Throughout my years coaching people who are trying to lose weight, I’ve noticed how often they start out focusing on the wrong things. What are the wrong things to focus on when it comes to sustainably and permanently losing weight? Tune in to find out!

Today, I’ll be diving into the most common things that people who are trying to lose weight mistakenly focus on. And Iʻll share why these focal points will not move the needle when it comes to permanent weight loss. I also explore why we tend to focus on the wrong things and discuss three of the right things that you should be focusing on to keep the weight off.


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In Today’s Episode, You’ll Learn:

  • The most common things we focus on when trying to lose weight
  • The wrong things to focus on
  • Why we focus on the wrong things
  • What we should be focusing on to lose weight

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Read the Transcript Below:

Katrina Ubell :     You are listening to the Weight Loss for Busy Physicians podcast with Katrina Ubell, MD, episode number 280.

Welcome to the Weight Loss for Busy Physicians podcast. I’m your host, master certified life and weight loss coach, Katrina Ubell, MD. This is the podcast where busy doctors like you come to learn how to lose weight for the last time by harnessing the power of your mind. If you’re looking to overcome your stress eating and exhaustion, and move into freedom around food, you’re in the right place.

Welcome, welcome, welcome, my friend, to the podcast. I’m so glad you’re here today. Thank you for joining me. I’m very excited to share with you this episode. I know I say that with every episode, but I am truly, honestly, legitimately excited when I say that I am. If there’s one thing about me, maybe if you’ve been listening for a while, this wouldn’t surprise you, but I’m not the kind of person who’s going to tell everybody that their baby is cute. You know how there’s people like every newborn they’re like, “Oh, that baby is beautiful, adorable,” whatever? I’m just kind of the person who’s like, “Well, I’ll just say nothing.”

Actually, oh my gosh. As a pediatrician, I took care of lots, and lots, and lots, and lots of newborns. I took care of this family one time they had their first baby and she really was just so cute. I mean, this amazing, like shock of hair, like just great hair for a baby, great head shape, I think she probably was a C-section baby actually. So I think she just came out. She wasn’t really that smushed and stuff. She was just so cute. And you could tell right away, first 24 hours of life, she just had like a cool personality. You could just tell as a baby. If you’re around enough babies, you can start to pick this up.

Pediatricians out there, you know what I’m talking about. So even one of my partners who covered for them one day, when they were in the hospital, she’s like, “What an awesome baby.” I’m like, “Right? Isn’t she so cute?” We are all talking about how cute she is. So of course that family comes in to the office and I tell them, “Oh, you know what, gosh, she’s so cute.” We were all saying like, “She’s just such a great looking baby, whatever.”

Okay, great. So we move on and several years later, they have another baby. Well, I’ve forgotten that the other one was so cute. So that one just looked like normal baby and I just typically didn’t say a whole lot. I didn’t really think that it was my job as a pediatrician to be like oohing and aahing over everybody’s baby. They weren’t really looking for that approval necessarily for me. I think for me, they were more looking for, “Is our baby healthy?” Like that kind of thing.

So I would only really say something if I genuinely felt motivated to say that. I genuinely thought that the baby was particularly attractive or whatever. Well, anyway, they told me years even later after they had the second baby that when I didn’t say anything about that second baby, they were like, “Oh, maybe she’s not actually cute.”

Because I told them, the first baby, “I wouldn’t say that unless I meant it.” We all had a good laugh. They were really good sports about the whole thing. We all were laughing. But anyway, all that to say that when I tell you I’m excited, I mean, it. I wouldn’t say I was excited if I wasn’t.

So I wanted to tell you really quickly about something very exciting that we had. Just recently, we had our Masters live event. So Masters, if you are not aware is the name of our continuation program. So my flagship program is called Weight Loss for Doctors Only, and that’s six months long. And then after those six months are complete, some people decide that they want some additional coaching, some additional support. Maybe they’re looking for community aspect. And so we offer that in the program that we call Masters.

Now, it doesn’t mean that everybody has mastered everything that they’ve learned to go into Masters. It’s more that we are there looking to create mastery. We’re moving toward mastery. And after you go through Masters, if you decide you want to continue again, then we call that VIP. And of course you can stay with us as long as you’d like. We just have like the most lovely, lovely, lovely group of people. I’m serious. It’s just, ugh, makes my heart sing to be quite honest when I think about all of them.

But anyway, we have live events. And so we had another live event just recently and it was… We did it hybrid. So we had in person and virtual, and it was our best yet. I mean, it was so great. We had so much fun in person, but then the way that we were able to do virtual, I felt like we did our absolute best at making the virtual people at home feel really involved in what we were doing.

