Barriers to Weight Loss #3 (Emotional Barriers)

emotional barriers to weight lossSo far in this article series we have discussed 2 of the 3 key barriers to weight loss.  These obstacles might help to account for why around 60% of the UK population are overweight or obese.  We have looked at the Physical Barriers (medical issues, injuries, etc.) and Environmental Barriers (work schedules, other commitments, gym accessibility, etc.).

Today we will discuss the 3rd and final barrier according to ‘Barriers to Weight Loss #3 – Emotional Barriers’.

Emotional Barriers to Weight Loss – Things Aren’t Bad Enough

It is human nature to try and make ourselves feel better psychologically.  Have you ever heard people say: “I’m just meant to be fat. It’s the way I was made”, or “I am happy as a fat person and don’t want to lose any weight”?  There may be a very small minority of people who say these things and mean them, but it is more likely that they have simply given up trying to lose weight, or don’t really know how.  They may even feel like they are truly unable to lose weight and don’t have the resources to do so.  I know because I said these things at one time.  I tried to convince myself that they were true, but eventually I had to accept that I wasn’t being honest with myself!

Other people use tactics such as comparing themselves to others.  As an example, someone might be overweight, but make no effort to change because they choose to only notice people who are more overweight than them.  This observation is then used as a means of rationalising their decision to not make a change.  Unfortunately, there will always be people who are in a worse condition, especially if the goal posts are continually being moved.  This form of rationalising might prevent a person from making a change indefinitely!

Another tactic people use is to delay making a change.  This will be characterised by people who say “I will start eating healthily on Monday”, or “I will start exercising in the new year”.  If the decision isn’t important enough to start right away, then what is likely to be different on Monday?  Is it possible that the deadline may get pushed back further when Monday comes and goes?!

barriers to weight lossThe only way to stimulate change is to realise how bad things are right now by being honest with yourself.  Acknowledge that your health isn’t where you deserve it to be and vow to make amends immediately.  This has to be the first step in the process or change, otherwise any improvements won’t stick.  Programmes such as ‘Body for Life’ made people realise how bad things were by getting them to take their clothes off and take photographs of themselves!  This offers a very powerful visual indicator that the time for change is now, especially if you are significantly overweight!

Some of the other things that make people realise how bad things are might be the onset of diabetes, high cholesterol, or worse still, heart attacks and strokes.  Fortunately, it doesn’t take something quite so drastic for most people to realise that lifestyle improvements are needed.

Evaluate your current body weight, health and fitness levels.  Are things bad enough that you are ready to make a change?  Weigh yourself, calculate your BMI, attempt 50 star jumps and 20 press-ups, take photos of the parts of your body you don’t like and ask yourself honestly: “Are things bad enough for me to take the necessary steps to better myself?”

Emotional Barriers to Weight Loss – Getting Leverage

Let’s assume that if you are still reading then your answer to the question above was: “yes”.  Whilst you are in the right frame of mind you should take some immediate steps to prepare yourself for your new healthy eating plan and your exercise regime.

throwing away bad foodThrow away unhealthy food.  Do a shop for healthy foods or book an online grocery shop to arrive on the day you are going to start.  Plan your meals for the week and purchase containers to take food to work on a daily basis.

Book an appointment at the gym to sign up for a membership, or book a fitness class.  Order an exercise DVD and some gym clothes. Schedule 3 CV sessions for next week – do whatever it takes!  ‘The Complete Health Toolkit Workbook’ will provide some additional suggestions:


Emotional Barriers to Weight Loss – Plans into Action

sample exercise planIt is important to recognise that a comprehensive plan, supports action.  If you have a plan which outlines the meals that you will eat for the next 7 days, as well as when you will exercise and what exercises you will do, then you are far more likely to adhere to your healthy eating plan and fitness regime.

By contrast, if you plan is vague and non-specific then you are less likely to follow through.  If your plan just states that you will eat healthily and do some exercise, then its non-prescriptive nature leaves the boundaries open to manipulation!

Prepare a strict schedule and do your best to stick to it.  Note that any slight slippage should not be viewed as failure, rather a learning experience and a necessary part of the journey.

Emotional Barriers to Weight Loss – Recording and Tracking

I believe that the real key to adhering to a target of any kind is to record incremental results and monitor progress.  By doing this daily, it gives you the opportunity to review how closely you have adhered to your plan.  It offers a means for holding yourself to account.  You can make minor changes for day-to-day improvements as your confidence grows.

sample calorie trackerOver time, you will also be able to identify what works best for you.  You might find that you can be less rigid with your calorific intake providing you complete your cardiovascular exercise sessions, or you might find that consuming slightly more calories actually aids your weight loss.  Everyone is different, but without keeping a log of key information, you will never have the opportunity to review which aspects move you towards your goals more quickly.

The trackers provided with ‘The Complete Health Toolkit’ are ideal for recording this information:


The final message that I wish to share on this topic is that when you are truly ready (emotionally) and determined, any physical and environmental barriers often pale into relative insignificance.  All too often, these types of barriers are used as softeners or smoke screens for people who aren’t really ready to make a change.  Focus on overcoming any emotional barriers first, as these have the greatest potential to knock you off course and keep you from achieving your goals.

Use the links below to read more about the other two primary barriers to weight loss:



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