As a health coach, one of the top complaints I hear about weight loss is that it feels like it requires a lot of effort and energy.
I get it. Really, I do. That's one reason I gave up on all of my past attempts at weight loss (except the last one).
Going on yet another diet can feel exciting at first. While we're trying our best to plan our meals and get those workouts in, we're also busy daydreaming of all the promising things we'll do when we finally lose weight.
Maybe we'll start dating again or at the very least, leave the apartment more often. Perhaps, we'll treat ourselves to a wardrobe makeover or a fancy vacation?
It doesn't take long before the daydreaming stops and overwhelm takes over. The effort required to follow through with every healthy habit we're trying to build seems insurmountable.
Why does everything seem so crushing after just a short amount of time? There's not just one answer for this. We all have different perceived reasons as to why it feels like a struggle.
Here are five typical reasons losing weight can feel overwhelming and what to do instead:
We're doing too much all at once.
We got so excited to make significant changes to our health that we thought the best way was to jump in with both feet. We decided to join a gym and go every morning, prepare all of our meals ahead of time, start taking our vitamins again, drink more water, walk more while at work, and start tracking what we eat in a food journal. Before we know it, we give up on all of it. Lasting weight loss is a lifestyle change. It requires conscious effort to change patterns of behavior that have become ingrained as our norm over the years. It requires mental energy to make different decisions instead of going on autopilot.
There is also an increased amount of time that must be spent on healthier activities, especially if these activities are completely new to us. It's like learning new software on a computer--it just takes longer. Spending time on healthier actions will also inevitably have to take the place of some of our favorite pastimes. If we're trying to implement too many healthy new behaviors all at once, we will undoubtedly feel stressed out, deprived, and want to throw in the towel. Instead, we've got to work on building one new behavior every week or two. Setting mini goals to work towards along the way helps. Building the skills and behaviors to lose weight should happen in layers, not all at once. Take an honest assessment of what you're trying to do and dial it back and chunk it down into smaller actions.
We've collected so much health-related information that we don't know what works and what's hype.
Every day we set out with the intention to just eat healthier and swing by the gym after work. By the end of the day, we've been bombarded with information overload about multiple new things that will help us lose weight and foods that are going to kill us if we go near them. We're paralyzed by indecision and start to question all of our actions. Are we making the right choices? We feel like we can no longer trust our better judgment, so we seek out more opinions because maybe someone has the right answer for us. When this happens, the best thing we can do is shut the information gathering down. It's never a bad time to unsubscribe from email newsletters that always make us second guess ourselves, unfollow experts on social media who use scare tactics to grab our attention, switch the radio station when yet another scam diet supplement is promoted, and skip the next episode of Dr. Oz. Being well-informed is important, but it's not as important as taking action.
We're rushing the weight loss process to look good for a class reunion or wedding.
The pressure of an impending deadline is stressing us out because we're not making the kind of progress we hoped we'd make. By setting such a strict end date on our weight loss progress, we've stressed ourselves out, and feel desperate. This type of weight loss is for presentation-- to impress others and nothing more. So, we're treating weight loss like it's a sprint instead of a marathon. Marathons require mental toughness and endurance (both built over time). When we rush anything in life without developing the skills to successfully follow-through, we almost never do as well as we hoped. Instead, don't lose weight to look good for a special day. You'll be less likely to try dangerous fad diets and quick-fix scams when you aren't pressed for time. More importantly, any time we try to lose weight to gain attention from someone else, it's always going to feel like a drag.
We're trying to be perfect.
We're spending too much time on the details of planning out our entire weight loss journey. We might be a type-a personality with high expectations and goals for ourselves. We love having everything prepared ahead of time and developing a good game plan, but we're starting to find that planning everything is very time-consuming. Instead of focusing on perfection and what we feel like we SHOULD do, we've got to concentrate on the practical and what we can do when it makes sense. We may need to lower our expectations a bit. For example, we have to understand that it may not be realistic to make every single one of our meals at home. We have to be at peace with the fact we're going to eat fast food and processed foods from time to time. When we learn to pick our battles and be okay with imperfection once in awhile, the overwhelm does lessen.
We're not 100% committed.
Maybe it's a new year, and we feel almost obligated to give weight loss another shot. A friend talked us into doing an elimination diet with her because she already lost 15 pounds and that was pretty exciting. But every morning we wake up wondering if we feel like workout or not. Every day at lunch, we struggle to make the healthy meal choice. By the end of the week, it feels like all of the decisions we've had to make were so draining on our energy. But, when we're 100% committed there's very little of the decision-making process left. We already know what we're going to do. If we want to do something, we must be committed to it. If we're committed to exercising each morning, then we don't have to waste time trying to talk ourselves out of it. We get out of our warm, comfy beds and do the work. If we're committed to cleaning up our eating, we plan out our food choices ahead of time. We may pack our lunches to bring to work or already know what restaurants have the healthiest menus.
In what ways has weight loss felt overwhelming to you? What seems to take the most energy and effort?