What I had said from the beginning was I don’t want to do it if the people at home just feel like they’re a fly on the wall, watching us have our event. I want them to feel like they are actually participating a part of this. And I think we pulled it off. I mean, the feedback that we’ve gotten from everybody has been just amazing. It’s just, ugh. Don’t you just love it when things work out sometimes? Just so great.

I just saw some pictures from it recently and I’m just like, “Man, ugh, it makes me so happy.” So if you’re interested at all in coming to join us in Masters and you are alumna of Weight Loss for Doctors Only, and you want to come and join us for our next couple Masters lives, and of course all the great work that we do together, just to let you know that on June 2nd, we’re going to be opening up enrollment for our July cohort for that.

We just have the best time together, and if you come and join us with this round, you will be eligible to come to our fall event, which is going to be an extra special book extravaganza weekend that we have planned. So can’t tell you details yet, but super, super fun stuff to come because in case you didn’t hear already, I have a book coming out in the fall.

So we are just going to have a big, big party celebration. It’s going to be really, really fun. So if you are a graduate of Weight Loss for Doctors Only, or even if you have gone through Masters and considering coming back into VIP, make sure to check your inbox around June 2nd, so we can tell you more information about that, because it’s so great.

Now you might be like, “Okay, well that’s fine, but I haven’t done any of that work and I need some help now.” So if that is the case, I want to invite you to check out the free resources page that we have on the website. So you just go to katrinaubellmd.com/resources, and you’ll be able to download several different, amazing resources. There is a podcast roadmap. So especially if you are new to the podcast and you’re thinking, “You know what, I need some help figuring out which of these episodes to listen to first.” You’re going to want to download that one for free and it gives you the first 30 episodes to listen to.

Of course, you can keep up with the latest ones and the newest ones, but then also work through that list and starting to apply what you learn. Sometimes it’s just helpful to get a little guidance on which episodes to start with. There’s also the six steps to jumpstart your weight loss guide, which is also free.

I recommend that you, especially, if you’re just in the beginning stages of thinking about losing weight, that’s a great one. Just go ahead and pick one of those steps. Whichever one seems like it would be the easiest and start applying that to your life. And then when you feel like you can take the next one on, pick the next easiest one and start applying that to your life. And over the course of time, you’re going to start seeing some major differences.

And these are not just like the usual things that you always hear everybody talking about. I also have a free digital book, How to Lose Weight Permanently that you’re going to want to check out and that one is great as well. It’s quite short, but gives you some really great information that you need. So again, go to katrinaubellmd.com/resources to get all that information.

Okay. On today’s episode, what I want to talk to you about is focusing on the right things versus focusing on the wrong things. So let’s first talk about focusing on the wrong things because that was really what the inspiration was for this episode. Whenever I’m talking to people who are trying to lose weight or are looking for my advice or my thoughts on things, I find that they often are focusing on the wrong things.

Often when I do one of these live trainings, people will come on and ask questions. I know what so many people are thinking about. And in my opinion, they are thinking about the wrong things. I think you might be too. So I want to point out what those are and help you to understand why we focus on those things. And then I’m going to give you some guidance as to what the right things to focus on are as you are working on losing weight.

So when I say you’re trying to lose weight and you’re focusing on the wrong things, what are the wrong things, right? And really what I think the wrong things are, are the things that are not moving you forward toward permanent weight loss. Another way of thinking about it is you are focusing on the wrong things if you are putting effort and energy into activities that only continue to perpetuate emotional eating and over desire or at the minimum don’t solve for them.

So that’s another area where it’s like we’re focusing on these things that seem important, but we’re not putting any or minimal work into solving the actual problem. So let me give you a couple examples of what I mean. One of the most common ones that I get, and there’s a million variations on this theme, but it’s about food details. So I’ll get lots of really, really, really detailed questions about like, “Can I eat this? Or what do you think about eating something like that?” Or real specific about this specific ingredient and that kind of ingredient, and real specifics about timing of meals and all kinds of things that I can tell for the person asking feels really important.

It’s like they believe that if they could just get the answer to that thing, if they could just find out what I think about that one ingredient, then they’re going to be able to move forward and actually create the results that they want to create. Right? They’re like, “This is what I really want to know.”

So often when I’m asked these things, I always answer the question. I’m happy to answer the question, but I always then point out, “I mean, I’ll answer this for you, but I think this is not the question you should be a asking. This is not actually that important.” And I want to point that out. What you should be asking is some other things. And of course I will be describing those to you pretty soon.

