40 common weight loss obstacles – and how to get past them

Most people that have tried to lose weight find it difficult. It’s not easy to cut calories and change diet when it means that at least for a certain period of time our bodies must function with less energy than it would like to get. What weight loss obstacles do we face? And how can we eliminate those obstacles and lose weight for good?

40 common weight loss obstacles

There are different types of weight loss obstacles. The most common obstacles are related to:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Emotions
  • Health
Different types of weight loss obstacles
Different types of weight loss obstacles

The obstacles that you face during the diet can be either mental or physical. This is because during weight loss both your mind and body will be tested.

I’ve said this before and say it again:

Preparation and planning is everything when it comes to weight loss.

And that is the the reason I’m writing this post: You need to be prepared to face the obstacles.

If you are well prepared then you will know the obstacles that you will face. If you are well prepared you’ll know what to do when you face them.

So, here’s a list of weight loss obstacles and some tips on how to get past them:

A list of 40 common weight loss obstacles

Diet related obstacles

1. Healthy food is expensive, I can’t afford it

If you compare healthy food to a very unhealthy food then I agree with this one. Junk food is a bit cheaper. However, just because junk food is cheap should be no reason to eat it. What little more you spend in the supermarket you’ll save in medical bills.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season
  • Buy root vegetables such as carrots or turnips. They are often very cheap and delicious when roasted in the oven (+ learn other ways to prepare them).
  • Buy frozen vegetables
  • If your diet recommends grass-fed or organic food, don’t worry about that right now. You can start adding organic produce later on if your budget allows it.
  • Buy cheaper cuts of meat and just remove skin and other fat if necessary. You can make amazing stews in the oven or slow cooker, like this tasty stew by Jamie Oliver.
  • Read more tips: 53 ways to lose weight and save money

2. I don’t have time to cook

You need to make cooking a priority because home cooking is one of the most important things when it comes to weight loss:

You need to know exactly what you are eating.

Try these tips:

  • Ask your family to help you out in the kitchen. It will be a bit slow in the beginning but will pay off in the long run.
  • When you do cook, cook enough food to last at least a few days.
  • Spend a bit more time on cooking on Sundays to prepare food for the following weekdays.
  • Learn to read the labels and compromise for emergencies: Buy ready made salads for lunch but make your own dressing. Purchase rotisserie chicken from the supermarket but roast your own vegetables etc. It is OK to take short cuts, just stay aware of what you are eating.

3. I need to have some pizza/fries/add-your-favorite

No, you don’t need them. But you have basically two options:

  • You either try to get rid of the cravings for unhealthy food by cutting the food you think you need completely out of your diet
  • You try to have a lot less of it (moderation)

It all comes down to the type of person you are: Are you able to have that food in moderation? Or would you be ready to cut it out completely for a while – and try to bring it back in moderation if you need in the future?

4. I just love food too much

Most of us love food and I don’t think it’s possible to love it too much 🙂

You just need to learn to love healthy food too. Because when you make it really healthy, you can have lot’s of it! And then there’s no problem anymore.

Don’t make the mistake of making your “diet food” bland. Season everything, even your salads well.

If it’s junk food that you crave, then there are two “schools” to this:

  • One advises you to make healthy options from your favorite dishes
  • Another one says that we should not try to adopt our favorite dishes but instead let go of them.

I believe in the first option – making healthy versions of “junk food”. I mean why not? It tastes just as good if not even better and it’s healthy. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

A hamburger and chips for example: I think a healthier option that has a hamburger (with or without bacon and/or bread, depending on your diet), pickle and ketchup, a couple of (sweet) potato wedges and a huge salad is an amazing meal. Without that many calories.

5. I love healthy food but I’m struggling with portion control

The key to portion control is deciding in advance how much you are going to eat on a meal and sticking to it.

Take a look at these tips:

  • Have just one plateful and don’t go back for seconds.
  • WebMD has a really handy Portion size plate tool if you are unsure about your portion sizes.
  • You really can have unlimited amounts of non-starchy vegetables.
  • When you have salads just pay attention to the amount of dressing of the salad (that’s where the calories are) and amount of nuts or dried fruit you have for snacks.

