If you're trying to lose weight, you're probably eating more vegetables, cutting down sugar, and drinking more water. But at some point the weight comes back, it feels like you've hit a wall and you are wondering why you can't seem to get it right.
The truth is that weight loss is a journey that looks a lot like a bumpy ride, and that every woman who successfully loses weight and keeps it off has to overcome challenges that are not often talked about. Let's take a closer look at six of them.
1. The path to a slimmer you is not a straight line
Even if you do everything right and you stay on track, weight loss is not linear, which means you will lose weight, gain some weight back, and this may happen several times until you reach your goal, because of how physiology works.
Your weight will fluctuate within the same month because during their cycle, women retain water. Research has also shown that serotonin levels are lower before menstruation, which means women are more prone to overeating and food cravings.
Your weight will also fluctuate over time because via hormones and other mechanisms, our body protects us against weight loss a lot more than it protects us against weight gain. This is why you will usually hit weight loss plateaus and have the impression you are no longer making progress.
2. You may face several defeating setbacks
Weight loss is not as simple as eating less and exercising more. You will most probably face some crushing setbacks along the way, and you need to realize they are part of the journey. Life will happen and you will experience some emotionally and psychologically defeating blows.
Every time this happens, know that you are not broken and you don't have to feel bad about yourself. You don't have to feel guilty about gaining a few pounds back, or about reaching out to food when life gets rough.
Next time your inner critic shows up and you start thinking you can't do it, remember all this is part of your weight loss journey.
3. You will need to have compassion for yourself, instead of criticism and guilt
Women who want to lose weight often put themselves through a lot of psychological abuse. They can be really hard on themselves, with a lot of criticism and negative self-talk. This behavior can lead to over-restrictive dieting, then self-punishment when they realize their unrealistic diet is not sustainable over the long term.
Many women on a weight loss journey also experience a lot of guilt: they feel guilty about almost everything they eat, about not having more willpower, about not making more progress, about reaching for sweet foods when life is hard, or about "being fat."
What I always help my clients with is to have more compassion with themselves. They need to come from a place of self-love and self-acceptance if they really want to be successful. And research has also shown that self-compassion increases one's motivation to improve and avoid repeating the same mistakes.
4. Other people will try to sabotage you
Some people, who often sincerely want to be helpful, will tell you that "it's simple: calories in - calories out", that you "just need to eat less, move more" and eat "everything in moderation", or that "it's just a matter of willpower."
Once you've successfully lost some weight, people who feel threatened by your progress may start enticing you to eat more: "Why aren't you eating a full serving?", "Don't you like my cooking?", "You are so skinny now, I'm sure you can have a large piece of chocolate cake."
Often times, your dedication and results make them feel challenged and uncomfortable. They may also love to follow your path but it's sometimes much easier to sabotage you so you can go back to your old habits (and gain some weight back) so they don't have to question themselves too much.
It can be really hard to stay consistent with your healthy eating plan when people around you are not supportive, so be prepared to handle their reactions.
5. You will have to take a serious look at your relationship with food
You will need to look beyond calories and food choices, and look at your relationship with different foods almost the way you do with people in your life.
Maybe sweet foods are your best friend when you feel unloved or rejected. Maybe chocolate is like a friend you compulsively dial to rant about your job or your relationship. Perhaps these greasy snack foods you don't even enjoy are your companion when you need to relax at the end of another long day.
You can't simply diet your problems away. Even though it may not be easy, you need to take a look at your life and be prepared to deal with the deeper issues that drove you to overeat and gain weight in the first place.
6. Getting enough sleep will help a lot
Researchers at the University of Chicago found that sleep deprivation could hinder fat loss and that it also led people to feel hungrier because of higher levels of the hormone ghrelin. This not only means that you will manage to lose more fat when getting the recommended eight hours of sleep; it also means that sleep deprivation leads to a loss of lean body mass, which can be detrimental to your health.
Moreover, studies have shown that sleep deprivation can lead to overeating and junk food cravings. Getting enough sleep can help lower cravings for calorie-dense foods in adults, which means you will probably find it easier to stick to a healthy diet and you'll be happier about the numbers on the scale.
While we would all love weight loss to be easy and we often fall prey to fad diets that promise we'll be rocking the bikini within just a few months, we need to accept that weight loss is a journey. There will be binges, breaks, crash-and-burns, but what we really want is look at it as a lifestyle. You're not here to lose the weight, but to keep it off, ideally for the rest of your life.
Anne Ricci is dedicated to helping women make healthy food choices, boost their energy and feel good in their body. You can join her tribe at AnnesHealthyKitchen's Community.