Another area where I see that is with exercise. “Tell me how you exercise, Katrina, or you do it this way or this thin person that I know, he or she exercises that way. Or I read this article, how do I know… If I could just figure out that right way to move my body, that’s going to be the thing.”

And listen, for literally 30 years, I spent my life trying to figure out what that is. So if there was an answer, I promise I would share it with you. Okay? I would totally tell you if it existed. But first of all, it doesn’t. And secondly, it’s just not that important. What’s so much more important is you learning how to enjoy being in your body and to enjoy moving it.

So what that is, what that looks like is going to be different for everybody. So I could be one person loves lifting weights. It’s the most amazing thing for them. And some other person is like, “Well, I guess I got to lift weight so that I can lose this weight.” And so they’re doing it and they’re hating every minute of it. Well, no, that goes against what we’re trying to actually accomplish, which is enjoying our lives, enjoying having a body and being in a body.

Enjoying the fact that human bodies are meant to move. What I do know is there is for sure, a way for you to move your body that you can enjoy it. We just have to figure out what it is. But that involves you actually connecting with your body and experimenting. And what we often want is we just want someone who we deem to be an expert to tell us what to do.

I would say that maybe sometimes that works for some people, but often it doesn’t, or maybe it’s just short lived. It’s not an ongoing long-term solution. Okay? So why do we focus on these things. Why are we focusing on them? It’s for sure not your fault at all. Okay? It’s not like you’re doing something wrong. Even if you’re focusing on the wrong things, it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. It just means that you have lacked maybe the guidance, we could say that you are requiring to help you to know what to focus on.

So I think there’s two reasons, kind of broad reasons why we focus on these wrong things. Number one is we often just don’t understand what the real problem is that we’re trying to solve with our weight. And depending on how long you’ve been at this and how many different kinds of programs and maybe books and different things that you’ve consumed, you may have some level of increased understanding.

But I know I didn’t for a very long time. I really just thought it was exercise and food. I mean, all my years in Weight Watchers, that was the main thing to focus on. So if you are like, “Well, what is the real problem I’m not aware?” I want to invite you to join me on my next live training called the Missing Piece to Permanent Weight Loss so that you can understand the problem better in that free training. I give you a deep dive into all that information, exactly what you need to know so that you can lose weight and keep it off forever. It’s a little bit outside the scope of this episode.

But no matter when you’re listening to this, just go to katrinaubellmd.com/loseweight, L-O-S-E-W-E-I-G-H-T. You’ll see when my next free training is, and you’ll be able to come and join me live for that, or get the replay for not able to join me live.

But what ultimately we are thinking here is we think that the food and the exercise is the problem, so we think we need to get those questions answered so that we can do the “right thing”, or the thing that’s going to work and so we can solve the problem. And we just don’t really understand that. I mean, yeah, that factors into it. I’m not saying it doesn’t factor into it, but it’s just a factor. It’s not the whole thing.

We can spend our whole lives and people do trying all the different ways to eat and all the different ways to exercise, hoping that will be the solution. Somewhere out there is the solution they have to find it and they will spend their whole lives in pursuit of this never actually creating the result that they want.

Okay. Number two, why we focus on the wrong things is because ultimately it’s a great distraction for us from doing what we really need to do to solve for the problem, okay? So I just want to be clear that most of the time, this is happening on a subconscious level. So we’re not aware. So again, you’re not doing something wrong if you’re not even aware of it, but what we want to do is bring awareness to it, bring it from that subconscious level to a conscious level so that we can move forward from this place. Okay?

So when I say it’s a great distraction from what we really need to do, what I mean is that when we stay in confusion and in decision, right? Like, “I just don’t know if I can eat this. I don’t know if it’s okay to have that. I don’t know if I should be exercising this way or not.” Then what we can do by keeping our brains really preoccupied and focused on those problems is that we can avoid what we deep down believe will be really uncomfortable and hard.

And that is the emotional work that we need to do, because what we need to do is we need to stop emotional eating. We need to stop overeating. We need to figure out a way to reconnect with our bodies so that we can work with them and understand what really helps them to thrive. Right? That is what I teach is like one food might be great for you and it’s terrible for another person. Well, it’s really, really, quite easy to know that if you reconnect to your body.

So many people, doctors in particular, we are living in our heads. We are completely ignoring what’s happening in our bodies. We don’t like what’s going on in there. If we could just be like a floating head, we’d be happy, right? We’re just like, “If I didn’t have to have a body, I would be all in.” I just want to pretend it doesn’t exist. And in doing that, we are completely ignoring all of the signals that it’s always sending us.

