7 Beliefs that can Lead to Weight Gain

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After three years of working with women who want to lose weight, I’ve identified 7 beliefs that can lead to weight gain or stop weight loss.

I truly believe that we have to change our mindset first to be successful with losing weight and I’m going to explain it all here. These limiting beliefs are the real reason that women are often frustrated by their efforts.

The actions that tend to work consistently for women are fairly simple. I share what I do and what my clients do in 10 Steps to Lose Weight.

But it’s the sticking with it consistently over time, allowing your habits to take root, and learning how your body loses weight that is difficult. Actions without a good mental and emotional foundation don’t tend to stick.

If you feel like you are overweight and keep trying to change behaviors without changing how you think, your results may just be temporary.

Weight-loss is more complex that most diets would lead you to believe. Even healthy eating can be confusing. So many people have opinions on what is the perfect nutrition for everyone.

For better or worse, our self-esteem is often tied to our eating habits. The implications of this is that many women self-report feeling depression and anxiety in relation to food, their weight, and their bodies.

So, it makes sense to a point that if we feel like our depression or anxiety is because of our weight, that the only solution would seem to be, losing weight. 

But I’m identifying seven common beliefs that I have seen in my private practice and in weight loss groups that affect weight loss efforts.

  • All or Nothing Thinking
  • Believing You Can’t Be Nice to Yourself
  • Believing Your Weight is the Cause of Your Problems
  • Food is Good or Bad
  • You Should Restrict Too Much at Meals
  • Food is Punishment, Reward, or Something You Have to Earn
  • Believing Your Efforts Don’t Matter if you Don’t Lose Weight

Why Just Changing Your Eating Behaviors Isn’t Enough

When we think of losing weight, most of us focus on our eating behaviors and our poor diet. We focus on cutting out chocolate, depriving ourselves, and changing the food we eat.

We increase our physical activity and we try to adopt a healthy lifestyle. While this is not a bad thing, it misses the real reasons we overeat or binge eat.  

In addition, we often overlook that there could be genetic factors or health factors in place that are affecting our body’s metabolism.

While we try to simplify things, the causes of obesity can be complex and have less to do with willpower than we’ve been led to believe by even health professionals. 

Also, I want to point out that the whole culture and system of who is overweight and who isn’t, Is made up. Someone, once upon a time decided who was normal, who was overweight, and who is obese based on a couple of factors.

Even though body mass index is used almost exclusively to determine if someone is overweight or not, it is based on faulty science. Also, in the eighties, the numbers were adjusted to make it seem like even more people are overweight. 

It is possible, that based on scale weight alone, you may not even be overweight. 

So, before you jump into another diet or work your way to an eating disorder, lets look at your mindset and beliefs first. 

PICTURE OF WOMAN looking into the camera with the words: Beliefs that can cause weight gain

All or Nothing Thinking

I’m starting with all or nothing thinking, because this seems to derail almost everyone. There is a belief that if you don’t do something perfectly, you shouldn’t even do it.

How this looks in real life? You go to work and you forgot your prepared lunch. The boss has ordered pizza and cookies for the office. You eat that but feel bad about it. 

Since, you ruined the day already, you go on to eat candy out of the candy bowl, get a soft drink, snack when you get home, and so on.

All or nothing thinking is when you feel like you’ve messed up or ruined your diet, so you might as well eat as much as possible before you start your diet again.

This is closely tied to perfectionist thinking. That sounds like, “If I don’t do it perfect, it’s not worth doing.”

This is all not true. You aren’t overweight because of a couple of pieces of pizza. 

Our weight is the result of consistent actions taken over time. 

Believing You Can’t Be Nice to Yourself

This is so pervasive, I have to convince my clients that it is okay to be nice to yourself and not only that, but it is critical to your overall efforts.

Trust me on this. But midlife, you have talked so mean to yourself, that it your inner spirit is exhausted. 

Imagine if you had berated another person for decades?

Do you think that would continue to work? or that it is even the best way?

You cannot mean talk yourself into fewer calories or resisting cravings forever. Eventually that gig is up. 

Compassion, kindness, gentleness, and consistency are much more effective.

Positive reinforcement is key. Psychological science supports that focusing on the positive and reinforcing those behaviors is more effective than focusing on where we think we are falling behind.

Believing Your Weight is the Cause of Your Problems

Your weight or how you eat, is not the cause of your problems but instead it may be a symptom. 

Every single woman I’ve worked with around food and eating, believes that their eating behavior is the biggest problem in their lives.

I believe that there are problems, and while their eating and weight may be a problem, it isn’t the root cause.

