And you are! For a little while at least. You've stuck to the plan, exercised every day for the past two weeks and the scale is moving in the right direction. But over the next few days, you feel your perseverance slipping. Suddenly, you've skipped a few days at the gym, indulged in a few too many high-calorie treats and you just don't seem to have the determination you felt at the start. What is happening, and why, oh why, can't you seem to stick with this for the long haul?
Each day, that quiet whisper in the back of your mind gets louder. "I knew you were going to fail. What made you think you would be successful this time? I thought this program would work, " it says. "This is so boring. These meals are so uninviting. There are so many other things I would rather do than go to the gym. My life is too busy to do what needs to be done to lose weight," before finally declaring the inevitable: "I'm giving up!"
Then there you are again, right back where you started. Having regained the couple of pounds you lost, beating yourself up and resigned to the fact that you just don't have the motivation or discipline needed to win this game. Might as well just turn your attention to those things you are great at, like your job or being an awesome parent. That's who you are, so why fight it?
Does this vicious cycle sound familiar? You've hit a roadblock to permanent weight loss. These aren't physical roadblocks; they are the mental barriers often constructed during a journey to weight loss.
That cycle you hate doesn't have to be your life, though. Awareness is the first step towards change. If you can identify which psychological barriers are tripping you up, you'll have a greater chance of knocking them out of the way, once and for all. Then, you won't need to find another perfect plan; you can create one that makes sense for your lifestyle and finally achieve permanent weight loss.
Call in the Demolition Crew—We're Breaking BarriersFear, doubt, boredom—the brain likes to try to talk you out of your new healthy lifestyle for a wide range of reasons, but those temporary emotions don't have to win out in the end. Identify these nine common mental barriers created by weight-loss candidates before you start your journey and learn how to knock them down once and for all.
1. Fear of failure. Anticipating failure is a huge motivation killer. Why bother trying if you are only going to fail? If you've been struggling for years—despite feeling highly motivated to begin again—a part of you doesn't truly believe you can succeed. Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right."
The best way to overcome a fear of failure is to experience success. Rather than thinking success means losing 50 pounds, aim for five to start. If you used to skip breakfast each morning and now you always eat a healthy one, you have already achieved success. List every difficult accomplishment you have had in your life (and I know there have been many) as a reminder to yourself that you already are a success! Once you have tangible proof that you can be successful, that unfounded fear will slowly dissipate.
2. Not believing the accomplishment will make enough of a positive impact on your life. If you want weight loss but don't think achieving it will make your life that much better, you'll find yourself questioning whether or not all the hard work is worthwhile.
If this is your roadblock, it is time to do some deep soul searching as to why you want to lose weight. Start by creating a list of all the reasons you want to get healthy. Your motivation should link to your core values—your deepest belief in what is important to your life and who you are. "I want to be able to play and keep up with my kids" is a lot more motivating than "I want to fit back into my skinny jeans." In fact, a study published in Obesity reported those who focused on their "why" for weight loss lost 36 percent more weight over the period of one year than those who followed a plan focused solely on cutting calories and increased exercise.
3. Self-doubt. Perhaps you don't believe you have the knowledge, skills or grit to stick to a plan. If that's the case, you'll be erecting roadblocks before you've even begun.
Consider working with a dietician, personal trainer or wellness coach, even if just for a short time. These professionals can help you map out an individualized sensible plan with the vital information you need to succeed. Make it a point to follow inspirational blogs and surround yourself with motivated people to help you see that, with the right attitude and determination, any goal is possible. Follow your gut and intuition as to what healthy habits you need to adopt to reach your end goal—you are more capable than you think!
4. Boredom. Once you find a plan that you can follow, make sure to build in flexibility. Eating the same foods day after day (no matter how healthy); following the same workout routine each time you exercise; declining social invitations for fear that there will be tempting fare you can't resist will get tedious and boring quickly. To avoid ennui and keep things fresh and exciting get creative with your foods. Experiment with new recipes or commit to trying a new fruit or vegetable each week. Rather than diet in isolation, join a group for support and camaraderie. Keep your muscles guessing by signing up for new exercise classes or playing with incline or speed intervals on your next run. And by all means, go to those social events—just be smart. Don't show up hungry, focus on socialization rather than the food and make the best choices available without blowing your plan.
