Updated December 04, 2014.
What keeps you from losing weight? Are you having a hard time sticking to your diet? Do you hate to exercise? If the answer to either question is yes, then you are experiencing barriers to weight loss.
Most people will confront some sort of challenge as they try to reach their weight loss goal. The ones who are successful at losing weight are the ones who have learned to overcome weight loss barriers.
Different Types of Weight Loss Barriers
The first step to addressing the challenges that come up in the weight loss process is to understand each barrier. Once you can identify each challenge it becomes easier to develop the skills necessary to move past it. It is also helpful to understand that the challenges you confront are the same barriers that many other dieters confront as they try to eat well or stick to an exercise program.
Some weight loss barriers are perceived barriers, meaning that the barrier is based on the thoughts or feelings of the dieter. Perceived barriers can be just as significant and real as concrete barriers which might include a health condition or physical limitation. Whether the challenge is perceived or concrete, most barriers can be divided into three main categories: physical, environmental and emotional.
Physical Barriers to Weight Loss
Common physical barriers to weight loss include fatigue, discomfort, and underlying medical issues. While these barriers can be significant, there are ways to get around them and still lose weight.
- Communicate with your physician. Talk to your doctor if you can't lose weight. There may be a medical cause. Weight gain can be caused by medication, as well as hormonal imbalances, thyroid disorders, or menopause.
- Expand your health care team. Work with your primary care physician to get referrals to a registered dietitian or physical therapist who can tailor services to meet your needs. Often, if a physician referral is provided there is a greater chance that insurance will help cover the cost of the service. Be sure to check your policy for the specifics of your own program.
- Do your homework. Investigate different exercise plans or healthy cooking tips so that weight loss habits become more manageable. For example, non-weight bearing activities, such as water aerobics, are often more comfortable for people who are obese or who have joint problems. To make dieting less difficult, consider signing up for a cooking class to learn new ways to prepare healthy vegetables or lean meats.
Environmental Barriers to Weight Loss
Sometimes the reason that you don't lose weight is that your environment doesn't support your diet and exercise plan. Environmental barriers can include lack of access to healthy foods or to exercise facilities, lack of social support, or lack of time due to social, family and professional pressures.
- Talk to the people around you.Get support from family and friends by communicating your needs. Be specific about the ways in which they can help you to make your plan a success. Your spouse may be willing to take on extra tasks; your kids can help around the house. Your employer may even be willing to support your diet and exercise plan by providing some flexibility to your work schedule. After all, a healthy employee is more likely to be a productive employee.
- Get creative about exercise. If going to the gym is out of the question, rent or purchase exercise DVDs, check your television schedule for fitness programming or use the resources right outside your door to get in shape. Walking is a great way to exercise. Walk neighborhood paths, climb the stairs in your office or apartment building or plan a family hike for the weekend. Many shopping malls even offer special hours for walkers who want to exercise before the crowds take over.
Emotional Barriers to Weight Loss
It would seem likely that if you want to lose weight, the last thing holding you back would be your own feelings about weight loss. But emotional barriers to weight loss are well documented and can be significant. These barriers may include skepticism about your ability to lose weight, a negative physical activity history, stress, or lack of motivation.
- Enlist the help of a qualified professional. Many behavioral health specialists including social workers, therapists and psychologists specialize in dealing with emotions related to weight loss, weight gain and obesity. If you have investigated medical causes for your inability to lose weight, consider speaking to a therapist about an emotional cause.
A certified personal trainer may also be able to help. The American Council on Exercise, a non-profit agency that educates personal trainers, teaches fitness professionals about providing social support to clients who have had negative experiences with exercise.
- Learn to motivate yourself. Motivation is a skill that can be learned. Techniques such as positive self-talk and journaling are two techniques that experts use to boost motivation.
- Use stress reduction techniques. Stress from a lack of weight loss results, from a medical condition or just from everyday annoyances can lead to emotional eating and to weight gain. Learn a few stress reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or journaling and schedule them into your day.
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