The 7 Simple Phrases That Could Make All the Difference in Your Weight Loss Goals

Woman standing on scale

If you're trying to lose weight, it can be easy to beat yourself up if you plateau, "cheat" on your diet or skip a workout—but it's ineffective to speak negatively to yourself. Adopting a positive mantra can make a huge difference in your results, according to obesity doctors and dietitians.

"Studies have shown that mantra meditation can be a helpful tool in improving overall health and decreasing anxiety, which may impact weight loss, but the mantra need not be related to food, weight or even health," Dr. Nik Sekhar, MD, bariatric surgeon at the New York Bariatric Group, tells Parade. "In fact, repeating a phrase that feels like blame or punishment, or brings your attention back to food or eating can be counterproductive in the quest for losing weight. Positive mantras that are calming, motivating or encouraging are far more effective in losing weight."

Dr. Virginia Weaver, MD, bariatric surgeon at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in Memphis, Tennessee, agrees that one of the biggest keys to weight loss is simply being kind to yourself.

"I find that encouraging my patients and building them up is the path to success with weight loss. Obesity is a chronic disease, and just as we would never criticize or blame a patient with cancer or diabetes, we would not treat a person who struggles with weight that way either," she explains. "There are times when a tougher approach is necessary—for example, when a patient is not compliant with treatment and potentially causing themselves harm. But positive words of encouragement, kindness and compassion far outweigh the negative in our practice."

Experts agree that there may not be a one-size-fits-all mantra for everyone, but there are a few that may work well for you on your weight loss journey.

Related: Body Positivity Influencers Share Their Favorite Feel-Good Mantras

The 7 Best Phrases for Weight Loss

1. "One bite (or meal, or day, or week) at a time."

This is a favorite of Tara M. Schmidt, MD, lead registered dietitian for the Mayo Clinic Diet. "Weight loss, which includes weight loss maintenance, is a long and complex journey," she says. "Obesity is a chronic disease, and treatment of such needs to be seen in the same light."

Related: How Many Calories Should I Eat to Lose Weight?

2. "My journey is my success, not a number on a scale."

In the same vein, Dr. Weaver wants to make sure patients understand that this is a lifetime commitment without a clear finish line.

"I remind my patients that obesity is a lifelong disease, requiring lifelong treatment," Dr. Weaver explains. "That is not meant to be discouraging, but rather to make sure they understand that success is a journey, and is in no way defined by a number on a scale."

She adds, "Overall health and wellness is the goal, and there may be setbacks. Things that have worked in the past for weight loss may not always work in the future."

Your care team will be on your journey with you and can help you as your specific goals and needs evolve—because they will.

Related: What Happens to Your Body If You Exercise for 15 Minutes a Day

3. "You don't have to do this alone."

Dr. Sekhar says it's important to remember that you have people in your corner cheering for you and ready to help you on your weight loss journey.

"You wouldn't try to treat any other medical condition without the help of experts and weight loss is no different," he says. "Find a treatment program that will work with you as an individual. Weight loss is not a one-size-fits-all kind of journey and neither should the treatment."

What's more, aside from a medical care team, you likely also have friends, family and loved ones who are there to cheerlead, celebrate and support you along the way.

Related: Study Reveals the Best Time of Day to Work Out to Burn Fat

4. "Eat so much of what serves you that there is less room and less desire for that which does not."

"Language centered around restriction, as well as restrictive dietary plans, promotes bingeing and binge behavior," Dr. Adrienne Youdim, MD, a board-certified internist specializing in medical weight loss and nutrition, tells us. "I like to focus on abundance."

Related: The Best Protein Source to Help You Lose Belly Fat, According to Dietitians

5. "Give up the idea of perfection and just start."

Kim Shapira, registered dietitian and nutritionist and author of This Is What You’re Really Hungry For, says that the obsession with doing everything perfectly and to be and look perfect puts way too much pressure on you.

"Progress is the golden ticket," she says. "Being intentional every day creates a stronger foundation and leads to long-term success. We have to change, which means we have to wake up from automatic behaviors and create new ones. That's going to take conviction and intention. Just start."

Related: The #1 Workout Mistake That May Be Hindering Your Weight Loss Goals

6. "Remember the six rules."

If you want your mantras and phrases to be more pragmatic or actionable, Shapira recommends six specific rules to remember and live by in your journey. These are:

  1. Eat when you're hungry. When you do, take your normal portion, cut it in half and wait 15 minutes to see if you really need more food.

  2. Eat what you love. But make sure the food loves you back!

  3. Eat without distractions. This forces you to be more mindful about what you're eating and how much you're eating, as well as allowing you to enjoy and savor your food more.

  4. Get 10,000 steps a day. Being active feels good and will help you in your progress. (Also? If you bring your dog, they will thank you!)

  5. Drink 8 cups of water per day. A lot of times, we confuse thirst and even dehydration for hunger, because our brain processes them similarly. Stave off those mistakes by being deliberate about staying hydrated.

  6. Get seven hours of sleep daily. The better rested you are, the better decisions you'll make.

Related: The Simple Food Swap That Can Help You Lose Weight If You're Over 50

7. "More from the fridge, less from the pantry."

In terms of practical and actionable mantras, Dr. Youdim says this is a good one not just for weight loss, but also for overall health—and you can expand on it.

"More fresh and whole, less packaged and processed. More with family less with technology," she says. "Basic principles may not be sexy, but that does not mean they are not sound nor effective."

Of course, there's no one fail-safe method, so be sure to talk to your own care team before making any moves!

Next, The No. 1 Weight Loss Mistake You May Be Making, According to Obesity Doctors