We don’t know how to interpret them. We don’t even know those signals exist. And then we are very confused and we get real intellectual about it, and we need to learn more, and we need someone to tell us something. And instead, what we need to do is reconnect to our bodies because this connection existed when you were born and find out what it’s actually telling you.

When you eat that way, it does not serve us. And the way we know that might be some digestive difficulties. Maybe you feel extra tired. You don’t have the energy you would like. Maybe you feel really sluggish and kind of dragged down and heavy. Maybe certain parts of your body are in pain.

Well, you’re never going to know if you just want to pretend like that doesn’t even exist, right? So we have to be willing to move past the confusion and indecision around those wrong things. Particularly the food details and the exercise. We can just decide, “You know what, I’m going to decide that I am going to eat this food and then I’m going to see what happens.” Or I’m going to decide, “You know what, I don’t even really care about this food that much. I think I’m just kind of keeping myself spinning being very confused and not knowing what I should do when it doesn’t even really matter.” Eat it or don’t eat it. Just make a decision and then move forward and then see what comes up, see how your body responds.

Often, it’s really not that important what the question is. And like I said, I’m always happy to answer it and my team as well. We are happy to answer it, but I think it’s really important to remember that that’s really not that important all in all. Okay? We can answer it, but then we need to be moving forward with the real work that we have to do. So what are those right things to focus on? Well, it’s our thoughts, our feelings and our actions. And so often, especially when we’re focusing on these wrong things, we’re completely disconnected from what we think, feel. And think and feel and how those connect to our actions.

We may know what we’re doing, and we may know that we don’t like it like we’re eating a bag of Doritos in front of the TV at night, or having that extra second or third glass of wine that we told ourselves we wouldn’t have. Right? So you may be aware of those actions, but you want to build awareness about the feelings and the thoughts that are the precursors to those actions.

How do these all connect? When I think this way and feel that way, I do these things, or I don’t do these things. Maybe they’re things that you want to be doing. I don’t eat the foods that I know serve my body. We have to build awareness around this. So whether you eat quinoa or you don’t eat quinoa, isn’t so important. What’s so important is why are you even eating in the first place, right? What’s happening in your body? What are you thinking? What are you feeling? Are you actually experiencing physical hunger or not?

If you’re not, then let’s just find out what’s going on. We’re not even saying you have to stop emotionally eating, but if we could just find out what the emotions are first, that would be super helpful. So rather than worrying about should you be picking up the Peloton that everybody is excited about or not, I mean, sure you can or you don’t have to. It doesn’t really matter. What I would much rather you focus your effort and energy on is becoming aware of what you think and how you feel and how that relates to the actions that you take.

Okay? The second right thing to focus on is letting your body guide your food and exercise choices. I don’t care how anybody else exercises and what it does to their body and whether you like how it looks or what they say, how amazing they feel when they do it, if it does not feel good to you then that’s not a good option for you. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you and it doesn’t mean that you won’t ever be able to have success, it just means that it’s not the right thing for you and something else is going to be the right thing.

We just have to be willing to try it out and experiment. Try different things. Be new at something. So many of my clients find that certain games that they used to play, that they really enjoyed back ages ago, they’re reconnecting to that. That might be playing tennis or people are super into pickle ball right now and that’s super fun. Or getting back out on the golf course, reconnecting with nature, and then maybe not taking a cart and walking instead.

You can get quite a bit of movement in doing that. Enjoying being in your body. People go back into dance and maybe that’s not even like a formal dance class, but just dancing too good music in your house. Several weeks ago I was coaching one client and she was talking about how she really kind of misses those days when she was younger, and she’d go to a club with her friends and just dance with abandon and just have fun.

I was talking about how sometimes that feeling of that heavy, heavy base, how it vibrates your chest, it could just make you feel alive. And at our master’s live event, some of the members there were like, “You know what, we think…” When we were done, they were like, “I think we want to go to a dance club because I haven’t danced in a long time either.” We just want to feel alive and we want to feel free and there’s so many different ways of doing that.

Some people run long distances and feel that way and that’s great for them. Maybe that’s you. And also, maybe it’s not you. We want to be open and accepting to whatever it is, letting our bodies guide us, being willing to listen to the messages they’re sending. Okay? So second right thing to focus on is letting your body guide your food and exercise choices.

And then the third right thing to focus on is learning how to process your emotions instead of eating or drinking them. This is how we stop emotional eating. And so much overeating, which overeating is just eating more food than your body needs. I’ve had many people who struggle with their weight tell me, “No, but I don’t overeat.” I just argue that’s probably not true if your body is overweight.

