and-sabotaging-your-diet-every-night thing. Can't say the same for your social life.

I've worked out, so I can eat EVERYTHING now

The whole 80% what you eat, 20% exercise is real. I don't care how many thousands of calories that class claims to burn. It's not a license to eat everything you can see.

It's been six hours, but I'm not hungry so I'll just wait until I am

... Then you black out and wake up on a bed of fast-food and candy wrappers, barely able to open your eyes because you just consumed 8 billion mgs of sugar and salt. You don't need to eat every two hours, as some diets suggest, but unless you swear by intermittent fasting, you're setting yourself up for spending $50 on Seamless by waiting too long to eat.

Instead, pack some healthy, high-protein snacks (like nuts, or some jerky if you're into that) to keep on hand for those times your stomach wants to override all reason.

I'm [anxious, sad, rejected, bored, lonely], so I might as well hit the drive-thru

You know what humans hate? Feeling uncomfortable. You know what life makes you do? Feel uncomfortable. You're inevitably going to experience negative emotions, and there's a good chance you'll try to suppress them using food, at least some of the time. Start dealing with that painful stuff -- i.e., don't believe burying it is the best option -- and you'll be less likely to hit the drive-thru every time you have a shitty day at work.

Drinks, then PIZZA

Drunk you is a saboteur. Do as little damage as possible.

I need to look like a model to have a beach body

You know what's a whole hell of a lot easier than sacrificing food and happiness for your (likely unattainable) dream body? Changing your expectations. Sure, maybe you could stand to lose some weight so you have a better chance of living to see your future kid graduate, but if you're gunning for a ripped, perfect body at the cost of sleep, fun, dating, and bread, ask yourself if it's really worth it. You're probably far more likable, and happier, a little softer than you want to be. Adjust your expectations to something a little more achievable (and sustainable), and wham! You've instantly hit your goal.

I overate, so I won't eat tomorrow or will run 20 miles to burn it off

This is called the binge/restrict cycle, and it's a vicious one. You deprive (starve) yourself, thinking it's the way to lose weight, not knowing that your body is programmed to go into binge mode when it senses starvation. That means you lose all control and want to eat everything. Then what do you do? Feel guilty and swear off food againā€¦ until you destroy two large pizzas at midnight.

I'll just buy this Costco-sized box of ice cream sandwiches. I have self-restraint.

No, you don't.

I can't have gluten, dairy, sugar, white foods, smooth foods, chunky foods, etc.

It's true that food sensitivities are on the rise, and people do have legit allergies and intolerances. However, don't jump on the wagon just because your co-worker's best friend's cousin went gluten-free and lost 20lbs. Instead of putting your energy toward cutting out things you believe you "shouldn't" have, put your energy toward adding all the things you should.

You know what this means. VEGETABLES. ADD MORE VEGETABLES. It's really not that complicated.

It's organic/gluten-free/fat-free, so it's fine

Not always! The food industry has a bunch of master manipulators (um... marketers) working for it. They know exactly how to entice you to buy their products, right from the pretty packaging to the emotive commercials to coming up with names that make you feel like you're eating a calorie-free puff of air. If you're serious about kickstarting a healthy lifestyle, nix the processed shit -- even if it's parading around like a health food.

I'm gonna go home after work, then I'll go to the gym

WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T GO HOME. I REPEAT: DO NOT GO HOME.

It's ONLY about calories in, calories out

There's so much more to it than that. Genetics, hormones, stress, metabolism, digestive issues -- weight loss is a complex system. If you (honestly) feel like you're busting your ass, yet your ass ain't busting, see a doctor and make sure there's not something else going on.

I'm going to lose 30lbs in 47 seconds

Quick-fix weight loss (looking at you, three-day juice cleanse), doesn't work. Yeah, it "works" for a day because there's no food left in your bowels, but as soon as you eat again, your body clings on to every calorie for dear life (FAMINE!). This means you might have to accept that you're not going to be impersonating The Rock in three weeks' time.

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Megan Bruneau, M.A. RCC is a psychotherapist and wellness coach who gets really miffed over quick-fix weight loss. Read more from her at OneShrinksPerspective.com or reach her at megan.bruneau@gmail.com, and follow her on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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