6. I have to eat out a lot because of my work

This is difficult because whenever you eat out, you cannot know 100 % what you are eating. And it is so easy for other people to encourage you to make the healthy choices but once you’re in that situation, well it certainly isn’t easy.

  • If you eat out because you travel a lot by yourself then you have more options: You can choose where you eat and possibly even when you eat. Just plan in advance what you are going to eat and where. Then stick with the plan.
  • It is more difficult if you have to eat out a lot with your clients or other people from work. The people around you might be ordering three courses with wine and you feel the pressure to do the same. That’s tough. Just stick with a salad and a sorbet and order something light for the main course.

7. I just ate pizza/fries/other-not-allowed-food – I’ve ruined everything

No you haven’t. Sit down, get yourself together and focus. Remember:

Progress, not perfection.

And another important thing: do not punish yourself for eating something you were not supposed to eat by fasting! Go straight back to your diet mode and eat your next meal as planned. This little slip won’t make any difference in the long run.

8. I hate tracking my food

If you’re not the tracking-type-of-person – you’ve tried it several times and it’s just not working for you – then choose a diet that doesn’t require you to write everything down.

There are several other diet options out there. Find the diet that works for you.

9. I am constantly hungry when I’m on a diet, I can’t do this

I think hunger is the number one reason why diets fail.

You really should not be hungry when you are dieting. If you are, you need to fix your diet or change it completely. Remember that you can and should eat a lot of vegetables and more than anything, remember to eat fat too. Fat along with protein will keep you full.

10. My weight loss program tells me to have six meals a day but I can’t eat that much. I’m having four meals a day but I’m not losing any weight

Planning is everything. If you are on a weight loss program that tells you to have six meals a day then there is probably a very good reason why that is so.

So just have those six meals a day.

If you do not follow the program you cannot complain that it’s not working. Never skip meals unless you plan to (for example you’re on a diet that has periods of intermittent fasting).

11. I’m a snacker

You need to change the way you eat. Your body is probably constantly producing insulin. You will not be able to lose body fat.

12. I have a sweet tooth, there’s no way I’m giving up sugar.

It does sound like you should, for a while.

Sugar is very addictive and it sounds like you’re addicted. If you simply cannot imagine life without sugar then you really should set some boundaries. It is far better to have a lot of sugar once a week than some sugar every day. If you have sugar daily then you will find it difficult to lose body fat.

13. My problem is that I eat a lot at night, I just can’t control myself

Eating at night usually means that you haven’t eaten enough during the day. Or then it’s comfort eating.

  • Make sure you eat a proper sized dinner that will keep you full for the rest of the evening.
  • If you really need to eat something late in the evening, make a big salad with lots of green leaves, some protein and oil dressing.

14. I absolutely hate vegetables

I am a picky eater myself so I can somewhat relate to this (although I do eat and even like vegetables).

Here’s how you can learn to like vegetables:

  1. Write down all the vegetables that you do like (there has to be at least a vegetable or two that you can imagine eating).
  2. Add these vegetables to you weekly grocery shopping list.
  3. Find some recipes that include these vegetables plus another vegetable that you don’t like or haven’t tasted.
  4. Now make this dish.

Most of the vegetables on this dish are familiar to you so having just one vegetable that you’re not too sure of will blend in just fine – you probably won’t even notice it. Add new vegetables to your diet this way.

Also, eat more fruits if your diet allows this. This way you will get a lot of the same vitamins as you would from the vegetables that you’re not too keen on.

15. I just can’t start a diet now because it’s my birthday/a friend’s wedding/Christmas/other-social-event soon

Oh dear do I recognize this obstacle 🙂 However, there will always be parties or social events – always. Do not let these events affect your diet. You have three options:

  1. Do not go to the party
  2. Go to the party but only eat healthy food that’s allowed in your diet
  3. If your diet allows it (you’re counting calories for example) then eat what you want for just that one night.

The important thing is that you decide what you’re going to do beforehand. Yes, it’s time to remind about the importance of planning again… Because:

If you haven’t planned anything in advance and end up with option number three, you’ll find yourself in obstacle number 7 (no need to scroll, it’s the one that says “I just ate pizza/fries/ice cream/other-not-allowed-food – I’ve ruined everything”).

