The little white lies we tell ourselves don't seem harmful, but they can stand in the way of reaching our goals. "People may set unrealistic goals or deprive themselves in extreme ways that are very difficult to maintain," says Bethany Teachman, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia.
Want to stop telling yourself lies that sabotage your efforts? Here are six common myths that undermine a healthy approach to weight loss—and ways to banish these words from your lips so that you'll gain confidence and reach your goals.
1. "I need to go on a diet."
"The whole concept of a 'diet' sets us up to think we will be 'on a diet,' then 'off a diet,' " says Teachman. Instead, think of your weight-loss plan as a lifestyle commitment to healthy eating and exercise, for the long haul.
2. "I'll get back on track on Monday/after August/when the sun comes out."
Why procrastinate? It could lead to more slippage. Just track what you've eaten, then pick up where you left off. Look forward, not back.
3. "All my problems will be solved when I lose weight."
Dropping pounds may leave you feeling healthier and happier, but it won't make you more lovable or turn you into a runway model. Be clear about why you want to lose weight, and set realistic goals. "It can be more motivating to strive toward being fit and energetic than it is to strive toward being a size 6," Teachman says.
4. "Heavy people don't deserve to eat."
Do you forgo the office pizza because you're afraid people will think you shouldn't be eating? Seeing yourself through others' eyes in a harsh, critical way "is a surefire way to blow a weight-loss plan," says psychologist Debra Mandel, PhD, author of Healing the Sensitive Heart. Instead, she suggests, focus on developing a more loving relationship with your body. People who started out accepting their bodies were more than twice as likely to lose weight than those who felt dissatisfied or ashamed, as reported in a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
5. "I shouldn't wear a swimsuit/shorts/tank top until I've lost all the weight."
People of all different sizes and shapes enjoy sexy clothes. "When you love yourself, you start enjoying life," says Mandel. Break big goals into smaller ones, and reward yourself along the way. Rather than saying, "I need to lose 25 pounds," say, "I'll buy a new swimsuit, one size smaller."
6. "The less I eat, the faster I'll lose."
Wrong. Cutting way back on calories is nearly impossible to sustain if you want to live in the real world and enjoy social occasions. What's more, shedding pounds too quickly may mean you lose lean tissue (muscle), which is active tissue that helps burn calories, so your metabolism might drop. Losing weight too fast can even make you more prone to gallstones!
A slow and steady approach—including treating yourself to your favorite foods, in moderation—is your best bet for building a healthy relationship with food and reaching your long-term goals.