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Goals, Habits Or Self-Image – Which One Is The Most Important For Weight Loss

Written by: Rita May, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Weight loss goals. Let´s talk about your weight loss goals, since losing weight and setting goals are what many people aim to do in January.

Women hands holding green apple while holing dumbbell for exercise with fruits, vegetables, water and tape measure on white table

You’ve probably heard that you should set a specific and measurable goal so when you decide to lose weight: you choose a certain weight reached by a specific time as a goal.

But you aren’t totally in control of that goal. Even if you are doing “all the right things”, there are so many complex processes going on in your body that you might not be able to reach that (random) number.

This can be frustrating, especially if you don’t see the results you want. You may feel like the numbers aren’t reflecting the effort you have put in, or you can´t reach the goal at the arbitrary date you chose. So you get impatient and start to eat even less and/or work out more.

With this approach, we usually get the opposite results since overexercising and undereating almost always result in overeating or binging in the long term.

What if you focused on things you could control instead of tying your success to some arbitrary number and date?

Habit goals

It's far more effective and empowering to set a goal around habits than chasing an arbitrary number. By doing so, you're setting yourself up for lasting change instead of yo-yoing between restricting and binging or giving up entirely.

If your goal is to lose 10 pounds, you'll constantly feel like you are not “good enough” until you reach that goal. This can be really discouraging and might make you give up because it's easier than continuing to be disappointed all the time.

If you actually reach your weight goal, you feel great for a while but then realize that the only thing that was giving you purpose was the goal itself.

Now what?

You might also feel depleted or you want to reward yourself with something delicious and you end up going back to your old behaviours.

With habits, you succeed and feel good every single time you do the chosen habit. You ‘succeed’ because you do exactly what you planned to do.

When you reach the weight you are happy with, you won´t stop doing your habits, because you either enjoy doing them or they became automatic behaviours (or both).

You probably adjust your habits a bit but you won´t stop doing them and won´t go back to your old, unhealthy habits.

The 3 layers of behaviour change

James Clear says in his book, Atomic Habits, that there are three layers of behaviour change. Outcomes are the outer layer, Processes are the inner layer, and Identity is at the core.

Most goals people set are related to an outcome (e.g., lose 5 kilos/10 pounds in 1 month). Most habits people establish are related to a process (e.g., going to the gym regularly).

But if you start with your identity, the core of behaviour change, it will reflect on your habits and your outcomes much more effectively.

Your habits define who you are

“Ultimately, your habits matter because they help you become the type of person you wish to be. They are the channel through which you develop your deepest beliefs about yourself. The process of building habits is actually the process of becoming yourself.” ‒ James Clear

Your current behaviours are a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is governed by your beliefs and thoughts about yourself (either consciously or subconsciously).

To change your behaviour for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself.

Your self-image

Your self-image is how you identify yourself, how you see yourself, and your thoughts about yourself.

"You can never outperform your own self-image" ‒ Maxwell Maltz

If you identify yourself as someone with weight problems, you will have weight problems.

You cannot extend outside the barriers of your self-image because you self-sabotage yourself to get back into the "box" you created for yourself.

Your self-image is like a thermostat. It keeps you in the range you can identify yourself with.

Your self-image really affects every part of your life. It shapes how you think about and see yourself, which then impacts how you interact with others and how they treat you. It also affects the food you eat, how often you exercise, the work you do, the people you spend time with, and so on.

Because of that, a behaviour change that doesn't line up with your self-image will never really stick.

The more closely associated a thought or action is with your sense of self, the harder it is to change it.

Here's a two-step process that can help:

  1. Decide what type of person you want to be.

  2. Create evidence to prove to yourself that you are that type of person with small wins.

For example, each time you eat healthy food, you prove to yourself: "I'm a healthy eater." Every time you go for a jog, you remind yourself: "I'm a runner", when you practice mindfulness, you show that you’re a ‘mindful person’, and so on.

Join Our Healthy Lifestyles Program

If you are tired of quick fixes and are ready to create long-term success, join my Healthy Habits for Permanent Weight Loss course. This program is a combination of nutrition, habit building based on how our brain works, and psychology to understand how to change your behaviour, and how to update your beliefs and stories that are keeping you from losing weight.

The Healthy Habits for Permanent Weight Loss program is easy to follow. It doesn't involve any difficult concepts or behaviours, like calorie counting or meal planning. You don't need to follow a specific fitness program. The program is available on a one-on-one basis or as a self-study course. You can learn more about it here.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Rita May, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Rita May is a scientist turned Emotional Eating and Health Coach. She helps driven professionals and entrepreneurs who are successful in other areas of their life but struggle with their weight because of emotions and stress-eating.

Her coaching method is based on three pillars: the science of nutrition, psychology, and a bit of spirituality.

She doesn’t believe in the one-diet-fits-all approach. Instead of giving you a diet plan, she helps you choose a way of eating that you enjoy because that’s the one you will be able to sustain in the long term.

However, nourishing your body is not enough. Our well-being is also affected by stress, relaxation, thoughts, emotions, beliefs, joy, self-awareness, our personal history, and so much more.

Using her Mindfulness to Food Freedom method and How to stop eating your feelings workbook, she helps her clients eliminate emotional and stress-related overeating or binge eating. She designed her Healthy Habits for Permanent Weight Loss program to help busy professionals and entrepreneurs lose weight and improve their health with just a little time investment per week so they can focus on their work, business, and family.



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