We all want to be at our best weight. We want to look good, feel good, and be full of energy. We all know that carrying less body fat and overall body weight will help us achieve these goals. We all know that eating smaller portions and less calorie-dense foods can help us drop the unwanted pounds. We also know that increasing physical exercise will make our body smaller, tighter, stronger, and more efficient at burning calories.
Knowing is not enough. Many of my patients could write a good book on what it takes to lose weight. Then why is it so hard to lose the excess body fat? First, we have to break the genetic pattern we inherited from our past relatives and our ancestors. We can't change the genes, but we now know certain lifestyle changes can alter how these genes express themselves. We can turn them on or turn them off by what we do.
Realizing this is a genetic and medical disorder doesn't make this suddenly easy. It can give us hope, but we still have to break through daily barriers and obstacles to achieve the desired thinner outcome. There are many barriers but they can be identified and worked through.
The most common barriers to getting to our leaner and more healthy weight include the following:
Long, Irregular Work Hours
Environment (High Calorie Foods Everywhere)
Other Medical Issues - Thyroid, Arthritis, Diabetes, Hormone Imbalance, Insulin Resistance, Food allergies
Let's look at each of these and develop a strategy for breaking through the barrier. Stress is probably the most common reason we struggle with a proper eating plan and regular physical exercise. The mental back and forth of stress and worry prevent us from getting a good focus on what it is we really want. No matter what the stress is from, it redirects our mind away from the task at hand.
We must first be able to recognize stress when it is happening to us. Most people just keep on going and ignore the signals of stress. Irritability, sleep issues, fatigue, feeling of overwhelm, fear, eating changes, and use of substances are indicators that we have more stress than we should have. When we detect the stress and figure out it's source, we can start to deal with it. Most often our stress arises from interaction with other people. Therefore, we must look within ourselves to discover the who and what that is driving our stress. Once known, reasonable confrontation of the issues must be undertaken or the stress grows to burdensome levels.
Let's say a co-worker is the source of our stress. We cannot change them, but we can work on our thinking with regard to the situation, we can discuss with HR or a higher level person in the company, or ultimately we must look to move on to a different position or firm. Living under the stress will never make it better. The same applies to family stress. The stress must be confronted in a reasonable and rational way and discussions to resolve it must be undertaken. If not, it will continue to boil over. Not all person to person stress can be resolved. It needs to be attempted and often several times. If no resolution can be had, then distancing from the stressor is needed.
Many times a professional intermediary is needed to assist in breaking a relational stress problem. If this is needed, seek it out and learn from it.
Long, Irregular work hours can get in the way of a steady weight reduction plan. Working night shift makes losing weight very difficult, yet not impossible. Excess work and overtime can deplete our energy to stay on task with a dietary or activity regimen. Uncertainty of schedules will interfere with consistency. We must find small segments of time in our erratic day to eat and to be active. Even with long hours, new ways of getting physical activity can be achieved. A stair climb at lunch or a break, parking at the edge of the lot and walking, standing during phone calls, and other movement tasks can be added to our day.
Many people feel they have no time to devote to getting healthy. They have work, kids, activities, dogs, friends, and other necessary tasks to perform. We all have 24 hours in a day. If getting leaner and more fit is important, we will find and devote small segments of time or even develop twofers to assist us. Twofers are doing two things at once. Walking on a treadmill while taking a class or reading email. Eating a snack at a meeting. Figuring out how to become more efficient with time is mandatory.
If having support is a barrier, we're here. Hire a coach, join a workout class, grab a like-minded friend. We often must create our own support and look for our own cheerleaders. They are out there. Work is made easier when done with someone else. Meet at the gym. Hold a once a week phone call to discuss progress. Exchange eating logs. Pat each other on the back. Losing weight is a lonely business. Decide now to find a partner in the slimming endeavor.
Motivation is necessary for us to move forward. There is positive motivation and negative motivation. Negative motivation drives us away from something. When we look in the mirror and see a body we don't like that is negative motivation that drives us to take action. When we visualize how our body will look and feel at our ideal weight, we have positive motivation to move us toward the goal. Motivation is needed every single day. Put up a picture of what you want to look like. Look at it everyday. Think on it, imagine it, and get it.
Our environment plays a big role in our diet and activity. Fast food is everywhere. We must learn to control our environment and not let our environment control us. Decide in advance what food to eat and what activities to do. Put them on the schedule and do it. Never enter a restaurant without knowing in advance what you will order. Have a list for groceries. Be prepared. Be proactive and take charge to create an environment that works for you.
Sleep issues will block weight loss. If we are not getting about 8 hours of good sleep each night, we become energy depleted. We tend to eat more and our body processes it's fuel less effectively. Consider the possibility of sleep apnea and get it treated if needed. This can make a dramatic positive effect in the weight loss process. Sleep is renewal and refreshing is a requirement of good health.
A major barrier to weight loss is other underlying medical conditions. Having high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, or any other chronic disorder will dramatically effect how our body functions. It is critical that we get these disorders under control. If we can get these disorders into remission we can get our body dropping excess body fat. This in turn will help improve most of the other underlying medical conditions.
With other medical conditions comes medications. Some of these medications have an adverse effect on our ability to lose weight. Some meds in fact may cause weight gain. Reducing body weight can many times reduce the need for blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes medications. Check with your Dr. to see if any of your medications may cause weight gain and if so, ask if there might be an alternative medication to use.
Lack of physical movement can be a huge barrier to weight reduction. We all seem to be tied to a computer and a desk these days. It's not easy to get adequate movement these days. We also need to get additional movement above and beyond our usual day to day activity. Intentional activity is required when it comes to weight loss. Getting in steps is great but working up a sweat is needed. We all must decide to get off our couch, pause Netflix, and start a bit of huffing and puffing with some exercise. Each of our goal is to get to 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly.
All of these barriers present problems when it comes to getting thinner. Each and everyone of them are beatable. It takes some thought, some planning, and some action to break through the barrier. Once a single barrier is broken, the next barrier is overcome more easily. Pick your biggest barrier and start to knock it down today.