Maintaining Momentum and Staying Motivated: Overcoming 7 Key Obstacles on Your Weight-Loss Journey

If you have been on the weight-loss journey for any length of time or have been on and off it more than once, you know what an emotional rollercoaster it can be.

You decide to lose some pounds. Motivated, determined, excited, and with a plan, you tell yourself that this time, it will be different, and you will succeed.

In the beginning, things go great. The scale moves in the right direction. You feel alive, energized, and confident. That continues for a while, and just when you think you have got this down pat, something shifts.

weight-loss

Your energy level starts plummeting. You don’t feel nearly as excited as you did only a few days earlier. You begin to skip an exercise session now and again, and treats slip back into your diet a bit too frequently. What the heck is going on?

You’ve lost your momentum! You were moving full speed ahead, and now you’ve reached a complete standstill. The little voice in your head says, “I’m tired and don’t want to do this anymore. I knew I couldn’t keep it up. Why did I think this time would be different?”

Sound familiar? Why can you be doing great one moment, and then, in the blink of an eye, your motivation and momentum are gone?

When I sat down to write an article on the most significant obstacles to maintaining momentum in the weight-loss journey, I knew decades of experience working with weight-loss clients would provide me with the needed insights. But I also knew my clients and community could answer that inquiry way better than I ever could.

So I asked, and I was blown away by the number of responses I received. Some didn’t surprise me, and others, well, I had never thought about weight loss that way.

Below are the obstacles my clients and you, the EllenG Coaching community, stated are your greatest to maintaining momentum. I have included suggestions (many coming directly from you as well) on how to knock down those obstacles and keep moving forward.

Boredom

Whether it is eating the same “healthy” foods daily, sticking to the same old exercise routine, or just realizing that this is a life-long journey, boredom sets in. You crave something different; often, it is the very stuff you’ve been avoiding. Your old habits creep back, and so do the pounds.

Remedy: You have got to keep things interesting. It is not only good for your mind but also for your body. Search for new recipe ideas, take a healthy cooking class, and choose a new seasonal food to try each week. Investing in a fitness tracker or using a new app can make the journey enjoyable again. Shake up your exercise regime—try a new class, experiment with a new time of day to work, enlist a new workout buddy or enter and train for a competition. Participation can reignite your excitement, bringing in the necessary accountability and support!

The Dreaded Plateau

Everything is going well. You are losing weight at a slow but steady pace. The scale rewards your efforts each week with a number slightly lower than the previous week. And then it stops. You haven’t seen a change in weeks and feel discouraged. Despite sticking to your healthy habits, the number on the scale remains the same.

Remedy: First, alter your mindset. Going through a plateau after losing significant weight is a good thing. It is your body’s way of adjusting to a lower weight. Staying at a new set point for a few weeks or months is significant! It means you are keeping the weight off. Remember that although the scale’s number may not change, your body composition probably is. If you stick to your exercise routine, your fat cells are shrinking, and your muscle mass is increasing. That’s why you may start wearing a smaller clothing size during a plateau. And lastly, shift your focus from weight loss to improved health! Keep up those healthy lifestyle habits; every day, you progress regardless of the number on the scale.

Once you have a better attitude about plateaus, a few shifts in your behavior may get the scale moving downward again. Change your exercise routine, such as increasing strength training, experimenting with HIIT, or switching from the elliptical to the treadmill. Slightly alter your eating habits—adjust your calorie intake, shift the percentage of macronutrients, or change your meal timing. Consider having a consultation with a registered dietician who can reset your meal plan to meet the requirements of your new lower body weight.

Changes in Routine

You’ve done a great job of figuring out how to fit healthy habits into your lifestyle. Then, something happens to throw things entirely off. It could be added hours at work to meet a deadline, out-of-town guests, or your favorite exercise studio closing down. Perhaps holidays and family celebrations thrust you into busyness, and too many events centered on food. This routine shift is now making it difficult for you to figure out how to squeeze in your exercise, get to the grocery store, prepare your healthy meals, or get the sleep you need.

Remedy: It is time to return to the beginning of your journey. Slow down, take a deep breath and plan. Before you started exercising, eating better, and focusing on weight loss, you had to figure out the what, where, and how. It’s time to do so again, looking at the new circumstances. Do you need to temporarily use a meal delivery service or delegate food shopping and cooking to a spouse or older children? If you can’t attend evening exercise classes, can you start walking during your lunch break? The bottom line is this—failure to plan is planning to fail. Life is constantly shifting. If staying healthy is important enough, you must always engage in healthy habits, not just when convenient.

The Scale is Moving Too Slowly

Despite working hard and practicing healthy habits, the scale moves at a snail’s pace. It feels as if you will never get to your target weight. There is so much more weight to lose, which will take forever at this rate. You are just not that patient!

scale

Remedy: Sadly, your rate of weight loss is not always proportional to your efforts. Everyone is different, and many factors determine how quickly or slowly your body takes off the excess pounds. To keep the course, you must shift your focus from losing weight to getting healthy. Look for non-scale victories. Do you climb a flight of stairs and no longer get winded? Do your knees or back hurt less than in the past? Are your clothes fitting a little less snugly? Does your skin and hair look better? Have your blood profiles improved?

