You may have tried to diet and struggled to lose weight. Or you succeeded in losing weight but couldn’t keep it off.

If so, you probably approached dieting from a poverty mentality, thinking: “What’s wrong with me?” “How did I let myself get this heavy?” “Why can’t I stick to a diet?”

If you believe there is something wrong with you, you’ll eventually sabotage your own efforts and fail.

There Is Nothing Wrong with You

Dieter: “I never had a chance. My mother told me I’d always be overweight because I had an eating problem. Whenever I dieted I knew that I’d blow it eventually, so at the slightest discouragement I gave up.”

When we were children, we got the message that we needed to be punished if we misbehaved. If we feel bad about ourselves for being overweight, we’re likely to regard dieting as a form of self-punishment.

We decide to diet, but start as if we’re entering a prison, with unpleasant restrictions imposed on us as the penance we deserve.

Dieting as a Form of Punishment

Traditional diets fit this approach all too well. They often include harsh “should” and “shouldn’t” commands. You are told what, when, and how much you can eat, as well as what is “off limits.”

They assume that you are helpless to resist food or make good choices, so you need to submit yourself to a program that makes the decisions for you.

Some diets allow you days off of the regimen, but then describe those as “cheat days.” That just makes you feel guilty. Thus going back to the diet prison the next day is even more painful than before. For some people, “cheat days” are an excuse to binge.

Giving Away Your Self-Control

Dieter: “I let myself slip on a Friday, tell myself I’ll start over Monday, and have a ‘get-out-of-jail free card’ for the weekend. I escape from Diet Jail and head for Binge City!”

Eventually, you begin to resent that you don’t have control, that you’re being punished, and that you’re imprisoned.

You’ll also resent the diet if you’re doing it to be attractive to others, rather than for yourself. Resentment eventually leads to rebellion, so you sabotage your efforts and abandon the diet.

Let’s Do the Math

Because you felt bad about yourself for being overweight, you went on a diet as punishment. Being on the diet felt like prison, so you escaped. Now you feel bad about yourself because you quit, so you beat yourself up for being a failure.

The only thing that makes you feel better is to eat. And then you need to diet again. It’s a no-win merry-go-round. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Imprisonment or Empowerment?

In my book, The Best Diet Book Ever: the Zen of Losing Weight, I introduce the Positive Choice Model. You can feel empowered to diet based on your personal preferences rather than having to follow rules and regulations.

You get to choose. What, when, and how much you eat is completely up to you. It is much more powerful and effective when you choose how you relate to food and exercise.

The Positive Choice Model for losing weight means taking personal responsibility to make choices that match your intention. Because you see yourself as having positive potential rather than negative deficiency, your choice of how to diet can be a positive one.

How you eat and exercise is based on confidence and strength of intention rather than fear or weakness of willpower. The more success you have in making such choices, the more empowered you’ll feel in challenging situations.

Taking responsibility makes dieting a positive choice. You choose to eat and exercise in a way that supports your intention to lose weight, rather than feeling you are being deprived as punishment for being overweight.

When you see foods that aren’t healthy or helpful for weight-loss, it’s so much better to feel empowered to say, “I don’t need that,” instead of feeling resentful that “I can’t have that.”

Moving forward on your weight-loss journey will be based on your positive choice to weigh less and be in better shape. It takes some effort at the beginning, but you’ll see that the results are worth it, because you are worth it!

What choices are you making to stay healthy and weigh less in your 60s? Do you find it hard to make positive choices about your diet? Please share your experience with positive, self-controlled dieting.

Joseph ParentDr. Joseph Parent is a highly regarded expert in Applied Mindfulness and Performance Psychology. He is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, performance coach and media commentator. His latest book is THE BEST DIET BOOK EVER: The Zen of Losing Weight. He offers personal sessions for sports, life and/or executive coaching.

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