11 weight loss barriers to overcome before you can hit your goals

If you're trying to lose weight and getting nowhere, you could be sabotaging your own efforts without even realising it

Woman working out to lose weight
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When you’re trying to lose weight, the obvious places to start are sorting out your diet and fitness.

And whilst figuring out the best exercises for weight loss and how to eat healthily are valid and necessary steps, so often we overlook the just-as-important aspects of mental preparation.

Husband and wife duo Claire and James Davis are founders of The Midlife Mentors, and help their clients lose weight through physical, mental and emotional mentoring. Below they share 11 mental challenges people typically face, and share ways to combat them to help you breakthrough your own emotional barriers and achieve your weight loss goals.

Barrier #1. You haven’t set clear goals and your ‘why’

'So many of us set goals for our careers, our finances, our family life, but often we fail to give ourselves permission to set health goals around how we want to look and feel. Without goals, there’s no plan - it’s simply a wish. Goals are essential to provide milestones and motivation. 

'Even more important is why you want to achieve those goals. Get really clear on the emotional connection to the goal to see you through difficult days.'

Barrier #2. You’re too stressed

'We’re all aware of the mental and emotional toll stress can take on our emotional and mental wellbeing, but did you know it can affect your body too? When levels of the stress hormone cortisol remains raised, our bodies are more likely to hold onto fat, particularly in the abdomen and hip and thigh areas. 

'If that wasn’t bad enough, stress also makes you crave higher energy foods, meaning you’re also more likely to overeat. 

'Learn some stress management techniques to help your body and mind. After all, we cannot always change what’s going on in the external world, but we can be responsible for how we react.'

Barrier #3. You don’t practice gratitude

'Numerous studies have shown that constant practice of gratitude can improve your emotional, physical and mental health - not to mention make you more optimistic, create better sleep patterns and a tendency to help others, which in turn pays dividends back to your wellbeing.

'Simply take 3-5 minutes each morning to simply write down three things you are grateful for. The key is to really feel the gratitude - not just pay lip service to the practice. Over time your effort compounds and you’ll start feeling the difference in mind, body and soul.'

Barrier #4. You aren’t accountable to anyone

'When we’re accountable to someone else we’re much more likely to stick to our goals. Knowing someone else is depending on you makes you accountable, which increases your chances of success. So get a workout buddy, a personal trainer or work with a coach or mentor if you really want to take it up a notch. Having someone you’re not only accountable to, but that guides and supports you, will turbo charge your success.'

Barrier #5. You don’t have a handle on your habits

'There’s no such thing as a bad habit, just unhelpful ones. Habits (like beliefs) are difficult to erase completely, but they can be changed. So spend time working out which habits are hindering your progress, then work to change them a little at a time. 

'Habits work on a trigger, action, reward basis. So start to identify the trigger for the behaviour, practice a new action and make sure you do this consistently. Be gentle on yourself and change one at a time - this prevents overwhelm.'

Barrier #6. You’re trying to go it alone

'Surrounding yourself with like minded people on the same journey as yourself is a great way to feel supported. You can share challenges, celebrate the wins, encourage each other and bond. Doing this virtually with groups or communities aligned to your goals is a great way to give yourself extra motivation, accountability and support - especially during times of high stress.'

Woman working out online

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Barrier #7. You’re self-sabotaging

'At some point, we all face self-sabotaging behaviour. You’ll be flying along and then all of a sudden you stop, or do something you know will throw you off course. 

This is a form of resistance, originating in the subconscious mind. When we go outside what is ‘comfortable’ the subconscious mind feels unsafe and - given it will always seek pleasure over pain - it’ll resist. It’ll throw up dramas, lack of motivation, procrastination, the next fad. But remember - this is actually a signpost you’re on the right track. Because you cannot be comfortable AND grow. They’re two opposing states. So when self sabotage and resistance comes up, celebrate it - double down on your efforts and stop stopping!'

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Barrier #8. You haven’t addressed your beliefs and self-identity

'Success is always 80% mindset, 20% action. Often the reason we ‘fail’ at something is not down to what we’re doing externally (the diet, the workout, etc) - it’s because we haven’t addressed our beliefs about ourselves. So if you manage to lose some weight but you believe you’re not fundamentally a healthy, slim person, you will more than likely move back to your beliefs at some point - and put the weight back on. 

'Spend some time thinking about your goal and see what beliefs are holding you back. Begin to understand what beliefs you’d need to reach your goal and stay there. Then reinforce these beliefs with action.'

Barrier #9. You’re trying to get quick results

'Everyone wants fast results. The thing is, they involve a whole lot of (often unsustainable) sacrifice and tend not to last. 

'A healthy lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint and every small step forward is progress. Set small achievable goals rather then focussing on big, long-term goals and you’ll get there step by step, celebrating the little wins as you go and developing trust in your ability to keep it up.'

Barrier #10. You compare yourself to others

'Comparison is the thief of joy, and in today’s social media obsessed age it’s all-too-easy to fall prey to comparison envy. Newsflash: you’re watching everyone else’s highlight reels and only seeing what they want you to see. Focus on your own progress and shut out eternal distraction. You are unique, so do what works for you.'

Barrier #11. You forget to focus on having fun

'Life is too short to be miserable obsessing about portions, exercise and how big you think your bum looks. Aim to get things right for your personal goals 80% of the time, and the other 20% of the time - enjoy life! When we’re happier, our body responds in kind.'

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Get Fit for 2021 with Fit&Well
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Lucy Gornall
Lucy Gornall

Lucy is Health and Fitness Editor at various women's magazines, and also Editor of Woman&Home Feel Good You. She has previously written for titles including Now, Look and Cosmopolitan. She lives and breathes all things fitness; she works out every morning, and mixes it up with runs, weights, boxing and endless box jumps. She is also a Level 3 personal trainer and teaches classes at various London studios, primarily Digme Fitness. Lucy is pre- and post-natal trained and helps new mums get back into fitness after the birth of their baby. Lucy claims that good sleep, plenty of food, and a healthy gut (seriously, it's an obsession) are the key to maintaining energy and exercising efficiently. Saying this, she's partial to the odd Negroni on the dance floor with her friends.