Struggling to Lose Weight? Focus on One Habit at a Time

It's always a good time to start
“I’ve been putting this off too long. I need to lose weight but I can’t find the motivation. What’s wrong with me?”

The likely answer is: “Nothing.”

But you may be making these two mistakes:

1. Being overly hard on yourself when you fail to live up to your own expectations

This is something I have more experience with than I like to admit. From 1990 to 1992 I put on 45 pounds! There were times I would pick up a large pizza and eat the whole thing. With each bite I would beat myself up. It didn’t help. I’d just do it again.

It wasn’t until I learned to ease up on myself that I began to make progress. Now, when I start to beat myself up, I ask myself:

“How would you treat someone else who is struggling?”

I certainly wouldn’t beat them up. Learning to be kind to myself has taken years, but it’s made a huge difference!

2. Becoming overwhelmed by making too many changes, too fast

This quote from Jeremy Dean has really helped me with this one:

"Habit change is a marathon. The right mindset is to wake up tomorrow morning almost the exact same person, except for one small change – a small change you can replicate every day until you don’t notice it anymore, at which point you are ready for another small change” (Making Habits, Breaking Habits, 190).

So, how do you go about making these small changes?

Here are four steps that can help you:

Step 1: Identify the small step you want to make. Remember, keep it small. Preferably something you can do today. For example:

I will eat an apple or a pear 15 minutes before supper. Or, I will go for a 15 minute stroll after supper.

You can try one of these, or you may have something else in mind. But only focus on ONE. You might wind up doing more, but keep your focus on ONE small change at a time. Once you have that down, add one more small change.

Step 2: Remind yourself why you’re making this small change. Be specific. Yes, you want to lose weight, but why do you want to lose weight? What will you be able to do once you’ve lost the weight. For example:

  • Bob wants to have more energy so he can hike to the top of Mount San Gorgonio like he used to do as a teenager.
  • Betty wants to lose 50 pounds so she can be around to enjoy her new grandbaby for years to come.

The more clear you are as to why you want to lose weight, the more motivated you will be.

Step 3: Picture yourself overcoming obstacles…not just the end result. Of course Bob will feel on top of the world when he summits Mount San Gorgonio. So will Betty when she steps on the scale and discovers she’s lost the 50 pounds. But they’ll be more likely to achieve their goals if they also picture themselves overcoming the rainy mornings and the office parties they’re likely to face along the way.

Step 4: Have a backup plan. Those who have backup plans are more likely to stay motivated than those who don’t. For example:

  • Bob: “When it’s raining outside, then I will walk on the treadmill.”
  • Betty: “When I’m discouraged about my lack of progress, then I will go online and chat with my friend Julie.”

Having backup plans will increase your confidence, even if you never have to use them.

Here is a worksheet you can use to help you turn your small step into a permanent habit:

📄 4 Steps to Build Motivation Worksheet



Lonnie Carbaugh

Lonnie Carbaugh, LPC, NCC,  is a Behavioral Health Counselor at Full Plate Living who has shed and kept off 25 pounds since working for Full Plate Living. He is as dedicated about walking 5 miles a day as he is about his favorite sport, baseball.