Vice President of Research & Development at Nutrisystem
According to the great Yogi Berra, “Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical.”
Like most people, my initial reaction when I first heard this quote was along the lines of a chuckle and a head shake. Berra was a great ballplayer, but not much of a mathematician.
But the more I thought about it, I realized that Yogi’s math can work. Baseball can actually be 50% physical and 90% mental, as long as there’s a whole lot of overlap between the physical and mental aspects of the game. And, of course, there is. Genius!
At this point, you may be thinking, “That’s nice, Anthony, but what on Earth does this have to do with weight loss?”
Glad you asked.
Let’s replace “Baseball” with “Weight control” and “physical” with “behavioral.” “Mental” can stay right where it is. So what we have now is: Weight control is 90% mental. The other half is behavioral.
It’s clear that behavioral aspects of weight control are crucial. You won’t lose weight without changing eating and/or exercise habits. However, you have to be in the right mindset to make those changes. The way you think can be either be a tremendous help or an insurmountable hindrance in your efforts to lose weight.
Here are some examples of common mental mistakes that people make when trying to control their weight, and some suggestions for how you can correct those mistakes. And, just for fun, I’ll throw in a Yogi Berra quote for each mental mistake.
Mental Mistake #1: Pessimism. You tell yourself that you’re doomed before you start.
Example: I know I’m going to go off my diet at this party, so why bother trying?
Suggestion: Remind yourself that you can’t predict the future. You can make educated guesses about how things will turn out based on how things have gone in the past, but those guesses aren’t always correct. Have you ever pleasantly surprised yourself with your ability to make good choices? Can’t that happen again?
Yogi quote: “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
Mental Mistake #2: Excuses. You tell yourself that there’s a good reason for making a bad decision, or that you don’t have a choice in the matter.
Example: I can’t stick to my diet when everyone else around me is eating whatever they want.
Suggestion: Outside influences – whether they are situations or other people’s behavior – can certainly make it more difficult for you to follow your plan. However, you are ultimately in control.
Yogi quote: “I never blame myself when I’m not hitting. I just blame the bat and if it keeps up, I change bats…”
Mental Mistake #3: Perfectionism. You tell yourself that you’ve failed if you’ve been less than 100% perfect. You either quit or wait until you have a “clean slate” before you start trying again for perfection.
Example: “I didn’t stick to my plan for this meal/snack/day, so I’ve blown it for the rest of the day/week/month.”
Suggestions: You are probably very aware (too aware!) of what you did wrong. Take a step back and ask yourself what you did right. That should make it clear that your lack of perfection doesn’t equate to a total failure. Also, think of every moment as another opportunity to get back on track. If you over-ate at breakfast, you still have lunch, dinner, and snacks to make good choices. If you went off-plan on Friday, you don’t have to wait until Monday to recommit.
Yogi quote: “If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.”
The main challenge with all of these mental mistakes is noticing them. They may come so naturally that they go undetected. If you don’t immediately catch those negative thoughts, consider working backwards when you notice that you’re not happy with how you’re doing. That is, when you find that you’re not doing well, or not feeling good about your progress with weight control, take a look at this list of mental mistakes and see if any apply.
It can also be helpful to get input from someone else you trust. Your friends and family may have noticed you making these mental mistakes. As a wise man once said, “you can observe a lot, just by watching.”