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How to overcome weight loss obstacles

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Weight loss action plan

Your New Year's weight loss resolution - you know, the one you made with such gusto on January 1 - is now facing shaky resolve because you haven't lost a single pound despite your best diet and exercise efforts. No doubt, it's discouraging, but before you wallow in your failed weight loss woes, consider the road blocks that your weight loss attempts are facing. Whether your barriers to losing weight are nutritional, physical or psychological, the experts at Mayo Clinic and Dr Donald Hensrud share the following strategies to successfully overcome those frustrating weight loss obstacles.

Annoyed woman on scale

Persistence and change are key in successful weight loss

Long term success in slimming down is rarely an easy achievement, but that does not mean give up at the first setback, or second, or third. You naturally face weight loss obstacles every day, from lack of motivation to eat right and exercise in favor of staying home with the kids to the piles of donuts, candy dishes and soda in the break room at work. The key to leaping over these obstacles in a single bound (and you may need to repeatedly leap them) is to stay persistent in your weight loss efforts and to make necessary changes in your lifestyle and midset to weaken these barriers.

Common weight loss barriers and how to get over them

In their newest book The Mayo Clinic Diet: Eat Well. Enjoy Life. Lose Weight., the experts at Mayo Clinic and Dr Donald Hensrud describe the most common road blocks people face in their quest to achieve a healthy weight and ways to get around them. "Learning to identify potential roadblocks and confront personal temptations is an important part of being successful in losing weight," they write. "To make it past the rough spots, it's important to have strategies ready to guide your response as problems arise."

If you're dealing with shaky, weight loss confidence…

It's natural to lose faith in losing weight if you've tried in the past and had little to no success, or perhaps lost weight and then regained it back. "Don't be discouraged…many people experiment with several weight loss plans before they find an approach that works," explain the authors of The Mayo Clinic Diet.

Strategies to boost your weight loss confidence:

  • Think of losing weight as a positive experience, not a negative one. Approaching weight loss with a positive attitude will help you succeed.
  • Set realistic expectations for yourself. Focus on behavioral changes and don't focus too much on weight changes.
  • Use problem-solving techniques. Write down the obstacles that you experienced in previous attempts to lose weight, and come up with strategies for dealing with those obstacles.
  • Make small, not drastic, changes to your lifestyle. Adjustments that are too intense or vigorous can make you uncomfortable and cause you to give up.
  • Accept the fact that you'll have setbacks. Believe in yourself. Instead of giving up entirely, simply start fresh the next day.

If you eat when you're stressed, depressed or bored...

Emotional overeating seems an easy solution for when you're feeling weak and in need of serious comfort. However, food isn't the long-term solution, and can even cause you more duress when you start to pack on the pounds or your clothes start to feel snug.

Strategies to help keep food unrelated to your mood:

  • Try to distract yourself from eating by calling a friend, running an errand or going for a walk. When you can focus your mind on something else, the food cravings will quickly go away.
  • Don't keep comfort foods in the house. If you turn to high-fat, high-calorie foods whenever you're upset or depressed, make an effort to get rid of them.
  • Identify your mood. Often the urge to eat can be attributed to a specific mood and not to physical hunger. If you aren't truly hungry, resist food and do something else instead.
  • When you feel down, make an attempt to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. For example, write down all of the positive qualities about yourself and what you plan to achieve by losing weight.

If eating is a spectator sport for you…

For many people, food and television or food and entertainment of any kind go hand in hand. "There's nothing inherently wrong with eating while watching a show, film or live event, but when you're distracted, you tend to eat mindlessly -- which typically translates into eating more than you intended to eat," say the Mayo Clinic weight loss experts. "If you're unable to break this habit, at least make sure you're munching on something low in calories."

Strategies to eat mindfully and munch less:

  • If you're at a theater or stadium, order a small bag of popcorn with no butter and work on it slowly.
  • Eat something healthy before you leave home so that you're not extremely hungry when you arrive.
  • Drink water or a calorie-free beverage instead of having a snack.
  • Try to reduce the amount of time that you spend watching television each day. Studies show that TV watching contributes to increased weight.

If you eat too much at parties and celebrations…

Finding party foods hard to resist isn't uncommon. They are typically foods you don't make for yourself and they are always presented in such a way you can't help but want to try every single one. The key, however, isn't to forgo festive gatherings. Instead, treat yourself to just a few of the most appealing eats.

Strategies for navigating the hors d'oeuvre table:

  • Make only one trip down the buffet or appetizers table and be selective. Decide ahead of time how much you'll eat and choose foods you really want.
  • Treat yourself to one or two samples of high-calorie or fatty foods. Fill up on vegetables and fruits, if you can.
  • Take only small portions. A taste may be all that you need to satisfy your craving.
  • Nibble. If you eat slowly, you'll likely eat less -- but don't nibble all night long.
  • Don't stand next to or sit near the hors d'oeuvre table. As the old saying goes, "Out of sight, out of mind."
  • Eat something healthy before you arrive. If you arrive hungry, you'll be more inclined to overeat.

If you're a late-night snacker…

The habit of eating late at night may be a tough one to break, but it can be one of the biggest barriers to your weight loss efforts because you fill up on calories that don't get burned off while you're snug in your bed sleeping.

Strategies to battle the late night munchies:

  • Make sure you eat three good meals during the day, including a good breakfast. This will help reduce the urge to snack late at night, simply because you won't be so hungry.
  • Don't keep snack foods around the house that may tempt you. If you get late-night munchies, eat fruits, vegetables or other healthy snacks.
  • Find something else to keep you busy in the hours before bedtime, such as listening to music or exercising. Your snacking may be more of a mindless habit than actual hunger.

If you have a setback and want to give up...

Eat a half gallon of ice cream after a stressful day at work? Hit the drive-thru for breakfast, lunch and dinner because you didn't pack any food before you left the house? Wake up to a three-pound weight gain? All of these events can make you feel like kicking your diet plan to the curb. However, rest assured, lapses are a normal part of losing weight for everyone. When you lapse, don't give up; just get back on track.

Strategies to prevent a lapse from becoming a collapse:

  • Convince yourself that lapses happen and that every day is a fresh opportunity to start over again.
  • Guilt from the initial lapse often leads to more lapses. Being prepared for them and having a plan to deal with them is important to your success.
  • Keep your response simple. Focus on the things that you know you can do and stick with them. Gradually add more healthy changes until you're back on track.
  • Open up an old food record and follow it. Use those meals like a menu to help get you back to a healthy eating routine.

Even more tips to help you lose weight for the long-term

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