7 Reasons we Fail to Lose Weight and Keep it Off:

According to YouGov, 25% of Brits made a New Year resolution for 2019, and the top 3 resolutions focussed on health and diet. Unfortunately, fewer than a quarter of respondents had kept all of their resolutions throughout 2019.

2020 – the year of home-made banana bread and afternoon ‘happy hour’ at home – is likely to give rise to similar resolutions around weight loss, so in this article we examine some of the main factors that undermine long-term weight-loss (and a few tips to combat them).

1.We expect too much too soon It’s not unusual for people to embark on a weight-loss programme intending to lose up to a third of their body weight in a very short space of time! This is unsustainable and is the reason why we may regain, and even exceed, those shed kilos if we have lost them too quickly.

It’s an uncomfortable truth, but the more slowly and steadily weight is lost, the more likely it is to stay off. The focus on weight loss is usually the wrong one. Long term success comes when we work to replace bad habits with good ones and start to live a healthier lifestyle.

 2.We deprive ourselves of ‘bad’ foods and rely heavily on willpower. Have you noticed how, when we make something ‘off-limits’ (e.g. chocolate, booze) our brain has a habit of becoming fixated on that very thing? 

A more sustainable plan is to change our relationship with food so that we avoid demonising certain foods. We can do this by learning new strategies – for example how to recognise when we are truly hungry/full, and how to actively manage cravings.

 3.We kid ourselves about what we have actually consumed. If I ask you precisely what you ate yesterday, chances are you will underestimate – this is human nature. It’s all too easy for that small handful of crisps or nuts to become the entire pack and we may not even notice consciously that we’ve polished it off. 

We don’t advocate calorie counting, because it can be fiddly. However, keeping a food diary gives a more accurate insight into consumption patterns and provides a solid basis for making better choices to support weight loss goals.

 4.Our thoughts and beliefs unwittingly sabotage our progress. Past experiences and thoughts inevitably influence our actions and habits. For example, that full fat latte we always order with lunch (whether we really want it or not), can undermine our goals.

When we seek to change unhelpful behaviours or habits, we need to identify and challenge the triggers that give rise to them. Often, we focus on the behaviours we want to change (eat less, move more) and fail to address the underlying thought patterns that work against us.      

5.We imagine a linear weight loss journey. If your idea of weight loss is to start at your current weight and drop steadily down to a target weight significantly below, that’s not how it works! Try weighing yourself daily on the same scales for a week and your weight is likely to go up and down. Weight is affected by many factors including hydration, sleep and hormones. So, you can expect your daily weight to fluctuate quite a bit during a weight-loss initiative – there will be small gains as well as losses and the inevitable plateaus too. In the same way, as you diligently work to change your habits, you’ll have good days and some bad days.  

Whilst blips can be disheartening, it’s important not to let them derail your efforts. Keep the bigger picture in mind and pay attention to other successes – for example, when you successfully defeated a craving, or made a healthy choice in a restaurant.

6.We compare ourselves with others. Weight loss is a very personal matter and it’s rare that any two people’s experiences will be identical. It can be tempting to observe someone you know drop weight very quickly and be seduced by whatever crash diet or crazy eating plan they have followed.

Remember that your personal weight loss journey is yours and yours alone. It’s not a competition or a race and your own measures of success will extend way beyond the number on the scales.

 7.We fail to prioritise and plan. Improved health and weight loss rarely happen by chance. Intentional effort usually accompanies anything worth having! 

Before you embark on any new eating and exercise regime, take time to clarify your goals, think about how you will achieve them and decide what support you will put in place. For more tips on this, head to 5 Steps to Prepare for Weight Loss.

Rather than a half-baked New Year resolution for 2021, how about seeking to make sustainable changes that will truly enhance your life. What would that be like? 

Helen Krag, December 2020

Footnotes: The online Momenta Weight Loss Programme with Helena Shirley and Helen Krag runs for 12 weeks from 13 January 2021. 

 This is one of a series of articles about weight loss, nutrition and exercise. You’ll find more on the blog.