This often looks like a woman being overworked, trying to please too many people, not resting or taking time for yourself, and then believing that losing weight would make you feel better.

In my experience, your weight gain or overeating is often a desperate cry for help for an exhausted and tired woman. 

In simplist terms, the problem is that you are prioritizing everything except yourself. In terms of your body, telling it to lose weight is like kicking a dog that is already down.

Categorizing Food as Good or Bad

I’m someone that has demonized a lot of foods over the years. And to be honest, there are many foods that really don’t feel good in my body and I do avoid them.

The problem though is that when we call some foods we eat good and some bad, we set up a weird thing in our heads.

This sounds like, “Well, I’ve eaten this BAD candy bar, so I might as well eat a bunch of other bad food because tomorrow, I’m only going to eat GOOD food.”

I might sound dramatic in my examples, but these examples are based on real things I’ve hear women say over the years.

The next time you eat some type of food that you catch yourself calling “bad,” pay attention to all the things you say to yourself. You might be surprised.

Trying to Restrict Too Much at Meals

It seems obvious if you think you are overweight that you should restrict your food, calories, carbs, fats, and sugar. 

What this looks like is eating a salad when you really want something heavier. Or limiting yourself to 500 calories for a meal. Or any other way, you restrict and deny yourself a filling meal.

Restricting means using a measurement outside of your body’s cues to decide how much to eat. Another name is portion control.

People’s beliefs and lay theories tend to go towards portion control, counting calories, and idealizing being hungry after a meal.

For the record, I am not promoting overeating or eating to feeling stuffed. I’m simply saying, eat enough at meals. Your body knows the right amount.

I talk a lot about this one thing in most of my posts. Eating enough real food that you like, at your meals, makes a huge difference in your overall efforts.

Using Food as Punishment, Reward, or Something You Have to Earn

Food is not something you earn because you’ve been good or exercised enough. Food is a basic requirement for your body.

Along with that, no matter what you ate yesterday or over the weekend, you don’t deserve to be punished by not eating or by being subjected to horrible tasting diet food.

You don’t deserve a cookie because you had a bad day or your mother-in-law yelled at you. You don’t deserve a great meal because you got a promotion. 

Food isn’t something you deserve sometimes and food isn’t something that should be withheld for when you think you’ve been bad.

Believing Your Efforts Don’t Matter if you Don’t Lose Weight

This is the biggest and I believe the most important aspect of weight loss efforts. This is crucial to understand.

If you are eating a diet that is crappy and the ONLY reason you will consider eating nutritious foods is to lose weight–you will not only NOT lose weight, you’ll probably continue to gain.

You’ll know this is you when you look at the scale, see a weight you don’t like, and you say “F**k it.” And then eat like crap because “it’s not working and it doesn’t matter”

As someone who has spent considerable time in a retirement community, I can tell you without any reservation, that how you eat and take care of yourself does matter.

Even if you don’t lose weight, don’t you wan to feel better? Don’t you want more energy? How about being stronger and more confident? What about not gaining weight? 

Trust me on this. However bad you think it is now, it can get worse!

Nutrition isn’t the only thing that affects your health and how you feel but it has huge implications on your physical, mental, and emotional health.

How you eat doesn’t just affect your weight; it affects every single aspect of your life. 

You could feel 90% better by changing how you eat; even if you don’t lose a pound.

How to Change Your Beliefs so You Can Lose Weight

Over the decades, I’ve tried all the trends. Since childhood I’ve been concerned with my weight and concurrently went through periods of binge eating. 

At this point in life, at age 61, I don’t want any complicated programs or diets. I choose to eat based on my hunger and preferences. 

You can check out my core beliefs about eating and weight loss here in 10 Powerful Tips to Lose Weight after 50.

Your beliefs might seem like they are true and you might look at my beliefs like they couldn’t possibly work. 

The types of foods you eat are important and I truly want you to eat and feel better. However, starting with your beliefs first is the way to go.

When you change your beliefs in the first place, healthier actions are likely to follow. In life coaching we often say, “you are one belief away from whatever change you want.”

You might not need to change all these beliefs, it may be just one or two that are getting between you and your goals. 

Picture of a thoughtful woman sitting on a bench with the words: 7 beliefs that can stop weight loss
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I'm a certified life and weight loss coach who helps women feel better and get the most out of their lives! The process of life coaching teaches you to love yourself and gain self confidence in a safe effective way.

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Hi, I'm Sara Garska and I'm so happy you're here! Big changes can happen with a shift in thinking. Over time, you transform your life into the one you always dreamed of having. As a certified life coach, I can help you create a life you love. Visit my life coaching page here.