This is Part 6 in a 10-Part Series on Common Obstacles to Losing Weight and Getting Fit.
In this sixth part of our series we’re going to discuss three more potential subtle but common hindrances to reaching your weight loss and fitness goals. The first is essentially the inability to say no in social situations. The second and third potential saboteurs both involve denial in some form – not being honest with yourself and not taking personal responsibility and blaming external factors instead.
(If you have a journal, get it out now because your work is definitely cut out for you today!)
10 ~ You crumble under social pressure
If you’re frequently in social situations that involve food – e.g. an office setting in which coworkers often bring sugary treats, or business dinners that involve entertaining clients – you know how difficult or awkward in can to resist social pressure to partake. People can be incredibly pushy and persistent when it comes to getting everyone in their immediate proximity to have a piece of birthday cake or sample their freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.
“It’s just one little piece”, they cajole with a sly well-meaning smile. Suddenly you’re put on the spot. You’re torn between being the party pooper who responds with a nice, but firm “no thank you” (and risking hurt feelings as well) or the people pleaser who reluctantly accepts as you mentally calculate how many carbs and calories you’ll need to forgo at dinner. Of course, when dinner comes and your stomach’s growling, you’re earlier resolution to cut back suddenly goes out the door.
Or perhaps you’re getting ready to hit the gym after work and a few coworkers insist you join them for happy hour at the pub around the corner.
Now, if this happens only on occasion, it’s not going to derail your weight loss and fitness efforts – and it’s certainly not worth stressing over. But if giving in to social pressure occurs on a regular basis, then the net impact can interfere with your goals.
It’s important to consider why saying no is difficult. Is it because you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or appear stand-offish? Are you a people pleaser (which, btw, isn’t an uncommon trait for many people who struggle with their weight)? Or is it that you readily welcome any excuse to indulge yourself or avoid working out? Identifying the real reason(s) is an essential step towards overcoming this subtle saboteur.
- Determine the real reason behind why you frequently (or always) give in to social pressure. Keeping a journal or food diary can help you identify the underlying issue.
- Come up with two or three polite (and honest) responses for those who tempt you to eat food you’d prefer to avoid or bypass your workout. It’s much easier to resist when you already have a prepared response and don’t have to come up with one in that moment.
- Consider assertiveness training or working with a therapist if this is a significant issue for you. Learning to say no is powerful; always needing to please others not only unhealthy; it will continue to cause problems in all areas of your life.
11 ~ You’re not being honest with yourself
When it comes to losing weight and getting into shape, many people are masters at rationalizing, making excuses, denying reality, and even flat out lying to themselves. They’re not able, ready, or willing to face the fact that they’re jeopardizing their health or ashamed of how out of shape or overweight they’ve become. Perhaps you can relate…
Maybe you have no problem admitting that you could be “in better shape” or stand to lose “a few pounds”. When you frame it like that, it doesn’t sound like a big deal, right? However, if being in better shape really means being able to climb a flight of stairs without gasping for air at the top, or those “few pounds” you’re talking about actually represents 40, 50, or even 100 or more excess pounds, then you’re lying to yourself. And that’s a problem.
Denial is a protective mechanism. It keeps painful feelings like shame, disappointment, hopelessness, and anger at bay. It also makes it easy to rationalize and make excuses. For example, since you only need to lose a few pounds, treating yourself to small slice of cake at dinner isn’t a big deal. Ignoring the fact that you just went up another dress size, you tell yourself “I had a rough day, and besides, it’s just a small slice. Can’t I treat myself now and then?” And that workout you missed? “I’ll make up for by walking 3 miles at lunch tomorrow.” But something comes up tomorrow – as it always does – and you don’t follow through…
You’ll never succeed in reaching your goals if you’re not willing to be brutally honest with yourself. Otherwise, you’ll continue making excuses, minimizing the problem, and rationalizing behaviors that are sabotaging your efforts.
- Take some time to consider if you’re really being honest with yourself about your weight or current level of fitness. What lies, if any, have you been telling yourself (write them down)? Have you been minimizing the seriousness of the problem? Consider the painful emotions you’ve been trying to avoid (e.g. shame, embarrassment, fear, etc.).
- Write down the excuses, minimizations, and rationalizations you’ve been making that have been sabotaging your efforts to lose weight or get into better shape (or keeping you from getting started). Make a second list of all the ways your extra weight or lack of fitness is costing you (e.g. self-esteem, health – especially long-term, financially, etc.)
12 ~ You’re blaming things outside yourself
Are you making excuses for your weight? Are you blaming those excess pounds on your “fat genes”, your ethnic background, your mother for overindulging you as a child, or the fact that you’ve given birth to three children?
Is there always some reason you can’t exercise? What’s your go-to excuse for skipping your walk or other workout – a bad knee, high blood pressure, too busy, too stressed, too tired?
As long as you keep making excuses or blaming some outside factor for your lack of fitness or excess pounds, you’ll keep sabotaging your efforts to improve your body.
While external factors may very well play some role (e.g. you’re taking a medication that stimulates your appetite – and some really do – or you’re recovering from surgery and can’t exercise – doctor’s orders!), they’re rarely solely responsible for your current physical state of affairs – no matter how hard you try to delude yourself (and everyone else who’ll listen) into believing otherwise.
It’s easy to make excuses. It’s not so easy to face reality, especially when it means taking full responsibility for all the choices you’ve made and the less-than-desirable consequences of those choices. You see, unless someone’s been threatening physical harm if you dare work out, or force-feeding you pizza while you’re sleeping, you can’t blame anyone but yourself.
When you’re willing to take responsibility you’ll be much more likely to succeed!
- Make a list of all the external factors you’ve been blaming for your weight or for not being in shape. If there’s anything on your list that you truly believe isn’t just an excuse (such as a medication or a genuine healthy issue such as hyperthyroidism) then consider what you can do to address it (e.g. switch medications) and reduce its impact on your weight or ability to exercise.
- Make a second list of all the choices you’ve made that have contributed to your excess weight or not being as fit as you’d like. Be brutally honest with yourself. Write down the changes you’re willing to commit to in order to reach your goals.