Weight Loss

Psychological Blocks To Weight Loss

Lesson 4

Why is it that we cannot just make a decision to lose weight, do it and keep it off? The answer to that question is complicated and many factors play a role, most of which are psychological in nature. 

Lack Of Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is always the first step to change of any kind. In order to make changes, you must identify and accept what psychological blocks exist within you in your weight loss efforts. Once you know what they are, you can address them and facilitate change. Knowledge, journaling, workbooks and a coach or therapist can all help you to gain awareness. 


Do you believe that you deserve to be fit, healthy and at a normal weight? Many people don’t. This psychological block is very real and deters your success quickly and mercilessly. 

Where there is low self-esteem or worse yet, self-hatred issues, staying overweight and being overweight can be a subconscious form of self-punishment. When you don’t believe you deserve it, or you have a need to punish yourself self-sabotage will read its ugly head quickly stopping long term success in its tracks. These can be deep seeded issues, and a licensed mental health professional can help you work through them.

Your Thoughts And Beliefs Play A Key Role In Self-Sabotage

Consider this scenario: You’re at dinner and see cheesecake on the menu. You think, “it’s only cheesecake, I had a long day, my body is craving it so it must need it, or I went to the gym today, a little piece won’t hurt me.” You eat the cheesecake, then you feel guilty and anxious and berate yourself for falling into the same old trap. 

The initial thought or thoughts is what led to giving into that cheesecake, other examples of such thoughts include:

  • Why should I suffer, I am starving
  • I’ve had a long hard day, I deserve it
  • It’s okay to cheat tonight, I will start over tomorrow
  • What’s the point, I have no willpower anyway
  • I have no control over my cravings, it’s too hard to fight them
  • I will eat this but workout for 2 hours tomorrow to make up for it
  • I shouldn't deprive myself

You have to change your thought patterns in order to strengthen your resistance and replace self-sabotaging thoughts with empowering accurate and rational thoughts.

  • Why should I suffer, I am starving instead: it’s uncomfortable but it will go away”
  • I’ve had a long hard day, I deserve it – instead: “I deserve the best health and body”
  • It’s okay to cheat tonight, I will start over tomorrow – instead: “tomorrow is today, there are no more excuses”
  • What’s the point, I have no willpower anyway – instead: “I have total control over my actions and what I eat”
  • I have no control over my cravings, it’s too hard to fight them – instead: “I have a craving, but that doesn’t mean I have to give in, it will pass”
  • I will eat this but workout for 2 hours tomorrow to make up for it – instead: “I won’t eat this because I am committed to my own good health and weight loss”
  • I shouldn't deprive myself – instead: “I deprive myself of what is unhealthy, but with that I am giving myself so much more that is”

Your Emotional Readiness

 Being unprepared for the changes to come is a major psychological block to weight loss. Preparing yourself both emotionally and mentally for change is key. Often, dieters view dieting as some temporary event, and when the diet is over, they simply return to business as usual. This is a mistake, as it rarely results in any lasting weight loss success. 

Lasting weight loss requires a major shift in mindset, habits and behaviors and this requires an earnest effort in preparing yourself for change, a major change.

Distorted Thinking

The most egregious cognitive distortion that blocks people from losing weight is…"I should be able to eat anything I want, whenever I want." Unfortunately, this is a pipe dream. 

In order to have the proper mindset and the correct psychology for weight loss you must change your thought process towards a healthier lifestyle, this includes:

  • Learning to feel satisfied with just being satisfied after a meal, and not stuffed 
  • Learning to identify real hunger versus a mental desire to eat for other reasons
  • Being able to overcome cravings
  • The ability to monitor food intake – which includes mindful eating and portion control
  • Develop healthy coping skills for stress, and negative emotions
  • Be comfortable with and accept that food restrictions and portion sizes are a natural part of a healthy weight
  • Accept that lasting habit changes are needed for lasting weight loss and this means that healthy thinking must be maintained for life

Poor Self-Esteem

One of the biggest blocks to weight loss is poor self-esteem. Poor self-esteem is likely a huge contributing factor to you being overweight and it is also one of the main blocks to losing the weight and keeping it off. If you don’t feel that you deserve to be healthy, then it is difficult to do what you need to to get there.

