How to Overcome Common Weight Loss Barriers

Get Past the Challenges That Keep You From Losing Weight

Woman smiling and flexing after overcoming her weight loss barriers

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If you've experienced barriers to weight loss, you're not alone. Everyone experiences challenges that are specific to their individual weight loss journey. Your life circumstances, stress, finances, time, genetics, and body image can all become barriers to healthy weight loss, but that doesn't mean you can't work towards overcoming them.

Most people can expect to encounter roadblocks when trying to reach their weight loss goals. Those who are successful at losing weight and keeping it off are the ones who learn to break through their weight loss barriers as they arise. Here, we identify some common barriers and practical tips for conquering them.

The Types of Weight Loss Barriers

The first step to addressing your setbacks requires you to look within. Once you recognize your personal obstacles, you can develop some of the necessary skills to rise above them. Know that many of the challenges you're facing have been faced before. Eating healthfully and sticking to an exercise program isn't always easy. Most people experience ups and downs along the way.

Some weight loss barriers are perceived barriers, meaning that the barrier is based on your personal thoughts or feelings. Perceived barriers can be just as significant and as real as concrete barriers, which include barriers like health conditions and physical limitations. Whether your challenges are perceived or concrete, most can further be classified 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. Issues such as dehydration and lack of sleep may also play a role in your ability to lose weight. 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 about your struggles to lose weight. Perhaps there is a medical issue contributing to your frustration.

For example, certain medications (including steroids, birth control pills, and certain medications for depression) can cause weight gain. If you have recently quit smoking, you may experience weight gain. Hormonal changes (such as those experienced during menopause) may make weight loss more difficult and can contribute to weight gain. And medical conditions including PCOS and certain thyroid disorders are associated with weight gain.

Expand Your Healthcare Team

Ask your primary care physician for referrals to a registered dietitian, physical therapist, psychologist, and/or obesity medicine specialist. These specialists can tailor your treatment program to support your goals. With a physician referral, there is usually a better chance that services will be covered by insurance. Check your policy to find out what your plan will cover. Speak with the specialist's office to ask about out-of-pocket rates if needed.

Improve Your Sleep

Researchers have found that not getting enough sleep can mess with your metabolism. Studies have found that your hormonal balance can shift when you don't get the sleep you need and you may experience increased hunger and appetite. In fact, evidence shows that people who get fewer total hours of sleep (less than seven hours) are more likely to be overweight or obese.

The good news is that making a few changes to your sleep routine may help you to slim down. Experts recommend that you go to sleep at the same time each night, sleep in a cool, dark room, and remove electronic devices (such as tablets and cell phones) to encourage a relaxing environment.

Get Hydrated

Simple changes to your daily routine can make weight loss easier. Staying hydrated is one simple change that has numerous health benefits and it may even help you to slim down. In fact, studies have shown that drinking more water is associated with better weight loss results.

It is not unusual to confuse the sensations of hunger and thirst. Keep filled water bottles in your fridge to grab and go. Add berries or other ingredients (like basil or cucumber) if you prefer. If you find yourself grazing in the kitchen throughout the day, consider drinking several ounces of water before eating to see if it satisfies your craving.

Do Your Homework

Investigate different exercise plans and healthy cooking tips. Habits that lead to weight loss are more manageable when they're fun. For example, non-weight bearing activities, such as water aerobics, may be more comfortable if you have obesity, pain or joint issues. Make changes to your daily meal plan by signing up for an informative cooking class where you can learn new ways to prepare vegetables or lean meats and enjoy your time in the kitchen.

Environmental Barriers to Weight Loss

Perhaps some of the reasons you have trouble losing weight are related to your environment. When your surroundings don't support a healthy diet and exercise plan, it can feel like you're fighting a losing battle. Environmental barriers, including limited access to healthy food or exercise facilities, poor social support, or a lack of time due to social, family, and professional pressures, can make weight loss seem impossible at times.

Talk to the People Around You

Get support from family and friends by communicating your needs. Be specific about the ways that they can help make your plan a success. Maybe your partner is willing to take on extra tasks, or your kids could help out more around the house. Your employer might be willing to support your healthy lifestyle by offering wellness resources or flexibility in your work schedule. A healthy employee is a productive employee (most of the time). Luckily, more and more employers have begun recognizing the benefits of wellness programs.

Get Creative With Exercise

If going to the gym is out of the question for you, there are plenty of at-home workout options available. Rent or purchase exercise DVDs, check your television schedule for fitness programming or find free workouts online. There are also plenty of smartphone and tablet apps that provide exercise programming. You'll find different types of classes as well as tips, forums, and other resources.

You can also take advantage of the resources right outside of your doorstep to get in shape. Walking is a wonderful way to exercise. Walk on neighborhood paths, climb the stairs in your office or apartment building, or plan a family hike over the weekend. Many shopping malls offer special hours for walkers who want to exercise before the crowds take over.

Emotional Barriers to Weight Loss

It sounds counter-intuitive to say that you want to lose weight, but your feelings about weight loss are holding you back. Nonetheless, emotional barriers to weight loss are well-documented and often significant. These barriers may include skepticism about your ability to reach your goals, negative associations with physical activity, high-stress levels, or simply a lack of motivation.

Enlist the Help of a Qualified Professional

Many behavioral health specialists (including social workers, therapists, and psychologists) focus on the emotions related to body weight. If you have already investigated possible medical reasons for your weight concerns, consider speaking to a therapist about emotional concerns.

Learn to Motivate Yourself

Motivation is a skill that can be learned. Techniques like positive self-talk and journaling are both proven ways to boost your motivation levels and power you forward in the right direction.

Self-monitoring has also been shown as an effective tool for weight loss. Self-monitoring may include keeping a food diary, practicing regular weigh-ins, or tracking your physical activity with a paper log, a fitness tracker or an app. The practice of self-monitoring helps you to observe your daily behaviors to increase awareness so that you can make changes as needed.

Use Stress-Reduction Techniques

Stress that is related to your busy schedule, family issues, a lack of weight loss results, or an ongoing medical condition can quickly lead to emotional eating and weight gain. In fact, chronic stress has been associated with the development of obesity.

On the other hand, stress reduction techniques (such as deep breathing or guided visualization) have been shown to improve weight loss outcomes. You can learn stress reduction techniques such as different breathing techniques, meditation, or journaling. Schedule these activities into your day to keep yourself seated in the right mindset for success.

A Word From Verywell

Remember, maintaining a healthy weight is a marathon, not a sprint. In the same way that one day of healthy eating won't undo a month of less healthy choices, the reverse is also true. Take advantage of opportunities in your day to day life to make nutritious choices. Balancing your lifestyle with regular physical activity and stress management techniques can go a long way in feeling your best at any weight.

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