In some way, you are providing more nutrients than your body needs. We should just look into that. It’s not good or bad. It’s not judgment. It’s just figuring out why your body is functioning in that way. Sometimes we’re like, “No, but this is a normal amount of food.” Maybe it is for someone else and maybe it isn’t for you. Everybody is different and we just have to figure that out.

But what I do know is that everybody needs to learn how to feel their actual emotions instead of avoiding them, pushing them away, stuffing them down by eating or drinking, or some other activity that’s like an overing, an overdoing of something. And for some people that can be through over obsession with food, right? It can go the other direction. Sometimes it can be with over exercise. It can be with shopping too much or just spending a lot of time scrolling, shopping sites.

It can be with overworking. That’s another big one. I mean, yelling at your kids, other drugs, there’s tons of different ways that we can do that to avoid feeling what we’re actually feeling. This is a true skill that most people never learned. I certainly didn’t, and I’ve really had to learn it myself in my ’40s and then how that’s what we spend so much of our time in the Weight Loss for Doctors Only program learning and practicing. It’s like, “Can I actually feel this?”

And building up even the confidence and courage to move ahead with it for so long, we’ve been so afraid to feel what we’re feeling that can be terrifying for some people, because they literally feel like this is like an unsafe thing to do when what they really need is someone to just guide them through the process, which is exactly what my team and I do.

We actually will be there with you, helping you, guiding you, helping you to recognize you can stop anytime you want to. This isn’t something where you have to feel totally out of control. And the more you build up that confidence and build that skill, right? It really truly is a skill that you get better at as you get more practice with it. The more you realize, “You know what, my desire for food is just automatically going down because I’m recognizing that food and my emotions are two totally separate things that do not need to be conflated or even related at all, right? There’s my emotional life and then there’s eating food mostly for nutrition plus a little extra pleasure from time to time.” Right?

So those three things to focus on, building awareness around the thoughts and feelings that are driving your actions. Number two, let your body guide your food and exercise choices, which means reconnecting to your body and actually understanding the messages it’s sending. And number three, to process your emotions instead of eating or drinking them.

To avoid them, those are the right things to focus on. And maybe you’ll decide to drink sparkling water with flavoring or maybe you won’t. It’s probably not going to make that big of a difference ultimately.

And like I said, I’m happy to answer those questions, but I want you to remember, this is not where… You’re not going to get the most, let’s say, bang for your buck by placing your attention on those things, like what to eat, what not to eat and how to be moving your body. Okay?

Just think what would feel good right now. What way could I move my body that would feel good? Often for me, doing some nice stretching feels amazing. It’s such a great way for me to connect with my body. And it’s nothing like formal like I’m doing a stretching class. I literally just stretch my body in ways that feel good. That can be a great entry point into understanding how does my body feel? Does that feel good? Does that feel bad? Are there areas that are extra tight that maybe I’d like to put a little extra attention into as I’m doing some more stretching moving forward?

And then you start to realize, “You know what, gosh, when I move my body a little bit more, when I take that walk, I really do feel more energetic. I really do feel better. Okay, awesome. Then maybe let’s do that a little bit more.” And it can vary from day to day when you have that relationship with your body, you go, “Okay. So yesterday I walked and that felt great. What would feel good today? What can I do for my body that would make me feel amazing? How can I move it in a way that would be really supportive for me?”

And you can understand. If you start exercising this way, it’s a lot easier to like exercise and to want to do the things that you like to do, right? If you always loved swimming and then you have gotten out of that, maybe it’s joining a gym or finding a public pool that you can become a member of or pay to join. And then going and swimming a couple days a week. And not for time and not for racing, but just to feel how good it feels to swim. If that’s something that you enjoy. Okay?

So that’s what I want to encourage you to work on. Of course, I have other free resources for you to give you some more assistance and how to focus on those right things. You can get those for free at katrinaubellmd.com/resources.

All right. Have a wonderful rest of your week. I just want to let you know you’re doing a really good job. Okay? There’s somebody out there who needs to hear that today. And if it’s you, I mean, you’re doing a really, really, really good job. You’re here. You’re listening to this. You’re trying to figure this out. You’re moving forward. I mean, that is what we need, that dedication and willingness to figure it out until it’s done. That’s exactly what you need and you’re here for it. Love it. Have a wonderful rest of your week and I will talk to you next time. Take care. Bye-bye.

Ready to start making progress on your weight loss goals? For lots of free help, go to katrinaubellmd.com and click on free resources.