You know what to do to lose weight: Eat a little less, move a little more, and figure out what works for your body. “No more chocolate,” you declare. “I’ll take up Cross Fit,” you promise. “I can live without chips for a while,” you vow. But then one day you’re tired. Or grumpy. Or that lethal combo: hangry. So you figure you deserve the raspberry truffle ball, dammit. And before you’ve polished off that leftover holiday candy, you’ve begun spiraling down a slippery slope that ends with ice cream on the couch at midnight.
All the science in the world won’t help you lose weight if your heart isn’t in the game. It’s not enough to know what to do—the secret is understanding how to make yourself do it. Experts have discovered that shifting your mind-set can give you an edge. “Dieting books focus almost exclusively on what and what not to eat, with the assumption that this is just a mechanical process,” says clinical psychologist Edward Abramson, professor emeritus of psychology at California State University in Chico and the author of Emotional Eating. “It’s like, ‘If you know you shouldn’t eat bacon, then you just shouldn’t eat bacon.’” That’s why people fail at diets: They forget to account for moments of boredom, weakness, or sadness, or for any other perfectly normal situation that could get in the way.
Lifestyle shifts like joining a gym and stocking the fridge with fresh produce are good, but to really move the needle on the scale, you need to delve deeper, says Holly Lofton, assistant professor of medicine and surgery and director of the medical weight-management program at NYU Lang one Medical Center. “Take a hard look at your past weight loss attempts,” she advises. “Think about what got in your way, then find solutions to those issues now.”
To help, here are a few common pitfalls. See which ones ring familiar—and learn to sidestep them once and for all.