There are many obstacles that can get in your way when you’re trying to lose weight and, more often than not, it’s the psychological ones that trip you up the most or, in some cases, stop you dead in your tracks. When your weight loss efforts falter or you find yourself returning to your old habits it can be easy to explain it away with “I don’t have the time for this right now” or “life’s too short for dieting”.
Is that really true or is it just an excuse?
Could there be another reason, something buried a little bit deeper, that is sabotaging your weight loss efforts? Here are 5 common obstacles to weight loss and my tips to help you overcome them.
Fear of Failure
This is completely understandable, especially if you’ve spent most of your adult life going from diet to diet yet still haven’t achieve the weight loss you so desire. So why on earth would it be any different this time?
Albert Einstein said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. Yet this is exactly what happens when you go from one diet to the next. It’s not that you lack motivation, dedication or willpower, it’s the fact that traditional dieting (the eat less, exercise more method) simply doesn’t work.
Take a different approach. Rather than start another diet programme, begin by making small, sustainable changes to your lifestyle…
- Choose a smoothie or veggie omelette for breakfast instead of cereal
- Swap out sugary snacks for fruit or nuts & seeds
- Switch from soft drinks to water or herbal tea
You get the idea. You might not get the quick, instantly gratifying results that some diet plans promise, but you won’t feel deprived and, over time, you’ll start to create an enjoyable and sustainable diet that fits your lifestyle and helps you achieve your goals.
You’re worried what your friends & family will think/say?
Many of your close circle will be right behind your decision to make healthy changes to your diet. But there will be those who make snide little digs or unhelpful comments to test your resolve and make you feel uncomfortable with your decisions.
It’s human nature to want to be accepted however, it can keep us from making the right dietary choices especially when the people around us are constantly bringing cakes into the office, going to the all-you-can-eat buffet for lunch or ordering one of each cocktail during happy hour.
Remind yourself that if someone feels the need to pass comment or have a dig, it’s got more to do with them than you. More than likely they will be going through their own struggles around food and weight loss and seeing you take positive action makes them feel uncomfortable with their situation. Or maybe they’re worried that somehow this healthy new lifestyle will change you and that makes them feel insecure about their relationship with you.
Whatever the underlying reasons for their behaviour you have to accept that it is outside of your control. What you can control are the choices that you make and the more times you tackle this obstacle, the easier it becomes. Say no to the doughnuts a few times and you’ll realise that it’s not that hard after all and people aren’t really that bothered.
You eat for comfort
When you’ve had a stressful day it can feel really good to kickback with your favourite food or drink to help you unwind. However, if eating for comfort becomes a habit and you find yourself constantly reaching for the ice cream to make yourself feel better, it can lead to some really negative eating patterns.
Self medicating with food is not reserved solely for stressful situations. We are very good at suppressing all kinds of emotions with food: boredom, distress, anxiety, anger etc. If the ice cream makes us feel good then we don’t have to deal with the emotion.
Overcoming this obstacle takes time and practice and can be uncomfortable at first. The first step is to become more mindful and notice when it happens. Once you have raised your awareness then you can start to interrupt the process and question whether it’s really the ice cream that you need or something else. Maybe a hug from a loved one, listening to some music or taking a relaxing bath would make you feel just a good but without the extra calories.
You’re embarrassed to go to the gym
That daunting place where women with flat stomachs and men with bulging biceps parade in designer workout gear and give disapproving looks at anyone who can’t perform the perfect deadlift.
In reality, gyms are full of people just like you and me who want to lose some weight and get a bit stronger. Everyone has to start somewhere and besides, those guys with the tight vests are far more interested in checking out their own reflection than looking at anyone else!
The only way to overcome this obstacle is to take a deep breath and just do it, but there are a few strategies to make it a little easier.
- Book a few sessions with a trainer. Once you know the correct technique and have a workout plan in place, you will feel much more confident.
- Go during off-peak hours. My work schedule gives me the flexibility to train during the day when most people are at work. This means I often have the gym to myself.
- Workout somewhere else. Not everyone enjoys the gym. Go to a Zumba class, take a long walk, dust of your bicycle … just move your body in a way that feels good and you enjoy.
I don’t want to give up my favourite foods
Traditional diets can be very restrictive and, more often than not, your favourite foods will be banned. I don’t know about you but as soon as I’m told I can’t have something, I want it more.
For example, as you read through the rest of this blog post do not think about white bears. As you continue to read this page you’ll try to suppress any thoughts of white bears but the more you suppress the thought the more it will pop into your head. Research has shown that “the paradoxical effect of thought suppression is that it produces a preoccupation with the suppressed thought.”
The same thing happens the moment you ban one of your favourite foods. I love bread but if I eat too much I start to feel bloated and weight creeps on around my middle. So rather than cut it out completely I choose to only have it occasionally and when I do have it I make sure it’s really really good bread and I enjoy every bite.
Avoid diets that ban any foods or food groups. Of course if you have an intolerance to a particular food then you may have to remove it from your diet, but otherwise just knowing that you can occasionally indulge in your favourite foods will make the weight loss journey less stressful and certainly more enjoyable.
These are the obstacles that immediately sprung to mind when I sat down to write this article. I’m sure there are more. Perhaps you can relate to one or more of these or perhaps you have obstacles of your own you need to overcome. Please leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts.
PS. My apologies if white bears keep popping into your head for the next few hours!