I’m starting my diet on January 1. I’ll be doing Whole30 again (take a look at my round 1 Whole30 results) and I’ve already declined an invitation to a party in January. I was honest with the friend who invited me: I told her that I’m starting a very strict diet and don’t want anything interfering it. I’d be very sad company, not being able to eat or drink anything. She understood perfectly, wished me luck with the diet and we agreed to have another party later in the spring.

16. I simply cannot eat anything at breakfast. I always skip it.

Sure there are studies that tell us to have breakfast and it is a great way to start a morning. You could try changing your rhythm a bit but if it’s not working then I don’t think you should force yourself to eat first thing in the morning.

Grab some breakfast with you to work and have it when you get hungry. You could also read a bit more about intermittent fasting to learn more about skipping meals “the right way”.

Exercise related obstacles

17. I hate exercising

Well, the good news is that you don’t necessarily have to exercise in order to lose weight. You just have to change your diet.

Having said that, most people would also like to “sculpt” their body a bit while losing weight. And that can only be done through exercise, weight training in particular. If gym makes you panic, you don’t have to start with that. Start with any exercise that you enjoy or at least like a little bit and build a habit from there.

18. I don’t have money to exercise

I’m sure you know deep inside that you really do not need a lot of money to exercise:

19. I don’t have time to exercise

It’s all about priorities. Right now, you need to make your health – meaning diet, exercise and personal well being – your number one priority.

Walk to work/supermarket/with kids to school. Play outside with your kids. You really don’t have to exercise a lot, just 20 minutes a day is enough.

20. I don’t want people to see me exercise

To be honest, people don’t have time to pay attention to you. Really.

And even if somebody notices you, then so what? They’re working out too. If this is a huge problem for you then you could start exercising at home by purchasing a workout DVD, stationery bike etc. Or going for a walk later in the evening when it’s already dark.

21. I go for a walk/to a zumba class three or four times a week but nothing happens – I’m not losing any weight

Losing weight by exercise alone is very slow and difficult, most of the weight loss happens through diet. Make sure your food choices enable you to lose weight.

22. I’m so out of shape. I don’t feel like exercising

This is understandable but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do anything about it.

Start very small, but try to make it a daily habit. I’m talking about walking for just 5 – 10 minutes a day, but doing it daily. And then slowly increase the time you spend walking. Seriously, you don’t have to spend a lot of time exercising. Of course if you do enjoy two hour hikes then go ahead and do it. But a lot less is sufficient, as long as you do it regularly.

If you absolutely loathe exercising then you can start by just fixing your diet. That’s the most important thing when it comes to weight loss. But do plan to start walking or doing something else you enjoy at some point later.

And don’t do too much too soon either! Nothing kills the desire to exercise more efficiently than starting too eagerly. If you haven’t been to the gym for a while then do not attempt to give 110 % at first go. You’ll be so sore you won’t be doing anything for the next couple of weeks.

Emotional obstacles

23. My biggest obstacle is ME

Well that sums it up nicely, doesn’t it?

I think a lot of people feel this way. If you’ve tried to lose weight in the past you probably know a lot about weight loss. You are actually quite an expert already: you can tell by heart how many calories there are in a tablespoonful of olive oil – or how many Weight Watcher points it contains. You could be a walking library of diet related information.

The problem is that for some reason you just can’t manage to keep the weight off.

The obstacles that you face are very likely in the psychological side of weight loss. For some reason, at some stage of your weight loss you start to sabotage your progress. Read all the emotional obstacles below. You might find something that you recognize and can perhaps change in the future.

24. I’m an emotional eater

I think most of us (who want to lose weight) reward ourselves with food: If we’ve achieved something we like to celebrate, with food. Or if we’ve had a miserable day at work we feel like we’ve “earned” a treat.

If you’re on a diet and go and buy junk food and eat it, you’re not rewarding yourself. You’re actually punishing yourself. Before this happens you need to stop and think.

The only option is to either reward yourself with something totally not food related or have something luxurious yet healthy to eat. You could have a steak night with prime cuts of meat and a mountain of roast vegetables. And an exotic fruit platter as a dessert. That sounds delicious to me 🙂

25. I’m lazy

You’re not, you just don’t have a lot of energy right now.

You will gain energy once you start eating healthy food, doing a little exercise and sleeping better. Right now, you just need a kick in your butt to get started.