5. Not seeing results quickly enough. We are an instant gratification nation. We want what we want, and we want it now. But sadly, sustained weight loss is not a quick process. Slow and steady leads to permanent results. Give up the quick fix mentality and remind yourself there are no deadlines. Slowly changing your habits to those that support a healthy lifestyle will lead to weight loss. The next time you're not seeing the results you want as fast as you'd like and you feel that familiar tug telling you to just give up, focus on the little victories instead. Notice how much better you feel climbing the stairs, how satisfying it is to know you are taking great care of yourself, how you are demonstrating by example healthy living to your kids—if you look around, there are plenty of results that are not measured by the number on the scale.
6. Comparing yourself to others. Is there anything more demotivating than seeing others you perceive as way more successful than you are? If you are spending time looking at before and after pictures from people bragging about their new bodies on Facebook and Instagram, do yourself a favor and log out. Every individual is different. Everyone's lifestyle, circumstances, body and metabolic profile are different. The only comparison you should be notice is where you are now as compared to where you started. Focus only on your starting line and the road ahead to keep from feeling discouraged as you work toward that finish line.
7. It's all so overwhelming, you don't even know where to begin. When you think about changing your habits and creating a healthier lifestyle, does it look like a mountain so enormous and imposing that you can't imagine ever reaching the top? With so many roads, pitfalls and plateaus to navigate, the idea of adjusting your eating patterns, exercise habits and day-to-day routine may feel insurmountable—but it's not.
Feeling overwhelmed leads to inertia, so you end up doing nothing despite wanting change. The only way to get over it is one step at a time. Rather than jump in with both feet, pick one area on which to focus, break it into small, manageable steps and simply take the first step. During week one, just concentrate on eating a healthy breakfast each day or taking a walk every evening after dinner. When that becomes routine, add in the next step. This may feel like a slow, long way to climb the mountain, but these baby steps will not only eventually guide you to the top, but because you're being mindful of each and every step, they're more likely to stick for the long-term. As Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer, once said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
8. Your goal is a "should" not a "want." When the reason you are attempting to change your habits is that your doctor, spouse, friend or significant others keep telling you it is a must, you will feel pushed rather than pulled towards your goals. It is nearly impossible to keep your motivations elevated if the end results are to please someone other than yourself. Spend time reflecting on who you are losing weight for, and if the answer isn't you, explore why weight loss would make enough of a positive impact in your life to warrant all the hard work.
9. You don't feel others have your back, or they are critical of what you are doing. Achieving any vision is difficult if you don't feel supported by those you love. Add in criticism for what or how you are doing things, and you will begin to question yourself. Even worse, when those you care about sabotage your efforts—"Come on, it's only one cookie and I made them from scratch!"—you feel forced to choose between yourself and loved ones, crushing your motivation in the process. Remember that those who criticize are often struggling with their own issues; it is more about them than you.
To combat daily saboteurs and doubters, focus on finding people that do have your back, no matter if they're friends, family or supporters online. Whether it's sharing your journey with the one best friend who understands and cheers you on or taking the time to explain to your loved ones why their support is invaluable, navigating the journey to weight loss is better with a little help from some friends. Surrounding yourself with love and support will remind you that you're not in this alone and you'll feel more empowered and confident in your decision to take control of your health and your life again.
The right mindset will skyrocket your chance for success. Start every day by setting your intentions to succeed and focus on the work you need to do throughout the day. Give yourself credit every time you engage in behaviors designed to help you reach your goals and take note when you're able to successfully avoid behaviors that would steer you away from those goals. Reward yourself for milestone goals you achieve along the way, too. With some reflection and creative thinking, you can knock down all the mental roadblocks standing in your way of success before you even begin. Let the journey empower you, not just the destination.