Essential Mental Preparation

Mental and emotional preparation is essential to ensure your success on this weight loss journey. With it you will succeed. Without it, even the best meal plan and fitness trainer cannot save you. Know that there will be emotions that will come up and you will want to turn to food as a result. This is the biggest “habit” that we need to break.

Because the emotional triggers come in so many guises, it is impossible to predict when the trigger will rear its ugly head with 100% accuracy. Sometimes we will sail through an experience that in the past would have sent us diving straight into the ice cream carton. Other times we struggle to maintain our resolve. This is one of the reasons permanent weight loss is such a challenge; it is why after months, and even years, of being clean and sober alcoholics fall off the wagon, smokers light up, and drug addicts end up in rehab yet again. This is why those of us who use food as our drug of choice struggle with the scale. It is not a one-time-and-you-are-done situation for most of us…this is a lifetime journey.

No matter what your drug is, you can ONLY be rid of the demon by preparing yourself mentally and emotionally. You have to give yourself some options on how to behave differently than you have in the past. Once you have the choices available to you then you can consciously act in your best interests.

Having someone you can talk to when stuff comes up really helps. Don’t try to keep it all inside and tough it out alone. There is a reason 12 step programs like AA and NA include a “sponsor”…it works for many people in a variety of situations beyond these successful groups. It can really help to have someone who has “been there, done that” to help get you through the dips and valleys that we all have in life.

Unlike in AA and NA, your confidante doesn’t have to have been through their own weight loss journey—unless that is important to you. You can have a buddy who is naturally thin. The only requirement in choosing your support person(s) is he/she must not be actively a food addict and they must know that using food to medicate is an unacceptable course for you. They must not encourage you to substitute one addiction for another unhealthy choice, such as drinking, smoking, or drug use. Choose someone who truly loves you and wants you to be the best, most healthy you possible.

When selecting your support person it is YOUR job to prepare them for what you will require of them and to allow them to give you their own boundaries, too.

While some organizations, like AA and NA, want you to have one sponsor, I believe in the team approach. Having an entire team supporting your weight loss journey can make a big difference in getting through a variety of challenges.

For example, if you have young kids it might be helpful to have a member of your support team who also has kids of a similar age, or at least has had children. Kids provide several challenges when it comes to your weight loss journey that someone without children might not understand. You have to deal with their schedules, their food likes and dislikes, illnesses, etc.

If you don’t exercise regularly now, then I encourage you to have at least 1 workout buddy on your team. We often will do things if we are accountable to someone else, when it would be easy to bail out otherwise. Consider having several different workout buddies. You may choose to exercise as one group, or you may have different workout partners for different days of the week or different types of activities.

If you like to eat out, enlist a health conscious foodie to be on your team. She can help you select restaurants, meals, how to request special preparation of food, etc.

Your team should be custom built for you. There is no restriction on the size of the team and there is no magic number of team members that will work for everyone. The best team probably won’t be just 1 person any more than a pit crew at the Indy 500 could be. Every person on the team has a job and they are clear on what their role is. By each person focusing on their individual role, you are like the race car, getting attention from all different angles, but all are gearing you for the same goal—to win the journey!

During the team selection process it is vital that you clearly convey your needs—let Sue know she is in charge of “tires” and Bob is responsible for the “oil,” etc. It may help to let the team meet together and get to know one another, but it isn’t necessary and isn’t always practical or even possible. Some of your best support team members may live across the country or even the world. This is actually AWESOME because you can have a “virtual” pit crew made up of the best people for the job no matter where they live.


Pick the right crew for the job. It makes sense that when choosing your crew you have to select people with the right abilities and skills to do the job. If Marty has an injured shoulder, then he won’t be able to clean the windshield, right? You have many friends and family members who love you and want to help you succeed. Realize that they will help the most when they are at their best. Feel free to use as many people for your pit crew as you want…you can have lots of workout buddies and lots of people to talk to when you are faced with challenges or just need to be able to vent rather than eat.

Be clear about their role. Do you want someone to listen quietly while you rant and get things off your chest? Or do you want someone to offer suggestions on how to fix something that you bring up? You may need both, both are valuable friends / jobs to fill, but if your crew member thinks you want solutions and you just want to rant, you will both be frustrated. Remember, your crew cannot read your mind—let them know what you expect of them. It may be overall in the role or in a specific situation.

Group expectations. Sometimes when we are part of a group we can go overboard talking about our community project in front of other people. For some people this won’t be a problem, but it is a good idea to set some ground rules with the team or you may find that you are subject to full disclosure on some matters that you thought were personal and just in the group. Everyone on the team should agree to the ground rules—what is kept in confidence and what is public, what happens if you aren’t sure if this is public knowledge, how is the group informed what is private information, is it ok for group members to discuss you and your journey in your absence—including your successes and challenges? There is no right or wrong answer here…it is all what YOU want. It should go without saying that any team member who is not comfortable with the ground rules should not be part of the crew.

Crew rights. Give your pit crew time to share their feelings and concerns with you, too, and to set their boundaries as well. It may turn out that some people won’t be a good fit right now because of something that is going on in their lives. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to support you, but we all must take care of ourselves first, something that many of us with weight challenges are just learning to do. It is better to figure out now if someone is unavailable or already overcommitted.

Often a team member’s boundaries will be easy for you to live with and support—but you have to know them in order to accommodate them…you can’t read their minds any better than they can read yours.

Some examples of boundaries may include times of the day they are available for phone calls, budgetary or time considerations (for working out, going out for meals or coffee, activities), physical abilities or preferences, and even topics of conversation that some people may not feel comfortable talking about.

For example, if one of your challenges is late night binge eating, then don’t rely on someone who has to get up at 5am to help you through the urge. Rather than calling your early-to-bed-early-to-rise sister-in-law for that one (no matter how helpful she is at other times) have a nightowl on speed dial for those occasions.

While this is a team, the ultimate success of this weight loss journey is up to you. You get the big pay off, the recognition, the health benefits…and you do the heavy lifting along the way.

You must prepare a list of reasons WHY you want to have this success. Write down the positive reasons you are on this journey. Don’t make it a litany of reason that you are here at this weight—that is all in the past. Sure you can learn from the past, but this is the time to let it go! Share your big whys with your team so they can help you remember what the big picture is. Your reasons why you are on this journey have to be bigger than the urge to eat will be!

Another assignment for you is to create a list of alternative activities. This is things you can do when you feel the urge to eat. Share this list with your team as well. They can help you to remember the things that give you pleasure. Include ways to reward yourself that don’t include food, things you would like to do when you are feeling bored or when you are lonely.

A good list will include a wide variety of things, some will take just a couple minutes, others may be hours or even days long. It can even include things that you don’t do currently but would like to learn how to do…for example maybe you always wanted to learn to knit…it is something that will keep your hands busy out of the cookie jar. Some activities on your list will cost money, but many of them will be free—or very low cost. Don’t put things on the list that you know you realistically cannot do, like fly to Paris for the weekend!

Post your lists anywhere that you might need to refer to them. This includes your support team contact info, your big WHY list, and your alternative activities. Have a copy in the car, in your purse, on the frig, at your desk, in your iPhone…make it EASY to reach out for help. You still have to make the decision to reach out, but at least you won’t have to search for help, it will be right at hand.

Previous post:

Next post: