Is Fear Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Efforts?
Friday, April 28, 2017
LifeTime WeightLoss in Becca Hurt, mindset, weight loss

Raise your hand if you’ve tried an all-juicing cleanse approach to weight loss. How about excessive ab exercises for days, or hours of cardio at the gym…twice a day? Most likely your last attempt to lose weight, enhance body composition or increase speed for a race wasn’t your first (and won’t be your last). It’s often that these past experiences (and failures, at times) jump-start our drive to try again.

On a daily basis, people try all sorts of weight loss gimmicks and efforts. How often do you reflect on what’s actually standing in the way of your weight loss? When it comes to setting health and fitness goals for ourselves, we often don’t realize that fear is a barrier. Fear resonates in various ways in each of us, but many of us have the same fears — unrelated to diet and exercise — that may be sabotaging weight loss efforts. 

Fear of change

Whether we like it or not, we’re all creatures of habit. This can be great once we get into a healthy and helpful routine. The hard part is muscling through those early stages of change to get there.

Change is tough and slow. When we’re making gradual changes to ensure long-term healthy habits, it can be disappointing to not see quick change that is mirroring diligent efforts. Change means going against the grain, a.k.a. our habits. Ever try putting your pants on with the opposite leg you typically put in first? It’s awkward and requires you to think about your actions instead of completing them out of habit. Putting your pants on is an easy daily task we all do. Now think about making changes to habits we all have with diet, exercise routine and sleep. These are rightfully more difficult — especially when trying to make changes with all of them at the same time.

Some of us cope with change more easily than others, which is partially why various weight loss programs are effective for some and not others. If you perform best with minimal change, try implementing one new healthy behavior at a time. Practice and integrate it into daily life until it’s ingrained as a habit. Once you’ve got that down, start on your next healthy behavior. Before you know it you’ll be sleeping better, moving more and losing the weight.

Fear of Losing Your Social Circle

Losing weight and making healthy choices can make you the catalyst for others around you to make positive changes. Unfortunately, it can also create tension within relationships, for example when one partner is having success and the other isn’t ready for change. There’s also challenging situations like parties, dinner outings, happy hour and other social events that prove to have their own obstacles. Who knew opting for the sparkling water rather than the cocktail of the hour, or ordering a side salad instead of extra French fries could create such a rift?

Maybe you’ve experienced relationship or social difficulties in the past when making changes, or maybe you think you know your social circle well enough to predict challenges. Whatever the case, remember: your health and happiness should always come first. It’s like when they tell you to put your oxygen mask on before helping others on the airplane. It’s true with changes; you need to take care of your health first.

Try to be open and honest with those around you about how important these healthy way of life changes are to you. In an ideal world, your family and friends will rally behind you. If not, it may be time to reevaluate your circle of friends. Some of these tactics may be helpful as well.

Fear of Working Out

There are countless fears when it comes to working out at the gym or in public (maybe even in your own home). I hear this a lot: “I got up in the morning, packed my bag and drove to the gym, but once I got to the parking lot I didn’t have the courage to go in.” Maybe you’re afraid you’ll look dumb because you don’t know how to use a machine or will do an exercise wrong. Maybe you think people are making fun of how you look when you jog or what you look like in workout clothes. Whatever the case, this struggle is real. 

These mental fears can be a big set back in attempts to get more active. Fortunately, there are tactics to break down barriers and get moving. 

  1. When you start to worry about what other people are thinking about you, remind yourself they’re also having worries and insecurities about themselves. So while it may feel as if all eyes are on you, it’s probably not reality.
  2. Be proud and have confidence. You’re working out and improving yourself, and there’s no shame in that. If you have a question or would benefit from a few pointers, don’t hesitate to ask a fitness professional (they’re eager to help).
  3. Going for walks outside, following along with virtual fitness programs, or doing at-home workout videos can be great ways to incorporate exercise and activity too. It could even be a great way to positively influence your roommate, spouse or family to join as well.

Fear of Failure (Again)

This may be one of the biggest mental barriers impacting your weight loss efforts. All of us at some point have attempted something new in life and failed. Maybe even numerous times. However, if you’ve had a success with weight loss and then put the weight back on — or gained more — you know it’s a disappointment unlike any other. It’s often the fear of failure coupled with an “all-or-none” mentality which can make make weight loss feel so daunting that it prevents any future attempt to get healthy. 

If this fear resonates with you, a method that has worked with my clients is choosing one area in your life that you have some confidence in and also want to improve. Maybe you’re great at drinking enough water each day. Start there and track compliance for the next 3-5 days. Or maybe you have a nutritional supplement routine down-pat and know that including that healthy habit each day is nearly a guarantee. Hitting those small, daily healthy behavior goals can be really rewarding. The success you feel when creating a plan and following through will have a positive domino effect as you conquer your next healthy habit.  

Fear of Long-Term Commitment

There’s a reason why fad diets are so popular. Sure, they often yield “results,” which is one of the main attractions for many people, but these results are usually very short-lived.

An underlying hook-line-and-sinker effect with fad diets — whether participants recognize it or not — is that they go into it saying, “I can do 2 weeks, or maybe 30 days. But not longer than that.”

We all do best with start and stop dates, especially when it means focusing on weight loss efforts and eating healthy. What I’ve seen over and over is that the fear of maintaining healthy behaviors for the long haul and making them a lifestyle — and not just a quick fix — can be a lot to accept, mentally.

  1. This is where a support system (i.e., spouse, friend, co-workers, social media group, etc.) can be really beneficial.
  2. Enlist the help of a few people around you who will check-in randomly, provide accountability, recognize your accomplishments and motivate you to keep going. 

Tackle a set period of time just slightly outside of your typical comfort zone. For example, 8 to 12 weeks.

The 60-Day Challenge exclusively for Life Time members has proven to be an effective time frame to yield long-term weight loss success. This Challenge can provide an initial jump-start that’s followed up by tracking your progress, having accountability and getting support. Interested in participating in our upcoming Challenge? Learn more and sign up here.

Your fears are certainly something you need to know, recognize and assess. This realization can be pivotal in your life and may be the only thing standing in the way of your results and success. Give some of the above tips a try. If you feel you could benefit from some additional support and motivation, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at

Becca Hurt, MS, RD, Assistant Program Manager – Life Time Weight Loss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader. 

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