It’s as simple as this, when you love yourself, you want to take care of yourself, and do the best for yourself, and being overweight or obese does not comply with those needs. In fact, it can be viewed as a form of self-abuse. 

There is also the fact that for those with low self-esteem or worse yet, self-hatred issues staying overweight and being overweight can be a subconscious form of self-punishment. These can be deep seeded issues, and a licensed mental health professional can help you work through them.

Emotional Distortion: Connecting Food To Feelings

How many times has the thought of a cheeseburger and fries (or whatever) made you happy, elated, alleviated your stress or improved your day? This association of food with feelings and using food as an emotional crutch is an unhealthy thought process and a very real psychological block to weight loss and healthy eating.

Living To Eat Versus Eating To Live

Notice the difference between the two mentalities. “Eating to live” is a healthy mindset that considers food as sustenance and a requirement for survival. On the other hand, the “living to eat” mindset is obsessed with food and uses food as an emotional crutch, and typically results in eating for reasons other than hunger. 

 Until you shift your mindset towards “eating to live,” and seeing food as it was intended for sustenance, it will be difficult to lose weight and most importantly to keep it off, as your food obsession will take over all your dietary decisions. 

Body Shame

Syracuse University research found that “the more dissatisfied women are with their bodies, the more likely they are to avoid exercise.”

Body shame is a major psychological block that could be controlling your ability to lose weight. Whether you feel embarrassed about your general appearance, have shame about a specific aspect of your body, or have a traumatic event in your past that has shaped your body image, recognizing your body shame is the first step in overcoming it.

Share your body shame with someone you trust. If you want to make peace with your body and your feelings about food, you need to talk about it. If you do not want to share it with a friend or loved one, write about it in a journal or private blog. 

Share your body shame stories with a professional or join an online support community. Talking about your body image issues can help you learn to deal with them and take steps toward overcoming the habits that have led to this point. 

Distorted Positive Benefits

A huge psychological block to weight loss is the subconscious belief that you are getting more benefit from staying overweight than in losing the weight. This may sound crazy, but it makes sense for many, as losing weight presents a whole slew of changes in one’s life. It is also a challenge to lose weight and keep it off, so avoiding that challenge can be a payoff in itself.

Your Turn: Consider carefully your payoffs for staying overweight, make a list and counter those with the benefits of losing weight. 

Belief In The Magic Diet

Believing that that "special magic diet" will save you is one of the most common psychological blocks to lasting weight loss. So, the merry go round goes like this, “oooh a new diet that promises fast results,” you get on the diet, you lose 10 pounds and then you “get off” the diet and return to eating as you normally do. No lasting changes have been made, and so you gain the 10 pounds back or more. Then 3 months later, once again… “oooh a new diet that promises fast results,” and here we go again….

Sound familiar? How many times have you been down that road?

The truth is diets don’t work. There is NO magic diet. The key to lasting weight loss is making profound lifestyle habit changes, which involve eating habits and also your mindset towards food. 

Finding Joy In Food Beyond The Norm

This is another distorted thinking process where abnormally high levels of joy are connected to eating. Typically, this includes fatty and sugar filled foods that actually affect the brain much like cocaine and heroin, causing instant and large floods of pleasure neurotransmitters to flood the brain. 

Inability to Handle Discomfort

Fear of or lack of comfort with discomfort is another psychological block to weight loss. All change in life involves some level of discomfort, and a weight loss journey presents a lot. It is therefore very important to get comfortable with discomfort. This is a life skill that can also help you many ways in life. 

Practice is key, so spend 10 minutes each day in some type of discomfort. Sit out in the cold without a jacket, take ice cold showers, skip dinner, whatever makes you uncomfortable, just do it. 

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