If you are used to it then of course it is nicer to do things like sit on a couch watching TV but now it’s time to change. Start by planning (have I mentioned enough how important that is?) and write your plan down. Plan to do your workout first, in the morning or straight after work – it can be just 15 or 20 minutes a day. After that you can sit on that couch for the rest of the evening if you want to. You’ll feel like you’ve earned it.

26. I’m so frustrated – I’ve tried to lose weight for several weeks, but I’m not losing any

If all else fails then you should go and see a dietitian, but before you do that, check this out:

  • Have you taken all the steps for tracking your weight loss? So you’ve taken before pictures, measurements and weighed yourself? And you don’t see any improvement in any measurements?
  • What is your method of weight loss, do you have a good plan?
  • Are you properly tracking your calories or following another diet you’ve chosen 100 %? Remember, you need to have a plan. If you are just trying to lose weight by trying to make healthier choices then the chances are you’re not doing enough.

If you’ve just started your diet and haven’t had any results for 2 – 3 weeks, you should do this (regardless of which diet you’re on):

  • Write down everything, absolutely everything, you eat for the next week. Write it down to a calorie tracker. There’s plenty of free options such as Sparkpeople.
  • See if you get enough calorie deficit (you need to get a deficit of 500 calories a day from diet and/or exercise in order to lose a pound a week).

Now, if you notice you eat more than you should then you know what to do about it. Remember: Do not eat too little either! In general you should not have less than 1200 calories a day.

It is equally discouraging if you’ve been on a diet for a longer period of time, and have already lost weight but now hit a plateau. Continue with the same plan for another week and if nothing happens, change something a bit: Eat a little differently, do another type of exercise, sleep a bit more.

27. I’m so fed up with dieting

You have to want to lose weight more than anything. You have to be fed up with the way you are living your life, you have to be ready to make that change. If you’re not ready then you will come up with excuses.

You have to want to change your life for good. Obviously, once you get to your goal weight you can loosen up a bit but just a bit – there’s no going back to the way things were.

28. My spouse isn’t supportive

If he/she isn’t supportive then you really need to talk. If you know that you need to lose weight to be healthier then your partner needs to help you with that. You do all the work but your loved ones should not try to sabotage your efforts. They do not have to take part but they should make it easy for you to do what you have to do to succeed.

Whatever happens, remember that this is all about you. In the end you are in this alone and you are doing this for you.

Also, look for support from other sources. Internet is full of forums where you can take part in conversations and ask questions. Let other people help you.

29. I am lacking motivation to do this

You will not be able to lose weight until you find reasons to do it. First reasons, then planning and then doing it.

30. I lack discipline to lose weight

I believe this has a lot to do with motivation. If you haven’t figured out why you want to lose weight, it will be difficult to follow a diet. If you lack discipline then it can also mean that you haven’t planned your diet well enough. If you leave too much room for improvisation (by deciding that you will try to lose weight instead of planning to lose weight), it will be difficult to make healthy choices when you are tempted.

31. I just don’t have enough willpower

Here’s another obstacle in line with motivation and discipline. However, I do not believe you need a lot of willpower to lose weight. You just need motivation (reasons why you’re doing this), planning (how you’re doing it) and patience (because it’s going to take a little bit of time to get there). That is seriously all you need.

If you say that you don’t have enough willpower then to me it sounds that you have skipped or forgotten one or more of those steps: motivation, planning or patience.

32. I start a diet after another but don’t seem to get any long term results.

Losing weight is not easy. It really really is not easy. You just have to make a choice. Once and for all. Promise yourself that this will be the last time that you start a new diet. This diet is for good. And then plan it properly. Plan long term. And then stick with it. Whatever happens, you will have to stick with it. It will become a lifestyle.

33. I find it difficult to commit to dieting in the long term, I have so much weight to lose

Don’t think about the whole project, create mini goals instead. It will take time to lose the weight but you will get there, one mini goal at a time.

34. I’ve lost some weight, this is easy! I can loosen up a bit now

This one is dangerous: You start a diet and get results. Wow, pants feel looser and your overall energy has increased. This is surprisingly easy. Surely some ice cream and a slice of pizza won’t make any difference. It starts small and all of a sudden you notice that you’ve eaten a lot more for a week or two and those pants suddenly start to cling to your thighs again. You’ve ruined a great beginning.

