Face Down 5 Common Weight-Loss Challenges

Here's how to jump the hurdles without falling off track.
Overcoming 5 Common Weight-Loss Obstacles

If you're new to the Plan (and maybe even if you aren't), you may think that a successful weight-loss journey is one that's struggle-free. It starts the day you snap out of your old habits and start eating and exercising the right way, and ends the day you are at the weight of your dreams. And there isn't a single hitch along the way.

Well, here's something you ought to know. Samantha Heller, MS, RD, senior clinical nutritionist at the New York University Medical Center in New York City, says, "In the course of a weight-loss journey, everybody encounters obstacles."

"We can't be perfect," says Heller. But getting thrown off track occasionally does not mean you've messed up for good. Don't set yourself up for failure by believing that. In any process that requires changing lifestyle habits, there are going to be ups and downs. Understand that, and you're on your way to lifelong success.

Obstacle advice
That said, expecting ups and downs is the perfect way to make them work for you, rather than against you. We asked several meetings members what they think are the most common weight-loss obstacles. Here's what they said, and what you should do when you come across these challenges on your weight-loss journey.

Common obstacle #1: Shame

One member said: "My biggest mistake? Skipping my weekly weight-loss meeting if I think I gained some weight. That's when I need help the most!"

How to jump the hurdle: Knowing you overindulged can be upsetting, says Heller, but instead of punishing yourself, learn from the lesson. Out of shame, you may feel tempted to stop keeping track of what you eat, or to stop stepping on the scale. Don't! "Keeping a good food diary keeps you conscious and aware of what you're doing," she says. You can use it — together with your scale — to find out how well you're doing, and most important, why you're getting the results that you are.

Common obstacle #2: Unrealistic deadlines

One member said: "Every time I say I want to lose weight by a certain date or event, I wind up not losing anything and sometimes gaining. That has been my biggest downfall."

How to jump the hurdle: The temptation to try to get to a certain weight in time for an event such as a wedding or reunion is strong. But doing so, says Heller, could set you up for failure. Not making your deadline could turn you off to weight loss altogether. "Be patient with your body," she says. "Set realistic goals, then work hard to get to them." Remember, reaching your weight loss goal will feel just as great if it takes you longer to get there, and taking the time to establish healthy habits will help you stay at your weight goal for life.

Common obstacle #3: Temptation

One member said: "I used to say, before starting a diet, 'I'll never eat X again' in order to lose weight. 'Never' is a long time, and restricting foods from my diet just made me want to eat that restricted food even more!"

How to jump the hurdle: If you have favorite foods that are very high in calories, and you really love them, deciding you'll never eat them again is a recipe for disaster. Because then, when the temptation wins (and it probably will), you'll feel as though you've failed. The trick is to find ways to fit the food in without going off track. Look for low-fat versions, for example. Or allow yourself an occasional splurge. "Just always understand the pros and cons of eating whatever the food is," says Heller, and plan accordingly.

Common obstacle #4: The "diet" mentality

One member said: "When I think of weight loss as 'this is how I'm living my life now,' instead of calling it a 'diet,' it is less overwhelming. Just 'something I do.' Otherwise, I get hung up on 'I can't wait until I can eat X again.'"

How to jump the hurdle: "Something you do for a couple weeks to a month is not going to change your life," says Heller. Create habits that you know you'll be able to keep up every day for the rest of your life, and, even if it's one habit at a time, dedicate yourself to making the changes for good. This way, your weight loss will be for good, too!

Common obstacle #5: Plateaus

One member said: "When I read the stories of people who have been really successful at this, they have hung on despite plateaus and gains. Being impatient is probably my biggest mistake."

How to jump the hurdle: "Understand that it's totally okay to reach a plateau in your weight loss," says Heller. The reasons could be your body's natural reaction, or it could mean you've loosened up on the good habits you've developed. Either way, break through by keeping at it and increasing your exercise. Just be patient, and you will make your goal!

Get more advice on dealing with weight-loss obstacles from our article Top 5 Weight-Loss Blunders.