Mental and Physical Obstacles to Weight Loss Motivation

Therapy, hypnosis and other medical interventions can be very effective tools to help you lose weight. But you might wonder if it can really help you maintain your weight loss motivation, especially when it feels like you’ve already tried every diet under the sun. 

One of the keys to successful weight loss motivation is understanding why you want to lose weight and what aspects of your own personality or lifestyle might get in the way of that motivation. 

In order to develop a comprehensive, mindful approach to weight loss, it’s important to understand both the common hurdles to achieving sustainable weight loss as well as the healthy mindset you want to work towards.

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Common Mental Obstacles to Successful Weight Loss

The biggest obstacle for most people trying to lose weight is a combination of an unhealthy mindset and a misunderstanding of the common physiological problems that can exacerbate weight loss issues.

In terms of mindset, we don’t arrive in this world as adults with fully formed opinions, habits, and thought processes. Who we are as people—both mentally and physically—is the result of a process that has developed over time. We don’t become overweight overnight and so we’re not going to reach our goal weight overnight either. 

Yet we often blame ourselves when diet and exercise don’t produce immediate results.

The truth is that it can take time, energy, and both conscious and unconscious thoughts to break through that faulty mindset and reset our body’s metabolism and habits. 

The best way to address difficulty losing weight is to understand how we developed a mindset of helplessness (“I’ll never lose weight”) or self-blame (“I could lose weight if I worked harder”). 

Poor Body Image: Most of us live in a very image-conscious society. It’s filled with projections of body image that are built on unrealistic expectations. When we’re barraged by images of skinny, high-cheeked supermodels and pop stars on such a regular basis, it’s a wonder that all of us aren’t living with a skewed image of what we’re “supposed” to look like. 

Once you add in a layer of “reality-based” cosmetic surgery on television and over-the-top air-brushed social media images, it’s hardly surprising that you may have developed unrealistic expectations of what you should look like.

The problem is that a poor body image doesn’t just go away with weight loss. Even when people get down to their goal weight, they often discover that they still have body image issues. And weight loss alone—without considering the reasons you are unhappy with your body image—may not be enough to feel better about yourself.

Although you might intuitively think that a poor body image could motivate you to lose weight, in fact, the opposite is true. When we feel ashamed of our bodies, it’s easy to become demoralized, and to feel that we’ll never be “good enough.”

When we learn to accept and celebrate our bodies as they are, it creates room for us to enjoy a healthy lifestyle, rather than to pursue it as part of a seemingly endless pursuit of perfection.

Over-Reliance on Guilt and Shame as Motivators

The most successful and sustainable lifestyle choices don’t have their roots in negative emotions. In much the same way that drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs work, achieving successful weight loss is about looking forward and not back. 

Negative or aversive logic arguments like, “Doughnuts will make you sick,” can work for brief periods of time, but simply aren’t helpful in the long run. Messages like, “Unnecessary food is a burden on my body and I’m going to shed what I don’t need” are far healthier and more motivating. These mantras are in direct support of your primary motivations to lose weight and can help you maintain a positive mindset.

One long-standing suggestion that some therapists and dieticians use says, “For my body, too much food is damaging. I need my body to live. I owe my body respect and protection.”

Setting Unrealistic Expectations

As we noted above, unrealistic expectations are a powerful enemy of successful weight loss. You’re capable of achieving amazing things, but if you expect you’ll be able to ditch all of the sweets overnight or lose 50 pounds in a month, failing to reach that goal can leave you feeling defeated.

Visualization is a powerful weight loss strategy, but if the goals you’re visualizing aren’t realistic, it can create a cycle of gaining and losing weight that isn’t sustainable (or healthy). 

Setting unattainable goals doesn’t support your original weight loss motivations; these goals will only present a challenge.

On the other hand, setting and accomplishing achievable goals leads to feelings of accomplishment. Also, people who reach their self-determined weight loss goals are more likely to maintain their weight loss in the long term.

Feeling better isn’t always about looking like someone else or mirroring their results, and it’s important to set expectations and goals you can achieve, especially when trying to stay motivated in a new weight loss program.

Too Much Focus on the Desired End Results

Let’s face it, we all respond to immediate gratification. It’s easy to become impatient when you’re trying to lose weight. Positive visualization and celebrating little victories and milestones can help throttle that desire to lose weight too fast. 

