Many people are not sufficiently prepared to overcome the obstacles that arise during attempts at weight loss. Setting specific weight-loss goals can help energize and motivate those who are trying to lose weight, but they must also plan to deal with obstacles to permanent weight loss that can frustrate their efforts. Efforts spent developing weight-loss goals and action plans need to explicitly include ways to overcome potential obstacles to success. This is particularly true for those process goals or strategies that enable weight loss, such as diet and exercise programs.
Requirements for Permanent Weight Loss
According to the Mayo Clinic the key to weight-loss success is committing to permanent changes in one’s diet and exercise habits. It’s no use for a person to eat properly and exercise regularly just until weight is lost, because the weight will probably be regained once the new behaviors are stopped.
Another critical feature of successful, permanent weight loss is not starting a weight loss program until one is ready and fully prepared for the effort and struggles that lie ahead. A great way to get ready to lose weight permanently is to prepare written goals and action plans in advance, including strategies capable of overcoming common obstacles.
Setting Goals for Weight Loss
Setting goals for weight loss is an important first step because specific, challenging goals help direct and motivate effort and persistence necessary to accomplish the tasks involved. Both long term and short term goals are important and both outcome goals and process goals need to be addressed:
- Long-term goals specify ultimate outcomes and permanent changes in habits and lifestyle.
- Short-term or milestone goals address the significant steps on the way to the ultimate outcome goals.
- Outcome goals refer to the amount of weight or fat desired to be lost per period of time.
- Process goals or strategies specify what will be accomplished to lose weight permanently (create daily or weekly calorie deficits of a specific number of calories; start an exercise program that can be done for the rest of one’s life; change eating habits for a healthier diet).
Identifying Obstacles to Weight Loss
James B. Avey, Ph.D., an expert on applying goal-setting in both organizations and for personal development recommends focusing on what could prevent a person from accomplishing his or her goal(s). These are called obstacles and he advocates writing down three to five obstacles per goal. Then he recommends writing down what will be done to overcome each obstacle. Such advance thought and preparation increases the likelihood of achieving one’s goals.
The Mayo Clinic Diet book contains a section called “Action Guide to Weight Loss-Barriers” which classifies weight-loss obstacles into three categories:
- physical activity
All three categories of obstacles need to be anticipated and strategies developed to cope with them. Here are some specific obstacles that can sabotage a person’s weight-loss goals and plans:
- lack of knowledge about proper nutrition, harmful foods and diets
- lack of knowledge about physical activity and exercise options
- perceived lack of time for physical activity/exercise
- giving in to old bad eating habits
- lapses in following an eating plan
- snacking late at night
- eating in front of the TV
- eating when bored or stressed
Once the most likely obstacles to successful weight loss have been identified, strategies can be developed to help overcome each one. The Mayo Clinic Diet book section “Action Guide to Weight Loss-Barriers” contains a comprehensive list of barriers (obstacles) and strategies to deal with them. Here are just a few examples from the Mayo Clinic and other sources:
- Lack of time for physical activity/exercise: Make physical activity/exercise the top priority in life because it is the most important (controllable) key to good health and longevity.
- Snacking late at night: Make sure meals are not skipped, drink water instead, or snack only on vegetables or fruits and keep from buying any snacks that are fattening.
- Falling off a proper eating plan: Recognize that lapses are normal and just get back on track as soon as possible, building on or repeating earlier successes.
- Eating when stressed, bored, or depressed: Keep high-calorie “comfort foods” out the house; engage in other activities until cravings pass; replace negative thoughts with positive ones; drink water when tempted to eat.
Planning is Required to Overcome Weight-Loss Obstacles
The setting of goals for weight loss helps direct and energize the desire to lose weight. But many powerful obstacles to permanent weight loss can arise to undermine the eating and exercise programs required for success. Having advance plans to deal with such obstacles can give a person more confidence and additional motivation to undertake and succeed with a weight-loss program. Identifying personal obstacles and developing specific strategies to overcome them are important steps in developing a plan to achieve permanent weight loss.