There are many ways to measure your progress aside from the scale. If you continue to live your new healthy lifestyle, eventually, your weight will take care of itself. Your body may settle into a body weight that is not as lean as you would like but is one that is vibrant, strong, and healthy! Embrace the many things your body can do comfortably, no matter what the number on the scale says.

If you are not feeling better despite all your efforts and cannot identify non-scale victories, it may be time to call in a team of experts. Speak with your doctor about doing a metabolic profile to ensure nothing medically is hindering your progress. Consider meeting with a dietician to determine what type of food plan would be best for you and identify any vitamin or mineral deficiencies that are in the way of your weight loss. A certified personal trainer can tailor an exercise plan to ensure the time you put in is paying you back.

End-of-Day Fatigue And Lack of Sleep

Each day, you start with the best intentions and are highly motivated. You power through the day by doing a great job with your healthy habits, food choices, and getting to the gym. But as the day wanes on, so does your momentum and motivation. Many of you shared that it all falls apart in the evenings, especially when out with friends. You’ve worked hard to keep it together and be in control all day; all you want to do is let loose. Even worse, when you are skimping on sleep, dragging through your day feeling exhausted, you can’t muster the energy to focus on your goals even in the daytime hours.

Remedy: Fatigue is indeed the enemy of weight loss. Sleep deprivation messes with your hormones, causing a surge of the ones that increase appetite and a decrease in those that signal satiation. When you are exhausted, you crave simple carbohydrates—chips, cookies, candy, soda—anything that gives you a quick energy boost. However, it is short-lived, and you’ll be searching for more of the same soon after. Most concerning, sleep deprivation dampens the activity in the part of your brain responsible for impulse control, and the emotional brain lights up. When overly fatigued, rash impulsivity is often responsible for your food selection rather than thoughtful choices connected to your goals. This is not a recipe for success! If you want to have sustained weight loss, you must prioritize sleep.

However, even if you get the sleep you need, you may find yourself drained and lacking willpower in the evening. Here is where some planning can help. A mid-afternoon snack consisting of complex carbs (veggies, fruits), protein, and healthy fat (peanut butter, cheese, yogurt) can boost energy and take away feelings of being famished before dinner. A 15-20 minute afternoon nap can refresh you. Have a visual reminder or early evening ritual that reminds you of your most profound motivators to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle. Many people find activities like journaling, yoga, or meditation extremely helpful to recenter and refocus on your goals. A short walk in the early evening will wake you up and allow you to reflect on your goals. If evening socialization with friends revolves around eating out, choose restaurants that accommodate your style.

Living with Someone Who Is Not Concerned with Weight Loss and Healthy Eating

We are undoubtedly influenced by those we spend the most time with. When your partner is not concerned about losing weight or eating healthy, you are often faced with temptation—foods you prefer to avoid eating appear in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. You get coerced into going to restaurants you’d rather not visit. You are set to go to the gym, but you get persuaded to go to happy hour instead.

Remedy: It is time to sharpen your communication skills. You must speak up and make your needs known. Ask for help. No one is a mind reader. Please do not assume your roommate, spouse, or partner knows they are making your journey more difficult or what you want and need. You could have a separate cabinet where those too-tempting foods can live and ask that they be eaten when you are not around. Explain the importance of your health goals and find shared activities you enjoy that don’t sabotage your efforts. Ask that your trigger foods not be brought into your home. Don’t preach or try to convince your partner to join your weight loss program; just ask that they support your efforts.

Me—The Negative Voice in My Head

Negative self-talk and self-doubt are the greatest saboteurs to motivation and momentum on the weight-loss journey. A typical self-defeating attitude is an all-or-nothing mindset: “If I am not perfectly in control all the time, why bother? I messed up at lunch, so the rest of the day is shot. If I want to lose weight, I can never have my favorite foods again; I must exercise daily.” Then there are the messages you berate yourself with any time you slip up: “I’m such a failure; I have no willpower; I am undisciplined; I am destined to be fat; I knew I couldn’t do this!”

maintaining momentum

Remedy: Those messages will cease your progress in its tracks, and if you have been telling yourself this story for years, it is tough to stop. Being part of a support group and working with a certified wellness coach or a therapist could be extremely helpful. Your thoughts are not unusual; many share them, but they are saboteurs. You must learn to stop the pattern of beating yourself up, increase your self-compassion and self-confidence, and embrace a more empowering story. Rather than focusing on the final destination, notice and celebrate the small successes along the way. Surround yourself with positive, supportive folks, and minimize the time with those obstructing your efforts. That voice in your head is yours. If you don’t like the message, talk back and change it. You can become your own cheerleader and best friend with time and practice!

I hope you found some insight and inspiration from the above. Thank you to all who openly shared struggles and strategies. Continue the conversation in the comments box below, embracing the camaraderie and support of this community. Keep the momentum going!

For additional tips and inspiration, download my free report, Stop the Detours and Pave Your Way to Permanent Weight Loss.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • You knocked it out of the park…such a wordsmith..no words, no words Ellen..fantastic

    Reply
    • ellengoldman
      May 7, 2024 12:07 pm

      Thanks, Larry! I’m thrilled you found my ideas valuable. Please share with others. ;o)

      Reply

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