However, like athletes preparing for competition, visualizing victory can better prepare you to reach your goals. Imagining what your life can be like when you maintain healthy eating habits can help you envision and implement the necessary steps to actually become that healthy eater.

During the process, though, it’s important to accentuate the positive in order to maintain your current weight loss motivation. Setting process-oriented goals can achieve that success. An example of a process goal would be exercising four times during a week. Studies have found that participants who focused on the process rather than the outcome (final goal weight, for example) are more likely to lose weight and less likely to deviate from their healthy habits. 

Common Physiological Problems that Can Affect Weight Loss

As we mentioned before, the other side of the weight loss challenge coin is physiological problems. Sometimes weight loss challenges aren’t just a problem of motivation or mindset. And in some cases, physiological problems may be affecting your mental process. 

Some of the most common physiological challenges may include:

Cravings Due to Blood Sugar Dysregulation

You might be shocked at how easy it is for your blood sugar levels to be disrupted—a factor as simple as stress can do it. Excessive sugar and carbohydrate consumption, especially when combined with lower fat and protein intake, can result in unstable and rapid glucose metabolism that drives frequent cravings for sugary foods. 

The problem with rapid and large blood glucose surges, also known as hyperglycemia, is that they ultimately create a stress response in the body. Stress can affect blood glucose levels, and the resulting cravings and increased sugar intake can create more stress. 

The cycle of stress and blood sugar dysregulation can be difficult to escape on your own, and may lead you to the faulty belief that dieting just isn’t something your body can handle. By addressing surges in blood sugar at the source, you can reduce cravings and increase motivation.

Battling Hunger and Low-Calorie Dieting

Diets that restrict total calories don’t work—at least not in a healthy, sustainable way. Having a positive mindset and controlling portions is the only way to reliably lose weight and actually keep it off. 

A traditional low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet triggers fat cells to hoard too many calories, which can increase hunger and slow your metabolism. Cutting back calories only makes the situation worse. In many cases, you’ll lose more weight (and feel more motivated) sticking to a low-carb, high-fat (LCHF), or ketogenic diet.

Weight Loss Plateaus & Starvation Mode

There are an astonishing number of myths about weight loss, largely fueled by the multi-billion dollar secondary industries that take advantage of people trying to lose weight. 

One common myth is the idea of a weight loss plateau, during which you might struggle to lose more weight. It isn’t that a plateau doesn’t exist, but it can be overcome without dramatically changing your diet or exercise routine. The answer is to modify behaviors and food intake in small ways until you find the right combination of behaviors to move past the plateau.

Another myth is the idea that dramatically cutting calorie intake will help you lose weight faster. Starving yourself isn’t a healthy way to lose weight. When your body goes into starvation mode, it actually stores a greater percent of calories as fat. And what could be more demotivating than starving yourself with a low-calorie diet, only to discover you’ve set yourself up for more easily gaining fat!

Losing weight is a process, one that can be aided by therapy or hypnosis to replace negative connotations and impulses with positive ones that help keep you motivated and on track.

Food/Sugar Addiction

Most people think of addiction as it relates to alcohol, drug use or coffee. What you may not realize is that food, especially foods with high sugar content, can be addictive as well. 

There’s a lot of science and chemistry to explain addiction, but the long and short of it is that addiction hijacks the brain, making it harder to maintain motivation and reach your goals. 

When you’re under the spell of sugar addiction, motivation and willpower aren’t likely to last long. The powerful attraction to eating starchy and sugary foods needs to be broken at the source if you want to make long-term changes. During the initial period of abstaining from sugary foods, choose satisfying substitutes like healthy fats that can help you feel full without feeding the cycle of addiction. Hypnosis can also go a long way towards reprogramming negative impulses into positive ones. 

Takeaways on Weight Loss Motivation

The mind and the body will always be inexorably linked. You can’t change the body without also changing the mind. 

Addressing both mindset and physiological obstacles before jumping into any kind of portion control or exercise regimen will help you discover—and keep—your motivation to lose weight. 

Learn more about barriers to weight loss and how to maintain your motivation by checking out our ultimate guide on What to Do When Diet & Exercise Aren’t Enough.

Curious if hypnosis could help you lose weight?

Take our hypnotizability test and find out!