Make a commitment to your weight loss plan. Plan well and stick to the plan.

35. I’m over 50 years old. It’s impossible to lose weight at this age.

You must know deep inside that it’s not true. It is never too late to start eating healthy food and exercising. It will be difficult to break old habits, I understand that. Unless you have so medical issues there is absolutely nothing that could prevent you from losing weight.

36. I have no patience. I want to lose weight, now.

Sorry but it just won’t happen like that. Nothing you can do about it. It took time for you to gain weight, it will take time for you to lose weight. And that’s OK! All you have to do is make good choices, one day after another, and wait for the weight to come off. That’s all you have to do.

Health related + other obstacles

37. I’ve never been on a diet, I have no idea what to do

Study a bit first. You can start from my site if you wish 🙂 I’ve recently written about ten different diet options for 2016. That will give you some idea about the choices that you have, obviously there’s a lot more options but you’ve got to start somewhere. Pick a diet program that you feel comfortable with and start learning!

38. I started a diet but then got a flu and couldn’t continue

Flu is really no reason to stop your diet but I understand that you feel like being pampered while feeling unwell. Stick to your diet though.

39. I’ve been diagnosed with depression

Depression is a difficult issue to tackle when it comes to weight loss. Do what makes you feel good. You might have to push yourself a bit though: to eat healthy food and to go out for a walk. But it might improve your condition as well so it is worth it to push yourself gently. Don’t make overoptimistic or overambitious plans for weight loss at this point in your life. But do make plans. It would be important to build a healthy routine of walking every day and making healthy choices with food.

40. I have other medical reasons

There can be several medical issues that hinder weight loss. Always investigate and see a doctor. Don’t however automatically assume that you have a medical issue if you haven’t managed to lose weight. It could be that you just haven’t found the diet that works for you yet. Our bodies are so different, what works for your best friend might not work for you.

Some medicines might increase your appetite or otherwise make you gain weight.

Injuries are another problem that can prevent you from exercising. Speak to your physician about what you could do instead. And remember, weight loss happens in the kitchen. Fix your diet and you will lose weight even if you cannot exercise.

Is there a difference between an obstacle and an excuse?

An obstacle and an excuse are often the same thing – perhaps we just feel that it’s less our own “fault” if we call it an obstacle 🙂 However, there are obstacles such as medical reasons that can make us gain weight and there isn’t much that we can do about them.

Now, I’ve written a lot about weight loss obstacles here. And I do think that we need to be prepared to face the obstacles. However, following a diet and an exercise plan should be a positive thing so don’t focus on these negative obstacles too much. Focus on everything good that is happening right now in your body. Your body is healing. Remind yourself daily about why you love yourself and how proud you are about yourself for making these positive changes every single day.

Be kind to yourself. And by that I mean that you should treat your body well. It’s the only body you will ever have, for the rest of your life. I think we need to remind ourselves about that every now and then. Push your body to do a bit more than what it’s used to, but do it gently. And do pamper your body by moisturizing your skin daily or having a massage every now and then.

Now, tell me about your weight loss obstacles! What do you think is your biggest obstacle and have you found a way to get past it?




4 thoughts on “40 common weight loss obstacles – and how to get past them

  1. peggy rettinger

    I completed the Whole 30 last year. It was amazing. Hard at first. Planning and preparing food the hardest for me. I’m sorry to say I’ve fallen into bad habits again. I need the group support and recipes. Look forward to starting it again.

    • Hi Peggy!

      I know exactly what you mean: I felt so good while on Whole30 and I’ve fallen into bad habits this December as well. I don’t know what it is about Christmas that makes me eat like I’ll never eat again 🙂

      Have you decided when you’ll be starting Whole30 again? I will start it on January 1. I’m so excited about it already, what a way to start year 2016!

  2. I think it’s great that you mentioned the emotional aspect of weight loss. Not many people realize it can interfere with weight loss success. Great post and I love your blog layout

    • Hi Laria! I think the emotional obstacles are the hardest ones. Actually, most diet and exercise related obstacles have a lot to do with emotions as well. Thank you for reading and for the compliments 🙂

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