Blog: 10 Mindset Shifts for Overcoming Dieting Failures

Apr 27, 2024

As clinicians who help patients on their weight loss journey, we know exactly how challenging it can be. It’s not uncommon for a patient to be super excited and motivated to start their new diet, only for them to return 3 months later, frustrated, defeated, and looking for our help. I believe that for every setback there is an opportunity for both our patients and us to grow stronger and be more capable in the future. In today’s post, we'll explore how we can help the patient refocus their mindset to learn that failures are an opportunity for growth. Let's get into the 10 ways to shift your patient’s mindset about themselves and their dieting journey.

  1. "I'll start my diet tomorrow." - This phrase reflects procrastination and the tendency to delay taking action towards healthier eating habits. Have you noticed that when we think about tomorrow, we fantasize about having more time, more willpower, more energy … when reality is, tomorrow is going to be just as hard as today. Instead of waiting to start, or re-start tomorrow, have patient’s say: “Today wasn’t perfect, but I'm taking steps towards eating healthier for every meal, everyday. "
  2. "I always end up cheating on my diet."- Patients may express frustration with their perceived inability to adhere strictly to their dietary plans, often feeling guilty or defeated when they deviate from their intended eating patterns. Instead of labeling themselves as cheaters, have patient’s say “I am learning to make mindful choices that support my overall well-being."
  3. “I just can't stick to a diet." - This statement highlights the struggle patients face in maintaining consistency with their dietary goals, often due to various internal and external factors. As you know, I’m not a fan of putting patients on a “diet”, because their restrictive nature makes it hard to stick to, but you can help the patient reframe their mind and say … “I'm learning how to choose foods that nourish my body and mind.”
  4. “I've tried every diet, but nothing works for me.” - Patients may express frustration with the plethora of diets they've attempted, feeling disheartened by never achieving their goals despite following the rules of the diet. This proves the discouraging diet-binge-diet cycle patients find themselves on for years. Encourage the patient to see value in their journey and say “I'm discovering what works best for my body and lifestyle."
  5. "I'm always hungry on this diet.” - Hunger and feelings of deprivation are common complaints among patients following restrictive dietary regimens, leading to dissatisfaction and difficulty adhering to the plan. Restriction leads to binging, plain and simple. Instead teach the patient mindfulness and to say “I am learning to honor my body's hunger signals and nourish it with wholesome foods."
  6. “I deserve a treat after a stressful day." - Emotional eating is often cited as a reason for indulging in unhealthy foods, with patients using food as a means of comfort or reward during times of stress or emotional distress. Help patients understand that sweets are not a reward, they’re just another type of food that can fit into our meals. Teach patients other ways to cope with emotions. I’d suggest that you encourage the patient to say “I am learning self-care practices that provide comfort and support during challenging times."
  7. "I'll just have a little bite; it won't hurt." - Patients may rationalize small indulgences, underestimating the impact of these occasional treats on their overall dietary adherence and weight management efforts. Allow the patient to learn to say, "I indulge in moderation and savor every bite mindfully."
  8. I feel guilty whenever I eat something 'bad'." - Guilt and shame surrounding food choices are common sentiments among patients, particularly when they perceive certain foods as inherently "good" or "bad" based on dietary labels or what TikTok says today. Teach your patient that there is no such thing as a bad food. Instead have them say, “All foods can fit within my lifestyle. What does my body need today to feel it’s best?”
  9. "I'll never be able to lose weight." - Feelings of hopelessness and self-doubt often arise when patients experience repeated setbacks or struggles with weight loss, leading to a sense of pessimism about their ability to achieve their goals. Tell them to say "I trust in my ability to make progress and adapt along the way." Another valuable question to ask the patient is “do you believe in your ability to change? Believing in one’s ability is the first step to actually change their behavior.
  10. "I wish I could eat whatever I want without consequences." - Patients may express a desire for freedom from the constraints of dieting, longing for a carefree approach to eating without the associated guilt or worry about weight gain. The truth is, the patient can eat whatever they want … it is ultimately their choice. But help them realize that our food choices have consequences. We can eat fried food and sweets every day and remain with elevated cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and excessive weight OR we can choose to focus on nutritious foods more often and feel your healthiest best self. The patient has to choose between the two – they cannot have it both ways. This is where helping the patient refocus on their goal and see how their small actions are helping them get there: Have the patient repeat their goal to themselves: “I want to feel sexy in shorts so I am learning to have a healthy relationship with food, focusing on nourishment and pleasure in every meal.”


To go deeper on the topic of mindset and goal-setting, check out this episode: 

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