Kaizen is the practice of continually improving. And who doesn’t want that kind of result for their weight loss? Kaizen was first introduced to the West in 1986 by Japanese businessman and author Masaaki Imai. Although it’s generally applied to business practice, its principles can work wonders for your weight loss. First up, I’d like to explore how Kaizen can affect your weight loss mindset.

Kaizen is based on certain core concepts:

  • Good processes get good results
  • See for yourself to understand the present situation
  • Speak with data, manage with facts
  • Take action to correct the root cause of problems

But the most important concept of all is that big results come from making small changes over time. Sound familiar? This is also one of my core weight loss philosophies. It goes against what the weight loss industry preaches – you’ll probably know from bitter experience that weight loss plans and programs generally encourage you to make major adjustments to your diet and exercise overnight. The result? Unsustainable changes that make you throw in the towel before too long – and then back comes the weight.

Small steps for weight loss

So how does Kaizen’s ‘small steps’ approach apply to developing a weight loss mindset? It’s simple: forget about making a ‘lifestyle change’ tomorrow, and focus on changing one thing at a time instead. You’ll be surprised – pleasantly surprised – by how easily you’ll achieve the results you’re looking for.

Science backs up this ‘small steps’ approach. It begins in your brain. Any big changes you make in your life, even small ones, are scary. Think about it: if you’re moving overseas for a new job, you might be excited, but also full of trepidation, and nervous about how it’ll all turn out. On a much smaller scale, if you’ve decided to quit drinking for a month, it’s still scary – if you’re used to a glass or two of wine most nights, the idea of going without for 30 entire nights can make you feel similar fears: how will it turn out? Will it be awful? How will you feel? Can you keep it up?

Fight-or-flight

Basically, whatever the change you’re making, you’re breaking away from your routine. And how does your routine make you feel? Familiar. At home. Comfortable. So often, when we attempt dramatic changes suddenly, we trigger anxiety – like the rug’s been pulled from under us – and we get that ‘fight or flight’ response that’s governed by the amygdala, or the part of the brain that acts as the centre for emotions and emotional behaviour.

It’s not all bad – when you set off that ‘fight or flight’ reaction, you also trigger the part of your brain that’s responsible for thinking and problem-solving. The trouble is that this can be overwhelmed by your emotional response, and when this happens, all those good intentions go down the toilet and the radical change you just made gets reversed. Think of any diet you’ve ever been on, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

But if you skip the major change and go for small changes instead, you won’t send yourself into an anxiety spiral. Your brain can cope just fine with small changes, because they’re just that – small. Manageable. And you still get the benefit of activating that thinking part of your brain.

Develop your mindset

Use this knowledge to develop your weight loss mindset. Every time you worry about failing or feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, stop and ask yourself what the smallest thing is you can do that you know will help your weight loss efforts. It can be skipping wine at dinner tonight, it can be going for a 10-minute stroll during your lunchbreak. Whatever it is, when you’ve achieved it, you’ll feel good – you’ll feel like you can tackle the next challenge. So on you go, making incremental positive changes, until you realise that they’re having a big effect.

So weight loss isn’t that hard after all – not with Kaizen as your guide. Think small, and you’ll get big results – and you’ll develop a successful healthy living mindset.

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